You Don't Have to Be Snooty To Think Miers Is a Let-Down…

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But it sure helps. From Slate's Emily Bazelon:

Comparing Miers to the woman she would replace–Sandra Day O'Connor–underscores why you don't have to be snooty to think she's a let-down. O'Connor graduated from Stanford University with high honors and, in 1952, at the top of her class at Stanford Law School. Miers got her undergraduate and law degrees from Southern Methodist University, finishing law school in 1970.

More here.

How much does going to a particular college matter in predicting income and/or career success? One answer that SMU grads who turned down Stanford will find appealing here.

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  1. Be careful not to get the point of the Dale and Krueger study backwards. Dale and Krueger found that attending an elite school won’t make you outstanding. Admission to an elite school does indicate, however, that you are probably already academically outstanding. It isn’t due to ivy bias that the current justices graduated from highly selective law schools. Rather, it is because the most brilliant law students disproportionately attend these schools.

    The Dale and Kruger study indicates that sending Harriet Meirs to Yale would not have made her a more successful attorney. It does not say that being “Yale material” to start with is irrelevant.

  2. I’ve always hated the better school = better earning argument. I went to a double directional school and out earn friends of mine who went to much more prestigious institutions. It’s anecdotal, but in my experience people from “lesser” institutions often work harder to compensate for their lack of a brand name degree.

  3. I’m not crazy about Meirs, but the fact she is outside of the Ivy League club is a mark in her favor as far as I’m concerned.

  4. I almost went to an Ivy League school (for city planning, no less!) but am glad I chose a state school instead. Not because I earn more or got a better education… but because I paid a lot less and my career is totally unrelated to anything I studied or wanted to study in college.

  5. The fact that she didn’t go to Yale is not a problem. The likelihood that she didn’t have the intellectual ability to be admitted to Yale is.

  6. The fact that she didn’t go to Yale is not a problem. The likelihood that she didn’t have the intellectual ability to be admitted to Yale is.

    Although I am somewhat vain regarding my intellect, I consider her modest intellect to be something of a plus in the government arena. Consider that three of our most intelligent presidents were Clinton, Carter, and Nixon.

  7. Don’t forget Professor Wilson.

  8. Xavier,

    Didn’t have the intellect, or didn’t have the inclination? There are many factors that determine where someone chooses to go to school. Bush is a Yale man. Does that make him a great intellect?

  9. Let us not forget that Bush is also a Harvard man.

  10. I don’t care where you went to school, you can’t out-snooty an SMU girl anywhere anytime.

  11. I wonder if Slate intentionally tries to reinforce the wealthy, we’re-smarter-thus-we-know-what’s-best left wing intellectual. There’s a thousand good arguments against Miers and this is quite possibly the stupidest. Why don’t you just go the full measure are call her poor southern trash, while you’re at it?

  12. Let us not forget that Bush is also a Harvard man.

    Comment by: JMoore at October 4, 2005 05:08 PM

    President Bush also went to Yale as an undergrad.

  13. “poor”? – I guess maybe outside of Texas, SMU is not well known. I can’t vouch for the intellect of any of the students but I don’t think “poor” is the word you are looking for. SMU is a $30,000 a year tuition private school in the old and older money section of Dallas. The undergrad parking lot looks like a Mercedes dealership. Yale may have higher average SAT scores, but I can’t imagine any campus having higher per-student plastic surgery expenditures.

  14. According to an article in “Editor and Publisher” and now linked on Fark, Miers was the one who briefed Bush on the infamous “Bin Laden determined to attack United States” memo. I would not say that reflects well upon her.

    http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001221205

  15. I’m actually intrigued by a few things about her.

    Not going to an Ivy League school is no biggie. There’s still a lot of legacy and old-boy stuff going on there, and thousands of outstanding attorneys didn’t attend one.

    She also has big-firm experience. Not government. So she actually knows what “making money” is, how hard it is to do, what kinds of problems people face, from big corporations to pro bono clients.

