Archive for November, 2005
Last November 2 was a bad day.
Don’t despair, at least not too much. Every thoughtful, compassionate and serious person worries about events which lie beyond their control, and they should. But it’s no good for anyone if we succumb to fear and anxiety about such matters. Don’t try to figure out precisely how much damage is likely to be done. It’s unnecessary, impossible, and debilitatingly depressing. We’ll cope, fight, and despair as the situation dictates, and we should prepare for that. The world I live in is full of beauty, wonder and love. It was yesterday and it will be tomorrow and next week and next year, and there’s not a damn thing George Bush can do about it.
I wrote only a couple of very brief posts before moving on to other issues. The reason for this is not that I didn’t feel the defeat deeply; it’s that I felt it too deeply to be able to say anything about it.
2004 was, to date, the most active I had ever been in an electoral cycle. I became a committee officer for a Democratic precinct in which I did not reside (long story). I had this blog. I certainly felt more passionately about the 2004 election than I had about any other election. I believed then (and still believe now) that John Kerry would have made a great President, and that his opponent was (and is) one of the most inept men to ever hold the position.
I think, though, that there was more to October and November of last year than my personal involvement. I got the sense that we were at a contingent moment, one in which the structure of the world is laid bare and transparent to all. American had a genuine choice; the world of President Kerry would differ dramatically from the world of President Bush. I also wondered what the reaction of the Bush administration might be to a defeat, and I honestly suspected that they might not accept a negative electoral verdict.
And then, in a couple hours, all that vanished. The sense of contingency, the sense of the possible. It was gone even before the Ohio verdict was clear. It was gone when Tom Coburn became a Senator, when a senile Jim Bunning kept his office. It was gone when it became clear that, regardless of whether he pulled out Ohio, Kerry would be a minority President with a Congress unified against him.
I was shattered, really. I had brought myself to believe that the American people would be able to see through the transpartent bluster of this faux cowboy. I was wrong. Kerry losing the popular vote was, in a sense, even worse than his loss of the election. Call me a dreamer, but the point of a democracy seems to be that awful leaders get turned out at the expense of good ones. Prior to November 2, I had come to believe that this was true. On that Tuesday evening, my belief in the efficacy of democracy took a hit.
There were other things going on in my life at the time, none of which are terribly important in retrospect. It’s still difficult for me to think about that month, though, because it feels so crushing; as Scott said, it was a dark day for the United States.
And, while I find this pleasing, it really doesn’t make up for it. I feel that we’ve been vindicated, but being vindicated is somewhat less useful than winning in the first place. 65% of American now see what I see when I look at George W. Bush, but I can’t get over my disappointment that they couldn’t see what was obvious last November.
As a break from the relentless Alito posts, why not a little more-MoDo bashing? It has been a few days, after all.
Julia starts things off ny noting that her experiences may not be entirely representative. Anne Bartow provides some political analysis, noting Dowd’s bizarre priorities and the fact that she continually attributes beliefs to “feminism” without mentioning any actual feminists, quoting any texts, etc. (In response to Dowd’s query about whether feminism is a “cruel hoax,” she responds: “I’m asking the same thing about the New York Times’ reputation for quality journalism.” That’s about right.)
And, for the coup de grace, If you think I was mean, Kameron Hurley unleashes some Grade A snark:
To reiterate: Why would you want to marry these men anyway? These are the sorts of guys who’ll tell you to quit your high-powered job, dress more fem, stop eating all together, and dump you on the street when you’re forty and marry their secretary.
What the fuck do you want with people like this?
