Paul Greenberg

The law schools aren't happy about that rule and, truth to tell, I'm not crazy about it, either. But I'm not about to boycott the armed forces of the United States on account of that policy. Because I owe them too much. Like loyalty and gratitude and respect. And a decent welcome when they drop by to make their case. Don't all Americans owe the military that much, even those who teach law?

It didn't take the chief justice long to shoot down the law schools' argument that they were being forced to agree with the military's policy. After all, the court requires high schools to allow equal access for religious clubs without any danger of making those schools endorse religion. "We have held," wrote the chief justice, "that high school students can appreciate the difference between speech a school sponsors and speech the school permits because legally required to do so . . . . Surely students have not lost that ability by the time they get to law school."

Well, maybe they have in the higher reaches of academe. Or so these distinguished law schools were reduced to arguing. To borrow an observation from George Orwell that never seems to lose its relevance: "One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: No ordinary man could be such a fool."

Naturally the law schools aren't happy with how this fight they picked came out. To quote Chai Feldblum, a professor of law at Georgetown, this decision should serve as a "call to arms" to the schools. One trusts she was speaking only metaphorically. If not, there's still a bright side: Professor Feldblum could yet come to see the utility of military training for lawyers.

The court's decision in Rumsfeld may have lacked the surprise factor that makes for Big News, but it offers real hope. For you'd think at least one of the justices would have fallen for the law schools' involved argument that to deny them federal aid merely because they wanted to snub the military would be an unconstitutional infringement on their freedom of speech, their need for diversity on campus, their sacred conscience and general grabbiness, etc. But not even one justice swallowed the law schools' tangled line.

Whatever this decision may say about the Constitution, it says something most assuring about the court itself. Can the fog in Washington be lifting? Have reports of the death of common sense in the law been greatly exaggerated? Keep the good thought.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.