    I don’t think you NEED to be an appellate judge first in order to be qualified to serve on SCOTUS. Nor do I think you need to be a trial judge, which might in fact be less relevant training than actually being a litigator. And I sure as hell don’t think you need to have been in some kind of government post to qualify.

    So in short, the things people are using as examples of how she isn’t qualified to be on the SCOTUS, I don’t find them to be so. She may be a crony and a toady and a kiss-ass and all that; she may be a liar and a scumbag for all I know. But I have serious doubts about the argument that she is unqualified. I don’t see what necessary experience or ability she lacks.

  16. mike in ftw is dead on. You have to be a snob’s snob to look down on SMU grads.

  17. … and when I said “not government” I was totally not thinking about her being White House counsel.

  18. When it comes to engineering, the license is all that matters, unless you want to be CEO of Haliburton. For that you need a Political Science degree. (woo hoo! Dicky has a PhD in Doctoral Studies! Huh?)

    Isn’t SMU a rather highly ranked college? I went to a fifth rate school. You don’t have to compete to get into those places. But I have my license, so a big, wet plbbbbt! to Slate.

    *pray there’s no typos*

    *prey theirs know typo’s*

  19. erm. think I was misunderstood there. Yes, Bush is a Yale man (undergrad) AND a Harvard man (MBA).

    Both worthless schools, of course. Everyone knows that the only true university in the entire world is Cambridge; all others are mere pale imitations. I know this because God told me so, and he lives in Cambridge.

  20. Students at elite schools have the opportunity to develop a more lucrative network of connections I think. This goes a little towards explaining higher incomes later in life.

  21. According to an article in “Editor and Publisher” and now linked on Fark

    Personally, I don’t believe anything until it’s linked on Fark.

  22. Also, I’ll add: be glad it wasn’t Luttig. Be very glad. Rejoice.

    From what I’ve read so far, Miers at least has a sense of fairness. Nobody I know of is a bigger yes-man for the administration than Luttig. He’s got to be fuming about now that all his servility and line-towing has come to nought. Along with all the other creeps out there in dittoheadland.

  23. It’s pretty stunning arrogance on the part of Bush to make such an obvious crony appointment so close on the heels of Katrina and I certainly was not happy (though not terribly surprised since Bush values loyalty above all else ) with his choice. But then when I think of, inter alia, McConnell v. FEC and Kelo v. New London, I have to wonder if it even matters. I mean, how much worse could she be? At this point it seems pretty clear that worrying about the intellectual gravitas of the Justices is pointless when they can come to such egregiously bad decisions in spite of their legal and educational pedigree.

  24. Assuming arguendo that the study is correct (various commenters previous objections notwithstanding), I imagine it’s somewhat difficult to extrapolate “elite schools have no effect on earnings” to “elite law schools have no effect on earnings.”

  25. …but I can’t imagine any campus having higher per-student plastic surgery expenditures

    Funny and true. FWIW, Laura Bush is another SMU grad.

  26. And the two were in attendance at the same time.

  27. Several commenters point out that getting into an Ivy League school is no guarantee that a person is intellectually capable of serving on the Supreme Court. I completely agree. Plenty of morons manage to go to excellent schools. But the fact remains that a person who is unable to get into an Ivy League school is almost certainly intellectually incapable of serving on the Court. Going to an excellent law school should be a necessary but far from sufficient qualification for a SCOTUS nominee.

    BTW, we’re talking about SMU here. She didn’t just miss the Ivy League, she didn’t even come close.

  28. I don’t care where you went to school, you can’t out-snooty an SMU girl anywhere anytime.

    My buddy that went to SMU agrees, exhibit 1 being his ex GF.

    Isn’t SMU a rather highly ranked college?

    I think it’s usually in the 25-35 range.

  29. I certainly hope there will be cause for her to recuse herself if something like the Patriot Act or limitless detentions makes it to the SC. But don’t forget that Reid recommended her, that she seems a “consensus” choice. Reid said he won’t accuse Bush of cronyism if he picks her. That certainly would have made it easier to do.

