Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Political Hypocrisy on Display

I love watching C-SPAN on days like today when the hypocrisy of both parties is on full display. The Democrats go on about not having enough time for adequate debate when everyone knows that the attempted filibuster has nothing at all to do with that. The Republicans talk about the undue and thoroughly lamentable influence of “interest groups” trumping the will of “the American people”, as though there are no conservative “interest groups” pressuring Republicans. Orrin Hatch, of all people, stands up and delivers a self-righteous screed about the horror of a judicial nominee being denied an up or down vote after he used political tricks as chair of the judiciary committee throughout the 90s to prevent over 60 judicial nominees from even getting a committee hearing, much less an up or down vote. It’s all quite amusing to watch. When listening to such obviously empty rhetoric spewed by shallow men in expensive suits I always think of Mencken’s words about President Warren Harding’s political speech:

It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights. It is so bad that a sort of grandeur creeps into it. It drags itself out of the dark abysm of pish, and crawls insanely up to the topmost pinnacle of tosh. It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Heath
    January 30, 2006

    Spector is speaking now. He’s making the argument Alito is a closet liberal, that he doesn’t believe in original intent and that he supports a “living Constitution”.

  2. #2 Ginger Yellow
    January 30, 2006

    Why do the Democrats find it so hard or scary to say simply: “Alito is a radical conservative who is likely to overturn Roe vs Wade and who supports a monarchical presidency and who has shown a disregard for individual rights. His constitutional philosophy, to the extent he has revealed anything about it, is profoundly disturbing and goes against everything we stand for. We do not believe he is suitable for the Supreme Court and will do everything we can to stop him, including a filibuster.”?

  3. #3 Mike Heath
    January 30, 2006

    Ginger – Ted Kennedy said pretty much exactly that on the floor of the Senate earlier.

    However, your point regarding most Dems is well taken. I think the root cause for most of them is that neither side has the courage to to vote down ALL candidates that do not clearly articulate their judicial philosophy. Thus, we don’t really know for sure on any candidates and even if we did, some of them do change, mostly moving towards liberalism. Of course to understand a nominee’s judicial philosophy, Senators would first have to ask questions that require a response on their philosophy and most of our Senators aren’t qualified to move into this line of questioning. Can you imagine Coryn or Hatch asking what legal basis justifies constitutional sovereignity over a free people in 2006? Or why Congress deserves an assumption of Constitutionality vs. an American fighting to reserve his rights?

    We’d have a much better process if two things occured: The Judicial Committee allocated some time for each party to have some qualified legal scholars question the nominee in the Committee Hearings and for both parties to make a deal, if the nominee isn’t forthcoming, Senators would not vote them out of Committee.

  4. #4 Ginger Yellow
    January 30, 2006

    Good points. I simply cannot understand why senators ask such asinine questions during confirmation hearings. I think it was Digby who said that pundits and politicians seem to think it’s a game, that it doesn’t really matter. Given the debasement of American journalism, I can understand that on the punditry side, but surely senators think what they do matters.

  5. #5 Matthew
    January 30, 2006

    Not so much amusing as it is dumbfounding. I sometimes wonder why they play that game when no one is watching them except the hand full of people who watch c-span. Really, i can understand the notecard rhetoric in political speeches to campaign groups and to the media, but how they will just go on with it on the floor confuses me. It goes from one prewritten outrage to the next prewritten outrage without any acknowledgment of what the other is saying and responding to it in some substantial way. Just reiteration of their previous prewritten outrage. Who are they acting for when c-span is the only people watching?

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    January 30, 2006

    Mike Heath wrote:

    Spector is speaking now. He’s making the argument Alito is a closet liberal, that he doesn’t believe in original intent and that he supports a “living Constitution”.

    I didn’t see Specter’s speech, but I doubt he said that Alito is a closet liberal. I do believe he said that Alito doesn’t believe in originalism because, in fact, Alito has said flat out that he is not a proponent of originalism and that he has no overriding and single theory of interpretation. John Roberts said the same thing and I believe them both. But that doesn’t mean they are liberals or will vote liberal. Indeed, it might in many cases mean they would vote more conservatively just not on the basis of that particular mode of interpretation. Neither Roberts nor Alito is really a Scalia/Thomas type of judicial thinker. Neither one pushes a single theory of interpretation the way Scalia and Thomas do. But that does not mean they’ll be less conservative.

