Wednesday, April 27, 2005

When Conservatives Turn to Populism

One particularly unpleasant social behavior of prominent commentators is the tendency to topple from from their coherent ideological perch into crass populism when public opinion seems to smack them in the mouth. Michelle Malkin, still stewing over the lack of sensitive, probing media attention given to Terri Schiavo (whoever that is) was irate yesterday over an ABC news polling question which to her mind was worded so deceptively and inscrutably (in Democrats' favor) that no intelligent person could answer with their actual position on the issue of the filibuster. Read this very, VERY carefully, then pop a few Advil:

"Would you support or oppose changing Senate rules to make it easier for Republicans to confirm President Bush's judicial nominees?"

Full disclosure: as a primetime cable news-banter junkie and having read her latest book, I have heard enough of Michelle Malkin to be mystified as to why, with all the true brilliance there is in this world, I have heard of Michelle Malkin at all. Now that that's out of the way - she goes on, bemoaning the fact that "[N]ot surprisingly, given the wording of the poll, a huge majority of respondents said they oppose the Republicans." Huh? 'Given the wording of the polling'? Try this on: 'Not surprisingly, a majority of respondents said that they are against changing Senate rules to make it easier for Republicans to confirm President Bush's judicial nominees.' It's pretty obvious that Malkin doesn't really believe her own speciously anti-bias line when you read the question she would rather have been asked: ""Do you support a minority of Democrats preventing Bush's judicial nominees from being voted on, when a majority of senators have indicated their support for those nominees?" Not only is this a completely different question touching on a completely different issue, the wording of this question vaults past 'bias', and verges on the Michael Moore-esque as compared to the one ABC put to its respondent pool. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Michelle Malkin has no ethical qualm with media bias, so long as it doesn't flatter liberals.

Conservatives and the Filibuster

Now that the Republicans seem to be gaining at least some rhetorical meekness on the exercise of the nuclear option (under some duress from the opposition), I'll swear to the fact that I knew they would. Honestly. Not that is is of much political consequence -they'll certainly still lord this threat over the Democrats' heads (a huge political mistake in my view) - but now that they've recently sidelined some of the more zealous judicial sermonizing, I'll swear to the fact that I knew they would. Honestly. But Bill Frist has apparently dug in his heels at the front line of the cadre calling for a ban on filibustering judicial nominees. It doesn't need to be said that this makes their previous threat to ban gay marriage look like a minor estrangement from constitutionalism. Not that retaining the legacy of Jesse Helms should be a top priority for the party, but the March 29 memo circulated by Republican activist Jim Boulet, Jr. (thanks go to Gene Healy) observes the centrality of the filibuster to the conservative principle of legislating according to constitutional "strict construction", and paints a lucid picture of how dim the prospects for conservative policymaking would be without the filibuster option. One wonders in light of all this if Republicans will ever again esteem the principle of "standing athwart history, yelling 'stop.' " The Frist/DeLay leadership has of late grown increasingly adept at shooting itself in the foot politically, but few tenured Republicans in Congress could likely forget the potency of relatively recent filibuster threats in impeding Democratic flights of lawmaking fancy. To say that the Democrats' use for the filibuster in this debate is unconventional and unfair is a great understatement. But the designs of the Republican leadership can only further isolate the Congress from its constitutional mandate.The opportunity is dwindling for the zealots to heed the moderates.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Apology to...Me

Second post and I'm already apologizing - but at one point prior to creating this blog I did promise myself I'd go at least a week without using the word "Orwellian." Sorry, Jon.

House WHAT Committee?

Since this is my first blog post, I hesitate to rattle on about a subject to which so many pixels have been devoted - but what the heck. The recent study on academia's lefty ideologues is given good treatment today by blogger and the incomparable Reason magazine's assistant editor Julian Sanchez. The basic points made in the study range from the patently obvious to the highly implausible. As Julian notes, it seems very unlikely that, with all the ebb and flow that our political culture has undergone in the past 20 years, the ranks of professedly liberal academia would spike as much as the study claims. Taking Julian's point about the problem with trying to integrate mercurial political circumstances with relatively static ideological convictions, it strikes me that studies of this nature are not only biased toward error, but, if ideological neutrality in academia is chief among desired outcomes, are quite counterproductive. Among other pitfalls, such publicly-hailed studies threaten to tempt principled conservatives to fall for promoting the dubious notion of "viewpoint diversity." A very potent idea indeed - clicking on over to Glen Whitman's post yesterday on the same subject, the eye is caught by the name of a "legislative" organ with (dare I say it) a downright Orwellian ring to it: the House Choice and Innovation Committee. Now I suppose I'm willing to put my credibility on the line by saying that I can't recall ever hearing or reading the words "House Choice and Innovation Committee" before. In any case, it seems that congressional Republicans are completely averse to affirmative action methods which claim racial diversity as a compelling state interest, but ideological diversity - well, the government better get to work on that right away, since the US Congress clearly has a more sophisticated understanding of the intellectual poisons that threaten today's bright young minds than they or their parents do. Time to Innovate, apparently.