Let me take a swing at it

In  endorsing John Roberts for chief justice, The Chicago Tribune focused first on the aspect that would most interest George Will:

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee spent last week showcasing their keen grasp of baseball analogies while interrogating Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr. But the best analogy of the lot fell to court-watcher Dahlia Lithwick, writing about Roberts in the online magazine Slate: "Here’s a man long accustomed to answering really hard questions from extremely smart people, suddenly faced with the almost-harder task of answering obvious questions from less-smart people. He finds himself standing in a batting cage with the pitching machine set way too slow."

That’s pretty good. Of course, metaphors aside, I suspect that at least some of these senators are smarter than they look.
They just ask stupid questions because that’s what the unelected
interest groups yanking their chains expect them to do.

Of course, there’s an additional possibility to consider, which I will endeavor to express in the proper form:

Maybe Ms. Lithwick doesn’t give the committee’s pitchers the credit they deserve. Maybe it’s not that they can’t throw heat into the strike zone, but that they recognize a good hitter when they see one. It could be they’re taking David Broder’s advice and deliberately walking him so they can pitch to the president’s next nominee.

Nah. That would require more concentration than they can muster, what with the screams of the wild-eyed face-painters in the stands.

13 thoughts on “Let me take a swing at it

  1. David

    Brad, you see exactly through the strategy of the Senate liberals. Patrick Leahy, for one, is saving himself to try to be the left’s closer on the next nomination. Just a guess, but W (and the Machiavellian Rove) will trap the dems in a rundown. Bush’s next move may be tantamount to Bill Veeck’s midget batter of years ago. After all, could the left really attack a midget? The left is expecting W to swing for the fences but he may catch them flatfooted with a bunt, perfectly executed so the nominated judge on third base can walk in.

    Soon the game begins with Play Ball!!!!!!!!

  2. kc

    You know, Mr. Warthen, for someone who claims to be non-partisan and centrist, you seem to consistently pick targets from one side of the political spectrum.
    People for the American Way are not “wild-eyed” – certainly no more so than your right-wing friend Bob McAlister, who recently referred to judges in general, in your very own editorial pages, as “black-robed tyrants.”

  3. Mike C

    Many birds, one stone, one pitch.
    I have been on record since at least 3/21/2002 as favoring the repeal of the 17th amendment.
    My reasons are manifold, but for now I’ll just note that the Roberts hearings are Exhibit K. The members of this quite exclusive club seek face time on national TV to fill their campaign coffers and fuel their fantasy that the US Senate offers them a springboard to the presidency. JFK was the last Senator to move from the Senate to the presidency, and I hope it stays that way, because we need folks with demonstrated leadership, something that the Monday-morning quarterbacks in legislatures typically don’t have in their resumes unless they’ve run a business or some other enterprise. Look, it’s bad, really bad, when a lawyers’ blogsite finds committee members to be in full Foghorn Leghorn mode, no?
    Some members of the US Senate display their ignorance all too often. For example, you mention baseball analogies during the Roberts confirmation hearings. Senator Joseph “Xerox” Biden (D-Del) had a great time that second day, spending eight minutes laughing at his own jokes before he asked a question. When he used a baseball analogy, he was wrong on the strike zone, describing it as “from the shoulders to the knees.” Here’s a picture of what it really is. Who in the media noted his error? Only this guy, and he’s a foreigner! Now let’s recognize Biden’s ideal nominee would change the strike zone for each batter depending on his view of what the batter deserved, but that’s another matter. Did so few criticize Biden’s faux pas simply because there’s no decrying in baseball? Or is it because they don’t know how to spell “faux pas”?
    Meanwhile, our own Senator Lindsey Graham, who seemed to make more sense than most on the committee, was attacked in the media for his statements about a previous nominee who was confirmed as one of the Supremes. Graham’s statements have been demonstrated as true on several occasions.
    While portions of the MSM has covered the play-by-play, how many column inches have they devoted to the context of stare decisis other than the potential impact on Roe versus Wade? And have the MSM not emphasized over and over again that that case was clearly the Bush administration’s initial approach to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina?
    Who knows if the Democrats have a grand strategy for Roberts’ confirmation? We do know that the Republican message is closely managed through talking points issued daily.
    What’s clear is that Roberts is a smart guy and a great lawyer who would seem to be a tremendous addition to the court. That he would exercise restraint in overruling laws and regulations is good in my book, and that has nothing to do with abortion, but with my view of the necessity to have settled law promulgated by the legislature consistent with that thingy we call the constitution.