    Bush trusts her. That fits w/ his character. It sounds like he wasn’t even thinking about her until Reid endorsed her. (Don’t know if that’s true.)

  30. Xavier,

    You’re still making the assumption she was unable to get into an Ivy League school. Maybe, and I know this might be hard for someone of your impeccable breeding to understand, she didn’t want to go to an Ivy League school.

  31. But the fact remains that a person who is unable to get into an Ivy League school is almost certainly intellectually incapable of serving on the Court.

    Xavier, you’ve got to be joking here. So, Dubya is qualified for SCOTUS, but retiring justice O’Connor was not? (She attended Stanford for undergrad and grad.)

  32. So, Dubya is qualified for SCOTUS, but retiring justice O’Connor was not? (She attended Stanford for undergrad and grad.)

    Come on Rimfax, that’s not what Xavier said at all. There is a big difference between saying that in order to be qualified for the SCOTUS you should be smart enough to get into a top school and saying that anyone who goes to a top school is qualified and anyone who does not is unqualified to be on the SCOTUS.

    I would say it doesn’t matter so much what school you went to (or whether you’re a judge or even a lawyer for that matter) if you have done something to demonstrate your intellectual depth. That generally does not include running a law firm, getting elected to the city council or being a toady for the President.

    I would say it doesn’t matter so much what school you went to if you have done something to demonstrate your itellectual grasp of complex concepts other than running a law firm, getting elected to the city council or being a toady for the President.

  33. I hate to be superficial but Harriet could benefit from some of that SMU plastic surgery!

  34. Oh, and not only was that not what he said from a logical point of view, but I doubt he meant to have “Ivy League” taken that literally – obviously Stanford is a top 5 law school in anyone’s book.

  35. So, Dubya is qualified for SCOTUS, but retiring justice O’Connor was not?

    Not just O’Connor, either.

    Stevens went to the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

  36. Dear God – did a single person finish reading the paragraph in the ACTUAL article?

    “O’Connor moved to Arizona with her husband and concentrated on having kids and raising them. She went back to work in 1965, part-time, for the Arizona attorney general’s office. According to this Washington Post profile, Miers was the first woman hired by the Dallas firm Locke Purnell Boren Laney & Neely. Her clients included Microsoft and the Walt Disney Co. So far, so good?Miers is winning, though O’Connor should probably start with handicap points since she was coming up in an earlier, more sexist era.”

    Where’s the snoot now, Sherlocks?

  37. Brian Courts,
    You are clearly technically correct about what Xavier asserted, but you also put words into his mouth. For one, you both assume that if she attended SMU, she must not have been accepted at an SCOTUS-acceptable school. Given SMU’s not-too-shabby ranking, that is far from a foregone conclusion. Also, you both seem to think that being accepted at a legacy-pit and warming a robe and bench for a few years is demonstrative of your intellect, but successfully running your own business, earning a sterling reputation as a litigator, successfully running a state bar association, and becoming a trusted political advisor is not.

  38. I turned down Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and Caltech.

  39. From the article: O’Connor’s next move was to the Arizona Senate, to which she was appointed in 1969 and then ran for re-election. Miers, by contrast, stuck to the more comfortable private sector, becoming president of her 400-lawyer firm…

    WTF????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Running a 400 person law firm is more comfy than being a state senator????!!!!!!!

    Nevertheless, it seems that SMU law is comparable to my school (U. Richmond Law) which mean I have a shot at being a SCOTUS justice if I can only spend some time kneeling before the right president.

