Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It's like this: He's replacing a white woman with a white man to go in a different direction from dad, who replaced a black man with a black man

Here's one explanation for the Roberts pick that does fit the Bush family psychodrama storyline:

George H.W. Bush replaced the first black Justice, Thurgood Marshall, with the second black Justice, Clarence Thomas. He nevertheless insisted that he'd picked "the best person for the job" -- something few people believed. (And I'm not trying to disrespect Thomas. I think he's a fine Justice.) The elder Bush not only created a designated seat and resorted to making hard-to-believe assertions about his action, he also undermined his ability to oppose affirmative action, because the Thomas pick was so widely perceived as affirmative action.

The younger Bush has now chosen not to replace the first woman Justice with another woman. So unlike his father, he is not creating a designated seat on the Court. And in picking Roberts, he actually picked someone about whom it can be said convincingly: He was the best person for the job. And he has not limited what he can plausibly say about affirmative action.

A little tortuous as these kinds of speculations go, but interesting. I think Bush deserves credit for making a choice that is not an obvious attempt to massage an interest group or fish for more Republican votes.