Monday, July 13, 2009


I know politics ain't beanbag, but I'm going to be a traitor to my side and express some agreement with The Weekly Standard's John McCormack:

... Slate's Dahlia Lithwick has published an attempted character assassination of Frank Ricci, the namesake plaintiff of the infamous Ricci case.

Lithwick's move isn't surprising -- she's a reliable left-wing partisan. What's particularly amusing, though, is that the McClatchy newswire already has blown her cover, by reporting that People for the American Way has been urging writers to attack Frank Ricci on precisely the grounds cited by Lithwick....

... since when is attacking firefighters part of "the American way"?

When Lithwick lines up evidence that Ricci has a habit of filing legal claims, does she have a case? Maybe. Is saying so helpful to Sonia Sotomayor, or the Obama administration, or our side in general? No. Not at all.

I'll start with the obvious: We should be better than the Republicans who set out to destroy Anita Hill (and, more recently, under different circumstances, Graeme Frost and his family). Maybe you'll argue that our victims of character assassination are right and Ricci is wrong. I don't care. It does us no good to seem willing to destroy someone a lot of fence-sitting Americans think is, or may be, just an honest ordinary Joe trying to speak truth to power.

With regard to the Ricci case, Sotomayor does not have to crush him to rebut him. Her task, and the task of her defenders, is to demonstrate that, although the Supreme Court disagreed (as frequently happens), the approach of her three-judge panel followed logically from the law as written and from precedent. It's a somewhat complicated case to make -- Linda Greenhouse painstakingly made it a few weeks ago in The New York Times -- but it's not beyond the grasp of ordinary citizens willing to listen. And even if ordinary Americans can't quite grasp the arguments, it benefits the left/liberals/Democrats in the long run if we all seem more tolerant of Ricci and his argument than he and his defenders seem of Sotomayor and the laws in question. Our side will be seen as taking the high road.

Instead, this now fits into the right's preposterous "liberals destroy everyone who gets in their way" argument. Hell, I wish that were true -- in the case of the truly powerful. Where's our nasty, jackbooted character-assassination machine when Wall Street fat cats and slick mortgage-mongers and Big Medicine tycoons are standing in the way of genuine social progress? Hell, we can't even seem to undermine our own elected quislings when they act on behalf of these folks. But we crank up the opposition research against Ricci?

It's not smart. It runs a serious risk of alienating centrist whites who somewhat warily came around to Obama (it will certainly generate alienation if the right-wing noise machine yammers about it as much as I expect it will). And for what? The goal is to make Sotomayor not seem dangerous to "heartland America." This hurts; it doesn't help.

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