It's always bracing, on the eve of a nominations process of historic importance, shaping the legal future of the republic for generations to come, to take stock of the people's will. By bracing, of course, we mean "colossally embarrassing" and by "people's will," we mean "the nation's staggering witlessness." The American Enterprise Institute has reviewed poll results querying Americans on their grasp of Supreme Court affairs. Here's a snapshot of our, uhm, knowledge:
-"Individual justices are not well known. In one poll, only 9 percent were able to identify William Rehnquist as Chief Justice after he had been on the court for 17 years. More people were able to identify Judge Wapner of the People's Court."
-"In many areas, opinion about the Court is not well formed. Questions about original intent, for example, pull people in one direction or another depending on how questions are worded."
-"People generally feel comfortable with George W. Bush making the decision about the next nominee. At the same time, however, they believe the Senate should have a preeminent role."
Never before have we been so impressed with the professional restraint shown by the American pollster. Faced with the seductive combination of respondents who don't know what they're talking about and who will evidently agree to anything, no matter how contradictory, depending on how you word it, pollsters have resisted the temptation to turn their subjects into prostrate, worshipful hordes. It would be so easy, too: Just get them to assent to the proposition that the Constitution mandates--by, oh, let's say original intent--that pyramids be erected in the honor of pollsters, and Judge Wapner (or maybe it was Bush, or the Senate) once ruled that polling agents are entitled to lifetime supplies of champagne and ice cream.
After all, we're reasonably sure Thomas got approved by pretty much the same process. --HOLLY MARTINS
Public Opinion on the Supreme Court American Enterprise Institute