Yep, that pretty much sums it up. Dowd’s argument consisted of a bunch of whining anecdotes about how rich, shallow assholes shockingly want to date dimwitted 23-year-old anorexics instead of strong intelligent women. And this…proves that feminism has failed. A bad argument leading to a non sequitur–I’m not convinced this is going to lead to a good book. (What’s it called–why Title IX Gave Me Bad Taste in Men?) I mean, it’s not unusual to hear whining about how one can’t get laid because of feminism, but I generally expect it to come from frat boys and Father’s Rights activists, not Pulitzer-Prize winning female journalists in front-page NYT Magazine articles…
Attempts by conservatives to make the case to progressives that it’s somehow in their interests to have one of the most conservative judges in the Circuit Courts appointed to the Supreme Court remind me of nothing so much as Leon Kass’s efforts to argue that that male supremacy and sexual repression are really in the best interests of women, and they’re about as convincing. Ann Althouse’s Times op-ed certainly fails to transcend the genre. The punchline is her trite (and condescending) argument that liberals ” should give serious study to his record; they may discover that there are varieties of judicial conservatives, just as there are varieties of political conservatives.” Indeed there are–as liberals are, of course, perfectly well aware. If Bush had nominated a conservative like, say, Anthony Kennedy, this nomination would not be controversial. And, of course, Miers did not face serious Democratic opposition. And then there’s John Roberts, whose confirmation was never in serious doubt. Like Professor B, I never advocated a filibuster of Roberts, and I can’t understand anyone who would withdraw support from Russ Feingold, say, because he voted for Roberts’ inevitable confirmation. The 22 “no” votes reflect the distinctions drawn among conservatives by liberals perfectly: Roberts was about halfway between Kennedy, who was confirmed unanimously, and Bork, who was clearly unacceptable and was rejected. Roberts was conservative enough that a significant number of Senators felt compelled to cast symbolic votes against him, but not conservative enough to be worth filibustering. (And, again, I emphasize the word “symbolic.” Equally as silly as liberals wanting to excommunicate Feingold is Althouse’s endless fulminating about the fact that 22 Democrats had the temerity to withhold their assent. Whether Roberts is confirmed by a 50 or 70 or 100-vote margin has absolutely no consequences whatsoever. Senators are not judges; they are free to openly consider the political and strategic context, and each situation is different. Voting for Scalia to replace Rehnquist doesn’t require you to vote for Bork to replace Powell; this is obvious.) Anyway, there is good reason for progressives to be more concerned about Alito than Roberts: Alito is 1)more conservative, and 2)the judge he’s replacing is less conservative, which raises the stakes of this nomination considerably.
More potentially useful is Althouse’s claim that Alito is, in fact, different from Scalia. She has a clever bit about how the “Scalito” name may be misleading, comparing it to Burger and Blackmun being called the Minnesota Twins, which is true enough. But that’s not the end of the argument; that’s the beginning. The fact that Alito has a couple nicknames comparing him to Scalia doesn’t mean much. What does mean something is the fact that Alito -was perceived by conservatives and liberals alike as being very conservative, and analysis of his voting record would seem to bear that out. There’s also the matter that religious conservative groups–who supported Scalia and Thomas, and were skeptical of O’Connor, Kennedy and Souter, and were right every time–think he’s a homerun. So while it’s certainly possible that Alito would be considerably less conservative than Scalia, and perhaps a careful study of his record would reveal this, the burden of proof is certainly on Althouse to defend her counterintuitive claim. So what’s the evidence? The following is the entire list of cases cited by Althouse on which Alito disagrees with Scalia:
- Oregon v. Smith
And, that’s it. Uh, color me unconvinced. Moreover, while I do think the difference is to Alito’s credit, as Althouse all but concedes this is a very strange case with which to make the case that Alito is significantly less conservative than Scalia. After all, religious conservatives were as outraged about the decision as civil libertarians, and the RFRA was a classic strange-bedfellows coalition. And, of course, one can make the same argument the other way. While, as we know, Alito used a very strained argument to argue that a search that went beyond the scope of a warrant was authorized and to immunize the officers who conducted the search from suit, Scalia has occasionally shown a libertarian streak on the Fourth Amendment, even where the War On (some people who use some) Drugs is concerned. So, Alito’s attempts to limit Smith–while admirable–fall far short of being convincing evidence that he’s a more moderate conservative than Scalia on balance.
None of this is to say that Alito is exactly like Scalia; he seems less theoretical, more like Rehnquist, and also seems more like Rehnquist on civil liberties issues. On federalism, at least his Commerce Clause jurisprudence seems more like Thomas than Scalia. But, of course, Althouse is framing the question too narrowly; the relevant question is not whether Alito is “another Scalia” but whether he would on balance cast similar votes as the most conservative wing of the Court, and there seems every indication that he will. Perhaps the conservative groups who support him are being duped and he’s more like a Kennedy or even a Roberts, but I’m certainly not going to take Althouse’s word for it unless she can come up with a lot better evidence than this. And Democratic Senators are perfectly justified; Ried said that if Alito was picked there would be a war, and Bush (unlike Clinton, who went with a moderate suggestion of Orrin Hatch both times rather than going with another Marshall or Brennan) wanted a war. Unless you believe that a judge’s constitutional philosophy cannot be used to evaluate her nomination (and I’ll start doing that at exactly the same time as the President and the nominee’s supporters stop taking it into account), based on the existing evidence Democratic senators should clearly reject Alito’s nomination.
