rs at robertsheridan.com
Mon Oct 13 20:33:34 PDT 2008
We seem to be railing about citizens, including the McCain campaign,
taking the low road in this presidential campaign. Some of them seem
to take one instance and extend it generally by pluralizing it
carelessly on purpose. Others engage in shameless guilt-by-
association; see the current discussion here.
This is protected activity, however annoying. Brandenburg.
I'm thankful we're just slinging words, not bullets. This is a major
The problem seems to be that in political campaigns, unlike structured
debates or court arguments, there are no referees that mean anything
(Palin told Ifill she wouldn't abide by the procedural rules
previously agreed on; both presidential candidates waived the rules in
their last debate to the seeming surprise of Brokaw) and no real rules
of debate. You take your shot and wait for the reaction, no matter
how cheap the shot.
The problem is, I respectfully suggest, that we don't have a proper
regard for the principle against hypocrisy, perhaps because hypocrisy
is so useful that we cannot get along without it. Cops drink and
drive, and so do prosecutors and judges. Nevertheless they all
enforce the DUI laws. Hypocrisy? We couldn't get along with it.
It's the grease which allows the wheels to turn.
McCain's party, in the person of the president, nominated Harriet
Myers as a Supreme Court justice. Supremely unqualified, in the
opinion of many, although no doubt a good person and a good lawyer.
After all, she did/does represent the interests of the president, no
small shakes. It seems hypocritical to nominate someone so
unqualified to such a challenging position.
McCain himself, has nominated a person to serve as understudy to the
president, should he succeed, who seems supremely unprepared for such
a responsibility, should it occur any time soon. It seems
hypocritical to nominate someone so unqualified to such a challenging
The reason I so say is because the McCain campaign has seemed to say
that Obama is unqualified to serve as president for whatever reasons.
We seem not to have a constitutional rule of construction that
prohibits hypocrisy, although we do have some that seem to come
close. One is the rule of reason, which allows to be held
unconstitutional a statute, for example, that has no basis in reason.
I'm thinking of the truck (mudflap, double-bottom?) case whose safety
rationale was shown to be undermined by the additional miles required
to be driven were the rule enforced, where highway miles driven are
the measure of the accident rate. The statute in question seemed to
operate in a self-contradictory fashion, hence unconstitutional.
We don't have the same principal in political debate. We'd have no
one to enforce it. So anything goes, except to the extent a
candidate overplays his hand, turns voters off, and pays a political
Should we have a constitutional rule against hypocrisy?
How would we define it, I wonder.
Saying one thing and doing another?
Promoting family values and (I hesitate to mention) shotgun
marriages? (McCain was shown on TV this evening embracing a handsome
young couple who may be planning marriage in view of an upcoming
blessed event, and I wish them well). A triumph of reality over
ideology, I suspect.
Perhaps if we could get rid of some of our ideology, we'd be a step
I mean, if China can allow its farmers, sometimes called peasants, to
own land, essentially (long term usage rights, capable of being sold),
then we ought to be able to jettison some of our own cherished
beliefs. Such as the government (read taxpayer) rushing to the
support of Wall Street traders who've run aground, against all
capitalist theory, as opposed to socialist. You have to break a lot
of ideological furniture, it seems, when trying to save the ship.
Or survival, and proof that the ideology was to that extent wrong.
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