Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Lemmings of a Feather Flock Together


“Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the time they are a-changin’.”

- Bob Dylan – “The Times They Are a Changin’” (1964)

Two days ago I commented on the Harriet Miers nomination, noting that:

“I suspect that in the current political environment that Harriet Miers is going to need a lot of grace and a little bit of moxie too. She’ll be excoriated not only for her lack of experience, but also for her loyalty to George Bush or her temperament. Every closet in her life will opened in a search for political or judicial skeletons. The boys and girls on Capital Hill are soon going to pull the swords out of their scabbards to see how much political flaying they can do. Unlike John Roberts, Ms. Miers will have to fend off the blows and slashing from the far right and the far left. I hope and pray that she’ll hold her ground, centered on her faith and integrity. If she maintains her hold on those pillars of her life she’ll fare well. I wish her the best.”

Having now read some of the commentary since then, I hope that she has leather skin and a bullet proof heart.

What’s really been disappointing (although not surprising) is the viciousness of the attacks from the right. Here, for example, is what Pat Buchanan had to say about the nomination:

“Bush capitulated to the diversity-mongers, used a critical Supreme Court seat to reward a crony and revealed that he lacks the desire to engage the Senate in fierce combat to carry out his now-suspect commitment to remake the court in the image of Scalia and Thomas.”

George Will, who is normally quite temperate, weighed in with these carefully chosen words:

“Under the rubric of “diversity” -- nowadays, the first refuge of intellectually disreputable impulses -- the president announced, surely without fathoming the implications, his belief in identity politics and its tawdry corollary, the idea of categorical representation. Identity politics holds that one's essential attributes are genetic, biological, ethnic or chromosomal -- that one's nature and understanding are decisively shaped by race, ethnicity or gender. Categorical representation holds that the interests of a group can be understood, empathized with and represented only by a member of that group.”

So, Harriet Miers, if you believe the press, is either George Bush’s crony or a “tawdry corollary” to the “idea of categorical representation.”

But wait. There’s even more invective coming from the right. Earlier today John Podhortez asked whether the President had chosen her “because she is an evangelical Christian:”

“Is this the real meaning of the “trust me” message -- and are her religious beliefs the reason that James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Marvin Olasky and others have given her the big thumbs-up? They were clearly given an early preview of the Miers nomination and were told things about her or told things by her that made her right with them. Has the president decided, in effect, that just as there has been a Jewish seat and an African-American seat and a female seat on the court, there will now be a born-again seat?”

Adding insult to injury, Molly Ivins has taken up her sword to discredit Ms.Miers. Some samples of her latest follow:

“Miers, like Bush himself, is classic Texas conservative Establishment, with the addition of Christian fundamentalism. What I mean by fundamentalist is one who believes in both biblical inerrancy and salvation by faith alone.”

“She is enrolled in the Valley View Christian Church of Dallas, which she attended for at least 20 years before moving to Washington five years ago. Among that church's other members is Nathan Hecht of the Texas Supreme Court, considered second only to Priscilla Owen as that court's most adamant anti-abortion judge.”

“Miers’ church states on its Web site that it believes in biblical inerrancy, full immersion baptism, original sin and salvation dependent entirely upon accepting Jesus Christ. Everyone else is going to hell.”

“I have said for years about people in public life, ‘I don't write about sex, drugs or rock ‘n' roll.’ If I had my druthers, I wouldn't write about the religion of those in public life, either, as I consider it a most private matter. Separation of church and state is in the Constitution because this country was founded by people who had experienced both religious persecution and state-supported religions. I think John F. Kennedy's 1960 statement to the Baptist ministers should stand as a model of how public servants should handle the relation between religious belief and public service.”


It seems to me that the old adage is true – politics makes strange bedfellows. Rock-ribbed conservatives and die-hard liberals have joined hands across the political divide to discredit Harriet Miers even before the confirmation process begins.

If I read the pundits correctly Harriet Miers has three strikes against her. She’s a crony, a token woman, and an evangelical Christian to boot.

