The Daily 750

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Between the Lines: What Isn't Said

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Two criticisms of uncritical newspaper items and one more thought about the nomination of Harriet Miers. First Miers.

There are essentially two reasons why the Democrats haven’t said much about the Miers nomination. First, and most obviously, they don’t need to say anything. It’s a joy, a whole new sport, for them to sit back and watch as Bush’s Republican base fights over what has finally motivated some to outrage over a Bush decision.

The second reason has never to my knowledge been stated by any Democratic leader, but pundits citing unnamed sources have said that the second reason (actually it was the first until the Republicans fell apart) is that they believe she would be less of a right-wing threat to the court than a nominee with strong conservative credentials clearly based on a long judicial record. Early in the game, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said: “I like Harriet Miers.” His reasoning seemed to be that she was a trial lawyer and he was a trial lawyer, “So anyone with that background makes me feel good.” I’m sorry, did my rolling eyeballs hit you?

Miers’ three credentials, even according to the President, are fealty, a closed mind and Christian fundamentalism. How could she possibly pose less of a threat to Democratic principles than a learned judge, who even in the most conservative of judicial philosophies must (by the very definition of “learned”) be skilled in and indeed even intrigued by nuance. Maybe the end result of either one’s rulings would be the same. But is the court, is the country better served by decisions that are arrived at through thoughtful, intellectual debate or by pledges and faith.

Harriet: resign. George: bring on the brightest, most skilled, most conservative judge in America. Let’s have a roaring, lengthy, knock-down drag-out national debate that has us all going to the internet and the dictionary to look up words, concepts, constitutional history and legal precepts, and then having 50 percent of us spitting in distaste at the outcome. At least we'll all have learned something.

Newspaper item #1. Say, does your paper have an ombudsman or public editor? Does he or she ever write about anything that matters? Our public editor has become little more than a corrections editor and a professional shark jumper. Downtown safety problems, drugs in the legislature, the burning of a national park monument – comments, anyone? Nope. This week’s blazing concern is . . . spelling your name correctly. That’s P-r-i-c-e, not P-r-y-c-e, and if you don’t have it right, you don’t have me right, you don't have the story right. Four inches of column space, one long paragraph, that is a list of names separated by a comma.

Newspaper item #2. Our regular Sunday commentator lauds one of our state senators as that “rare legislator” who is “still capable of outrage.” The State’s worker’s compensation insurance agency has been under fire for mismanaging its funds – most notably, paying full salaries for the rest of their lives to cops, firemen and other state employees who claimed they couldn’t work because of some on-the-job accident, but were then found to be doing the same or even tougher work elsewhere and, thus, not really disabled. To its credit, the newspaper ran a series of articles detailing some of the problems, causing the governor to appoint a new director to clean up the agency’s act. The state senator (woman, Democrat) is outraged that the governor (male, Democrat) allowed the new director (woman, Democrat) to hire, at $8,000 a month, a male, Republican lobbyist who apparently is trying to keep to a minimum any reform of the worker’s comp agency. “Why is he on the state payroll when he overtly supports Republican causes and only lobbies Republican legislators?” the state senator asks. Fair enough.

What the columnist doesn’t write, among other things, is that the state senator is politically sponsored by Liberty Mutual, a competing, private insurance agency that went so far as to sponsor a (soundly defeated) ballot initiative that would have abolished the current agency. If you don't know that, you don't know the legislator, you don't have the full story.

Have a good Sunday.