  40. As an anarchist, it seems to me to make little difference whether I root for a Rolex or a busted Timex. The busted Timex is the one accurate twice a day. Most here seem to get excited about lining up 9 Rolexes. Why?
    Geniuses may not even be able to synchronize their watches. And, even if they did, would it be a more reliable source of the time than that radio-adjusted clock you can get cheap from WalMart?
    As I’ve posted before, sloppy justice is more just than hoity-toity, pristine justice. I know it’s counterintuitive.
    This is not meant to imply that I don’t get my jollies listening to Nina Totenburg and Linda Greenhouse talk about the intricacies of a big SCOTUS decision. To be so smart, they have to be Jewish. They would send me into flights of lacivious fancy even if SCOTUS were deciding a life-or-death case involving yours truly.

    And I get my foreign affairs straight (hee-hee) from the wife of the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
    Life is good for an southern Irish hillbilly.

  41. And, even if they did, would it be a more reliable source of the time than that radio-adjusted clock you can get cheap from WalMart?

    That radio-adjusted clock I bought from WalMart was the best investment I’ve ever made.

    And that is the absolute truth.

  42. I’m not terribly interested in where a 60 year-old went to school.

    I am interested in her career. I think it’s a very good career. But I also think that there are a great many candidates with even better careers. And many of them aren’t cronies of the President. Independence is a good thing, as Hamilton reminded us in the quote in another thread.

    I know that SCOTUS nominations have always been driven by politics as well as merit. I’m sure that Miers isn’t the first crony to be nominated over a pool of much better applicants.

    That doesn’t make this any less disappointing.

    I have no expectation that political considerations will or even should be tossed aside in favor of the resume. But surely we could do better than a blatant crony whose respectable qualifications are outshined by many other people.

  43. YOUR son or daughter has just been accepted to both the University of Pennsylvania and to Penn State. The deadline for decision is May 1. Where should he or she go?

    Hey, I went to Penn State! Should I be offended or flattered?

    Actually, my cousin is there now on a full ride in the honors college (http://www.scholars.psu.edu). He really did nix a bunch of snooty $35k-a-year colleges in favor of Penn State. Now he’s getting a damn good education for free. Now that’s smart!

  44. Given SMU’s not-too-shabby ranking, that is far from a foregone conclusion.

    It’s number 52. For a Supreme Court nominee, I’d say that’s quite shabby.

    BTW, I already said this in an earlier post, but it seems to have been ignored: Going to an excellent law school should be a necessary but far from sufficient qualification for a SCOTUS nominee. Even that was probably an overstatement. Going to a poor law school should be a strike against a nominee, but if she’s had an otherwise remarkable career, I think she can overcome it.

    I don’t think there is any single item on Miers’s resume that’s unforgivable. I can overlook a bad law school if she makes up for it elsewhere. I can overlook a lack of judicial experience if she makes up for it elsewhere. I can even overlook a lack of clearly established judicial philosophy if she makes up for it elsewhere. But Meirs suffers from all of those faults and she doesn’t make up for it anywhere.

  45. At least she didn’t go to Rutgers.

  46. The amazing ability to Xavier and the others here to know anything about a person of whom very little has been written strikes me as disingenious at the very least.

    I mean come on, the 52nd rand school isn’t SCOTUS material?!?!?!

    The arrogance of this statement is all most too much to deal with (troll?), but I’m in now…

    Please list for us all, the SCOTUS approved schools, jobs, income, industries they should’ve worked for, IQ, SAT scores, and any other factors you *require.*

    **Have you ever met a self-made person? Even one (*gasp*) without a degree????

  47. Disclaimer:

    My knee-jerk is to agree this isn’t a good pick due to the crony thing mainly, but I know so little about her career/qualifications at this point, I would simply be voicing an opinion that I can’t currently back up.

  48. Look, say what you will about schools – schools ratings change and I can’t fault bush’c choice just because she went to a lesser prestigious college – heck, I went to Elon University (called Elon College back then) when it too was a lesser know school that has become well known nationally now.

  49. I think the cronyism thing totally disqualifies her, regardless of what school she went to or what she accomplished in her career.

    That said, I don’t believe there’s much difference in the quality of education between, say, Cornell Law (#11) and SUNY-Buffalo (#77). But you have to pay extra to get that networking, I guess.

