April 5, 2012

When it comes to the Constitution and the Affordable Care Act, one must wonder who is the little lamb brought up as a pet.

"This court, cosseted behind white marble pillars, out of reach of TV, accountable to no one once they give the last word..."

That's the beginning of paragraph 4 of Maureen Dowd's attack on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Her rant includes many of the hackneyed phrases we're accustomed to seeing in anti-Court writing:
It has squandered even the semi-illusion that it is the unbiased, honest guardian of the Constitution. It is run by hacks dressed up in black robes.
How do hacks writing NYT columns dress up?
All the fancy diplomas... cannot disguise the fact that its reasoning on the most important decisions affecting Americans seems shaped more by a political handbook than a legal brief.
I elided "of the conservative majority" to highlight how political liberals bitching about conservative judges talk just like political conservatives bitching about liberal judges... and all their fancy diplomas cannot disguise it!

But I'm interested in the phrase that sounded new "cosseted behind white marble pillars." Can one be cosseted by pillars? What exactly is cosseting anyway? Did you picture something like this?



No. That's a corset. Do you let similar words affect your understanding of a word? (I once lost a spelling bee because I allowed the word "ostrich" to intrude upon my understanding of "ostracize.")

But cosset... it's something soft, not pillarlike, is it not?
cosset
1650s, "to fondle, caress, indulge," from a noun (1570s) meaning "lamb brought up as a pet" (applied to persons from 1590s), perhaps from O.E. cot-sæta "one who dwells in a cot." 
When it comes to the Constitution and the Affordable Care Act, one must wonder who is the little lamb brought up as a pet.

60 comments:

Autolycus said...

Cosseting by marble pillar sounds like a harsh form of medievel torture.

Paddy O said...

"Cossetted with the penumbras" makes for a fun phrase.

Synova said...

I certainly do let similar words influence how I understand an unfamiliar word. It usually works very well.

But I knew what cosset was anyhow. Not the lamb bit, but in the sense of lovingly protected from the realities of the world.

Jay said...

When it comes to the Constitution and the Affordable Care Act, one must wonder who is the little lamb brought up as a pet.

I'll go out on a limb and say Obama for that one.

Synova said...

I don't think that cosset means the same as isolated or sequestered though.

Someone had a thesaurical accident.

Dan in Philly said...

From episodes of "Law and Order" to John Grissom plots, we've seen a lot of themes about right wing and captialist hate in ficton against the SCOTUS. If they do strike down this law and we see sudden ranting from the party which once called a SCOTUS ruling "Like hearing the voice of God" will we see similar portrayals of left wing plots on SCOTUS justices?

TosaGuy said...

Is there a "leading lambs to slaughter" reference....I didn't bother to read it.

paul a'barge said...

Oh man, Maureen Dowd ... eviscerated by Althouse. Wow, that was brutal. Can she ever again bear to show her cougar heine in public?

My guess is yes. She's a shame-free zone.

paul a'barge said...

she, her being Dowd.

Rob said...

It seems to me that the NY Times comments are much less "HEAR, HEAR, BRILLIANT!" than they used to be. Have there always been so many critical comments?

The pro-Dowd comments are pretty funny. The case was not about roadside strip searches, but about searches at jails of incoming prisoners. The issue is difficult, but you certainly can understand why (weapons, contraband) incoming prisoners might be strip searched. In addition, the comments have the obligatory impeach Clarence Thomas theme. I think Justice Thomas is brilliant although I don't always agree with him. Hmm, what is it about Justice Thomas that the left finds so objectionable? What could it possibly be?

Ms. Dowd's column struck me as the sort of thing one might produce as a parody of a MD piece.

Almost Ali said...

Dowd is not entirely wrong. Because when we boil it down, we're a nation of men first, a nation of women second, a nation of politics third - and finally a nation of laws fourth. And 5th...

bgates said...

political liberals bitching about conservative judges talk just like political conservatives bitching about liberal judges

Of course. They're talented at identifying appealing language and subverting it for their own ends.

For example, they've gotten everyone to call them "liberals".

Sorun said...

I'm not going to read Dowd's column, but I suppose Kagan is blabbing about the outcome and that's why leftys are pissed off. Kagan looks like a blabber.

Almost Ali said...

Cosseted (et al): Words may have a common reference (i.e., book), but not necessarily a common source (experience).

traditionalguy said...

Maureen must be remembering how cosseted Clarence Thomas was as his high tech lynching descended on him on National TV.

This year's chant of the Dems must be, " Take them outside and cosset them."

And how did we end up at Passover/Good Friday with lambs giving up their blood for our protection again?

gerry said...
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gerry said...

Maureen continues her descent into madness

Michael Gersh said...

When the Supremes found "penumbras" and "emanations" in the constitution (in Griswold v. Ct.) to support their cherished right to privacy Miss Dowd was leading the cheerleading squad for their activism. Ben Franklin was right - where you stand depends on where you sit.

LordSomber said...

I hope the breathless Ms. Dowd has a fainting couch in her office.

TANSTAAFL said...

From The Immutable Laws of Dowd:

4. It is much better to be cute than coherent.

Jim Sweeney said...

