Sunday, November 13, 2005

Talking Points

   I hate them.

   Talking points are a symptom (or perhaps a cause) of the dumbing down of American politics.

   Have you ever enountered one that actually contributed something to the debate? I haven't.

   Little points on a checklist of items to get on the record of the Sunday morning talk shows, they are almost never reponsive to the question posed. They never actually engage the other side of the debate. The "what" is deemed as a perfectly adequate to the question, "why?"

   The "why?" never seems come out in any great depth.

   I had dinner last night with a friend from law school, one with decidedly different political leanings from my own. She suggested that she was displeased with the Alito nomination. I asked, "why?"

   "He was the sole dissenting vote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey."

   Having heard this single sentence only about a hundred times before from as many different sources, I fired back, "It was a three judge panel; if he'd had one more vote, his opinion would have been the majority." If you want to take issue with his dissent, that's fine by me (and I am actually excited to engage that topic), but casting a dissenting vote on a three-judge panel does not ipso facto render someone an outcast from the judicial mainstream, no matter how many times the opposing interest groups hammer that point to suggest otherwise.

   "Well, he'll overturn Roe v. Wade."

   "That requires an assumption that he would do so. You can no more assume that he will overturn it than I can assume that he won't."

   At this point, the conversation trailed off in another direction. I think she had not quite counted on such quick challenges.

   Now, don't get me wrong: I'm not suggesting that my friend did not believe these things -- I firmly believe that she does -- and I am not suggesting that my friend is politically disengaged (she is one of the most politically active people I know) -- but I was not getting the "why" I had originally asked for.

   Ninth grade Honors English: A one-sentence answer -- to say nothing of the one-word response typical of thirteen-year-olds -- is nearly always inadequate. That I used to think my teacher was diabolical would overrate the Devil's power. But, that man, who died far too young, taught me a great deal about how to express myself.

   Suffice to say, conservatives are guilty of this, too. If I do read materials I receive from the RNC, I do little more than skim them. I've always been that way. More often, I simply delete them.

   I don't need to be reinforced in my beliefs by bullet points. I usually find them overly simplistic anyway. That, or my similar conclusion arrives via differing (and, to my mind, sounder) logic.

   I guess that's why I took to blogging. Thinking people of all different persuasions offering and developing ideas. There are some parrots out there who toe the party line, but I don't bother reading those.

   Give me the ideas of someone who is truly grappling with issues, not just feigning difficulty because it is politically expedient. Give me those of someone not afraid to be critical of those in his own fold.

   Regardless of ideology, he (or she) is my kindred spirit.

Linked to Don Surber, Stuck on Stupid, bRight & Early, and Wizbang!


Blogger Kevin said...

...but casting a dissenting vote on a three-judge panel does not ipso facto render someone an outcast from the judicial mainstream, no matter how many times the opposing interest groups hammer that point to suggest otherwise.

Was her point that, as you put it, his position made him "an outcast from the judicial mainstream", or that, his position made him one sympathetic to rules which would make a woman's health care decisions subject to the approval of her husband. Regardless of where the judicial mainstream is on this issue, many would find this line of thinking objectionable.

"Ten word answers will kill you. In foreign policy (or domestic for that matter) you need all of the words you can get".
-from some emmy award winning drama on tv.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Bostonian Exile said...

I'm inclined to think that she believes the latter, but that the intent behind the statement is the former. The words "sole dissenter" are a tell, especially from someone who has a familiarity with the workings of American courts.

That's why whenever you hear the pro-choice lobby talk about his dissent in Casey, they call it a sole dissent. A sole dissent from an en banc (full court) panel may (or may not) raise a red flag. In the Third Circuit, that would be a lone judge out of thirteen. But on a standard three-judge panel, a dissent is by definition "lone" as the vote is 2-1. There is nothing to be gained by calling that a sole dissent except to marginalize in a simplitic manner an unfavored opinion.

But then, that's why Alito's opponents are characterizing it in that way before getting into the substance (if they get into it at all).

11:37 AM  

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