Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Dog in the Night:
No Supreme Nomination

Remember all the mystery stories about the dog that didn't bark during the night? That the dog didn't bark was crucial evidence of something, namely that nobody disturbed it.

This morning's papers [NYTimes, WaPo] still contain no news about a nomination to fill the 9th seat on the US Supreme Court. My guess is that this is news.

A week ago, most pundits were expecting that President Bush would announce the name of his nominee to fill the 9th spot within 24 hours of Roberts' confirmation.
Here is a plausible story about what happened:
  • I presume the Bush administration had a short list of, say, 10 names. It seems reasonable that even before Roberts' confirmation as Chief Supreme, the admin had the FBI and others begin doing background checks on each of the ten.
  • They want this nomination to go at least as well and the Roberts nomination did, so they are looking for another squeaky clean, sort-of-strict constructionist.
  • But as the background checks proceeded, the names were crossed off for one reason or another.
  • Possibilities include: one had (too many) extra marital affairs; one had done drugs a bit more than casually as an undergraduate; another had been heard to utter a racial epithet; yet another was too openly anti-abortion; another gone through several spouses and partners; etc.

Eventually they exhausted the entire short list. Even though they might be able to squeeze one of those ten through the Senate confirmation process, the administration has chosen instead to come up with a B-list, which is currently under intense investigation and scrutiny. Once they have gone through that list, they will then have to decide on the optimal strategy.

But it has taken longer than they expected. There were too many skeletons in too many closets.

Update: Craig Newmark doesn't agree. He wrote in e-mail:

I believe this is Sherlock Holmes. And a small detail: it's not quite that the dog wasn't disturbed, it's that the dog knew the person who entered the house.
So Sherlock reasons, if the person were a stranger, the dog would have barked; the dog didn't bark; therefore, the person was not a stranger. If P then Q; not Q; therfore, not P. Sherlock thus illustrates modus tollens, one of the valid forms of deduction.

Or at least I hope so, because that is what I tell a couple of my classes.

> But it has taken longer than they expected. There were too many
> skeletons in too many closets.

Possible, but I don't think so. I go with one of two hypotheses that I regard as simpler.

1) There is strong internal debate, as rumored. Rove is pushing for one candidate, but other people W. respects are pushing for other candidates. Those arguments all could have been made before of course, but few would have been making them post-Roberts-as-Chief. W. wants one more weekend to consider the politics.

2) Related, they have one or two consensus candidates in hand, but they are trying to count noses for confirmation.

... Nobody has a good idea of who this nominee will be. (Or at least nobody who does-- which I expect is a very small group at this point--is betting a lot on Tradesports.) ... Fascinating.

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