Scare quotes and litmus tests
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.
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