  4. Mike C

    Kc –
    I come not to bury Bob McAllister or Brad Warthen, nor to praise them.
    There’s this thing called “context.” The Op-Ed in which Bob used the phrase “black-robed tyrants” provided useful insight into the “no filibuster” deal that Lindsey Graham helped broker in the US Senate. I think that’s why The State published it – it was valuable.
    “Black-robed tyrants” is shorthand for “folks who overturn the intent of the nation’s founders or the will of the people as manifested through their elected representatives.” So its first advantage is that it’s shorter. The second is that it conveys the notion of a judiciary willing to make law rather than enforce it.
    The most recent example that Bob might cite is KELO et al. v. CITY OF NEW LONDON et al., wherein the Supremes ruled that the homes of some folks may be seized for public benefit; the property could be sold to a private developer for a marina / hotel complex that would generate greater taxes for the community. Now Bob and I have this notion that the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution applies to private citizens as well as to mobsters, so the part “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation” means “public,” not private, and “use” means “use,” as in bridge or highway, not “benefit,” as in whatever the contributors to the stinking politicians think they can slip through. Call us “old-fashioned” if you want, but any way you diagram the sentence, the ruling seems to come from black-robed tyrants.
    I will acknowledge that, given stare decisis, the ruling has its roots in earlier decisions allowing the seizure of private property for public housing. Given how well that has gone, it looks to me to be further proof of the wrongness of those precedents. I agree with Justice Thomas. Did he know something of the terrible impact of foreign, i.e., French, law?
    Ditto for the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law. When I read the First Amendment where it says “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press….” for some reason I have the feeling that Congress can make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. But the Supremes found otherwise. I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but petty soon some judge will prevent kids from saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school if we’re not careful about protecting our rights.
    As for “wild-eyed face-painters,” it’s a useful allusion in the sports context Brad cast for this entry. The site does have some rather shrill remarks better suited for a pep rally than for the dignified examination of a candidate for the Supremes, no?

  5. David

    Mike – The radicalized of the Democratic party are to the GOP like a gift that keeps on giving. If we theorize that about 30% of the electorate is centrist and independent, then the impact of how each party is perceived by that group is critical to any party’s success. Are there right wing radicals? Yes, but Tom Tancredo doesnt get much press coverage and Jesse Helms is retired. It is hard to name who the rightmost of the rightwing GOP is. Now, look at the Democrat party and here is a quick partial list.
    Cynthia McKinney – takes money from terrorist leaning groups
    Shelia Jackson-Lee – wants hurricanes named after Swahili surnames among other things
    Turbin Durbin – Our military is as bad as Hitler
    John Effin Kerry – Our military is like Genghis Kahn, raping, murdering and he hunts deer by crawling in the woods on his belly and also his family owns gas guzzling SUVs but he doesnt (Whew)
    Ted Kennedy – Chappaquiddick, need we know more?
    Patty Murray – Osama Bin Laden has done a lot of nice things like day care centers, etc. etc. etc.

    I could go on just in the Senate and the house may even be wackier. My point is the weird left has taken over the Dem party, (add in a Dean scream for effect here) and many mainstream Americans can see that for what it really is. The GOP will likely be in the drivers seat for a long time given this scenario. Moderate Dems like Inez Tenenbaum are ashamed to be seen in public with these people. That says it all.

  6. Mike C

    David –
    I agree, and it’s ironic that the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) of 2002 (McCain Feingold) played a huge role in the breakup of the Democrat Party by providing a mechanism for special interest groups and far, far lefties to pool their funds and work directly for their own quite narrow and often odd agendas. It’s one of those unintended consequences that’s brought us BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome):

    the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.

    BCRA hasn’t had as great an effect on the Republicans because they’ve got a relatively consistent philosophy — strong on defense, family values, small government — that unites most of them, engenders support from the grassroots, and doesn’t upset too many moderates. They’re lucky too in that the paleo-cons haven’t been able to scratch up much loot. Now if they could only put that small government / fiscal responsibility part going and figure out a smart move on immigration, legal and illegal, we’d have it made.
    The Dems have no unifying message except that they’re against Bush, a guy who won’t be running for office. They’ve no intellectual meat to balance the emotional fits some of their supporters throw. The antics and actions or inaction of a few upsets the normal folks who get up early, go to work, care for their families, and try to ignore politics. It’s a mistake to look foolish to the rest of the American people; they will remember and not vote for your team.
    Michael Barone has identified trustfunders as a big source of funding for Democrat candidates and initiatives. You need to read Barone’s brief analysis; he concludes with:

    The good news for Democrats is that they have found a new source of votes and money. The bad news is that an important part of their core constituency has the characteristic that the British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin ascribed to the press, “power without responsibility, the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages.”

