Raspberry: Roberts Too Rich for Court
William Raspberry ends a column explaining why he does not want men like John Roberts on the Supreme Court by relating a conversation with
. . . a friend — black, conservative and Republican — who was laying out the reasons he opposes the Roberts nomination.
It isn’t his conservatism, my friend said, but the too-smooth path by which Roberts has arrived at this juncture. Son of a wealthy steel executive, Roberts attended private schools, Harvard and Harvard Law School, then held a federal appeals court clerkship, followed a year later by a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice (now Chief Justice) William Rehnquist.
He then was named special assistant to the U.S. attorney general, and associate counsel to the president (at age 27) before joining one of Washington’s top law firms. Then Roberts went to the office of the solicitor general of the United States and, for the past two years, a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
The point: Nothing in that glide path suggests exposure to anything that might temper his conservative philosophy with real-life exposure to the problems and concerns of ordinary men and women. Roberts is undeniably bright, said my friend, but his life has been one of quite extraordinary privilege.
And then it occurred to me: Roberts’s life has been amazingly like that of the man who wants to put him on the court — but with better grades.
I usually disagree with Raspberry but respect his fairminded approach to political analysis. This, though, strikes me as rather odd. Is he really arguing that people who had the good luck to be born into wealth are unfit for public service?
Most of the those who founded this country and most of those who have served as president, congressmen, or on the Supreme Court have come from elite backgrounds. Is there evidence that those few who rose up from poverty have been more effective?
Roberts started out with advantages most did not–not least of which was an extraordinary intellect. Yet, rather than simply devote his life to making as much money as possible, he has spent significant periods of his career in the public service making civil service wages.
Further, while I’ve never been burdened by excessive wealth, I would imagine that most wealthy people face pretty much the same strains that the rest of us do. To be sure, they seldom worry about going hungry or missing a mortgage payment. Then again, most of us in the middle class only fear those things in the abstract.