the view from the other side
By Diogenes ( articles ) | Jul 05, 2005
The Nation is a magazine so Leftist in stripe that it regards Senate Democrats with suspicion and despair as hopeless appeasers. Washington editor David Corn discusses the upcoming Senate confirmation battle for O'Connor's replacement in so calm and measured a fashion that it's easy to miss the cynicism that undergirds the project. One paragraph begins thus:
In any event, the Democrats and progressives may be placed in the position of having to oppose an experienced jurist whose opinions they do not like on policy grounds.
What you have to grasp is that the qualifier "on policy grounds" in this context goes with "oppose" and not with "they do not like" -- i.e., Corn is warning fellow Leftists that in fighting Bush's nominee they'll have to come up with arguments based on substantive differences in political and legal philosophy instead of running a character assassination campaign. Why does Corn discountenance character assassination? Because it's intrinsically unworthy as a tactic? No, but because it probably won't work this time. Indeed, the wording by which he concedes that progressives "may be placed in the position" of having to use substantive reasoning suggests that it's not their preferred turf. Read on:
They should fight such a nominee vigorously, and they should be upfront about their reasons. Rather than label that person an "extremist," they ought to argue that the Senate ought not to confirm a nominee who is likely to vote to curtail or eliminate abortion rights, to favor corporate polluters over consumers, or to restrict the federal government's ability to advance social justice.
Note how the true Leftist mindset breaks free of the progressivist clichés. Corn speaks not of restricting legislative -- i.e., democratic -- efforts to advance social justice, but of the federal government's ability to do so. It's the central bureaucracy that rules. But I digress.
The "extremist" strategy, I fear, is worn out and ineffective. It worked for [he means against] Robert Bork, thanks to his too-honest writings and wacky beard. But most of the far-right jurists on the list of potential nominees will be able to appear before a Senate committee, not drool, answer questions about their opinions politely, and come across as intelligent and somewhat reasonable people, not extremist monsters plotting to lead America into a Time of Darkness. So progressives, beware, the E-word is probably not your friend.
Again, the unruffled objectivity of this reasoning largely disguises the underlying moral nihilism. The problem of the injustice visited upon Robert Bork by having smeared him as an extremist doesn't merit consideration in Corn's universe. Truth means whatever serves the Revolution, and if a man's career and reputation have to be smashed in order to preserve abortion on demand, so be it.
One of the striking effects in C.S. Lewis's Perelandra is the way in which his devil/tempter (in the character of Dr. Weston) "shuts down" and becomes a near-imbecile when not directly engaged in the business of damnation. He is no erudite cosmopolitan like Goethe's Mephistopheles and no larger-than-life genius like Milton's Satan. Weston's intelligence is a tool like any other and is laid aside when not in use. In his own way, Corn is operating in the same world. Calumny and reason (viz., argument on policy grounds) are simply two weapons in the arsenal. The former did its job against Bork; the latter may see service in the months to come. The ends justify the means.
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