I mentioned recently Roman Hurska’s famous claim, in defending the hapless Nixon nominee Harold Carswell, that we “can’t have all Brandeises and Cardozos and Frankfurters and stuff like that there.” As I looked at this Media Matters piece, (via Atrios) I noted that Bill O’Reilly seems to be taking a page from Hruska’s playbook:
By the way, if Alito is confirmed, that will be a good thing for conservatives. That’s the bottom line. Because Alito will take a more traditional view than a [Supreme Court justices Stephen G.] Breyer or a [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg. OK? He’ll look at things, and he’ll say, “You know, the Founding Fathers didn’t want partial-birth abortion. The Founding Fathers didn’t want all mention of Christmas stricken from the public arena.” That’s what Alito will do. He’s a traditionalist. He’s going to rule that way.
Hmm, the Court, on the issues he discusses, has four-person liberal block. And on the church-and-state issues that are most relevant, Breyer is the most likely to join the conservatives. So I wonder why we would name those 2 justices in particular, in the context of how liberals are trying to destroy Christmas? What an odd coinky-dink.
And here’s a relevant flashback:
O’REILLY: All right. Because black birth rate is fairly stable, right?
MCMANUS: Proportionately, black birth rate and increases in their population will level out and be less significant in growth in that time period. I think Bill will be able to address the numbers better than I can, but…
O’REILLY: OK. And how about Asian? What’s the situation with that?
MCMANUS: Asian — we’re going to see a 213 percent increase, according to the Census Bureau projection, and so that will be a very rapid increase of the percentage of their population in the U.S. as well.
O’REILLY: All right. Now, Doctor, the Census Bureau really doesn’t tell us how this is going to affect the country. Do you have any theories on it?
WILLIAM FREY, PH.D., BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, I really think what’s happening is going to be this phasing out or fading out of the white baby boom population. It is a 50-year time period we’re talking about…
O’REILLY: Yes. We’ll all be dead. Thank God, right?
The flagship of Fox News in primetime, ladies and gentlemen!
Shorter Kathryn-Jean Lopez: Why should the fact that we were staunch, substantive supporters of Southern apartheid during the Civil Rights movement stop conservatives from claiming Rosa Parks’ legacy?
And for some bonus history, what did the conservative President at the time–who the NR considered a wet–feel about civil rights?
Indeed, while Brown was under consideration, Warren was seated at a White House dinner near John Davis, the 1924 Democratic candidate for president and lead counsel for the South, Eisenhower told Warren at length what a great man Davis was and that southerners were not bad people, just concerned lest their “sweet little girls be seated alongside some big black bucks.” –Lucas Powe, The Warren Court and American Politics, 36.
And, of course, we can see this conservatives-have-always-been-liberals routine in the Mehlman House of Fog Memo. For many years, Samuel Alito has been widely considered by both admirers and detractors as a staunch Federalist Society conservative, supporting “states’ rights” but skeptical of privacy rights and the rights of the accused. And then Monday morning he’s appointed to the Supreme Court, and all of a sudden he’d have to take a sharp right-hand turn to see William Douglas…
It’s worth a chuckle, but the move to invite junior officers back into the Iraqi Army is an overdue one. As I understand it, the old Iraqi Army lacked a good, professional corps of non-commisioned officers. Maintaining that corps would have been absolutely critical to the creation of a new Iraqi Army, but you can’t work with what you don’t have. Given that, holding onto as many junior officers as possible (people who may have been involved in atrocities but probably didn’t order them), is very important to maintaining discipline and continuity. The Bundeswehr, after all, was not manufactured from nothing; the senior officers who served in 1955 had been junior officers between 1939 and 1945. In spite of this, the Bundeswehr was and has continued to be a model military organization. Of course, had these points been grasped two years ago, the situation today might be somewhat different.
On a related point, I am not of the opinion (now becoming more widely held) that the Iraq operation was destined to fail. I thought then and think now that a competent administration, one that understood the nature of the state, was willing to listen to expert advice, and understood the complexities surrounding the use of military force, might have succeeded. The problem with liberal hawks (and the term makes me nervous; I’m a liberal hawk, but I didn’t favor the war) is that they somehow convinced themselves that THIS administration, which was already well on its way towards combining staggering ineptitude with shameless corruption, could actually do the job.