Jed is so right. I’ve read George Will’s hotly hyped Sunday column several times now, and it’s worse than a dud. Maybe it’s the drippy, rainy weather we’ve had here, but I can’t cut through the foggy posturing to figure out what his larger point really is. Let me get my towel out and dry his text off.
Two things are clear from the start: Will regards Miers’ nomination as act of “perfect perversity.” And he says that her defenders, in stark contrast to himself, lack “constitutional understanding.” They cause people like him to “cringe” when he sees them trying to defend her. He thus has no use for the “incense defense” (I didn’t know George has Know Nothing tendencies). Who cares, he says, if she’s “pious” — religion has nothing to do with, that term again, “constitutional understanding.” Anyway, he finds these defenders “so crudely obsessed with abortion” that they apparently would overturn Roe v. Wade for the wrong reasons. Those less crudely obsessed with abortion he equates with “thoughtful conservatives,” whose “highest aim” is to “replace semi-legislative reasoning with genuine constitutional reasoning about the Constitution’s meaning.” (Your assignment for Monday, class, is to compare and contrast “constitutional reasoning” and “constitutional understanding.”)
I could go on, but do I have to? It is interesting that at the end he says “any Republican senator who supinely acquiesces in President Bush’s reckless abuse of presidential discretion” and backs Miers will “never be considered presidential material.” Reasoning and understanding have given way to bluster.
I was actually most struck by his attack on unsophisticated critics of Roe v. Wade, because it’s a sobering reminder that some of Miers’ most hostile attackers aren’t particularly active pro-lifers. They have an intellectual agenda, but not a Right to Life one. David Frum, who has led the anti-Miers contingent, let it be known a few years ago that he is definitely pro-choice on first trimester abortions. And he told readers not to write to him about this because his mind is made up. Dahlia Lithwick, who writes on Supreme Court issues for Slate, has detetected a split on abortion in the Miers matter between the evangelical pro-lifers and the legal “process” right. The moral urgency the former display is clearly missing among the latter. To George Will and Co., Roe‘s sin apparently comes down to form, not content. That’s the problem with snobs.