Interesting article in the New York Sun today regarding the different takes that conservatives have on whether it was appropriate for Bush to focus on women for the O’Connor vacancy. Is this no worse than ticket balancing?
Well, of course it is. Even if we accept race- and sex-conscious appointments for hack positions, there are some jobs that are too important for which to choose anyone but the best qualified person. Secretary of Commerce is one thing; Secretary of Defense is another. At the top of the list of too-important-to-mess-around-with is Supreme Court justice. And this goes double when you have solid majority control of the Senate, so that there is no plausible claim that the best qualified person just can’t get confirmed. (Plus, I doubt that the Democrats are going to give much deference to Harriet Miers on the basis of her sex.)
And what about run-of-the-mill ticket balancing (or Cabinet balancing)? It obviously happens, it may even be inevitable, but it is very hard for me to see any intellectually honest justification for it. Hypocrisy being the tribute that vice pays to virtue, I don’t think any politician should admit to it, and so he certainly shouldn’t admit to striving for a Cabinet that “looks like America”-as Clinton did-or brag about the “diversity” of his appointments (as Bush has).