Her detractors claim to be conscientiously objecting to at least three principles the President has violated in nominating her to the Supreme Court. First, while they can’t say for sure, they don’t believe she has the pedigree of a Supreme Court justice. Then, if only being a lawyer and a woman isn’t enough to disqualify her, being an evangelical Christian is, in their minds, more than enough to throw her to the wolves.

What could I possibly say to such noble principles?

Responding to Harriet Miers’ detractors could be dangerous. It could be a bit like standing down wind of them while they’re coughing up ammunition to aim at her and those who might seem to be her supporters. But I’m going to go ahead anyway. I’ve had the phlegm of my enemies deposited on me. I’ve been spit on before and I’m sure I’ll be spit on again before I return to the dust.

While I don’t consider myself an anti-intellectual contrarian, I must admit that the hue and cry about this woman’s lack of pedigree amuses me. It reminds me of a conversation I once had with a “real intellectual” when I was doing my graduate work in Kansas City. One acquaintance, a brilliant mind, used to dominate our between class conversations with his expert language and thought. One phrase, in particular, became his mantra – “considered consequent eschatology.” He used it liberally, and often found creative ways to inject it, or its derivatives (“considered consequent eschatological developments”) into our daily dialogues. One day, out of curiosity, I asked him a question. “How would you explain that clever little catch phrase of yours to a cab driver?” Nonplussed, he responded, “This isn’t for cab drivers or the rank and file for that matter. It’s for minds suitably intelligent to grasp.”

Well, I suspect we may have one, two, or more of this genius’s relatives sitting on the highest court in the land right now. Perhaps someone like Harriet Miers would be like a breath of fresh air in Washington. Perhaps it would be refreshing to have someone on the High Court who would ask questions like, “How would you explain this clever little decision of yours to a cab driver?”

A while ago I read this from Marvin Olasky:

“But perhaps that makes Miers the perfect candidate. Perhaps it takes someone who did not go to Harvard or Yale and has never seemed to care. Miers went to law school at Southern Methodist University, which, although a well-respected institution, was unlikely to have been a bastion of progressive thought when she entered it in 1970.”

Like Olasky, I’m not impressed with the high sounding credentials. I once delivered newspapers around the campus of Harvard and I learned something. While the elite may think so, a Harvard or Yale degree doesn’t mean that its holder craps ice cream.

There’s little that can be said about the “token woman” argument that’s being raised. She is what she is. She’s a woman. I suspect that she’s probably more a woman than many of her detractors are men. I’ll leave it at that.

I think that when it comes right down to it her religion scares the hell out of both the left and right. Molly Ivins cited John F. Kennedy’s speech to the Southern Baptists in 1960 as her principle. What principle, I wonder, was she adhering to? Was it this one?:

“Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end -- where all men and all churches are treated as equal -- where every man has the same right to attend or not to attend the church of his choice -- where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind -- and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, both the lay and the pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.”

Or was it this one?:

“That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe -- a great office that must be neither humbled by making it the instrument of any religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding it, its occupancy from the members of any religious group. I believe in a President whose views on religion are his own private affair, neither imposed upon him by the nation nor imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.”

I find the rhetoric coming from the seats of power both fascinating and frightening. This one nomination, this “religious” woman, has caused shock waves. The president who nominated her is being pilloried from the left and the right. While I don’t think that George Bush harbors any Messianic designs, I suspect that his detractors, like the Pharisees and Sadducees of old are worried enough to stir up the masses. In His day, the religious right and left dealt with Jesus harshly. There were clever catch phrases back then, as there are today. “We have no king but Caesar!” “If you’re the son of God, come down from there!”

Well, I can smell a new millennium crucifixion brewing in the editorial board rooms right now. I read all the commentary and wonder, “Who am I to be thinking in such a contrary manner when the experts seem to have spoken?” I guess when it comes right down to it I don’t want to be just another lemming jumping off the cliff into the philosophical darkness.
Yes, there’s a crucifixion brewing and I think I’ll stay home with the cab drivers, the rank and file, and those who aren’t “suitably intelligent.”