Kagan ( and Sotomayor) look less like "blabbers" and more like flabbers to me.

Christopher in MA said...

Pity she's not one of your students, Althouse. You could just scrawl Roe v Wade in big red letters over her driveling caterwauling and tell her she'd probably be better off in the Home Ec class since she isn't going to get anywhere in the real world under her own brainpower.

cubanbob said...

Who would waste precious neurons reading Dowd?

Peano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

Ann,

When liberals don't win, they whine. Dowd is just the lastest one.

chickenlittle said...

cubanbob said...
Who would waste precious neurons reading Dowd?

I couldn't even finish reading the ovine's bleats. She's really Sullivan in drag isn't she?

She's even lost her sense of humor.

Blue@9 said...

O Mo. Has another columnist ever sported such an appropriate last name?

chickenlittle said...

I heard the words "dowdified" recently in the context of NBC's Zimmerman editorial skils. She must be so proud of that.

Astro said...

Yeah, what peano said without the name-calling.

But, egads! My mind is doing contortions trying NOT to think of any of the members of the court wearing corsets. I'm trying to force it to ponder The Supremes (as in Diana Ross and...) wearing corsets. A pleasant, rather than horrifying, image.

Segesta said...

It's fascinating how the left, including aging schoolgirl Maureen Dowd, is fixated not on health care, its costs, and maintaining the best health for Americans--but on this bill. It's all about President Obama's 'legacy', not good policy.

megapotamus said...

Etymology is a neglected cruciality.

megapotamus said...

And who is beyond the reach of TV? Should I be saving for a marble house?

Quayle said...

These people just really don't like our way of government.

They are just so smart - so much smarter than the rest of us - that they could govern a country by mere edict, or committee, or through a weekly opinion column.

And who can blame them? All these antiquated checks and balances nonsense just get in the way of toe benevolent king bestowing his or her love on the rest of us.

Can't we dumb people see that?

granmary said...

Why Ann, the little lamb is Barak of course. The cosseting is being done by the press at the moment. Little Barry has been cosseted from birth, first by family and then by a succession of groomers who placed him in the White House to be worshipped by us mortals as he destroys the evil that is America.

karrde said...

When I read of the "lamb brought up as a pet", I thought it was a Bible reference.

Not something I'd expect from Maureen Dowd.

Then I realized that it looked like a paraphrase, not a direct quote, of 2 Sam 12:1-4.

Still, the question remains: who has been cosseted, by whom, and from what depredations?

krbaylor said...

"Elided" was the word I had to look up; I had never heard of it before.

elide

1. omit element of word or phrase: to omit a vowel, consonant, or syllable of a word, or leave out part of a sentence or phrase

2. omit something: to omit, delete, or ignore something (formal)

ricpic said...

How about "cossetted in their black robes?"

edutcher said...

Interesting MoDo can whine about the Supremes being hacks. I'll bet she loved it when Dictator Zero nominated the Wise Latina and then the Babe from Haavahd.

Ann Althouse said...

I elided "of the conservative majority" to highlight how political liberals bitching about conservative judges talk just like political conservatives bitching about liberal judges

The difference is Conservatives understand how the Lefties play the game and would like to see the Constitution followed, rather than see "rights" invented out of whole cloth.

The Lefties are mad because this isn't supposed to happen to them.

Paul said...

Ann,

When liberals don't win, they whine. Dowd is just the lastest one.


She got thar lastest with the leastest.

edutcher said...

PS One skilled in the art of cossetry is a corsetier.

For those interested.

I presume Moochelle, MoDo and the rest of the Lefties have a considerable knot in their collective bustle about now.

Brian G. said...

What s surprise that when right wing bloggers aren't going after Obama because he is black, they go after a commentator simply because she is a woman. Dowd is one of the most respected and influential columnists in America, but right wingers hate her because she stands up for women, children, minorities, and gays. who are hardest hit by Republican policies designed to harm them to begin with while enriching Big Oil, Wal-Mart, Wall Street, and Halliburton. The sexism against Ms. Dowd for her years of reasoned and enlightened commentary has been disgraceful. No Republicans, she isn't going back to the kitchen. Deal with it.

Patrick said...

Could this possibly be a veiled reference to "The Tidal Basin Bombshell"?

Rob said...

Kudos to Brian G! Wonderful parody! No. You're serious? Even funnier!

setnaffa said...

Poor Brian G... He apparently was not cossetted enough...

And he somehow lost the ability to parse between campaign rhetoric and the real world...

Roger J. said...

Brian G's ropbust defense of Ms Dowd nothwithstanding, does anyone outside Greenwich or the upper east side even read her any more? She's not read nor listened to, not beause she's a woman--she's simply a twit. But its the NYT, and one of the dim flickering bulbs on the NYT's marquee. (I do confess I do the sunday NYT crossword--the only part of the paper worth reading)

Rob said...

Well, if it IS a parody it is dead on perfect. The Onion should hire the guy.

Unknown said...

Interesting choice of words, that "cosseted by white pillars" bit. Sorta reminds me of a comment made about Elena Kagan, about her "cosseted experience in the ivory towers of east coast academia."