  50. SixSigma: This is going to be my last comment on Miers. I’m burned out on the subject. Very little has been written on Miers because she hasn’t done anything worth writing about. I don’t see how I can be accused of arrogance. I’m certainly not suggesting that I would be qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.

    I’ve read enough poorly reasoned Supreme Court opinions to know that even many judges with impressive credentials often aren’t smart enough for the job. I don’t see why it’s so controversial to think that Supreme Court justices should be the most impressive legal scholars available. And I definitely don’t see why it’s so controversial to assume that Harriet Miers doesn’t meet that standard.

    I wouldn’t say that we should require nominees to have gone to a particular school or followed a particular career path, but they certainly have to meet some high standard of excellence. How about this for a standard: If the nominee wanted to teach at a top law school, could he or she be hired? In the case of everyone else widely believed to be on the president’s short list, I think the answer is almost certainly yes. I can’t say the same for Miers.

    I don’t see the Supreme Court as a political institution. I see it as an intellectual institution. I’m not particularly interested in the outcome of individual cases or how the law develops. All I really want from the Court is quality legal scholarship. As a legal scholar, it seems that her resume consists of little more than a student note, two articles in Texas Lawyer magazine, and one brief piece in West Virginia Lawyer magazine. This is like taking a man who once removed a hangnail while in medical school and installing him as chief of surgery. It’s entirely possible that he has a remarkable natural talent for the job. But no one could say with a straight face that he’s qualified. The Supreme Court is the absolute pinnacle of the legal profession. We deserve better.

  51. Shouldn’t a nominee before being have some sort of tangible means to test their quality of jurisprudence, as in, papers written on law topics or previous judicial ship?

    And what does it matter what school she went to? Couldn’t someone have slcaked off hardcore at an Ivy League, or a UVA, at the same time, had someone really devlop legally at a lesser known school?

    How arbitrary.

  52. Am I the only one who, in my pre-college years held the belief that “college was college”, and that it didn’t make much difference which college you went to? I believed this even though I certainly believed that going to *a* college and getting a degree was a good and important thing.

    I think this attitude perhaps explains why many people who may be smart enough never really tried for highly ranked colleges. I hardly think going to a prestigious college equals a high IQ. I’d bet, it correlates more with coming from a background where you are taught to value prestigious colleges (largely a class issue).

    Yes, her achievements or “lack there of”, deserves to be looked at, but mostly with the regard to what she did with her long life as a whole. The slate article does do this. It’s merely the slipping in the elitist “what school she went to” reference that irritates.

  53. This is like making someone who’s coached little league baseball the umpire for the MLB.

    Bam, theres the baseball analogy the founders wanted and you the people need.

  54. Xavier may sound a bit snooty, but I like his standard when he says

    …but they certainly have to meet some high standard of excellence.

    Amen.

    Still, y’all are missing the boat here.

    Question: why did Bush nominate this mare’s ass (from yesterday’s thread) for the SCOTUS?

    Answer: because Bush thinks she’ll probably get approved. You can object to the smell of a horse’s ass, but it’s really hard to object to it on idealogical grounds. And idealogical grounds are what the senate dems keep bitching about.

    Bush is The President. It isn’t good when The President repeatedly gets publicly slapped around by the senate, especially when the republicans supposedly are in the majority.

    This is especially true for a president like Bush, who is having some clout problems lately.

    Well, Bush is a politician. He needs some wins, and he’s going to nominate somebody he thinks will get him one. That’s pretty much the end of it. Whether Bush has made a smart horse bet or not remains to be seen.

    Cronyism, for better or worse, is just part of the game.

    Now, for some of the interesting but more off-thread comments here, saw-whet says

    When it comes to engineering, the license is all that matters

    That’s only true for some career tracks, especially if you work where being a PE actually matters.

    It’s really not true if you are, like me, a PhD in engineering. One of the first things people ask when looking at a PhD resume is, “where did he/she get their PhD?”

