Exposing the Nefarious Plot to Make Me a Federal Judge

Perhaps the strangest reaction to George Will’s Washington Post op ed about my book Democracy and Political Ignorance is this post at the Democratic Daily blog, which claims it is all part of an effort to “groom” me to become a GOP-appointed federal judge:

OK: Smart. Then “guided.” (GOPs recruit out of Yale and Harvard just like Dems.) Poly sci at Harvard and Law degree from Yale. And then apprenticeship to an appeals court judge — which is a specific kind of grooming in the legal culture. Remember, John Roberts clerked for William Rehnquist, and the fact that they are successive Chief Justices is neither surprising nor, save for historical accident, coincidental.

Now, since Ilya was clerking for Texas Judge [Jerry] Smith (appointed by Ronald Reagan) in 2001-2002, it’s safe to suggest what his politics were becoming, with the blue-ribbon certification: Harvard, Yale, Hangin’ Judge Smith (who served an apprenticeship under a Texas Judge who had, otherwise worked for Humble Oil Company — former Standard Oil division — his entire career until LBJ put him on the bench).

So, we have an idea that Ilya of George Mason is being groomed for a Federal Judgeship, and is laying out his “popular”/academic work which is being touted as a favor to someone by George Will.

Whoever has been grooming me to become a federal judge is doing a very bad job of it. In reality, no one with my lengthy paper trail of controversial and often unpopular positions is at all likely to be appointed a federal judge. And the GOP in particular is unlikely to appoint someone who has publicly called for things like the complete abolition of the War on Drugs and near-open borders immigration, and argued that laws banning gay marriage are unconstitutional sex discrimination. Much of the GOP legal establishment probably also wouldn’t be thrilled with my take on Robert Bork, for example.

People who are genuinely being groomed to become federal judges work hard to avoid saying or writing anything that might cause them trouble at a confirmation hearing, as well as anything likely to alienate the party they hope will appoint them. I have done virtually the exact opposite, because early on I decided I would rather be able to write what I really think about the issues I’m interested in, rather than carefully weigh the impact of anything I might say on my chances of becoming a judge.

The Democratic Daily post also claims that my argument that political ignorance strengthens the case for judicial review is somehow an effort to justify Bush v. Gore. This is almost as silly as the claim that I’m being groomed to become a federal judge. My argument strengthens the case for judicial rulings that restrict the size, scope, or centralization of government. Bush v. Gore did none of these. Moreover, I have always believed that Bush v. Gore was wrongly decided.

The post does, however, have some value as an illustration of one of the points I make in my book: that partisan “political fans” routinely dismiss opposing arguments and evidence on spurious grounds, without making a serious effort to actually engage with them. Ill-considered conspiracy-mongering is just one example of that phenomenon.