Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Apparently, Hyman Doesn't Share the Dream

Silence may or may not be golden, but it’s surely eloquent in the case of Mark Hyman's latest editorial.

Let’s remember that Hyman marks every anniversary of the founding of each branch of the armed forces with a “birthday” tribute in his commentary, waxing poetic about all they’ve given to America. He also has acknowledged Independence Day, Memorial Day, Christmas (not, as he himself points out, “The Holidays”), and the New Year.

But when the national holiday commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King comes around, Hyman spends his commentary talking about how “fair” it would be to put a pro-life judge on the Supreme Court.

Now, we’re not naïve. We certainly don’t expect Hyman to be effusive in his praise of MLK or his cause. After all, we’ve seen that Hyman happily traffics in racist rhetoric himself. But we’d at the very least expect him to acknowledge the day by using it as an opportunity to lambaste the NAACP, the National Black Caucus, Barak Obama, or Affirmative Action.

But apparently the best known champion of civil rights doesn’t even merit a tacit acknowledgement of his contributions to the nation. Even with lowered expectations, we’ve overestimated Mr. Hyman.

Instead, Hyman makes the argument that Democrats would be doing a wonderful thing for the country and themselves by quickly confirming a pro-life judge to replace William Rhenquist when he steps down. According to Hyman, this makes sense because it would keep the apparent 6-3 split in favor of upholding Roe v. Wade and put off the debate until the first pro-choice (or, in Hyman’s phraseology, the first “pro-abortion”) judge steps down.

But Hyman doesn’t answer the obvious question: if it’s a good idea to maintain the status quo on the court in terms of abortion when a pro-life justice steps down, why wouldn’t the same logic apply when a pro-choice justice steps down?

But the confusion doesn’t end there. Why is abortion the only issue Hyman considers when thinking about the balance on the court? Is it because the court is packed with Republican nominees and any attempt at overall “balance” would necessitate the nomination of a liberal or moderate justice? As we argued in the previous Counterpoint, ideological balance should ideally be the test for appointing nominees. That can’t be assessed in terms of a single issue. But Hyman can’t acknowledge that, because it suggests that the truly constructive move would be for Bush to nominate a ideologically moderate justice to the court. Hyman is all for bipartisanship and bridge-building as long as it’s the other side that’s doing it.

Which brings us to another point. Hyman suggests in his commentary that Senate Democrats have stonewalled Bush’s judicial nominees. That’s laughable when you look not only at the statistics, but the nominees themselves over the last two presidents. Clinton made a point of bipartisanship and nominated middle-of-the-road judges for most appointments that would be sure to garner wide support. He even allowed Orrin Hatch to put forward a nominee for a federal judgeship. Bush, on the other hand, has bragged about his nomination of far-right judges for the federal bench.

And while Democrats have stopped less than a dozen of Bush’s nominations, Republicans squelched 60 Clinton nominees, and often refused to even allow nominations to come to a vote. Now, after after having changed the rules to make stopping nominations even harder, Republican’s cry foul when even a handful of Bush appointees get turned down. Even John Dean, former counsel to Richard Nixon, has accused the Republicans of theatrical whining about the supposed “obstructionist” Democrats. As he rightly points out, Democrats couldn’t block Bush nominees with a filibuster if the candidates weren’t so extreme in the ideology that no Democrat would vote for them.

But the very fact that we have to point this out on MLK day says more about Hyman than his actual commentary. On a day when the nation takes time off in honor of one of the most important and influential figures in the nation’s history, Hyman can’t be bothered to acknowledge his existence.

Shame, Mark, shame.

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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