Plagiarized? Probably not. But the combination of "cosseted" "white" (or a variant) and "tall, skinny construction features" is pretty striking.

Link here: http://caffertyfile.blogs.cnn.com/2010/05/11/is-elena-kagan-the-right-choice-to-be-the-next-supreme-court-justice/

edutcher said...

krbaylor said...

"Elided" was the word I had to look up; I had never heard of it before.

elide

1. omit element of word or phrase: to omit a vowel, consonant, or syllable of a word, or leave out part of a sentence or phrase

2. omit something: to omit, delete, or ignore something (formal)


In some of the Romance languages, they seem to substitute elision for contractions.

Steve Koch said...

"I elided "of the conservative majority" to highlight how political liberals bitching about conservative judges talk just like political conservatives bitching about liberal judges... and all their fancy diplomas cannot disguise it!"

Conservatives want a non activist judiciary performing its narrowly defined role as written and envisioned in the constitution.

Lefties want activist judges who make law from the bench and who are part of the lefty political team. Lefties want to increase the power of the federal government and if they can not get it done legislatively, they ignore the constitution and use the judiciary to pass laws (abortion rights, for example).

Conservatives demand that GOP presidents nominate judges who are members of the Federalist Society. Lefties don't.

Conservatives deeply respect the constitution. Lefties view the constitution as an archaic, obsolete document that is getting in the way of progress.

For a law professor to imply that there are not huge differences between lefty and conservative attitudes toward the judiciary is incredible.

Roger J. said...

edutcher: the word "elide:" perhaps you recall when Ms Dowd "elided" vice president Cheney's comments (via the use of elipses) to totally change the meaning of his statement. Elide is much more kind that lying, which, of course, is what Ms Dowd did.

Roger J. said...

sorry: its ellipses not elipses

edutcher said...

My experience with elision is mostly from trying to translate The Aeneid.

Blue@9 said...

Dowd is one of the most respected and influential columnists in America, but right wingers hate her because she stands up for women, children, minorities, and gays. who are hardest hit by Republican policies designed to harm them to begin with while enriching Big Oil, Wal-Mart, Wall Street, and Halliburton.

Actually, I dislike Dowd because she's a shitty writer. She's a preening, middling intelligence who has gotten by with her once attractive looks. Liberal arts schools are full of people like her-- charming name droppers who can pull off the "I'm so intelligent" attitude. But any close examination of the substance of her writing reveals that she is a mediocre hack.

Read this column of hers:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/20/opinion/20dowd.html?_r=1

If you know anything about mathematics, it will make you vomit. Trying to be clever is cheap rhetoric to begin with, but it's just barftastic when it's done so badly. The fact that she even attempted to write something like this is evidence enough of her crappy intelligence and judgment.

Roger J. said...

edutcher: that Virgil dude--he was such an elider. :) He coulda been a contenda at the NYT

Bud Norton said...

I found her use of the word cossetted to be quite cromulent.

halojones-fan said...

So wait, suddenly it's a bad thing to have higher education? People are now hiding behind their credentials instead of presenting reasoning that stands up for itself?

That sounds a bit anti-intellectual. I thought that was a Republican thing.

dbp said...

I won't bother commenting on the merits of Ms. Dowd's "arguments" such as they are, but there is a very clear takeaway message in her screed:

She thinks the law is going to be struck down. She is certain enough about this that she is not even trying to mau-mau the swing justice(s).

Comanche Voter said...

Sexist pig that I am, I should point out that "cosset" is a word of particular significance to Ms. Dowd. She's written often of her difficulty in finding and seizing an man of appropriate age who is discerning enough to recognize, appreciate and reward her intrinsic value. A little "cosseting" is what she had in mind, and, unfortunately, it just doesn't seem to be on offer for her. So she's jealous. How come those folks in black dresses get cosseted and she doesn't!

As a result these unseemly screeds emanate from the NYT op ed pages on occasion.

Forthenri said...

I started to read her column this norning without realizing it was hers. But after a couple paragraphs I guessed, and then finished the column only after reminding myself not to take it or her seriously. Isn't that one of the worst things you could tell a writer? And I'm torn between describing this particular Dowd blast as a screed or a diatribe. But it surely is at least one of those.

SukieTawdry said...

I first heard the word "cosset" in an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs. It was pretty clear what it meant by the context, but I looked it up anyway. Cosset: Care for and protect in an overindulgent way.

Dowdy uses it properly here. SCOTUS is cossetted not by white marble pillars but behind them. Of course she's quite wrong. SCOTUS is not cossetted.

At any rate, the "little lambs brought up as pets" are the people who think the province of government is to provide them with whatever they judge are the necessities of life. The people who think other people's personal wealth should be confiscated and redistributed to them. The people who think they are entitled to whatever it is they think they're entitled to because...well, dammit, because they're entitled. Liberals and Democrats foster this cossetting. In fact, liberals and Democrats often seem to regard their constituencies as pets.

As for RowdyDowdy, I've said it before and I'll say it again: Someone needs to take one for the team and get the woman laid.

Fen said...

Dowdism.

Well, at least she buys her own birth control.