Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Hypocrites - A Eulogy

In honor of our recently retired friend publius, I thought I would do something that he did not do nearly enough of: replay one of his greatest hits from the archives.

With the political theater on display in the nation's capital over the Terri Schiavo case, I thought it would be a good time to revisit his post on the disingenuous embrace of "states' rights" by the right-wing in America. As publius takes pains to elucidate, the states' rights doctrine as put forth by the Right is far from a consistent philosophical or political guiding principle, but instead, in practice, ends up being a slogan of convenience to trot out whenever there is some federal action that runs counter to the underlying goal, and for which a state decision would yield a better result.

Granted there are some truly consistent doctrinaire states' rights proponents, such as Charles Fried, the solicitor general of the United States under President Ronald Reagan, who penned an Op-Ed piece in today's
New York Times, they are vastly outnumbered by the opportunistic and cynical. Because if you are true to your beliefs, the Schiavo case leaves little wiggle room. It is quite simply an attempt by the GOP leaders in Congress and the White House to usurp valid state action by imposing some unprecedented, and unjustified, federal rule. Fried from today:

In their intervention in the Terri Schiavo matter, Republicans in Congress and President Bush have, in a few brief legislative clauses, embraced the kind of free-floating judicial activism, disregard for orderly procedure and contempt for the integrity of state processes that they quite rightly have denounced and sought to discipline for decades.
And citing past attempts to conduct end-runs around states' rights by the Left in the context of capital punishment:

It is no good for politicians to try to justify this absurd departure from principles of federalism and respect for sound and orderly judicial administration by saying that, in this case, the life at stake is unquestionably innocent. For in many of the death penalty cases, the claim has also been that the prisoner had at least unfairly, and perhaps even incorrectly, been condemned to death.
Watching this shameless hypocrisy in action reminds me that it is best to apply a proper dose of skepticism when listening to a right-wing ideologue or pundit extolling the virtues of states' rights qua states' rights. As publius said:

..."states' rights" is a meaningless concept. There is nothing inherently conservative about supporting states’ rights. There is nothing inherently liberal about it either. And the reason is because "states' rights" has no conceptual meaning. It is always and necessarily a pretext for some underlying argument. So, every single argument that you will ever hear involving federalism is actually an argument about something else. As a matter of logic, states' rights adds nothing to the argument - it's merely window dressing.
Read the rest here.

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