    Responsible Democrats are left out or pushed aside, leaving the pimps at the wheel.

  7. Phillip

    Oh, give me a break, Mike & David! You’re both intelligent and I enjoy reading your posts but now you’re just talking to each other and patting each other on the back so hard I can practically hear it through cyberspace! You really need to get out of the red states more often.
    Seriously, I’d be curious to know who either of you think are good examples of “moderate” Democrats, and ways in which-if you were in Democrats’ shoes-you would stake out positions vis-a-vis Republicans. I suspect you’d come up with are Democrats that are hardly distinguishable from Republicans. As the Republican party moves ever further to the radical right, the terms of the debate get shifted so far to the right that people like John Kerry get called radical left, by David anyway. (If that’s true, I’m impressed that 48% of Americans are so radically left-wing!). David, you seem at a loss to name some radical right-wingers. Here’s a list to get you started: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rick Santorum, Grover Norquist, Tom DeLay. As it is, we really have only a one-and-a-half party system in this country.
    Mike: “It’s a mistake to look foolish to the rest of the American people; they will remember and not vote for your team.” You know, you’re absolutely right about that.

  8. Mike C

    There are some fine Democrat politicians, but their differences have to be sorted out in party circles to make a coherent whole of what those from the South, those from the Upper Midwest, and those from the West believe. Heck, if you can include what those in the Northeast believe, throw that in too. Russ Feingold is an honorable man, but in my eyes he’s wrong on the issues even when he’s asleep. But he and his may be invaluable in lashing together a philosophy and a platform that unites Democrats and makes them winners.
    You’re correct that any Democrat I’d pick would look like a Republican, but we could both name Republicans that look like Democrats.
    Democrats don’t need to be mirror-image mimics of Republicans and vice versa, so it’s tough for me to guess at what a rejuvenated Democrat Party might look like. Here’s a laundry list of federal issues and conservative positions that Republicans have adopted. (I hasten to add that a GOP ideal may not be close to fruition, but it’s a stated goal.)

    1. Defense – strong, aggressive WOT.
    2. Foreign policy – assertive
    3. World trade – free
    4. Business regulation – low
    5. Labor regulation – low
    6. Personal taxation – low, possibly flat rate
    7. Corporate taxation – low
    8. Fiscal responsibility – high (I know, I know)
    9. Environmental policy – loose
    10. Energy policy – screw the caribou, drill for natgas everywhere, etc.
    11. Income redistribution – let the market decide
    12. Education – reduce federal role, add performance measures to justify federal investment, recommend vouchers
    13. Immigration – end illegal through guest worker program and stiffen penalties, increase legal.
    14. Social policy – civil unions possibly okay, same-sex marriage not, abortion state matter
    15. Death penalty – yes
    16. Healthcare – private (anti-single payer)
    17. Social Security – funded personal accounts
    18. Intellectual property rights – high
    19. Personal property rights – high
    20. Medicare/Medicaid – fix, possibly through vouchers and means testing

    Some Democrats might agree with some of the items above while pushing alternatives for others. I’m not sure what the consensus would be, how much influence the DLC still has.
    And I’m not being dense but am interested in what you consider to be Republican Party moves to the radical right
    Finally, I must note that John Kerry is an unsettled man who should not be called upon to lead anything. He’s reactive by nature, and his behavior after his return from Viet Nam was atrocious. He doesn’t pay close enough attention to the kinds of folks he hangs around with. This has nothing to do with politics, just honor.

  9. Mike C

    Phillip –
    Here a liberal — Slate’s Mickey Kaus — has a smart discussion of the Davis-Bacon Act and unions. This is a good example of the analysis and discussion a party should go through in determining what it wants to stand for.
    It’s also an example of why it’s difficult to know Democrat positions. I’d thought that Davis-Bacon was a settled theological issue within the party, but of late I’ve seen much criticism of it in Democrat circles because of its connection to segregation.

