The Corner

Prompted by Brother Hugh, I Go in Search of Ramesh

Got a couple of emails today from Hugh Hewitt, who is (he rubbed this in very gleefully) on vacation in Florence.

On vacation he may be, but willing to relent in the matter of Harriett Miers he is most certainly not, and Hugh pressed the argument that serving as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States really isn’t–or shouldn’t be–all that hard. Ms. Miers, in other words, has all the qualifications she needs, and then some.

I resist this argument, on a couple of simple grounds: First, ours is a system based on precedent, and there are now a couple of centuries worth of precedents. Any prospective justice, in other words, needs to have mastered an extensive body of case law. And second, originalism, as neatly defined in the WSJ this morning by Judge Bork, rests on understanding, as accurately as possible, what the founders themselves understood the text of the constitution to mean. This in turn requires any prospective justice to have mastered a great deal of eighteenth-century history. (By the way, I’d love to hear a senator ask Miers what she makes of the recent book by Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State. Hamburger argues–to my mind, convincingly–that the Court has spent the last sixty or so years getting it all wrong because it has so thoroughly misconstrued the meaning of the First Amendment to the founders themselves.)

The reply to all this of Brother Hugh? That I am, in effect, describing the Supreme Court as a high priestly sect–the very fault into which the liberals are always falling.

Brother Hugh is onto at least a little something there, I think, and I’m not sure what to do with it.


Peter Robinson — Peter M. Robinson is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

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