Jewish World Review Feb. 9, 2005 / 30 Shevat, 5765
Filtering out the best
Having lost the White House, both houses of Congress, and a
majority of the governorships and state legislatures, the Democrats are in
an ugly and desperate mood, lashing out without regard to how their words
and actions will affect this country's position internationally, including
giving aid and comfort to our enemies.
This may help explain, but it cannot condone, the obstructionism
behind such things as the Democrats' holding up the official Electoral
College vote count on President Bush's re-election or the harassment of
Condoleezza Rice during her confirmation hearings to become Secretary of
This is more than a passing mood among bitter sore losers. For a
whole generation now, and especially since the orchestrated smear campaign
against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Robert Bork in 1987, Senate
confirmation hearings have often had an ugly Roman circus atmosphere
whenever a nominee was someone that special interests feared or hated.
At some point, either this administration or some future
administration needs to put the brakes on this kind of behavior because many
people with achievements and dignity will not agree to become nominees if
that means being dragged through the mud by irresponsible politicians on
One way to stop this would be to nominate someone whose
qualifications and integrity are widely respected someone who might
ordinarily win confirmation by a vote of 90 to 10 and send just his or
her record to the Senate, asking for an up or down vote, without the nominee
No doubt the Senate prima donnas would be outraged and the
demagogues would protest loudly. That would be the time for the President,
whoever that might be at the time, to go to the public and explain the
reason for the decision to proceed in this way.
Of course such a procedure would affect the vote. But, if the
nominee is confirmed by 60 to 40, this is just as good as being confirmed 90
to 10. And that would set a precedent.
Naturally, it will matter when a test like this is made, what
kind of nominee is available, and whether the leader of the Senate majority
can count on enough votes to confirm. It matters because filters matter.
The kind of process through which individuals are filtered
changes the mix of people who emerge on the other side, whether that process
is Senate confirmation or any of the other processes through which people
must pass to reach a coveted position.
The consistently low academic quality of the people who go into
teaching in our public schools as shown by innumerable studies going back
more than half a century is an almost inevitable consequence of filtering
them through schools of education, whose ridiculous teacher training courses
would repel virtually any intelligent person.
Some dedicated people with intelligence may suffer through ed
school in order to teach, but many others will decide that they have better
things to do than listen to the pretentious garbage presented to students
under the guise of teacher training.
Whether in the corporate world or in the military, as politics
and public relations become an increasing part of the job of people at the
top, that filter can eliminate individuals whose only real talent is that
they can get the job done right, even if they are not smooth on television
or glib at conferences.
Who knows how the great industrial entrepreneurs of the 19th
century would have come across on TV? But all they had to do was deliver a
good product at a low price. Today, they might be replaced by someone more
photogenic or charismatic even if the consumers ended up paying more or
In the military, the difference between a mediocre general and a
great general can be not only the difference between victory and defeat but
also the difference between life and death for the troops under his command.
Could a MacArthur or a Patton rise to the same level of command today? And
how many more soldiers will lose their lives if they can't?
Filters matter. The Senate should not become a filter like
schools of education that filter out good people.
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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, "Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One." (Click HERE to purchase. Sales help fund JWR.) To comment please click here.