So I’m here about to conference in Boston, so I’m just seeing excerpts of the speeches. I’ve seen nothing that would contradict the positive-to-ecstatic reviews I’ve seen; all the major speeches look great. Clinton did his job beautifully, as one would expect, and while much less gifted Biden did exactly what he was hired to do.
[And, no, I don’t share Philly Parisi’s views; I just like the line. I especially can’t be down on Boston given that their team finally delivered the de facto knockout blow tonight.]
Ann Althouse watched Lily Ledbetter and claims “what she should say, to be honest, is: ‘Our Court declined to rewrite the statute to be fair to me.'” To be honest, this is utter nonsense. It might be fair to say that Ledbetter wanted to “re-write” the statute if she simply claimed that the statute of limitations should just be ignored because it led to an unjust outcome, but of course she argued no such thing. Rather, she argued that since she was still being paid less due to gender discrimination, the discrimination was ongoing and hence her filing was within the 180-day window. Whether one agrees with this or not, it’s at a minimum a reasonable interpretation of the statute. Which is why this interpretation was shared by a federal district court, four justices of the Supreme Court, and — this is important — the EEOC itself. (As Ginsburg noted, “Similarly in line with the real-world characteristics of pay discrimination, the EEOC—the federal agency responsible for enforcing Title VII—has interpreted the Act to permit employees to challenge disparate pay each time it is received.” This remained its official position until well into the Bush administration.) If Althouse wants to claim that all of these people were advancing an indisputably erroneous interpretation of the statute, she really needs more than bare assertion.
Althouse’s sneering about Ledbetter doesn’t get any more coherent:
She goes on to blame the Senate for voting down the amendment that would make it possible to sue if you don’t know about the discrimination when it first takes place, but then she says that Barack Obama as President will solve the problem: “As President, he has promised to appoint Justices who will enforce laws that protect everyday people.” That doesn’t really add up. But she’s doing a good job of making us feel that the Democrats will protect the rights of working people.
Of course, what Ledbetter is saying makes perfect sense. Evidently, there are many institutional veto points that were responsible for allowing businesses to evade Title VII protections. A minority in the Senate was able to filibuster an attempt to override the court’s interpretation of the statute, and President Bush vetoed another attempt. Ledbetter is therefore right that more politicians who (unlike John McCain) actually support gender equality are needed. But it’s also true that this corrective action wouldn’t be necessary had a bare majority comprising the court’s most conservative members not interpreted an ambiguous statutory provision against Ledbetter. And in the modern regulatory state, these kinds of disputes matter; statutory provisions are often open to multiple reasonable interpretations, so who is responsible for applying them matters. The reactionary judges Althouse enthusiastically supports (just like John McCain) will tend to resolve such cases in favor of business interests; the kind of judges appointed by Obama are more likely to resolve ambiguities in favor of women’s rights. Hence, who appoints judges matters (and who controls the executive branch matters even more), and what Ledbetter is saying is right on all counts.
…I think what Yglesias says here is relevant to Althouse’s unique brand of feminism (as far as I can tell, it can be distilled into the following principles: 1. Hating Bill Clinton 2. There is no #2):
But at some point politics is about policy. If your opposition to pay discrimination doesn’t extend to favoring measures to halt pay discrimination, then what’s it worth? To people suffering from illegal discrimination, it’s worth nothing. To people who want to engage in illegal discrimination, it’s worth quite a lot.
I didn’t see the speech, but if this is right, Obama passing Sebelius over certainly looks more defensible. She was the best of the major contenders on the substantive merits, but (particularly given the secondary role VPs have in setting policy) it’s worth giving up a little to get someone who passes a certain minimum threshold of campaigning ability. It’s quite possible that Biden was in fact the best mix among the contenders.
Liberal intellectuals actually could have aided their candidate, while also doing their professional duty, by pressing him on his patently evasive accounts about various matters, such as his connections with the convicted wheeler-dealer Tony Rezko, or his more-than-informal ties to the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers…Instead, the intellectuals have failed Obama as well as their readers by branding such questioning as irrelevant, malicious or heretical.
Yes, if anything could have helped both Obama and the Democratic Party, it would have been to lend their imprimatur to wingnut guilt-by-association smear jobs! The logic is impeccable! Good of Wilentz to help the party out with his sincere advice like that.
By the way, can someone point to the article where Wilentz solemnly informed us about the immense benefits that would accrue to both Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party if only liberal intellectuals had focused more on, say, Todd Purdam’s vacuous insinuations about Bill Clinton’s sex life and business practices. Or think of how much it would have helped Clinton if liberal intellectuals had looked more carefully into Kathleen Willey’s accusations! Anyway, I’m sure Wilentz has pointed all of this out; it certainly couldn’t be the case that he developed his innovative theory that repeating Republican smears as widely as possible helps the Democrats purely to further his petty hatred of Barack Obama, could it?
