Rick Garnett remarks below, on E.J. Dionne’s column in today’s Washington Post, that since Dionne opposes Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court, he hasn’t any “standing” to criticize conservatives who want to avoid a knock-down, drag-out fight over the rightness or wrongness of Roe v. Wade. It’s not enough for Rick that Dionne admits that opposing Roe is a “respectable” position to take; because Dionne would presumably not defend Alito himself if the judge openly took that position, Rick holds that his argument is made in bad faith. It is implausible, he says, that Dionne “actually wants an honest debate on Roe, for the sake of exposing its errors.”
I’m sorry, I just don’t get this. That Dionne calls opposition to Roe “respectable” does not require him to adopt the position himself. He has been consistent, since last summer during the period of the Roberts nomination, in calling for “an honest debate on Roe.” Sure, as Rick says, Dionne wants to have that debate not to expose Roe’s errors but because he thinks that having it will help his side win in keeping the “right wing” from capturing the Supreme Court. I want to have the debate because I think that our side can win in recovering the integrity of the Constitution as a captive of no one’s politics, and because we’re unlikely to make real progress in that recovery without having that debate. But Dionne’s motives, it seems to me, do not lessen the force or cogency of his criticism of those on our side who want to duck that debate–some of whom appear to work in, or closely with, the Bush White House. About 80% of Dionne’s column today could have been shown to an intelligent reader as the work of George Will, and that reader none the wiser. For my part, I’ll take a good argument where I see it, motives be blowed.