In the debate over Miers, it’s distressing to see how personal some of the attacks have been among pundits and bloggers. Some of my favorite bloggers and I have been both victims and perpetrators of this — on both sides. No wonder lefties like Kevin Drum are tempted to “get out the popcorn and cheer the prospect of conservatives tearing each other apart.”
For example, Hugh Hewitt says that he has been called a shill, a toady, and a Kool-aid drinker. I don’t think that it’s out of line to say he’s been drinking the Kool-aid, but calling him names like “shill” and “toady” are just over the top, as I have already said.
Similarly, Beldar has reported that a top pundit told him he appeared to be personally invested in this. That kind of rhetoric is unnecessary, at least when there is no reason to believe that it’s true.
Beldar actually felt he had to do a post defending himself against this accusation. He shouldn’t have had to feel that way — and he didn’t need to justify himself to those of us who have followed his blog for some time now. But he has had a lot of traffic lately, and a lot of new readers — and justifiably so, as he has been doing a very energetic and articulate job of defending Miers. Indeed, he has been doing far better than the Bush Administration has been doing, as I commented on his blog the other day. In light of the traffic that these efforts have generated, I guess he felt the need to explain to the new readers that he has no real personal stake in this.
I understand why he felt he had to do this. But it’s a shame.
Here’s the thing: the ugliness is not running only one way.
Oddly enough, Beldar himself seems to be engaging in insinuations of bias very similar to that made by the top pundit. In particular, Beldar seems to have a reflexive reaction to anyone who personally criticizes Harriet Miers: they must have had some personal problem with her.
For example, when I wrote a post citing several people who had said negative things about Miers’s people skills, Beldar said:
Nor am I familiar enough with any of the named sources you quote, my friend, who’ve cast doubt upon Ms. Miers’ “people skills.” But I wonder whether they have scars on their hides in the shape of Ms. Miers’ claws or teeth.
He wonders, but he has no evidence of this. You would think, after having a well-known pundit question his own bias without cause, that Beldar would be careful about doing the same to others. But you’d be wrong.
Beldar said something similar about David Frum in this comment:
Plus [Frum’s] “I like her personally but” rhetoric is in the tradition of “And Brutus is an honorable man”; something slightly off about it, makes me wonder if maybe Ms. Miers whacked him in the dangling participles or something.
I like the allusion; the speech is one of the great speeches in all of Shakespeare. But maybe Frum really does like Miers personally, but has serious problems with the idea of her as a Supreme Court Justice. Does Beldar know? No, he doesn’t — but the lawyer in him just can’t help but try to insinuate bias on the part of someone who disagrees with his position.
And in the same comment, Beldar seemed to insinuate that I was being less than honest, like my frequent nemesis the L.A. Times often is. My offense? As I explained in this comment, my alleged sin was claiming that Harriet Miers supported affirmative action, when my only evidence for the statement was that Harriet Miers opposed affirmative action.
And, while we’re discussing the attacks on me, we have Dafydd ab Hugh tonight, half-jokingly accusing me of “Miers Derangement Syndrome.” How large is the “half” that’s a joke? Only Dafydd can say for sure, but Dafydd later elaborated on his comment in a way that sure sounds like there’s a serious aspect to the accusation:
In the past five days, starting with the first post of 10/6 (Another Bogus Argument for Miers), you have posted thirty-nine times. Thirty-five of these posts have been increasingly virulent attacks on the Miers nomination, an average of seven per day.
The four posts that were not Miers related were praise of Michelle Malkin; praise of Captain Ed; a defense of Hugh Hewitt; and some cryptic comment about brisket. You’ve posted no substantial political post on any subject but the unworthiness of Harriet Miers.
Doesn’t this seem just a tad over the top, my friend?
Note to Dafydd: with the post before this one, we’re up to 36. And I’m not going to stop, either.
As you can see, Dafydd is certainly correct that I have posted a lot on this topic. But Dafydd could look at my collection of posts and draw either of two conclusions. On one hand, he could say to himself: “Wow, the fervor I am seeing from Patrick indicates that he feels very deeply about this issue. Maybe I should question my assumption that the behavior of the base won’t change as a result of this poor nomination.”
Or, he could simply insinuate that there is something wrong with me mentally.
He appears to have chosen the latter course. To the extent that he’s serious about this, it’s quite simply a ridiculous suggestion. I am passionate about certain things. I post quite a bit on the L.A. Times, and I’ve had people (Jeff Jarvis, for example) suggest that I’m “obsessed” with them. My response to Jeff was this:
I get annoyed when people characterize me as “obsessed” with the L.A. Times. It strikes me as a cheap way to devalue and marginalize my criticisms. If someone asserts bias on such issues, but doesn’t document it, they are told they lack the evidence. If a critic does painstakingly document it, as I do, people who disagree with the critic will portray him as a crazed obsessive.
I think your crusade against the FCC is admirable, and I’d call your attitude “dogged.” But then, I agree with you. I’ll bet those who don’t — those who want the government to control broadcast speech in this country — would call your posts about the FCC “obsessive.” Wouldn’t you rather have such people engage you on the issues, rather than attempt to marginalize you with rhetoric about your “obsessiveness”?
When Proposition 66 (the measure to gut the Three Strikes law) was on the ballot, I posted around the clock. I haven’t counted my posts, but there were dozens upon dozens. That was something I felt strongly about. Ditto the media smear on the Swift Vets. And there have been several other topics that have gotten me excited enough to post a lot.
But the federal judiciary, and the Supreme Court in particular, is probably among the top two or three topics that interest me. Anyone who reads my blog for any length of time knows this. We are at a pivotal moment, and I see a disaster unfolding in front of my eyes. I see the judicial equivalent of Katrina headed for the coast, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to stay quiet about it.
If you agreed with me, Dafydd, you’d praise me. Since you don’t, you mock me.
It’s a cheap shot. And, like the one from Beldar, it cuts even deeper because it’s coming from someone I like and respect.
To show I’m not immune to this, I took a cheap potshot at someone named Major Mike, whose blog I’d never seen before. In this post, I said that this post of his, praising the President’s nomination as the acme of political acumen, was “nonsensical.”
In my defense, I wasn’t calling him names; I was calling his post nonsense. And the post where I did it was titled a “rant.” But that’s no excuse. The way I did it lacked class. Rather than defending my position, I simply tossed out the word “nonsense” without explaining why. That was rude.
I think it would have been fine to call it nonsense if I had explained why. It would have been nicer still to eschew such language altogether. To be honest with you, I don’t think I have it in me to be that nice all the time. But I should have the decency to back up a statement like that; if I don’t, it’s just insulting.
When Major Mike came on my blog to express his regret at my choice of words, I apologized in a comment. I don’t know whether he saw the apology, so I have sent him an e-mail with a link to my apology and to this post.
(For the record, the reason that I believed his post was entirely wrongheaded is explained here. Compare that post to his and you’ll understand my criticism.)
Look, I don’t want to sound like a whiner, though the harsher critics will no doubt say that I am. Here’s my point. Captain Ed said:
After the Miers kerfuffle has long gone, we will still have each other, people. Let’s try to remember that and not burn all our bridges. Let’s remember who our friends are.
He’s right. Can we all take a step back and realize that?
UPDATE: More mixing of Shakespeare and debate over Miers. I love it.
UPDATE x2: Beldar says in the comments:
We’re all cats in a roomful of rocking chairs, and some of us have particularly long and vulnerable tails.