To put fair criticisms of Biden’s record as head of the Judiciary Committee in context, Jon Cohn extensively details Biden’s role in creating the Violence Against Women Act and its importance:
It may be hard to remember now, but widespread awareness of domestic violence–and how to deal with it–is a relatively new phenomenon. As late as the early 1990s, many communities had no domestic violence shelters at all, while those that did couldn’t fund them adequately. And neither law enforcement nor the judicial system were prepared to deal with the special nature of domestic violence. If a woman who’d been battered or raped went to the police, she was frequently lucky if she got sympathy–let alone experts trained in how to handle such cases, go after perpetrators, and counsel the victims. “At that time there were no victim rights and [somebody] had to witness an act of violence in order to prosecute it,” says Judy Ellis, now executive director of First Step, a domestic violence program based in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. “The criminal justice system lacked information and training on the dynamics of domestic violence and its effects on the family.”
VAWA changed all of that. It cracked down on interstate stalking, set standards for the collection and use of evidence in abuse cases, and set up a national domestic violence hotline. No less important, VAWA poured money into local communities for the creation of new prevention and treatment initiatives. In Detroit, according to Ellis, a VAWA grant allowed local authorities to hire prosecutors, police officers. and counselors specifically trained to deal with domestic violence. It also paid for outreach programs into non-English speaking communities, where many victims had no idea of their rights–or the resources now available to them.
So what did Biden have to do with all of that? Everything. Biden had been promoting a domestic violence bill starting in the early 1990s, and although it didn’t go far at first, he kept at it, finally getting his chance in 1994, once Bill Clinton became president and began pushing for a crime bill. Even then, it was a tough sell. Critics, led by Republican Senator Robert Dole, thought the ’94 crime bill was bloated with unnecessary spending and demanded cuts from it–including the $1.6 billion over six years set aside for VAWA. But Biden held firm and, eventually, got his way. “You can sponsor a bill, but if you just sponsor a bill and let it sit there, that’s nothing,” says Pat Reuss, a longtime activist who was one of the measure’s chief advocates in Washington. “He shepherded it. He made sure it happened. He assigned staff to it, gave them carte blanche to do with they needed, they spent days and nights on it.”
Combine that with his large role in defeating Bork, and…it’s more than many long-term Senators accomplish in itself.
Many thanks to frequent commenter Howard for generously sending me the classics Out To Lunch and Underground from the ol’ wish list. Supoib choices, and as they are now freshly loaded into ITunes will make my upcoming train ride all the more pleasant.
In addition, when it comes to my reverse-hedge bets with Howard I note that as of now I would be on the hook for $50 donations to Planned Parenthood and the anti-Prop 8 campaign, as the Yankees are missing the playoffs as well of course as being out of the division. Until we see the upcoming series, though, I’m at least not writing off the former…
Shorter Sean Wilentz: “John McCain will tell Vladimir Putin to sit down and cut the bullshit. This represents the kind of ‘comprehensive vision of international politics’ that Obama lacks.”
Reading his praise of McCain at least makes me understand why he repeatedly goes too far in exculpating Jackson’s racist militarism. Also, for further amusement remember that Wilentz is also a hack JFK worshipper. I think this makes it even more clear that the experiential standards (like his ex post facto primary system preferences) are strictly ad hoc.
In my defense, I was engaged in Real Work and had the Devil Rays/Sox game on in the background, so I needed the sound. But as bad as seeing the Rays lose after a beyond-farcical call when A.J. Pierzynski elbowing Willy Aybar resulted in an interference call…on Aybar, hearing the Pale Hose’s uber-hack announcers try to rationalize the whole thing was much worse.
Admittedly, I may have been upset because the Mets somehow managed to lose by giving up — in the same inning, I swear! — the first post-Clinton administration homer for both Brad Asumus and Darrin Erstad. Do you know what the odds of that are? It’s in the billions! It couldn’t happen, wouldn’t happen! Did you not see you were being set up after the second hit?
As Ezra says, this probably sums up the case for Biden as well as anything:
In theory, his knowledge of foreign policy and refreshing willingness to take the fight to Republicans should be somewhat undermined by his vote on the war. But in the strange calculus of the Beltway media, being wrong about the war seems to give you more foreign policy credibility…
Obviously, one wants to be careful about such scoops — ask the previous Democratic running mate, Dick Gephardt — but apparently it will be Biden.
I guess I feel relief without happiness. Certainly, if the other runners-up were Kaine and Bayh, Biden has to be considered the best choice by a huge margin. If we must have someone who voted for the war, it would be nice to at least have that person be a pro-choice progressive of some accomplishment (and Biden was at least much more critical post-war than Bayh or Clinton.) On the other hand, I would have much preferred Sebelius, preferred Reed, and perhaps marginally preferred Clinton (unlike Rob, I’m not sure about Clark.) Still, it’s a decent choice. I am at least glad that Obama focused ability rather than chasing phantom political gains that never materialize.