Christine M. Flowers: Who needs conservatives ... when liberals do such a good job on themselves?

Posted: October 28, 2011

AS ICONIC 60-Minute Man Chuck Bednarik would say, the guy who knows what's on the other side of the field has a distinct advantage over the guy who stays in his own zone. It helps you to neutralize or - as in the case of Frank Gifford - horizontal-ize the enemy. It's the same with politics; putting yourself in the opposition's shoes is a masterful strategy, one that the great Vince Lombardi would have cheered. And I have to say that last week the game ball went to the liberals, who displayed an amazing ability to call out and criticize the most radical, dangerous members of their squad. This, of course, made it difficult for conservatives to do the same thing. Damn.

It started last Saturday, when New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote an article entitled "The Ugliness Started with Bork." Amazingly, the man who compared tea-party activists to Islamic terrorists (and then grudgingly apologized) nailed the real reason that Congress is dysfunctional these days. Nocera made a direct hit on the hypocrisy of liberals during the Bork confirmation hearings, the ones who were willing to go nuclear to keep a conservative from replacing "moderate" justice Lewis Powell on the Supreme Court. He wrote:

"Conservatives were stunned by the relentlessness - and the essential unfairness - of the attacks. But the truth is that many of the liberals fighting the nomination also knew they were unfair. Advocacy Institute memo noted that 'like it or not, Bork falls (perhaps barely) at the borderline of respectability.' It didn't matter. He had to be portrayed as an extreme ideological activist. The ends were used to justify some truly despicable means."

Sure, Republicans picked up the ball and ran with it. In some ways they even surpassed their opponents in character assassination. But it's important to remember who opened the Pandora's box, allowing the furies to fly and poison legitimate discourse with the politics of destruction.

Without Bork, we wouldn't have had the spectacle of Anita Hill bringing her last-minute charges of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas. Without Bork, we might have avoided the spectacle of the Kenneth Starr Chamber and an impeachment that never should have happened. Without Bork, Miguel Estrada would have been elevated to the D.C. federal bench, Joe Lewis wouldn't have called the president a liar and Sarah Palin's baby would never have become the target of hateful speculation.

And, as Nocera points out, we have the Democrats to thank for this, even though we can blow some kisses to the GOP as well.

Then, I picked up this week's issue of the New Republic and almost had a vascular incident when I read the main editorial, front and center on Page One. It was all about Occupy Wall Street, and instead of a fluff piece about how wonderful these 99%-pure folk were, I read this:

"One of the core differences between liberals and radicals is that liberals are capitalists . . . but these are not the principles we are hearing from the protesters. Instead, we are hearing calls for the upending of capitalism entirely. American capitalism may be flawed, but it is not, as Slavoj Zizek implied in a speech to the protesters, the equivalent of Chinese suppression."

Wow. I had to go over it twice, wiping my glasses to make sure I wasn't missing something. The New Republic, that has no sympathy for conservatives, was actually saying that the earnest young people across the nation were anti-American to the extent that they wanted to overthrow the government and replace it with . . . what, exactly? A regime where, as the editors note, the individual is subjugated to the will of the collective: "All their talk of general assemblies and communiques and consensus has an air of groupthink that is, or should be, troubling to liberals."

Apparently, it takes a liberal to point out the dangerous excesses of those who might consider themselves "liberal" but who are, at heart, on the farthest fringe of acceptable thought and behavior. While I'm sure that there are some in the People's Republic of Tent Dwellers who are embarrassed by the antics of their spokespersons, it doesn't bode well for your movement when one of the iconic liberal publications lands a direct hit on your pretensions. It's like the National Review calling the tea partiers idiots in tricornes and lace jabots. (Hasn't happened yet, but who knows?)

Now, while a part of me loves to see liberals eat their own, another, bigger part of me hopes they give it up. I mean, there's only so much football a girl can write about.

Christine M. Flowers is a lawyer.


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