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More on Maureen

By Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J. (articles ) | Jun 29, 2003

Maureen Dowd's exceptionally ungracious rant against Justice Scalia (see below) would be somewhat understandable if she were the loser venting her exasperation -- i.e., if Scalia had written a gloating majority decision that obliterated Dowd's fiercely-held personal hopes. In such case her mock-jocular vituperation would still be unlovely, but we could discount the malice as a venial display of ill-temper.

But of course the reverse is true. Maureen won. Her side is victorious. Might she swagger a little bit? Perfectly understandable. But her column is not an example of good-natured fun at the expense of her opponent: the dominant emotion is anger.

In an odd way, this is a sign of hope. Even though Maureen and her chums are winning the institutional battles in the culture wars, they must recognize deep down that their own arguments are flimsy -- that in fact they did not conquer by argument (in the traditional sense) at all. Scalia's sardonically expressed truths still have the power to sting; they still spoil the victory party. Does Dowd really believe Scalia is vexed and baffled by the fact the Clarence Thomas's wife is white? No. It's a morally shabby gambit that only someone who had no better weapon to hand would use. The fact that she would consent to use it, and to use it after her side had already carried the day, is the clearest possible indication that, even in the condition of intellectual bankruptcy, the barb of conscience may find a live nerve.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jun. 29, 2003 12:20 PM ET USA

    The tragic thing is is that it (her article) is not evidence of "argument" which is permitted and even encouraged in the Epistle to the Ephesians ("speak the truth in love") but rather evidence of hatred which seeks to overwhelm and destroy the "other."