Thursday, August 11, 2005


I'll got with Lindsay on The first rule of Fight Club...:
I have nothing more to say about the [NARAL ad criticized here]. If you like the ad, send NARAL some money. If you don't like the ad, send their communications director some email.

If you dislike both Roberts' abortion record and NARAL's ad, please take a moment to assess your priorities. I predict you'll stop grandstanding about the damned ad. This is not a good time for you to make a show of meticulous even-handedness. If you really care about the politics and not just the ideas in play, now is the time to develop some message discipline.

A lot of commentators pay lip service to the ideal of a progressive movement. Many of them write long articles about how we ought to build said movement. They claim that they want to be part of this movement. Yet they're unwilling to meet the first requirement of being part of any political movement, namely--being a team player.

A lot of right wingers felt squeamish about the Swift Boat ads, but most of these "principled" conservatives also had the good sense hold off the amateur media criticism and repeat the magic mantra: "Nevertheless, the controversial campaign raises interesting questions..."
I also like Kevin Drum's suggestions for an improved ad.

Let me preface my comments with a reminder that I'm not a lawyer, nor am I a movement conservative lawyer in the Reagan or Bush White Houses. Which is to say, I can't fully appreciate the forces acting on Judge Roberts when he wrote the briefs at issue.

As I understand it, the issue is that, a few years before Eric Rudolph blew up a clinic in Birmingham, Roberts wrote a brief on behalf of the federal government arguing that blocking abortion clinics and using violence against them should not be considered a federal civil rights violation (under a law passed to prosecute KKK activities).

The logic which he applied, and which the Supreme Court later ratified, was that protesters were blocking men and women from accessing the clinics, therefore were not being discriminating in their criminal acts (trespassing, assault, terrorism, bombing, etc.). This is by historical comparison to the KKK.

In 1967, when the KKK lynched three people in Philadelphia, MS, two were white. It happens that all three were involved in a voter registration drive and promoting civil rights for African-Americans. The fact that two of the victims were white doesn't change the fact that the violence was aimed at infringing civil rights of protected minorities.

Similarly, while men and women were threatened, blocked and injured by violence and protesters at clinics, that doesn't mean the activity wasn't targeted at women. When men were targeted, it was incidentally (because they were accompanying women) or it was because of their activities on behalf of women. Obviously, the Supreme Court disagreed, so I have no serious beef here. But there's a case to be made that briefs like what Roberts wrote established a legal climate in which crime at abortion clinics was not treated as seriously as it could have been. Roberts argued on behalf of the federal government, that the federal government had no stake in these crimes, that they should be prosecuted under state and municipal laws.

In principle, that might be fine, but it puts the lie to his claim that all his briefs were just written on behalf of his client, the federal government. In this instance, rather than arguing on behalf of his client and establishing broader powers for that client, he argued against his client's authority.

If that's what he believes, all well and good, but he can't turn around and insist that the rest of his statements just reflect other people's opinions. He can't have it both ways.