The conservative lion of the U.S. Supreme Court, Antonin Scalia, lies battered and bruised on the battlefield this week after a firestorm of political correctness unjustly descended upon him over the question of affirmative action. Scalia was called a racist by the atrocious Harry Reid, among others, for the sin of exploring the question of whether affirmative action actually benefits those it’s intended to help.
Sen. Harry Reid on Thursday accused Justice Antonin Scalia of embracing “racist” ideas, joining in criticism from the Rev. Al Sharpton and other affirmative action supporters who said the Supreme Court jurist went too far when he questioned the push to recruit black students to prestigious universities.
The White House also weighed in, saying President Obama has “quite a different view” than Justice Scalia about the value of racial preferences — though spokesman Josh Earnest wouldn’t go as far as Mr. Reid, who kicked off the Senate session Thursday by saying Justice Scalia is an even bigger threat to public discourse than Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
“Scalia’s endorsement of racist theories has frightening ramifications,”Mr. Reid said. “The only difference between the ideas endorsed by Trump and Scalia is that Scalia has a robe and a lifetime appointment. Ideas like this don’t belong on the Internet, let alone the mouths of national figures.”
So what did Scalia say that was so terrible?
Justice Scalia stunned the courtroom during oral arguments in an affirmative action case Wednesday when he cited research suggesting that most black scientists did not go to prestigious research universities such as the University of Texas at Austin, whose racial preferences policy was the subject of the hearing.
“I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible,” Justice Scalia said.
The crux of Justice Scalia’s argument was that black students pushed to top-tier schools by affirmative action policies may not be ready for them and may do better at “lesser” schools that do not take race into account.
He pointed to a filing in the case that said black scientists generally didn’t attend top-flight public research universities.
“I’m just not impressed by the fact that the University of Texas may have fewer,” he said. “Maybe it ought to have fewer. You know, when you take more, the number of blacks, really competent blacks admitted to lesser schools, turns out to be less.”
Most students at the University of Texas are admitted because they are in the top 10 percent of their class. That race-blind approach means the school ends up with a certain level of geographic, economic and racial diversity.
But school officials decided they weren’t getting enough of what Justice Sonia Sotomayor termed “leaders in diversity,” so they added race as a “plus” factor when deciding whom to admit for the other 25 percent of each incoming class.
I’ll discuss the actual argument below, but as National Review’s Charles C. Cooke notes, Scalia wasn’t actually arguing a position in the University of Texas case. What he was doing was presenting an argument to the plaintiff counsel in order to elicit their argument in response.
Which is what a good appellate judge does.
One does not need to have a law degree to notice what has happened here, or to comprehend just how utterly dangerous to liberty is this growing chorus of disapprobation. Put simply, Justice Scalia is being crucified for having fulfilled the dispassionate public role for which he is paid. Scalia, note, is a judge, not a politician, and he was speaking during a judicial hearing, not as a purveyor of policy. In this context, his comments were entirely reasonable — indeed, they were necessary. As Alex Griswold observes correctly at Mediaite, the Supreme Court’s “oral arguments are not an avenue for justices to share their views on the case at hand,” but “an opportunity to suss out any holes in the arguments of both parties.”
If those justices are to do this thoroughly and honestly, they will inevitably have to bat around whichever ideas are brought up in the room. Why did Scalia suggest that it might be a good thing if the number of black students was diminished? Because the lawyers for the University of Texas presented that possibility as if it were self-evidently problematic, and Scalia had read a brief from two commissioners of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (who filed it in their personal capacities) that argued otherwise. By pushing one of the parties to extend and deepen its arguments Scalia wasn’t revealing himself to be a “racist”; he was revealing that he understands his job. This, alas, is more than can be said for those who have called him names.
So political correctness and leftist demagoguery has become so bad that even playing devil’s advocate against the premise of affirmative action makes you a racist.
And if Scalia buys into the argument that certain black college students would be better off at less-prestigious universities which more closely suit their academic qualifications, that isn’t necessarily a racist argument on his part at all, but rather a damned perceptive one carrying with it much goodwill for the black students in question. Unless you believe that Thomas Sowell, who has made that precise argument, hates black people, in which case you are a fool.
I’ll explain. Take race out of the question altogether and look at affirmative action simply as a process by which, rightly or wrongly, certain people are given preference in college admissions based on something other than their qualifications.
Then consider that for colleges with normally extremely stringent qualifying standards for admission, finding qualified students from certain demographic subsets or otherwise saving admissions for people with non-merit-based qualities, the results can well be filling those spots with less-qualified applicants. And if those colleges are as rigorous in their academics as their admissions standards indicate, it’s only understandable that the recipients of special treatment in admissions will be poorly prepared to graduate.
Fleshed out, consider it this way: let’s say academically you’re probably best suited for admission to, say, the University of Bridgeport or Central Connecticut State, but because of some non-merit-based ace in the hole you possess you manage to get into Yale. And if the difficulty of the academic work at Yale from that of Bridgeport or CCSU mirrors the difficulty of the admissions standards, then you are far less likely to graduate than (1) the students who didn’t need the special help to get in and (2) you would have been if you’d gone to Bridgeport or CCSU.
