March 30, 2005

HOW SAD HAVE THINGS GOTTEN? The New York Post cries enough. Robert George writes on hate mail and death threats on both sides of the Schiavo business, and says it’s the worst acrimony he’s ever experienced in decades of dealing with controversial issues. Meanwhile, Bryan Preston of Junkyard Blog emailed me the text of this post with the observation: “I obviously expect that the JYB has enjoyed its last instalanche, so this email isn’t a troll for a link.”

Well, JYB has been a bit mean to me, and doesn’t seem to grasp the point of my argument — which has been that passing Congressional legislation designed to influence the outcome of a particular case doesn’t fit well with notions of federalism. Mickey Kaus can airily say “federalism, schmederalism” and note that if it were up to him he’d get rid of states and divide the country into ten convenient administrative districts, but one doesn’t expect to hear similar sentiments from conservatives. Bryan sees this as libertarians telling conservatives what to believe, but I think it’s more a case of libertarians being disappointed to see that what they thought of as common ground wasn’t so common after all. It’s not hypocritical for liberals like Kaus, or Bill Clinton, to ignore federalism, because they’ve never cared about it. I thought that conservatives did.

As for the rest of the personal attacks in the earlier post, well, they’re not worthy of Bryan, but this is one of those episodes that seems to bring out the worst in people. That’s why I didn’t really want to weigh in to begin with — I knew that I was unlikely to persuade anyone, because very few people seem to care about the facts, or about arguments.

That Bryan thinks that he’s somehow now under some sort of lifetime link-ban simply illustrates how inflamed this has become. But I’ve tried to keep my head, even as those around me are, all too often, losing theirs. How well I’ve succeeded is for readers to judge.

UPDATE: Nice observations here and here from Soxblog.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I have more thoughts in this column — though I’m labelled a “conservative,” which is a misnomer, and more obviously so these days.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Patterico emails to ask if I’m saying that people who disagree with me can’t handle facts or logic. No — though if you read the incredibly nasty emails I’ve gotten the last few days, hoping for the InstaWife to suffer Terri Schiavo’s fate, etc. — you might forgive me for taking that position. But I know that emailers aren’t a representative sample: The best may not lack all conviction, but the worst are always full of passionate intensity.

However, the fact that so few have bothered to read what I’ve actually written is disturbing. I’ve been accused of wanting to see Terri Schiavo die out of some twisted love for death, when I actually wrote that if it was up to me I might well put the tube in and turn her over to the family. But what I’ve been writing about isn’t outcomes, it’s about process — and contempt for the Constitution and the responsibilities of different branches of government — and I’m absolutely appalled at the people who posit deeply implausible judicial conspiracies, or say that they don’t care about the Constitution if it stands in the way of getting what they want. I’m not prone to hold grudges of the sort that Bryan fears, but I’m deeply disappointed to hear a lot of folks acting like the lefties they usually complain about.

Among those I’d include Jonathan Last, who accuses me of a campaign for Terri’s death, and of agreeing with Andrew Sullivan about the threat of “theocrats” even though I explicitly posted my disagreement with Andrew on that point. Hugh Hewitt, whom Last quotes, seems to understand the concept of “cordial disagreements among friends.” But to some others, any disagreement on any part of the party line makes you one of the enemy, it seems. As I say, a lot of people are acting like the worst of the Left on this one. I think that Jonah Goldberg, et al., are whistling in the dark when they say there’s no crackup here. Will it last? That depends on how people act afterward, I guess. [LATER: How off-base is Last? Far enough that Bryan Preston is defending me against Last’s charges.]

FINALLY: Heh. This seems about right:


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