[Mb-civic] Too Perfect to Know the People? - Richard Cohen -
swiggard at comcast.net
Thu Sep 8 03:47:06 PDT 2005
Too Perfect to Know the People?
By Richard Cohen
Thursday, September 8, 2005; Page A29
I sometimes think the best thing that ever happened to me was, at the
time, the worst: I flunked out of college. I did so for the usual
reasons -- painfully bored with school and distracted by life itself --
and so I went to work for an insurance company while I plowed ahead at
night school. From there I went into the Army, emerging with a
storehouse of anecdotes. In retrospect, I learned more by failing than I
ever would have by succeeding. I wish that John Roberts had a touch of
Instead, the nominee for chief justice of the United States punched
every career ticket right on schedule. He was raised in affluence,
educated in private schools, dispatched to Harvard and then to Harvard
Law School. He clerked for a U.S. appellate judge (the storied Henry J.
Friendly) and later for William H. Rehnquist, then an associate justice.
Roberts worked in the Justice Department and then in the White House
until moving on to Hogan & Hartson, one of Washington's most prestigious
law firms; then he was principal deputy solicitor general, before moving
to the bench, where he has served for only two years. His record is
appallingly free of failure.
I envy him for it and admire him as well. He has the sort of first-class
intellect, not to mention an impish sense of humor, that commends itself
to the high court. We would not want a dunce or a mediocrity to decide
the sort of matters that come before the court. Unlike, say, the
presidency, the Supreme Court is no place for a sluggish thinker who
thinks -- if that is the word -- that in the schools the non-theory of
"intelligent design" ought to be taught along with the theory of
evolution. (What next, alchemy and chemistry?) But when Sandra Day
O'Connor leaves the Supreme Court, it will be without any member who has
spent so much as a day as an elected official. Roberts will not change
that. He, too, never worked the beach on Labor Day. If he has a
politician's talent -- not weakness -- for compromise, we don't know it.
If he has great leadership qualities -- or any at all -- we don't know
it. If he can bring unanimity where it matters -- as Earl Warren did in
1954 with the school desegregation decision -- we don't know it. All we
really know is that he is young (50), smart and makes, as they say, a
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