15 comments:

Douglas said...

It doesn't seem to be a big deal that Miers hasn't been a judge, because there have been other justices in the same situation.

If Dobson, Colson and Jay Sekulow are all happy about this, that's pretty good.

There don't seem to be enough Democrats in a frenzy about it.

Ed Darrell said...

Not that Bush doesn't deserve most of the abuse . . . well, at least you're seeing that the "conservative" gum-flappers can get the story grotesquely wrong.

Miers won't be the first from a non-Ivy League laws school, either.

What's telling is that after nearly two decades of the most conservative court since Dred Scott, people like Buchanan think the Court's not fascist enough. Obviously their desires are not to be taken seriously.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...

Ed

I suspect there's enough blame to go around. One of the points I made was that there were as many liberals at the foot of the cross as there were conservatives.

To be honest, I trust the conservatives more than the liberals because at least I know where they're coming from. Most people on the left I know (I suspect you fit that bill) use smarmy language,telling folks you really care. But the real truth is that you're every bit as hateful as the people you decry. Since you love using the fascist model as a hammer against the right, I'll use Stalin or Pol Pot as the model you guys on the left want to emulate.

One last thing. I see right through you guys. And, what I see is this - you view the world through the evilness of your own hearts.

Philip Del Ricci said...

Phil:

I'm sorry for the radical segue from the topic of your post. I read your BLOG semi-regularily and I thought you might be interested in something I am doing on my own BLOG - Dark Glass. My BLOG discusses my work at Liguori Publications and I am giving away free cookbooks (with a Catholic theme no less) to my readers. I thought you might like to have one.

Thank you for maintaining such a balanced and compassionate BLOG.

Peace,
P. Del Ricci - Dark Glass

James Fletcher Baxter said...

"Good man, Dillon!"

The professional designers of fashionable political thought seemingly hope to camouflage the far Right and far Left as opposites when in Reality they are the same: Collectivist. Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin, et al.

Collectivism measures human value by the group - not by Individuals, which are the only kinds of humans there are. 'Groups' are verbal conveniences, only; not Reality. In all my 81 years I have yet to see a group. "Me neither?"

The American People are still largely centered on the founding values of Washington, Madison, and Witherspoon - and the Individual.

Let us maintain with the Statesmen; not Politicians of 'Right' and 'Left' - those who think "People by the bunch."

And, never forget: By the rent veil in the temple, Jesus gave us Individual Value in the presence of God forever. selah

Anonymous said...

I never thought I would be in full agreement with a JFK democrat, but I am. Keep it up! --Hawkeye Gold

dog1net said...

Phil:
Phil:
I've read Will, Ivins and listened to Buchanan on Imus' broadcast. What you have done with your dissemination of their arguments is create a much needed construct that helped me gain a better understanding of what this nomination is about, and why she ultimately might be a good choice for the court.
Well done, and brilliant.
Scot

Jay said...

It's looking to me as the only thing more vicious than the criticisms of the rightwing to Miers is other rightwingers criticisms of those critics.

When you have a party where ideaology is everything and anybody who disagrees on any point is the enemy...eventually they will eat their own.

Liberal Traitor said...

My thought is that if the right wingers are against her, she's probably not that bad. But when you've got Dick Cheney going around with a wink and a nudge to everybody saying "trust us on this one," I would think that there's something vile under the surface.

Daedalus said...

What ever happened to good old qualifications? Someone with a proven track record? Experience? You know, these things tend to make good professionals. We don't need pony show judges filling important positions.

mynym said...

What's telling is that after nearly two decades of the most conservative court since Dred Scott...

It's ironic that the abolitionists who spoke out against Dred Scott were typically motivated by Christianity and Theism.

"[I]s [Lincoln] ready to endorse the sham Dred Scott decision and deny that a colored man...can be a citizen of this nation, although the foundation of its Government and Constitution is the legal equality of all its subjects?

