Saturday, October 08, 2005

Judges, Baseball And Temptations

I have generally been able to withstand the urge to comment on current events, largely because I did not start this project in order to add my voice to the din of the political bloggers.

Most of the noise that emanates from the blogosphere's penumbra is predictable, and predictably shallow. Most of the noise drowns out the notion that reasonable minds can differ on the great issues of our time. Like the morning disc-jockey who tries desperately to push the "envelope" in order to raise ratings, my sense is that most political bloggers are trying merely to raise ratings, or their sitemeter stats. That is not my goal here.

So allow me to give in to temptation this one time.

Allow me this temptation because I love being a lawyer. It is something of a dirty little secret that most of those in the legal profession hate what they do for a living. I am lucky. I am not one of those people. I love my profession. I am passionate about the idea of being a lawyer, and my respect for judges is virtually without limits. Hell, some day, if I get to heaven, I half expect I will address the Good Lord as "Your Honor." That is how much I look up to judges. I have tried cases all around this country, but whenever I step into a courthouse, the butterflies in my stomach are let loose, and, when they do that, I am reminded that it is a privilege to have those butterflies. Not just anyone can be a lawyer, not just anyone gets to appear before a judge, and not just anyone is an officer of the court.

This is a preamble to my disappointment with President Bush's recent nomination to the Supreme Court. It is obvious that this perfectly wonderful lady that President Bush nominated should not have been nominated. She was not the best of the best, nor is she even remotely more qualified than many others who could have been nominated. When juxtaposed against the example of Chief Justice Roberts, for instance, it is almost appalling to think that she was given the honor of the nomination. This was clearly the decision of a man who is tired. The President reminds me of a trial lawyer in the fifth week of an eight week trial, of somebody who blundered by calling the wrong witness, and, affected by his fatigue, has given in to the temptation to settle rather than fight.

Well, I am tired too, Mr. President. I am tired of the notion of merit being sacrificed on the alter of "diversity" or some other more traditional, but equally inexcusable, form of Inside Baseball. I am tired the best being relegated to the sidelines, taken for granted, without regard for the efforts or the sacrifices that are necessary to become "the best." And, frankly, I am tired of you acting tired.

Try this thought experiment: consider what we know from having met Chief Justice Roberts, how he performed at his hearings, how he bore the weight of his credentials. Now take the time to imagine the possibility of Ms. Miers being picked to sit on the Supreme Court instead of Roberts. Imagine the President announcing her as the best qualified candidate for the Court. The thought is absurd. Now hold onto thought and apply it to no less than a dozen others--Judge Luttig, for example-- each available to the President, each in the on-deck circle, each swinging their bats, and each qualified to bat in the World Series.

I think I am most distressed for these individuals--the other John Roberts' of the legal world, each of whom has sacrificed, for a lifetime, to reach the pinnacle of their profession. Many might say something along the lines of "tough luck to them." I don't view it that way. The guardians of our Constitution should be the very best, and it is a shame that these individuals have not been given their chance. They earned it.

Consider this true story: when I played Little League as a boy, our coach always insisted on using his son as the starting pitcher. He was a nice kid of mediocre talent, about 25 pounds overweight--and he routinely got shelled. Was he "qualified" to pitch? I suppose so, but half of the rest of the team was clearly more qualified, and there was no keeping this fact a secret. Even as an eight-year old kid, I felt embarrassed for the coach, embarrassed that he didn't have better sense, and embarrassed that he didn't understand the effect his decisions had on the rest of the team. His decisions demoralized us. Less significant, they put us in a hole, and after awhile, we just got used to losing.

Embarrassment of this kind is the handmaiden of disrespect. Even in Little League, most everybody knows when a call is not made on the merits. Most everybody can sniff out an Inside Baseball move.

Mr. President: perhaps your move wasn't purely Inside Baseball, but this is the Big Leagues, and you are still in the middle of the game, so summon your butterflies, resist the temptation to settle, and quit acting so damned tired.