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Inability to See the Center

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I have previously noted that some people are so far off to one side ideologically that they lose the ability to see where the center is.  For example, there is Goodwin Liu claiming that Samuel Alito is too far out of the mainstream to be confirmed and then putting himself up for confirmation.

With this thought in mind, we read with interest this Flagpole interview with Dahlia Lithwick, who covers the Supreme Court for Slate.  The interview eliminates any doubt, if indeed any remained.  Ms. Lithwick has absolutely no concept where the middle of the road is.  Regarding judicial nominations, she says (emphasis added):

It goes to [the idea that] the center has moved. I mean, the center has moved so far to the right that anybody who's... marginally to the left of Stephen Breyer is, you know, a radical. You see that in Obama's judicial picks: one person he put up who was moderately liberal was Goodwin Liu in California, who was perfectly analogous to most of the people on the Right that Bush put up. But he's been blocked, and excoriated; his hearing was just a disaster... he's been sort of painted as [being] to the left of Thurgood Marshall: a pot-smoking, hemp-wearing hippie. And, you know, he's a renowned academic... So, I think it's that ability to say, anyone who isn't in the center--even though the center isn't even in the center--is a radical and a socialist who doesn't love this country is just another really effective way of moving the conversation to the right.

But of course the center is the center by definition.  The survey marker of the center is the median American voter, the one who had a hard time choosing between Bush and Gore in 2000.  To be "renowned" in academia when the median academic is at least one standard deviation to the left of the American center, maybe two, is not any kind of indication of mainstreamness. 

While Glenn Beck et al. do get overheated with their rhetoric, it is absurd to suggest that comes exclusively from one side.  (Has anyone on Fox News referred to a female pundit of opposing views as a "bag of meat"?  An MSNBC commentator did.)  It is absurd to suggest that attacks on judicial nominees of the present Administration are worse than the savage attacks on Clarence Thomas, Miguel Estrada, or other Republican nominees.  Indeed, it is absurd to say that attacks on Liu are even as bad as Liu's own attack on Alito, much less to say they are worse.

BTW, I haven't heard anyone call Goodwin Liu "a pot-smoking, hemp-wearing hippie."  I have heard people say he is way out of the mainstream, not moderate, mainly because that is true.  The suggestion that he is no further off center than the typical Bush appointee is preposterous.

But the real howler comes with her discussion of the Supreme Court press corps.

I mean, is it a good thing or a bad thing that we still cover the Court in the voice of Linda Greenhouse? That is, dispassionate and neutral.
Neutral?  Linda Greenhouse? That isn't just funny.  That is laugh until your sides ache with tears rolling down your cheeks funny. That is turning blue because you are laughing so hard you can't inhale funny.

Ms. Lithwick lives in an ideological Bizarro World and doesn't know it.  It is one thing to be out on the fringe and well aware you are on the fringe.  It is quite another to be unaware of your position.

2 Comments

Dahlia Lithwick is just awful. She often mistakes glibness for erudition, and thinks that snark is high art.

What is utterly sad about this whole thing is that one's political ideology should be irrelevant to performing the duty of saying what the law is. It isn't, and that's sad.

As for Bush judges vs. Clinton judges, well, I don't see a whole lot of Bush judges eating summary per curiam reversals or embarrassing 9-0 smackdowns like Bobby v. Bies. Perhaps if Ms. Lithwick would explain that first, maybe we could take seriously her silly comment that Liu is where the Bush judges are.

Moreover, Goodwin Liu's intemperance with respect to the Alito nomination is a problem for him. Though he apologized, it's perfectly clear that he only did so because he wants the Ninth Circuit seat. I'd say that the Ninth could do without another Reinhardt, but I suspect Goodwin isn't as smart as Reinhardt, so I'll have to say that the Ninth can't use another Richard Paez, whose mental firepower is considerably less.

If you want to know where the center is, it's not that hard to figure out. We had an election less than four months ago. The voters handed a massive rebuke to Obama and his leftist buddies in Congress. Virtually all the exit polling showed that the No. 1 reason for this was that the moderate, independent vote that had been suckered by his smooth talk had a severe case of buyer's remorse.

I have something of an acquaintance with the mindset of law school faculties. I am an adjunct professor at Georgetown, which is hardly a hangout of conservatives, but by no stretch is it Berkeley, where Goodwin Liu hangs his hat.

The idea that Liu is a moderate is beyond preposterous. He might be a really smart guy (I don't know him), but a moderate he is not.

The press and the academy are left wing hothouses, there's no other honest way to describe them. I got hired, not because I'm any great scholar, but because, in a school (which to its credit) is at least somewhat interested in viewpoint diversity, I was one of the few even vaguely acceptable prospects out there.

In the wildly unlikely event that the next Republican President nominates me to the bench, I'll be waiting for Slate to gush about how moderate I am, even though -- if the election is any indication -- I am far closer to the center than Goodwin Liu ever dreamed of being.

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