March 21, 2005

Potholes on the Times' Road

THE EDITORS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES WEIGH IN TODAY ON JUSTICE SCALIA as the next chief justice. They're a'gin him. This makes him, of course, a perfect choice. It was a standard issue Times editorial, smooth as a baby's bottom, until just towards the end when it rode right over a large pothole at high speed.

Many of the most central principles of American constitutional law - from the right to a court-appointed lawyer to the right to buy contraception - have emerged from the court's evolving sense of the meaning of constitutional clauses. -- That Scalia Charm
I don't think many would argue that a right to a lawyer is a "central principle," but I have a great deal of difficulty putting the purchase of pills, condoms and diaphragms smack dab in the center along with it. I'm sure that to many people who work at the New York Times children are either irrelevant to their lifestyle, or would seriously crimp their career path, but surely that's no reason to make their avoidance a "central principle of American constitutional law." Or perhaps I just haven't been reading the Times enough to keep up on the code. Could it be that "the right to buy contraception" is the new code phrase for "the right to have an abortion." No, that's far too cynical. Isn't it?

Posted by Vanderleun at March 21, 2005 5:47 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

It's weird, but I have noticed this - policies confused with principles - in Democratic statements in general for a while now. In particular, in connection with abortion - the remark I remember is "the right to choose is a bedrock principle of the Democratic party". (This was in connection with a discussion about the Republican convention having pro-choice speakers, and Republican treatment of pro-choice politicians generally, versus the corresponding Democratic treatment of those on the pro-life side.)

I was pointing out that the Democratic policy on this represented a big "fuck you" to people who are pro-life, but otherwise find they are closer to the Democrats. The reply was that the Democratic Party could not accept an attitude of tolerance in this matter, because bedrock principle, etc.

Now, I can certainly see, for example, the right to personal privacy being a bedrock principle, and I can frame an argument for a strict pro-choice position based on this principle. But it was strange to see a policy position treated as though it were a principle in itself.

Posted by: jaed at March 21, 2005 10:44 PM

"Policy treated as principle." Sort of a fundamentalist position when you come down to it.

Posted by: Gerard Van Der Leun at March 21, 2005 11:59 PM