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Why No Credit for Affirmative Action?

11:38 AM, Jun 8, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Yesterday the New York Times stated as fact that Sotomayor "benefited from affirmative action policies" at both Princeton and Yale. Today William Bowen, the president of Princeton during Sotomayor's undergraduate years, praises Sotomayor effusively and says that Sotomayor would have succeeded without affirmative action:

The whole purpose of affirmative-action programs isn't to find the one-in-a-thousand Sonia Sotomayor, but to diversify campus communities and to identify people of promise who would do well, but who didn't necessarily have all the qualities and characteristics that she had.

No one has done more to cast doubt on Sotomayor's intellectual firepower than the New Republic's Jeffrey Rosen, but Sotomayor's supporters -- most of whom support racial preferences -- insist that Sotomayor is so smart and capable she would have succeeded regardless of any affirmative action policies. And maybe she would have, but it's clear she never got the chance. Sotomayor's nomination to the Supreme Court is precisely the kind of outcome liberals were hoping for when they set up a system of preferences. And it is precisely the outcome Bowen was hoping for when he implemented a system of preferences. But now that that outcome has been achieved, liberals don't want to take any credit for their success. It's a very odd thing to see a social policy become orphaned at the moment of its greatest triumph.