    The school does make a difference as to which jobs you end up getting seriously considered for, especially early in your career. What you can do later in your career in turn depends on what you did earlier. It snow balls. It also has definite salary impact, from beginning to end.

    podrazza says

    Students at elite schools have the opportunity to develop a more lucrative network of connections I think. This goes a little towards explaining higher incomes later in life.

    This can help, but only a little. My opinion, from having gone to no-name schools for BS and MS, then a Top Ten for my PhD: the big name schools actually do a poorer job of teaching overall. However, they also force you to learn how to present.

    At minimum, big schools expose you to top notch presentations far more, and the professors have far more experience at it, and on average will do it at a decidedly higher level. Why? Because you don’t get big research grants otherwise, and engineering professors generally don’t last in big name schools if they can’t bring in the grants.

    In the career long run, your ability to put on a good “dog and pony show” will do more for you than any other single thing. Assuming you have at least the bare minimum of competence, of course.

    Rhywun says

    I don’t believe there’s much difference in the quality of education between, say, Cornell Law (#11) and SUNY-Buffalo (#77). But you have to pay extra to get that networking, I guess.

    I disagree, see comments above. There is a difference. Maybe law doesn’t work exactly the same way engineering does, but I strongly suspect there is something comperable for every field.

    Part of the reason big name schools have their reputations is that they know how to dress themselves, i.e. they’re good at doing the dog and pony shows.

    This is a truth I did not appreciate until I went from Podunk U to Georgia Tech.

  55. Xavier,

    your view of the Supremes has absolutely no foundation in history. Intellectual ability has never been much of a criteria for selection and the same goes for lawyerly acumen. As to legal scholarship, that has been even less a criteria — you will find only few law profs in the history of the Court, and not all of them can be considered to have been great Justices.

  56. “Students at elite schools have the opportunity to develop a more lucrative network of connections I think. This goes a little towards explaining higher incomes later in life.”

    anecdote supporting this theory: My girlfriend in college worked at a startup in Cambridge, MA. She was an admin assistant, working for guys that had multiple engineering doctorates from MIT. The VP of marketing was a 21 year old with her MBA from Harvard. The CEO, who was 32, had started and sold three previous businesses, each time making multi-millions on the sale. His degree? B.A. in English Literature from Harvard. He just made the right connections while there and knew how to raise money for start-ups.

  57. Why did 40 percent of students turn down the most selective school that admitted them?

    Money? I got accepted to Stanford, but when the admissions office magnanimously told me that I would likely be required to generate the 40,000 dollar a year tuition myself in some way, plus being required to shell out for an apartment or taking my chances with the housing lottery, I politely declined. I don’t care if a first tier school can guarantee you freedom from death for at least 50 years, it’s not worth becoming an indentured servant to the people at the loan office unless that’s your only hope for advancement.

  58. Same here… I turned down Cornell when I learned that the generous support they offered to freshmen was often withdrawn (i.e. grants become loans) when you became a sophomore or junior. I wasn’t unique enough or genius enough to get anything more than a tiny little scholarship. The same thing happened at my state school, but at least I graduated from there owing less money than one semester cost at Cornell. I admit that the Cornell education is certainly better (despite my bitter comment above), but to this day am perplexed about how one is supposed to pay for it.

  59. I think it is about time that someone disabused the nation of the infantile concept that an Ivy League pedigree stamps a person as one with greater intellect and ability than their peers.

    Unfortunately, quantitative standards are the most efficient way of running an efficient admissions system and are by far the norm at most of these schools. The long and short of it, is that at the end of the day a margin of difference of two points on the LSAT or a tenth of a grade point could make the difference between attending an Ivy League school or not.

    That’s all, folks. There is the essence of your hallowed Ivy League education. I’m not here to contest the idea that people with the strongest track records have a rather strong chance of being intelligent, intellectually curious people as well.

    Let’s just say that I know a dumb girl that went to Harvard. And I’m sure at least one of you can think of a dumb guy who went to Yale.

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