Monday, June 06, 2005
Ugh: So, I linked to that truly helpful chart on President Clinton's late second-term judicial nominations, and what do I get? Grief.
Quiddity, the pseudonym of the author of the Uggabugga blog who created the chart, is apparently offended that Sidney Blumenthal brought his chart to the attention of Powerline (where I saw it) and has gotten his/her panties in a bundle.
We are getting flack from the right-wingers who are not telling their readers the truth. The table (below) is clearly described as dealing only with the part of Feinstein's speech that enumerated those Clinton nominees who were blocked in the Senate. It is not "misleading" as Powerline or Hoystory would have you believe; it does what it claims to do. If you want to talk about all of Clinton's nominations or the Fortas filibuster or James Madison, go somewhere else. The table was created as easy to comprehend view of the details of a part of Feinstein's long speech. It is a one-to-one mapping of a subset. That's what it claims to be. That's what it is. It does not cover all of Clinton's nominations. Nor does it cover nominations made by Eisenhower. Or anything about the French Revolution. Or neutron stars.
Any flak Quiddity ("flack" is typically a person, "flak" is little bits of metal) has gotten is as a result of Sidney Blumenthal, not Powerline or myself. My praise for his chart is exactly that: praise. It is informative and easy to understand -- to quote Quiddity -- for "what it is." Neither Powerline, nor myself has accused Quiddity of any dishonesty. Instead, we've called Blumenthal on the carpet. Blumenthal has claimed that Quiddity's chart demonstrates that Republicans filibustered dozens of Clinton judicial appointees. Quiddity's chart does not do this -- and no one ever claimed it does.
What we are seeing here is a classic case of attacking the straw man. But the straw man attack is what you do when you've got to come up with a negative comment, any negative comment - no matter how minor, to bash the other side. So polemicists like John Hinderaker and Matthew Hoy say, in effect, “Look at that table, it’s misleading, it doesn’t do X”. Anything to trash the opposition, apparently.
Wrong! Jeez, reading comprehension has gone the way of the dodo. No one has accused Quiddity of any wrongdoing.
Let's try capital letters, and see if this helps:
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THE CHART. WHAT IS WRONG IS FORMER CLINTON ATTACK MAN SIDNEY BLUMENTHAL'S CLAIM THAT THE CHART PROVES THAT CLINTON JUDGES WERE FILIBUSTERED!
Quiddity's beef is with Blumenthal -- not me.
Also, Hoystory tells his readers that the numbers at the bottom of the table "aren't the sum total of Clinton's nominees". We never made that claim. Hoystory omits the identifier "THIS TABLE" when he posts the 'scorecard', but that's to allow him to ‘warn’ readers not to be fooled into believing that "Clinton only got one judge through during his eight years in office". Only an idiot would come to that conclusion. Are readers of Hoystory idiots? The world wonders.
Well, you've got to write to the least common denominator -- and as Quiddity demonstrates -- I do get Democrat readers. It's somewhat sad that my efforts at ensuring accuracy and making sure that people aren't mislead result in this garbage. Unlike Quiddity (apparently), I know that only a relatively small percentage of my readers are actually going to click on the link to Quiddity's chart and read it for themselves. Just looking at my Sitemeter page reveals that I've probably gotten no more than 50 people coming here from Uggabugga (and I'm being VERY generous on that count) -- Uggabugga's gotten more than 4,000 hits today (most of them from Powerline and going directly to the chart -- not his followup post attacking the two of us, so the ratio is surely out of whack).
Taking this typical behavior into account, it's probably a good thing that I point out details like the chart doesn't cover all of Clinton's nominees because they may only be reading my summary and not the chart itself. Attempts to assure my own readers that Quiddity is not a moron, clarify again what the chart covers and what it doesn't and an effort to make sure that others don't take my own comments out of context is used as "evidence" that my own readers are morons.
I encourage you to read Quiddity's entire post, because after he's finished attacking me for dishonesty (and you for being a moron), he makes a more-honest-than-usual argument in defense of filibusters.
In our view, the overwhelming weight of evidence indicates that a substantial number of acceptable Clinton nominees were blocked by a very small minority of senators (e.g. the committee chair, Sen. Abraham, "two unknowns", Sen. Helms). That’s a case Democrats can make against Republicans who are demanding 'up or down votes' for all nominees. Clinton was not given that privilege. Should Bush get it? Fairness would dictate No.
This is a more honest argument than you would get from just about any Democrat Senator. Quiddity is making the case for schoolground payback -- you did it to our guy, so we're gonna do it to yours. Fine. That's what's happening here, but Democrats don't use that argument because it would look like schoolground payback. But all of the stuff in Quiddity's chart (adapted from a speech by Sen. Dianne Feinstein) is stuff that's been done by both sides over the decades. The filibuster -- as the chart shows -- is new.
The other major difference between then and now is that the GOP had a Senate majority back then -- something the Democrats do not have now. Elections have consequences. If you want the vast majority of your justices voted on, then you need to have a majority in the Senate -- or at least you used to, now a supermajority appears to be needed.
A final note: It's ironic that after decrying my alleged use of a variety of logical fallacies -- including argumentum ad hominem -- that Quiddity closes by calling me a "3rd tier blogger (or worse)." Ouch, that hurts -- coming from a 2 1/2nd tier blogger.