Borking practice

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Jul 07, 2003

Why fulminate against Justice Scalia?

In part it's because his ideas are, to liberals, so very dangerous. Children-- and young jurists-- cannot be allowed to read these things; they might get ideas! As you say, the Left cannot endure real competition between constitutional theories, since their own interpretations are so far removed from any plausible theory.

But there's a practical political motive here as well. If Scalia can be successfully painted as an extremist, then liberals will be halfway to their goal: convincing the public that the greatest danger to the Constitution lies in the appointment of such "extremist" judges to the Supreme Court. And liberals, with ample help from their media colleagues, have been very successful with such efforts in the past-- Robert Bork being the most conspicuous example. So the incredulous op-ed columns about Scalia's dissenting opinion should be seen as a warm-up for the main event.

This is a classic use of the Big Lie technique. You rally opposition to a Court nominee by saying he's an extremist, then line up the extremist groups to lobby against him. You say there must not be a "litmus test," all the while imposing your own "litmus test." You insist that a Republican President should not impose his will on the Court, and then you impose your will on the Court.

Unfortunately, this approach often works.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Jul. 07, 2003 3:01 PM ET USA

    Of course, this novel "no death penalty in the First World" teaching has not been "consistently taught." It originated with this Pope only late in his pontificate and is contradicted by his immediate predecessors and the first edition of the Universal Catechism. It is extremely questionable whether it can be included in Church teaching. Thus, it is unfair to say that Scalia is not Catholic for supporting the just use of the death penalty.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 07, 2003 12:15 PM ET USA

    Whatever his positive attributes, Justice Scalia opposes many points of Catholic Social Teaching including the contemporary role of the just war theory, and the unacceptability of the death penalty in first world countries as consistently taught by John Paul II and his curia.. Given that the allegedly Catholic Justice Kenedy wrote "Lawrence," one can only regret that the Court lacks a Catholic voice that follows Church teaching.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 07, 2003 10:58 AM ET USA

    This approach frequently works because no one in a position to stand against it will do so for fear of losing his position. I'm still hoping to be surprised by Bush, but I won't be surprised to find that, in the end, he was just another baby boomer careerist without any real conviction.