  10. David

    Phillip – There are some democrats that I consider centrist enough to consider voting for: Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Gov. Richardson of NM, and former Senators Breaux and Zell Miller for sure. I’m sure I have missed a few. Kerry, (surprise, I agree with Mike) was and is a radical left winger. He is very leftist on taxes, abortion, and on energy. Interesting though that he doesn’t support windmills off the Nantucket Sound property that he owns. However, if one wants to install them in West Virginia or even S. Carolina he is right out there in front cheerleading the cause. World class phony that.

    To Mike’s list above, I would add that the GOP wants a strict constructionist judiciary and states rights.

    Note today the nonsensical reason Diane Feinstein (a seeming moderate Democrat) gave for voting against Roberts. He didn’t answer her questions like a father, brother, son, etc but rather like a detached person. She must truly be a bleeding heart lib… Sidenote, I think it’s curious that California has elected two female Jewish senators. That is as statistically odd as it would be for SC to have elected two ethnic orientals as Senators. Nothing wrong with it, just an oddity. Maybe a good trivia question someday.

    As for Bush, Cheney, and DeLay being radical right. Norquist doesnt count, he isnt elected to anything otherwise we can start counting James Carville, etc. Cheney cant be radical right since he has a gay daughter who he supports entirely. W cannot be radical right because Teddy Kennedy co-sponsored his No Child Left Behind education bill. DeLay is actually a generous and highly respected man to those who know him. He is a guy who worked himself up from lowly beginnings. Isnt that the American dream? If only Kennedy, Corzine, Kerry, and others could have had DeLay’s upbringing, they may actually have developed respect for those of us who get out and work, pay our taxes, and try to be good citizens. OK, that was one of my straw man cheap shots…..

  11. Brad Warthen

    Mike, you disappoint me! “Democrat positions!”
    There’s no such thing! It’s as bad as saying “women lawyers.” I would think you would know better than to use nouns as adjectives. You know, when Bob Dole used that execrable phrase, “Democrat wars,” back in the mid-70s, he was properly chastised for it by none other than George Will. Name-dropping anecdote. I once mentioned to Mr. Will over lunch that my favorite column of his was one he did about Mr. Dole back in the 70s, and he immediately guessed which one it was. I’m guessing he did that because he assumed I was a Democrat, and that I appreciated his sticking up for “us.” Well, kc could have set him straight on THAT, right?
    And speaking of kc — my examples of crazy face-painters are in this context from the “left” because that’s the side that’s hollering right now. If I could figure out how to do links in comments, I’d link you to a previous posting in which I cited both ends of the spectrum as equally whacked-out. Why? Different context. Actually, I think I did that more than once, but the first example I found was from May 23 and headlined “The robot begs to differ.” Here, let me try to link to it, and see if it works.
    Phillip, I think your list of “radical right-wingers” was uncharacteristically indiscriminate, coming from one who is usually so reasonable. Equating Dick Cheney with Grover Norquist? There’s a good bit of space on the spectrum separating those two. Anyway, is even Norquist “right-wing?” I mean, he’s an unprincipled, foaming-at-the-mouth radical libertarian, but is that being “right-wing?” Now, Pat Buchanan — THAT’S right-wing, in that he takes actual conservatism and takes it to scary extremes. By contrast, libertarianism is, strictly speaking, a form of liberalism.
    And David, would you not list Joe Biden as a moderate Democrat? For that matter, for all his immoderate behavior, Bill Clinton was a charter member of the Third Way club, although I never thought he carried it off as well as Tony Blair did in defining his New Labour. Maybe you could bump Zell Miller to make room for him. Nothing particularly centrist or moderate about ol’ Zell.

  12. Brad Warthen

    Hey, the link worked!
    Oh, a point I forgot to make while hollering at Mike (I let myself get sidetracked by my anecdote): Despite George Will’s attempt to strangle that crime against the language in its cradle, it has flourished to the point that it is practically ubiquitous among two types of Republicans — those who can’t pass up a chance to stick it to Democrats, and can’t stand the idea of describing them with such a complimentary adjective as “Democratic,” and a second group that, thanks to all the repetition, doesn’t know any better. It’s the second group that really depresses me. I hate to see bad usage triumph that way, and continue to fight a rear-guard action against this example of it.

  13. David

    Brad, I enjoy Sen. Biden’s sense of humor and wit at times, but he has a lifetime rating of 14 out of a possible 100 with American Conservative Union. His 2004 score was yes, zero. Here is the website to check that. John Spratt scored a 29 and has a lifetime score of 26. Spratt is a conservative next to Joe Biden.

    Now Pat Buchanan is truly right wing and that we agree on. http://www.acuratings.com/singlerecord.asp

Comments are closed.