Monday, June 14, 2004

A Reader Responds 

Reader JW writes, in response to this post, the following:
For whatever it's worth, [Goldberg], the attitude in this post is why I rarely read this blog anymore. Not because you're making fun of my "hero" (since I can guess that I'm included among the "law school ass kissers"), but because you seem to enjoy taking backhanded personal swipes at people with whom you disagree -- Goldsmith, conservative students, the Fed. Society, whomever. If it were a play, every stage direction would read: [Sneering.] You're no more objective or respectful than the people you ridicule...and thus no more persuasive. Like Sunstein says, you end up talking only to your allies, who inevitably offer, "Yeah, you're right."
Well, in a very strong sense, JW is right--blogs are pretty much the very definition of "preaching to the choir." What I post here is basically just what I'm thinking about (in "real time" as it were), and, while I think that a lot of what I link to is persuasive, I'm not going to claim that what I write is persuasive--it's not really meant to be.

Now, my comment on "law school ass-kissers" really was snide, and shouldn't have been included. A classic ad hominem, and one that came from an emotional state of mind (and, as someone just pointed out to me, not true). Also, I don't know what role Goldsmith really played in writing the memo, but the Financial Times article seems to suggest that he was instrumental (which does not contradict, too greatly, his scholarship, inasmuch as I'm familiar with it).

So, I guess the only part of the comment I take issue with is whether my criticism of Goldsmith is impertinent. I don't think it is. In truth, it makes me sick to my stomach that someone affiliated with the law school would write such a memo--not simply James Inhofe, "more outraged at the outrage" torturer apologists, but a true roadmap about how to get away with a systematic program of torture based on an authoritarian view of executive power. Any final judgments should be withheld until we know more about how this memo was written, who wrote it, and why, but, based on the Financial Times article (and the Yoo op-ed that Froomkin discussed), I feel like some preliminary judgments are not unwarranted. I'd like to give Goldsmith (and the other writers) the benefit of the doubt, but I'm having a hard time doing that. It really does make me upset to think about people whom I respected (if only by virtue of their position and reputation) sitting around and discussing how best to make torture, rape, and the abuse of children "legal" under the U.S. Constitution and laws. This is a very emotional issue for me, and has been since the first pictures on 60 Minutes II.

Then again, here's an alternative view, from another reader:
I'm personally just not enraged by [Goldsmith's] involvement - I had no expectations from him - I'm much more concerned about the simple fact of the matter. I also am incredulous that - yet again - the government outright lied about the scope of this, stupidly thinking it wouldn't get out. If I were Durbin, Leahy, or any senator with any self-respect, I'd haul in Ashcroft and others and crack some heads - maybe even throw some contempt of congress charges out there and open up an investigation. The White House has treated the public and Congress with outright disrespect and they need to be slapped.
This is true. But I think the worst type of "ivory tower" charge can be leveled at those who gave this legal advice.

ADDENDUM: Also, I don't think I make fun of "conservative students," at least with any frequency worth mentioning.
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