Sunday, October 7, 2018

2 bad analogies about Supreme Court nominees . . .

. . . who face allegations of wrongdoing:

(1) "If I need surgery, I only care about the surgeon's medical skill. I don't care about anything else good or bad that the surgeon might have done. Therefore, we shouldn't care how a Supreme Court nominee has acted in life outside their job performance."

The problem with that: Government is different from a medical specialty like surgery, which has a clear scope and mission that's narrowly defined and uncontroversial. Government can potentially get involved in almost any area of our lives, and questions of what government should and shouldn’t concern itself with are hotly debated. So when we're talking about one of the most powerful government officials, it makes sense to look more broadly at the person's whole character, morals, judgment, etc.

(2) "If you were considering hiring a babysitter or nanny for your kids, and had heard that one candidate sexually assaulted a 15-year-old at age 17, and there were many other candidates who you had no reason to suspect of sexual assault, you'd probably pass over that person — even if it was just a rumor and you couldn't say it was more likely than not to be true. Choosing a Supreme Court Justice is a more important decision than choosing a babysitter or nanny, and therefore shouldn't have a higher standard of proof."

Problems with that: Hiring someone to help out in your own home is a private decision which you're free to make on a whim. It isn't an extended process that plays out in front of the whole country and could permanently mar a judge’s reputation. Also, choosing a nanny or babysitter isn't an elaborate governmental process that was carefully crafted to provide for separation of powers and checks and balances, in which a nominee is chosen by a president who's typically been elected after making campaign promises/statements about what kind of judges they'll choose, and another branch of government makes the final decision but is expected to give some degree of deference to the president's choice.