Anti-Elite Hackery and the Bush Administration
One of the latest examples adduced of President Bush’s tendency to appoint ideologically agreeable hacks rather than traditionally-qualified people to the administration has been the revelation that 150 graduates of Pat Robertson’s Regent University are among their ranks, with Monica Goodling the most (in)famous.
While Paul Krugman and other reliable anti-Bush pundits have been leading the charge, even Jonah Goldberg finds this troubling. He deserves Line of the Day honors for this backhanded defense of Goodling: “She may be brilliant, I’ve just seen no evidence for it.”
Mickey Kaus is among the lone defenders of the administration here, arguing that this is just elitist, anti-Christian bias on the part of the pundit class. Because “there’s always been a market for anti-hick editorializing in the New York Times, especially anti-Southern-hick editorializing,” there’s not even any pressure to demonstrate that Goodling and her Regent cohorts are actually less qualified in any way that matters than appointees to similar positions in previous administrations.
That’s actually a fair point and one not easily rebuttable, given that we don’t have handy dandy metrics at the ready. Still, a conservative Goldberg emailer echoes the sentiments of many:
Call me an elitist, but if we are going to have devout christians in the Justice department, I would prefer they went to Chicago or Stanford Law. I think there is something to be said about high LSAT scores and going to one of the best schools in the country. And I have never bought the canard that there are no conservatives at the best law schools. Robert, Alito, Scalia?
I’m sympathetic to both sides on this one, in that I’ve got a PhD and many of the academic biases that come with that but have my degrees from universities without an elite national reputation. Certainly, the possession of a degree from Harvard is not a prima facie case of being smarter and more capable of one with a degree from Purdue or Iowa State. On the other hand, it strikes me as highly unlikely that a competitive process would result in 150 graduates of Regent coming out on top, even factoring in the a preference for people that broadly shared the president’s ideological and spiritual outlook. There are simply too many smart, religious conservatives out there with more prestigious credentials.