Bench Memos

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Even the New York Times Gets the Joke


This article in today’s New York Times provides additional perspective on whether the inability of some folks on the Left to understand a joke somehow means that Judge Roberts is (in the vicious words of NOW’s president) a “Neanderthal”:

Some critics have made much of Mr. Roberts’s jocular 1985 aside in a memorandum about whether an administration aide could be nominated for an award celebrating her transition from homemaker to lawyer. The comment: “Some might question whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good.” A (perhaps not terrific) joke about lawyers has been interpreted in some quarters as an insensitive critique of women.

But another document from that same year shows that when it came to discussing women’s roles, Mr. Roberts could be a sensitive New Age guy. On June 14, 1985, in a briefing memorandum for a presidential news conference, he noted that a proposed description of President Ronald Reagan’s tax proposals “assumes that the auto worker’s wife will be a homemaker, rather than a wage earner.”

So he added: “To preclude suggestions that the president’s model American family has the wife at home, we recommend that this example include alternative descriptions of the wife. (For example: If his wife is a homemaker, she gets to put more money, tax free, into an IRA; if she is also employed, the reduction in rates will enable the family to keep more of the money both hardworking parents earn.)”


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