October 10, 2005
Miers Nomination & the Return to the Spoils System in American Politics
Supreme Court Cronyism: Bush restarts a long and troubled tradition, by David Greenberg for Slate opens with
With cries of cronyism greeting the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, the White House is appealing to history—saying, in effect, that there's a long and distinguished tradition of cronyism in Supreme Court appointments. And they're right: From Andrew Jackson to Lyndon Johnson, many presidents have put their confidantes on the bench. But the White House claim omits a key fact. The practice of naming presidential pals began to wane decades ago, and, as John Roberts might say, the wisdom of avoiding cronyism is now a settled matter. The question is whether the Miers choice represents a one-time relapse or a harbinger of things to come.
For Greenberg, the answer is that this nomination is one of a series of adminstration actions that leads one to fear that this is a harbinger of things to come. He writes:
It may be leading us into a period where politics is defined according to the old spoils system rather than the technocratic assumptions ushered in by the Progressive Era. This administration has, after all, disdained independent nonpartisan expertise—for example, in belittling the arguments of environmental science and in endorsing the teaching of religious accounts of human origins. It has politicized agencies once prized as nonpolitical, such as the CIA and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It has been unabashed about nepotism and cronyism. In the legal arena, the banishment of the ABA from the judicial selection process represents only the most obvious way that this White House has placed partisan loyalty over disinterested professional authority.
Cumulatively, all of this may well herald cronyism's return to the Supreme Court appointment process. Especially if Harriet Miers is confirmed.
Thanks to Mark Giangrande, DePaul Law Library, for the tip
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