[In my front page persona] As to those 22 Democrats who voted no, they have openly embraced an ideological view of the Court from which they can never credibly step back. For them, appointing Supreme Court Justices is a processes of trying to lock outcomes in place, and we shouldn't believe them if in the future they try to say otherwise.Well, Amba had read all that too, yet somehow thought she could convince me to view Obama as distinctly different from those other no voters. She emailed me, and we had an exchange, which she's now rendered in dialogue form and set out in an update. It goes like this:
[In my comments persona] Roberts is ... stunningly, brilliantly qualified. You can't vote against what he is without permanently branding yourself an ideologue who does not respect judicial independence. I'm disgusted with all 22 of those characters. They have abused their constitutional power, and I won't forget it when they run for President.
AG: Have you seen Sen. Obama's statement on why he voted against Roberts? Like you, I tarred him with the same brush the Democrat pack deserved, but after reading this statement I regret it.I'm sure all the politicians have some measure of individual character mixed in with their ideology and party loyalty and that the proportions vary from politician to politician. And I'm interested, to some extent, in trying to discern the proportions. I just find a press release or a speech written by someone on the staff to be very weak evidence. Even if the Senator wrote the material himself, on this occasion he's got a job to do, justifying what I regard as an unjustifiable vote. That can at most demonstrate lawyerly writing skills. Suffice it to say, there's a limit to how much that sort of thing can impress me.
AA: Nothing stood out to me in that other than that it was incredibly verbose. I can't tell from your post what exactly impressed you, and you cut and pasted so much of his windy prose.
AG: Chacun a son gout, I guess. . . . which is to say, I didn't find it so verbose. I might have edited it a little, maybe. His writing, and speechwriting, has always seemed to me to achieve clarity without sacrificing complexity. So that's just my taste in style -- I'm more verbose than you myself, right?
What impressed me about it was his civility and collegiality towards those with opposing views (rare enough among Dems). And though the concerns he expressed were the conventionally liberal ones, he's got a point about the company Roberts has kept and he's got a point about the minority of cases where there's inevitably more involved than judiciousness, and even more than ideology.
AA: To me, it doesn't matter what the written justifications his lawyers wrote out are. Those are not the actual reasons. As writing, it amounts to the same blather I heard throughout the hearings. In no way does he stand out in a special way. And the chances those are his words are close to zero.
It's written the way judicial decisions are written, saying what is appropriate, revealing nothing of what is inappropriate. I have to spend my life reading things like that. It comes across as entirely generic to me. I'm sure he has excellent lawyers and speechwriters working with him, setting up his career. They take the tone that it is advantageous to take. The bottom line for me is what it is for all of the no-voting Senators. There was no decent reason to oppose him.
AG: I'm surprised at the intensity of your venom. And from what I have heard of Obama from fellow Chicagoans who know him, he writes his own stuff.
AA: I'm supposed to believe political speeches at face value? I'm not venomous, just realistic.
AG: The "they" who are "setting up his career," then, are a lot smarter than the average Democrat's handlers, as they seek to put a moderate spin even on his liberalism, if you insist on seeing it all as spin. If that's the tone it's now advantageous to take, that's good news.
Maybe I'm terribly naïve in wanting at least a few politicians to be genuine and sincere. Lindsey Graham is the other one who gives me that, possibly false, impression. or do you think only Democrats are phonies?
AA: I think they all present a false surface, just like judicial opinions. It's my job to look through that and I've been practicing for a quarter of a century.
AG: [being more verbose, true to form] That may be true, but some ring falser than others. I don't know what the cues are, and it would be interesting to hear what an analyst of body language, vocal tone, and facial cues has to say, but a few politicians give an impression of being present and being themselves when they talk, which in turn suggests sincerity and integrity. Are they just the slickest, the best performers of the bunch? (Do they say "That ought to hold the little bastards" when they think the mike has been turned off?) Or is our innate ear for this too keen to fool? I don't know.
AA: Are you sure you're not a fan of the guy? I'm a fan of no politician. I'm sure plenty of them are decent enough as they ply their trade, and I'm willing to believe Obama is decent enough, but he's an ambitious man with a highly skilled staff.
AG: [red-faced] "Fan"? The word wouldn't have occurred to me in connection with politicians. I am guilty of getting my hopes up when somebody plays the game with a little more class and independence than usual. Both Graham and Obama have impressed me that way, so it's not about party or ideology, in fact it's about independence from slavish adherence to party or ideology (which can coexist with loyalty).