Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Scare quotes and litmus tests

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 19, 2004

Despite heated protests from American pro-lifers, the Republican Party is backing Senator Arlen Specter as the next chairman of the crucial Senate Judiciary Committee-- after Specter promised (as the New York Times put it) "not to use a 'litmus test' to block judicial nominees who oppose abortion..."

For years the Times and its ideological kin have rapped Republicans for imposing a litmus test on judicial nominees, to screen out anyone who was not pro-life. Whether there really was such a litmus test is open to question, given the number of Republican nominees who have voted to uphold Roe v. Wade.

But now the litmus test works in the other direction; it is imposed by liberal lawmakers, to bar nominees who would protect the life of the unborn.

So whereas in the past it was a litmus test, it's now a "litmus test." The scare quotes have been added, to signal the editors' belief that it's just being called a "litmus test."

When liberals do it, you see, it's not a "litmus test." (We have been carefully trained to think there's something wrong with a "litmus test," although our high-school chemistry teachers certainly found the procedure useful.) When liberals do it, it's just good government.

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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