A Little Representation Goes a Long Way

Dear Reader (excluding those of you unhealthily bothered by other people’s admittedly weird handiwork),

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

No, wait: You are powerless to stop me if you’ve heard this one before, hah! In 1970, Richard Nixon nominated G. Harrold Carswell to fill Abe Fortas’ seat on the Supreme Court. Critics charged that Carswell was a decidedly mediocre jurist. Sen. Roman Hruska’s defense of Carswell and the nomination is considered a minor classic in political spin. In a TV interview, he said, “Even if he were mediocre, there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they? We can’t have all Brandeises and Frankfurters and Cardozos.”

I like this anecdote for a bunch of reasons. Hruska was a good man and he had a perfectly respectable—at times even laudatory—political career. This episode is the only thing he’s remembered for by those other than his friends and family and some Nebraska political junkies. It got ample space in his obituaries, and it’s a good cautionary tale about how small slips of the tongue can end up defining you.

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