This is true of black kids taking advantage of affirmative action just as it’s true of sixth-generation legacy dunces whose daddy and granddaddy get them into Yale.
If that argument can’t find purchase with you, we’ll look at it a different way – let’s say we’re going to conclude that Jewish players are underrepresented in the NBA, and as such each 12-man NBA roster must now contain at least one Jewish player.
As it turns out there aren’t 30 Jews good enough to make an NBA roster. That’s not to say there aren’t some good Jewish basketball players, but most of them, just like most players of other ethnic extractions, aren’t quite talented enough for that level. They might be better off in one of the sub-NBA leagues, or overseas where there are lots of basketball leagues where the competition is less stringent. And in some of those leagues, star players might even be paid less than NBA bench-warmers.
So if you’re a Jewish basketball player who is good enough to be better-than-average or maybe even a star in the Israeli pro league, for example, but not good enough to actually contribute to an NBA team, where would you be better off? In the NBA, where you’re a benchwarmer and a liability and the team you play for is constantly looking around for a Jewish player who might be an upgrade over you in order to improve their roster, or in Israel, where you can score 15 points per game, play 15 years, get endorsement contracts and generate fame and goodwill that can make you prosperous for the rest of your life?
That’s the same principle the argument Scalia is entertaining is employing. It isn’t a racist principle at all. Could a racist make it? Perhaps, but those who would accuse all of its proponents to be racist had better be prepared to answer whether taking people into privileged positions at exclusive institutions who are not qualified on simple merit for those positions should result in (1) higher failure rates (and is it truly better to have gotten into Yale and failed out than to have obtained a degree from the University of Bridgeport?) or (2) dumbing-down the performance requirements at those exclusive institutions to “push” them through?
The answer, usually, is the latter. Which is why it’s also not racist to say that leftists do nothing but rot the institutions they infest. Just like Harry Reid has rotted the U.S. Senate to its foundations.
– Earlier this week, in discussing the Trump firestorm over Muslim immigration, I mentioned the Niihau incident which took place in the week following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and I noted that virtually nobody knows anything about that sliver of American history.
It’s a shame, because that incident actually had a lot to do with the creation of Japanese – and German, because those existed as well, but for obvious reasons nobody ever pays any attention to them – internment camps during the war. When the Roosevelt administration saw a real-world example of how Japanese-Americans would flock to the banner of the Rising Sun rather than the Stars and Stripes in a conflict between the two, and understanding that the bulk of the U.S. Navy, which was largely obsolete at the time of the war breaking out anyway, was a wreck at Pearl Harbor, they were terrified that the Japanese would next invade the West Coast. And to prepare for that invasion, they felt it to be a crucial necessity to wipe out potential saboteurs, spies and terrorists in the conflict zone.
Which was wrong, obviously, if you judge history by a contemporary light. And it was wrong when it was done during the war as well. But the narrative on Japanese internment is that it was done purely out of racism, and that narrative was built on public ignorance of Niihau.
It’s also a shame in that the Niihau incident is just a damned good story. It’s got everything you’d want in a movie – there are heroes and villains, there are treacherous bastards, there is self-sacrifice, there are high stakes involved. There is even a McGuffin – the secret papers and maps of the Japanese pilot who crash-landed at Niihau and the fight to recover them before they could be handed over to the American authorities. There is honor and courage and there is the great accomplishment of ordinary people.
And yet nobody ever made a movie about Niihau. The guess is that because the heroes were all native Hawaiians and not white people, Hollywood didn’t think it was marketable in the years following the war, and once political correctness set in it wasn’t acceptable to make a movie about Japanese-Americans turning traitor. That’s too bad, because we’d be better off if the country had a lesson about how three jackasses working on a plantation at a nearly uninhabited minor Hawaiian island ultimately caused so much trouble to so many people by making the Roosevelt administration think they couldn’t depend on Japanese-Americans to be loyal in time of war.
And Niihau is a good lesson for Americans, and particularly Muslim Americans, now. Because if it happens that the land and culture of your ethnicity conflicts with the country of your citizenship, you’re expected to choose the latter with a full throat, or else history shows there can be negative consequences. That’s hardly unreasonable. A nation and culture interested in survival will insist on it. We should be insisting on it now, and the good news is most American Muslims are happy to oblige.
First of all, that’s a fraudulent number. The reality is more like a third. At least.
And second, even if Earnest wasn’t lying what on earth would possess him to boast about failure in such a way? What is he bragging about? That in the middle of a war we let the enemy have 10 percent of its lost all-stars back into its ranks? Who does that?
Prisoners get released at the end of the war, not during it. Yes, it’s possible that amid a war there are prisoner swaps – but at best in this war with this president those entail a Bowe Bergdahl debacle. And Earnest is bragging about it?
Can there be any debate this is a failed president, and the worst in modern American history? How much worse will it get?