Carol Platt Liebau: Two Brilliant Guys Duke It Out

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Two Brilliant Guys Duke It Out

Verbally, of course. National Review's David Frum appeared in the first hour of Hugh Hewitt's radio show. No doubt transcripts will appear at Radioblogger in due course (update -- it's posted at Hugh's site).

There was one exchange in particular that piqued my interest. David Frum noted that there were many prominent government officials and others who opposed Harriet Miers for a variety of particular reasons (or words to that effect). Hugh objected to the use of anonymous sources, using the phrase "neo-Borking." David then responded, no doubt correctly, that many of the people in question hold high office or hope to hold high office, and that there are others hesitant to speak out because they might have business before the Supreme Court.

Two thoughts: First, I have understood and sympathaized with the objection that it seems unfair, when the time comes for Supreme Court nominations, to pass over those who have stood up and taken arrows for the conservative movement in favor of people who may have been more "discreet," (i.e. a little less outspoken, perhaps more mindful of their own careers and advancement). No doubt at least some of these sources of David's feel the same way. But if that's the case, and this nomination holds the immense importance that all of us seem to believe it does, how do they justify their failure to stand up and be counted, by name, even as they fault Harriet Miers for having failed to do so, over the years?

Second: When David Frum tells us how these people feel, and generally who they are, I believe what he says, because I know he's a person of integrity. But by witholding their identities but nonetheless vouching for their existence and reliability, isn't he doing the same thing for which he's faulted the President -- that is, asking us to trust him?


Blogger Jack said...

...not to mention appealing to authority. I'm still not convinced that Miers is a suitable nominee, and am close to actively opposing her confirmation, but you are right in pointing out that Frum's case is weak at this point.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Patrick O'Hannigan said...

I like both of your thoughts, Carol, and think you're right on both counts. I'd have called Hugh out on his careless use of the phrase "neo-Borking," though.

As Bork himself has said, the verb "To Bork" means to willfully represent another person's public record. No reputable critic is doing that to Harriet Miers, because not liking her record or finding it too thin is not the same as misrepresenting it. This isn't "neo-Borking," no matter how much Hugh might wish to call it that-- it's good, old-fashioned, principled disagreement, fueled by any number of motives.

10:00 PM  
Blogger Patrick O'Hannigan said...

"Willfully represent," I typed, when I meant "willfully misrepresent." That's what Senator Kennedy did to Robert Bork; it's emphatically not what Miers' critics are doing to her. Many are more critical of President Bush than of Miers, anyway.

10:02 PM  

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