Will he stand up boldly, face to face, before the people of this land, and take that Pro-Slavery decision as authority and law? Will he assert with Wickliefe and the like that this is the ‘white man’s land,’ and that negroes under the Constitution can be neither ‘citizens’ nor even ‘people?’...

It is in vain to take these lies in our right hand, or attempt to put them as true stones in our building-we must sooner or later renounce them, or truth and right will renounce us. So long as this wrong to the whole colored race continues to be the prevailing practice of the nation, so long, I feel assured, will the displeasure and the pursuing and fierce judgments of God rest upon us."
(Drafting Negroes
The New York Times, Aug 21, 1862
Editorial, pg. 2)

mynym said...

...think the Court's not fascist enough.

This is a fascist Court, Ed:
"'What is important, what brings together all these questions,' Yorck replied, 'is the totalitarian claim of the State on the individual which forces him to renounce his moral and religious obligations to God.' 'Nonsense!' cried Freisler, and he cut off the young man.

...punishment was meted out as soon as the trial had ended on August 8.

...Goebbels is said to have kept himself from fainting by holding his hands over his eyes."
(The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
By William L. Shirer (Simon and Schuster) 1990 :240)

Such a Court relies on a denial of all transcendence which tends to undermine text as well. So there are no textual limits, although some may sieze on bits of text to distort, textual degeneracy is generally the rule.

I think we've been through the type of scholarship that seeks to "overlook or openly repudiate all spiritual values" before. It is the parasitic mind that rejects textual limits, even as it seeks to feed on bits and pieces. If we go with the proto-Nazi scientism that you seem fond of supporting and here project onto others then we should try to engage in "biological thinking" and so the text that you write here is rather meaningless. Instead it is just an artifact of the biochemical state of your brain in that moment. (There is no such thing as intelligent design, after all.)

So why do you bother writing text when you do not believe that the physical can be designed by a mind to contain a meaning/message?

mynym said...

"...what I see is this - you view the world through the evilness of your own hearts.

So you have some eyes to see.

I suppose you saw the evil of your own heart first.

web_loafer said...

When the leftists....start complimenting George Walker Bush for nominating such a wonderful candidate???

Has the guy lost his marbles? Or is he getting even with us all for complaining about open borders that let our enemies in enmasse, or the campaign finance reform bill that he let pass without vetoeing, even though it is the start of the end of the first amendment, or the pork laden debt he has stood by and let be piled upon us, our children and their children?? Why did our wise forefathers make a provision for the exectutive branch to veto? It was for times like these, but George W. has never vetoed a spending bill or any other bill for that matter...never once vetoed????
We voted for him twice.....he has yet to vote for us once.

Ed Darrell said...

Phil,

I see through you guys, too. My advantage is that I know the conservative movement from the belly out, and especially I know its heart.

I suspect you try to flatter all Christians with that "evilness of your own heart" language. But I see through that, too.

It's not the right or left qualities of the fascists and soviets that made them untenable nearly so much as it was the totalitarian nature of the people you name. You tend to forget that both Hitler and Stalin monkeyed around with science teachings, for example, saying that Darwin was unsuitable for their particular regimes.

I don't use the fascist term lightly. The Supreme Court was in the 20th century a bastion of freedom, using the Bill of Rights to advance the causes of human freedom in our own nation. Make no mistake about it, that is precisely what has the far right wing up in arms.

And if you think they wouldn't love to take away your freedom to disagree with them -- well, as I said, I have the advantage of having seen that particular beast.

Pol Pot? Stalin? Totalitarians of all stripes should be suspect. But then, you probably forgot that it wasn't the U.S. that went after Pol Pot, but the Soviet-backed Vietnamese.

Human rights defense is human rights defense. Those who stand up for human rights deserve the credit. Those who don't stand up for human rights don't deserve that credit.

The lessons of the last 50 years included, foremost, that we must act with honor, stand by principle, stick with good, true and noble government, and that might rarely overcomes right.

Labeling democrats as "evil" isn't included in any of those categories, I don't think.