6.29.2010

Inconsistency, Truth, Rhetoric, Democracy

Today during a long car drive, I listened to Rush Limbaugh as Gretchen and Iris slept in the backseat. Limbaugh was analyzing the Elena Kagan confirmation hearing. His take was that Kagan sounded just like Alito and Roberts--that is, sounded like an "originalist," who revered the Constitution and the Law... as opposed to the typical idols of the Left, equality and social justice. Limbaugh's explanation? Kagan (via Obama) knows that, to get confirmed, she needs to say certain things--to sound a certain way. And then, after she is confirmed, she can let her true colors show.

Do we all agree that A) this is troubling, and B) that this is what Rhetoricians & Sophists teach us to do?

If you want to govern in a way that is unpopular, then run on a platform that is popular, and then govern on another platform altogether. It seems to be the way--of politicians on both sides--these days. Republicans saying they want smaller government, then increasing spending at record rates. Democrats running on an anti-war platform, then installing dozens of czars, taking over major industries, tapping wires, creating civilian hit-lists, not ending torture, and ramping up Colonialist aggression.

Has it always been this way? Could it be otherwise? Could anyone ever simply sit before the Senate and say, "I believe that the 'negative constraints' of the Law put into place by the Founders are no longer sufficient, and will do everything I can to bring about social justice and economic equality. I will favor women and minorities, because white men have historically had an advantage, and I believe the courts are powerful enough to bring about balance, and even vengeance."

So ya'll sophists don't think this is a problem, right?--running one way, acting another? Doesn't it make a mockery out of democracy?

6 comments:

fenhopper said...

isn't it more likely that limbaugh is wrong about kagan's actual stance? she can value the constitution and law but still interpret it differently. it reminds me of those who criticize "literary" reading of the bible because it "imposes" new meanings. every reading of the bible accepts one or another hermeneutic. so too with the constitution.

it's dishonest, or deluded, to say that if she rules differently from them in the future it's because she lied about valuing rule of law and scriptural precision.

and we probably don't really need to get into it, but 'czars' have been in place since way before obama, and nobody campaigned against them till the tea-party learned from glenn beck and sarah palin that the czars were communists because it's a russian word. and this isn't really a democracy. it's representative for a reason.

but back to the meat. there's a huge difference between

-lying and saying A when the audience wants A but you really belive B and

-explaining/arguing that what you believe and what the audience believes are not as different as the audience fears.

even tho both of them have "convincing the audience" in common.

i'm not saying what's going on with kagan in the hearing. but limbaugh's premise--that if he can't disagree with what she's saying, that must mean she's lying--is very funny.

Casey said...

I would buy that if it weren't for examples like the one Limbaugh gave later in the program of Sonia Sotomayor who, during her confirmation hearing, stated explicitly that she felt that the second amendment applied to all individuals, and then, in the recent case, voted against that position.

Good point about the czars.

And I agree about the huge difference... but I don't see Obama, anyway, as a case in point (I guess Kagan remains a mystery). Obama hardly explained anything clearly as a candidate, and what he did explain clearly (anti-torture, anti-war) remains undone (and popular!).

Can you at least see this dynamic in action with regard to Bush, who always gave lip service to small government while being thoroughly entangled, legislatively, with all kinds of industries, etc.?

It's more about the principle than the politics, for me -- I'm happy to see the principle used to bash the political Right, if need be.

fenhopper said...

i wouldn't use any candidate of either party to make my point. i think we agree that politicians lie. who knows: some day people might even start saying things like "never trust a politician."

that's pretty much where we start isn't it? with both parties. every election.

and i say that, knowing that it's kinda silly how on every vote we sorta fool ourselves into thinking that "he voted against this bill named for cause-A" means that he's against cause-A. bills are not single issue votes. not only do riders affect them, so do the details.

a-guarantee-that-every-child-gets-brand-new-textbooks sounds like a great bill, until you see that all those textbooks must be printed on onion leaf and teach that kennedy saved the country and richard nixon was a useless president. and the children will have to pay for them.

but yeah. obama has pissed me off. a lot. i'm not arguing that it happens more or less on either side.

my point is more that, for instance, sotomayor was not voting against the statement she made that "the second amendment applied to all individuals" (or whatever she specifically said) but rather on some question of how that right could be limited in some situations, and on what that right rests, and on the wording and effect of a specific law that affects certain guns for certain reasons.

(it's interesting, further, that breyer's dissent (that sotomayor and ginsburg joined) makes its argument largely by appealing to the intent of the framers.)

and specifically, my point is that limbaugh, who does not often make valid arguments (and i'm not sure he tries to--he goes more for effective arguments) has very little to stand on when he says that scalia and his rightside cohorts are the only ones really trying to get at the original intention, or meaning of the the constitution.

and more generally, my point is that this might be the goal of manipulation, but a rhetorician isn't teaching us to do this any more than a running coach is teaching us to start before the gun or trip the other runner.

Casey said...

I can vibe with most of that. All of it really. But I feel like I am (or was) making a point that was more substantial than just "politicians lie."

Rush's other example was to cite Kagan's admiration of Israeli Justice Aharon Barak.

Says The Christian Science Monitor:

***
Barak pushed "the belief that the court can intervene in any issue, including budget, foreign affairs, and security, which is opposite of what existed in the past…. They took powers which were not really in their hands," says Avraham Diskin, a professor of political science at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who argues that the justice turned Israeli jurisprudence on its head.

"The degree of activism of Barak is such that he ruined the rule of law in Israel. When you go to court, nothing is clear. It’s a gamble."***

So my point is that if you're all for judicial activism, then "run" on that... you know? Own it. Don't say you're all about the text, and then act as if you're all about your conscience once you're at the bar.

Politicians have always lied after the election. Lying before seems like a new development to me.

It's like we're dealing with a situation where we all want individual gun rights, better border control, lower taxes, deficit reduction, some social safety nets, legal pot, and no wire taps, but one party promises half that shit, while the other promises the other half, and neither party can deliver on anything. It's maddening.

fruppedi

fenhopper said...

well, her admiration of someone doesn't say much to me. limbaugh might fear it, but i doubt he does really.

and can we agree that "judicial activism" is too easily thrown at any decision that one disagrees with? didn't jeff sessions just call citizens united a "correction"? overturning 30 years of precedent? i'd just like to see the accusations of judicial activism sprayed a little less freely.

or do you really believe that when scalia looks at the law he's getting to the actual intention of the document more than breyer is? i don't see that. hearing the two men argue on c-span i've come to believe that scalia is simply unwilling to admit something about language: that it has to be processed the minute it's uttered. his claims of originalism are no stronger than breyer's.

but yeah, it would be nice if we could count on pledges. and what is so frustrating is that most people would never vote for the person that actually represents their (the voter's) stated beliefs because people don't vote on policy. they vote on personality and ads and soundbites and blah blah blah.

and that's how the founding fathers wanted it. the ruling elite run the country best. the rabble horde are safest when they are convinced that pulling a lever gives them a pellet of real power.

Casey said...

Man, I just disagree with everything...

I do think that judicial activism is a far more prevalent attitude of the Left.

I do not think that the Founders were as Dr. Evil as you describe.

And I can't even speculate as to what absurd cause you might give credit to for spurring the vast economic expansion that swept the Western world starting in about the 1750s... because you certainly wouldn't say free markets, right? What was it?--excellent tax structures? Wise tariffs? Or was the wealth illusory, a kind of trinket-doling social construct orchestrated by the ruling elite to manage the hoi polloi?