Much of our current communications takes the form of advocacy, talking points and polemics rather than balanced analysis, presentation and an honest exchange of ideas. This reflects the winner-take-all, zero sum nature of our politics and our cultural divides. “We” are right and righteous. “They” are not simply wrong but immorally so. So it goes in our devolutionary world and country.

Most of the misinformation, exaggeration, paid-for-punditry, editorials, political blather, propaganda and network/cable “journalism” is transparently partisan or worse. You simply have to proceed with the practiced skepticism of a Scotland Yard Chief Inspector. Do not look for lazy confirmation of your biases, prejudices, ignorance, religious predilections, social media claptrap and conspiracy fantasies. Look for honesty, objectivity and reasonableness then remain skeptical.

Which brings us to the phase, gild the lily. Often attributed to Shakespeare in King John, the actual phrase is, “to gild refined gold, to paint the lilly (sic).” Thank you Merriam-Webster. If something is perfect, beautiful or fine in itself there is no need to embellish or try to improve upon it. In written or spoken rhetoric if one has made his/her point well there is no need to add superfluous, irrelevant or questionable arguments. Doing so puts one’s well made arguments into question especially with those predisposed to reject them. Piling on weakens a reasonable presentation.

In Jon Sinton’s recent commentary, Justice Served?, he addresses the Senate Judiciary Committee’s questioning of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. He makes the obvious point that a number of the more odious Republican Senators obliterated what remains of acceptable grace, dignity, honesty, seriousness and objectivity in such proceedings. The primary offenders were Cruz, Hawley, Graham and Blackburn. Three are lawyers, law graduates of Harvard, Yale and South Carolina respectively. Blackburn can be excused somewhat for her limited grasp of the real world, matriculating at Mississippi State with a degree in that rigorous discipline, Home Economics. I bet her peach cobbler is to die for.

Republican shenanigans were red meat designed for the base, especially Christian conservatives and evangelicals as well as crypto and openly proud racists. The lines of questions were nothing but potential content for re-election campaign videos. All four of Judge Jackson’s chief antagonists present themselves as conservative Christians, people of deep faith, a critical prerequisite for power in the nexus of toxic religious fundamentalism, conspiracy theorism, nativism, unrestrained capitalism and anti-government paranoia that is a major part of today’s Republican ideology.

However, the Democrats on the committee added nothing to the occasion. They were simply in lock step to assure the confirmation of a very liberal judge to the Court. Being Democrats they were pious, defensive of the nominee, effusive in their praise of her, uninterested in exploring the details of her judicial history and self-righteously oblivious to the need to be dedicated to an impartial hearing. Sinton completely ignored their dereliction of duty.

Sinton effortlessly convicted the worst of the Republican of pandering to the bases’ fixations on pedophilia, child pornography, intensity of religious faith. Graham asked Judge Jackson to rate her religious faith “on a scale of one to ten,” light sentencing and more concern for perpetrators not victims (Cotton, after the hearings, joins the clown car crew contending that Judge Jackson might have defended Nazis at Neuremberg and gender politics. Blackburn asked the judge to define the word “woman” knowing that the truth was to be found literally in the book of Genesis. 

Having made his case that some Republican Senators were clearly guilty of what Republican Senator Sasse referred to as “jackassery,” Sinton destroys his credibility by ignoring the insipid posturing of the Democrat senators and their unwillingness to do their duty. So where does Sinton paint or gild the lily and leave the realm of articulate observer and enter into the role of a full-fledged crafty advocate? Precisely when he argues that Judge Jackson, as a “mother of daughters” whose “family business” is law enforcement,” could not possibly be soft on crime, overly sympathetic to minority considerations and less concerned with child exploitation then other judges are. Such arguments add nothing to discussion and are ultimately cynical. He should know better.

The interested members of the public are left only with cartoon versions of who Judge Jackson might be. Republican jackassery accompanied by Democrat disinterest and blind partisanship produced another zero sum game.

Business as usual.

VOL. 112, NO. 17 - April 27, 2022

(3) comments

jrainey82

...and you have gilded the gilded lily. Brown-Jackson's hearings, partisan as they may have been, were not - as practiced by the Democratic Party in the Bork, Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh confirmation hearings - an attempt to completely destroy a human being in front of their family. The Republican gamesmanship was an attempt to identify and focus on elements of the liberal belief system, most certainly in an attempt to score partisan points. The Democratic Party purpose in the Thomas and Kavanaugh hearing was to completely destroy and criminalize those men - render them unfit for any future service at all under the law. Proof? We Democrats don't need proof. We can just make any scurrilous allegation at the 11th hour and see how America reacts. We know we can count on the media to portray any conservative thinker as a knuckle-dragging neanderthal, so why not a serial gang rapist? The two parties tactics do not compare. One side is partisan, the other is "win-at-all-costs" odious.

jim orourke

Rainey is a blind hyper partisan. Exactly the type of Trumper that makes honest conversation and debate impossible. The main point of my letter is to be alert to blind partisanship and quackery. Here it is…in full gloss from a very angry dude.

jrainey82

Am I a "Trumper?" I offered a clear opening for honest debate. Do you and Sinton consider accusing a nominee of gang rape the same and the equivalent level of "blind partisanship" to questioning a nominee's sentencing record? Instead, you go ad hominem with labels and are dismissive. Disappointing to someone who actually relishes debate and gave you a fair opening without labeling you or dismissing you.

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