Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A convoluted column

Jonathan Gurwitz’ latest column in the E-N is a partisan screed that veers off in all kinds of strange directions.
He starts off by setting up a classic strawman argument:

Invariably in politics, someone comes along to declare that his party has a monopoly on virtue while the opposition has the sin syndicate.

And who would that someone be, Jonathan? Nobody in particular? Just a nameless strawman that you can proceed to knock over?

He jumps off from that to create a bogus presumption:

And invariably in public discourse today, the presumption is that conservatives are dirty, rotten scoundrels while liberals are pious, incorruptible angels.

That’s funny. I always thought that liberals were supposed to be the dirty, unpatriotic hippies - moral degenerates, spaced out on drugs, etc. Now we are pious angels. Interesting.
I think Jonathan may be spending too much time reading liberal blogs or something. It has certainly put him in a pissy mood.

Jonathan goes on to acknowledge the Republicans’ overwhelming complicity in the Abramoff scandal, but then dismisses it as only being representative of the DeLay era, as if that were some brief period long since forgotten on Capitol Hill.

Then, suddenly, he veers off to rant about the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings of 15 years ago complaining about the “smears” that “continue to dog him today.” He implies strongly that Democratic objections to Thomas “conveniently fit some stereotypes about race.”

I take offense at this suggestion. I remember the Clarence Thomas hearings quite well and even wrote several letters to the editor of my local paper protesting his nomination. My complaint had nothing to do with “personal peccadilloes” or “salacious gossip,” but rather with the fact that he little more than one year’s worth of experience as a jurist. I compared the situation to a rookie baseball player in his first season in the Major Leagues suddenly being enshrined in the Hall of Fame and I noted a number of African-American judges with far more impressive credentials and lengthier resumes who were far more worthy of a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. But it was clear from the start that Thomas had been selected chiefly because of his extreme right-wing political views and nothing else.

But why we were suddenly talking about Clarence Thomas was unclear until this line:

They forget that his chief inquisitor in Senate confirmation hearings, Joe Biden of Delaware, has a verifiable history of dishonest and unattributed scholarship.

And this has what to do with Thomas’ fitness to serve on the high court?
No, wait, what Jonathan is upset about is the different treatment that Thomas and Biden recieve today:

Thomas is greeted with derision when he speaks at law schools across the country. Biden is once again a Democratic candidate for president. Why the differing treatments?

Is Thomas really greeted with derision everywhere he goes? I find that hard to believe.
And Biden being a presidential candidate again, so what? He still doesn’t have a prayer of a chance of winning. He hasn’t been taken seriously as a presidential candidate since the Neil Kinnock plaigirism charge clobbered him in 1988.
I fail to see some great disparagement in treatment here. So what is next?

Jonathan then returns to his bogus presumption:

Because in this partisan tale, conservatives are dim bulbs and moral hypocrites while liberals are imbued with an endless reservoir of virtue — and the grace of never having to say you're sorry.

Yeah, whatever. So what’s next?

According to this presumption, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales must resign, though no one can point to any law that was broken in the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. But Rep. William "Dollar Bill" Jefferson, in whose freezer the FBI found $90,000 in marked cash last year, occupies a seat on the House Homeland Security Committee.

What?!!? This is ridiculous! Talk about comparing apples and oranges. Does Jonathan expect anyone to take this lame argument seriously?
Gonzales has been called on to resign by Republicans and Democrats alike because he either lied to Congress or failed to peform his job adequately in overseeing the U.S. Attorney offices under his direction. Heck, even the editors at the National Review have called for Gonzales to go. We don’t have to wait for a criminal indictment or conviction before we can expect to have honest and competent leadership at the Department of Justice.
And Rep. William Jefferson? Every Republican partisan’s favorite Democrat? Sure he is on the Homeland Security Committee. But Jonathan fails to note that he is no longer on the powerful Ways and Means Committee after Democrats stripped him of that role when the whole FBI sting operation was first revealed. Democrats also withdrew their support for Jefferson during the mid-term elections and supported his primary opponent instead. Unfortunately, Jefferson won re-election regardless.
So now, what would Jonathan have the Democrats do? Refuse to grant him committee assignments? Does Jonathan think the people in Jefferson’s Louisiana district are not worthy of full representation simply because he does not like the person they picked to be their representative? Personally, I wish the feds would hurry up and throw the book at Jefferson so that he can be forcibly removed from the House and replaced with someone without the taint of corruption.
But after hearing about recent revelations of the politicization of the Justice Department under Alberto Gonzales, I can’t help but wonder if they are purposefully sitting on this case because they know it helps Republicans to keep Jefferson around so that they can continue to claim that the flood of corruption and scandals in Washington are “bi-partisan.”

Sheesh! But Jonathan is not through. He goes on to whine about a bogus Internet story that alleged that George W. Bush has the lowest IQ of any president, not that such a study is needed to give people that impression.
What this has to do with anything is unclear, but a few short paragraphs later he seems to imply that the people behind the bogus Internet story are responsible for the tough questions being faced by the marriage-challenged Republican presidential candidates this year.

Now the purveyors of this brand of hypocrisy are taking their wares on the presidential campaign trail. The Republican front-runners, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, face persistent questions about their personal and professional lives.

Still following Jonathan’s logic here? Yeah, neither am I.

But wait, now it seems that this whole line of thought was meant as jumping off point so that Jonathan could raise all kinds of spurious accusations against the Democratic presidential candidates:

the Democratic candidates have to worry about more than just perceptions of the two Americas — the one where multimillionaires like John Edwards get $400 haircuts and the one inhabited by the rest of us common folk.
Depending upon what the meaning of the word "is" is, personal life is a serious problem for Hillary Clinton. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's embellished Major League Baseball résumé is a character issue, as are Sen. Barack Obama's real estate deals.

What fun! He got to put in the dig about John Edwards’ expensive taste in hair salons and raise the old “meaning of the word ‘is’” canard to smear Hillary. In addition, he gets to whack Gov. Richardson for an old resume snafu and he gets to make a shady reference to some obscure real estate deal that involved Barak Obama. Nevermind that the same stories that exposed the transaction also noted that “there have been no allegations that Obama ... broke the law or committed any ethics violations.”

Jonathan finally concludes this convoluted mess of a column with the observation that “voters have a way of sorting out the hucksters in both camps.”
Let’s hope they can also sort out the B.S. from the wisdom in columns such as this.

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