What Did the Democrats Know and When did they Know It?
RJLipkin at aol.com
RJLipkin at aol.com
Sat Oct 7 04:18:31 PDT 2006
Last night on Hardball one Republican congressman argued that the only
question in the congressional page debacle is "What did the Democrats know and
when did they know it?" When asked if he knew any Democrats who knew about
Foley's misconduct, he replied: "Let's put it this way. I don't know that
democrats did not know about his conduct" (My question marks indicate close
paraphrases. I couldn't find the interviews online this morning, so I do not offer the
"quotes" as a true quotation.)
My question is what's wrong with a political (and therefore
constitutional system) that permits (provides an incentive for) this kind of
Orwellian response. (I do not mean anyone's Free Speech should be curtailed; rather
is it possible to create a constitutional and political culture which would
significantly discourage these types of statements?) Perhaps such obfuscation
cannot be eliminated from even an ideal constitutional system. Perhaps the
only antidote is electoral defeat. But surely there must be some informal
element in republican democratic theory that would discourage these remarks. Keep
in mind this congressman is not making these remarks in personal
self-defense, which at least provides (conceivably) a rationalization for saying almost
anything. Is the answer that in any kind of democracy this type of
deliberate distortion must remain a possibility, that is, it would be quixotic to
think constitutional culture could even informally discourage speech of this sort?
I suppose astonishment derives from a frustration over the poverty
of political discourse generally--from both sides of the aisle--but can anyone
regard the above remark as anything but beyond the pale?
Robert Justin Lipkin
Professor of Law
Widener University School of Law
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