The Great Flaw in Our Social Character
By Thomas L. Jipping
CNS Commentary from the "Legal Notebook" television program
We live in a very strange time, where even the most basic facts of common sense reality are challenged with a straight face.
Bill Clinton says that oral sex is not sex and that having no one else in the room is not being alone. In the annual budget dance, members of Congress say that a budget increase is a budget cut.
Judges do this sort of thing all the time. Judges tell us that the word "Congress" in the First Amendment means state governments. Judges tell us that the word "commerce" in Article I means production. Judges tell us that the phrase "among the several states" means within a single state.
Judges tell us that the phrase "establishment of religion" in the First Amendment means "endorsement of religion." Judges tell us that the word "liberty" in the 14th Amendment means abortion even though the word right before it is "life." Judges tell us that the restriction of legislative power to the legislature in Article I means that judges can exercise legislative power.
The American Bar Association tells us that criticizing judges threatens their independence but judicial activism does not. We live in an age when words are mere splotches of ink on a page, and the meaning of those words, well, depends.
This is also the name of the game in the current presidential election campaign. John McCain said he wouldn't run negative ads after running an ad saying George W. Bush is no more honest than Bill Clinton. Al Gore says he is making campaign finance regulation a centerpiece of his campaign after his fundraiser Maria Hsia is convicted of five campaign finance felonies.
Bill Clinton says we should ban so-called "soft money" while in the middle of raising millions in, yes, soft money.
And in the latest tiff between Bill Clinton and the National Rifle Association, Clinton accuses the NRA of using intimidation to achieve their goals. How do you think Clinton and his leftist allies finally got confirmed those radical nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals?
For years, Clinton has made sure that his most radical judicial nominees are minorities or women. People like Susan Mollway out in Hawaii who support homosexual marriage, Frederica Massiah-Jackson in Philadelphia who as a state court judge was notoriously soft on criminals and hostile to law enforcement, Margaret McKeown in Seattle who worked for the ACLU and homosexual groups to keep a no-special-homosexual-rights measure off the ballot, and Ronnie White in Missouri, the most anti-death penalty nominee Clinton ever pushed.
Senators last year found out just what intimidation is about when they defeated Ronnie White's nomination to the U.S. District Court. Senator Patrick Leahy, the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, accused them of using a "color test" in evaluating nominees.
That was a lie, of course, but it served a very strategic purpose. It said to Senators that voting against minorities, no matter what their record, would bring the same accusation and bad press. Even if Senators would oppose a white nominee with the same record, they would be accused of racism if they voted against any minority nominee.
And sure enough, leftist organizations such as the Alliance for Justice and People for the American Way kept the drum beat going. Republicans are more critical of minorities and women, they said. Republicans stall the nominations of minorities and women while the nominations of white men sail through.
This too was a lie, but it served notice that political extortion is now the weapon of choice in the judicial confirmation process.
And it works. After four years of controversy, during which more than 300 grassroots organizations announced their opposition to these nominees, only 39 Republican Senators voted against Richard Paez last week and only 34 voted against Marsha Berzon. And even then, Al Gore still accused them of being racists and sexists.
This stuff happens because too many people sit on their blessed assurances and don't speak the truth. They don't point the finger and say that emperor has no clothes. They call a political thug a political thug and don't call a liar a liar. And sadly, most of those wimps who won't speak the truth are in positions of political leadership.
In that vacuum, double-speak works, hypocrisy is accepted, lying is tolerated, and politicians can say anything, no matter how outrageous, and get away with it. That flaw in our social character may just be the death of us yet.
Tom Jipping is director of the Free Congress Foundation's Center for Law and Democracy.
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