The Slatest

White House Calls Amy Coney Barrett a “Rhodes Scholar” Because She Went to a Place Called Rhodes College

McEnany stands at the White House briefing room lectern in front of two rows of socially distanced reporters and camera operators and photographers wearing masks.
Kayleigh McEnany holds a press briefing at the White House on Thursday. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A fun moment at the White House press briefing on Thursday regarding Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett:

The Rhodes Scholarship program was established by the British arch-imperialist Cecil Rhodes at the dawn of the 20th century, to help create a unified, Oxford-educated ruling class across what he hoped would be a globe-dominating Anglosphere. Rhodes College is a private liberal-arts school in Tennessee.

In any case, a few things are happening here, I think.

• Despite its purported disdain for “elites,” the Trump administration is actually conditioned by its leader—who is both insecure about his own reputation and obsessed with superficial appearances to the point that he doesn’t even meaningfully understand that substance exists—to manifest the most classic kind of “credentialism.” This is why the nation was treated Tuesday night to the spectacle of one septuagenarian trying to bait another septuagenarian into an argument about where the latter ranked in his college graduating class, 55 years ago.

• Republicans know that the idea of five or six Supreme Court seats being held by hard-line conservatives who want to overturn Roe v. Wade is unpopular, so they smartly frame each individual nomination push around their judges’ non-ideological qualifications.

• Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination is being rushed through before the election and McEnany probably just threw together some briefing materials and saw the word “Rhodes” and, given that neither she nor anyone in the White House place a high priority on factual accuracy, figured she’d go with “Rhodes scholar.”

It’s either that or they did it on purpose to bait snob liberal websites into being snobby about a small college in Tennessee.