If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in 2016 she will not only be the nation’s first woman president but our second affirmative-action president. By affirmative-action president I mean that she, like Barack Obama, will have got into office partly for reasons extraneous to her political philosophy or to her merits, which, though fully tested while holding some of the highest offices in the land, have not been notably distinguished.If by "second", Epstein means "forty-fifth", he might be on to something (though admittedly, it is hard to argue that George W. Bush's rise to the presidency benefitted from any factors "extraneous to [his] political philosophy or to [his] merits"). But of course, any time women or non-White people rise to any level of political or social prominence, their accomplishments are dismissed as simply undeserved gifts bestowed by guilty White men. They never earn it on their own the old fashioned way: say, by being born into a political dynasty or by benefitting from only members of one's social class having the right to vote or by appealing to crude public sentiments of xenophobia and victimhood or by knowing that the only candidates adjudged to be "viable" would be ones who shared their race and sex. That's choosing a president on the merits.
Let's be clear: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were and are every bit as qualified and meritorious as your typical President before them. That's true regardless of whether or not one subscribes to their policy preferences. The only work "merit" is doing in the above critique is stand as a proxy for their non-White male character. Just like the Sotomayor confirmation, where " Princeton, Yale, and nearly two decades of federal court experience makes one a big ol' dummy [unless your name is Samuel Alito]", the veneer here is so thin it is incredible even the Weekly Standard was able to get it out with a straight face.