  7. #7 Mike Heath
    January 30, 2006

    Hi Ed – A number of GOP senators have made a certain type of argument for both Roberts and Alito, that argument is to take statements made by the nominees that aren’t neccesarily conservative or are actually anti-conservative to present a view that these candidates are in fact not knee-jerk conservatives. My observations are that this Senatorial rhetoric isn’t balanced, I read all the Committee transcripts on both candidates.

    In Spector’s case, he was making an argument that we have clues in Alito’s testimony that he may in fact turn out to be another Souter or O’Connor. His argument was implied, but he didn’t present any of Alito’s conservative credentials, instead focusing on a few liberal-constued comments by Alito and them reminding us of how Souter and O’Connor turned out.

    I agree with your statements about what to expect out of Alito and Roberts, my point was that Spector was trying to present Alito as something other than what the majority of the evidence suggests; maybe as an argument for moderates and liberals to not stop a vote. Brownback and Coryn made the same type of argument in the Committee hearings which I found amusing because I doubt they would EVER vote for a true liberal.

  8. #8 spyder
    January 30, 2006

    Indeed, it might in many cases mean they would vote more conservatively just not on the basis of that particular mode of interpretation. Neither Roberts nor Alito is really a Scalia/Thomas type of judicial thinker. Neither one pushes a single theory of interpretation the way Scalia and Thomas do. But that does not mean they’ll be less conservative.

    And therein lies the issue does it not? A dominant conservative faction on the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to usher in an era when a small minority of extraordinarily powerful (and wealthy) citizens will be able to extract their tribute from the population. I would find it difficult to accept that libertarians would see this as a benefit? No, this isn’t such an amusing time really.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    January 30, 2006

    spyder wrote:

    A dominant conservative faction on the Supreme Court will have the opportunity to usher in an era when a small minority of extraordinarily powerful (and wealthy) citizens will be able to extract their tribute from the population. I would find it difficult to accept that libertarians would see this as a benefit?

    I think it really depends on the issue. If the conservatives had been in the majority in the Kelo case, the result would have been far better I think. It was the liberals on the court who were all for giving government the power to seize property at the behest of big business concerns who would pay more in taxes for the use of that property and the conservatives on the court who were squarely against it. I think it is overly simplistic to say that conservatives are for the powerful and the wealthy at the expense of average citizens. The liberal/conservative breakdown just isn’t as simple as that. When it comes to some civil liberties issues, the liberals on the court are much preferable to the conservatives; on others, the conservatives are right and the liberals are wrong.

  10. #10 KeithB
    January 31, 2006

    I’ve got a new signature! Thanks for the Mencken quote!

    Oh and speaking of Mencken, Ebert has a “Great Movie” review of _Inherit the Wind_:
    http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060128/REVIEWS08/601290301

    where he discusses a bit about the current state of ID vs Evolution.

  11. #11 Flint
    February 8, 2006

    When listening to such obviously empty rhetoric spewed by shallow men in expensive suits

    Of course, this is nothing more than taking cheap shots at those who follow the known rules of the game. The political goals of everyone involved are well known. These goals, expressed very briefly, are:

    1) Achieve what your constituents want.

    2) Don’t ever say anything your next election opponent can quote to make you look bad.

    These two basic requirements result in a kind of political code, a body of postures and euphemisms and phrases everyone with any political experience can translate, but which can’t be taken out of context to make you sound self-serving, venal, or unpatriotic. These are time-tested techniques, and violating them will turn you into a Paul Mirecki before you can blink. Now Mirecki wasn’t hypocritical at all. He was completely honest. Also demoted, and his course got disappeared. GREAT results.

    This political behavior is no more hypocritical than wearing an expensive suit to disguise the fact that you’re out of shape.

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