Bench Memos

The Pro Hominem* Insult

The New York Times reports that “[d]ozens of prominent Republicans” have signed a soon-to-be-filed amicus brief in the Prop 8 case arguing for a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. According to the article, “Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments.”

That’s quite a damning assessment. No justice (or lower-court judge, for that matter) should be swayed by the “names attached” to an argument beyond the force of the argument itself. The signatories evidently believe otherwise (what else is the point of collecting names of “prominent Republicans,” many of whom have no recognized legal expertise?), and they are thus deeply insulting the very justices whom they are cultivating. Whether those justices recognize the insult is, alas, a different matter.

* Update: Thanks to the reader who has alerted me that the correct Latin phrase would be pro homine (and that in Latin rhetoric the ad hominem fallacy covers arguments based on either the merits or the defects of the advocate). For better or worse, pro hominem, as a back-formation from ad hominem, seems to have become commonly accepted in English.

Most Popular

World

Sweden: Trouble in Paradise?

Writing in Politico, Paulina Neuding returns to the topic of Sweden’s crime problem and the unwillingness of the Swedish elite to admit what has been going on: Indeed it is, although, to be fair, those taboos are fraying fairly rapidly. Nevertheless, Sweden remains a country where, whether by law or, even more ... Read More
Economy & Business

A Trump Trade and Economic Doctrine

If the Treasury Department’s recent semiannual report is any guide, the Trump administration still doesn’t quite get it when it comes to trade imbalances. “The US government has all the tools it needs to achieve balanced trade without risking a trade war,” writes Joseph Gagnon for the Peterson Institute ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Comey–Trump Dance

I never thought the Comey book would make much news for the simple reason that it would be outrageous if it did. If Comey knew something relevant and important about the Russia investigation that we didn’t already know, he couldn’t possibly put it in his book. Let’s say he did have something big on the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Is James Comey Michael Wolff-ing Himself?

Michael Wolff published a runaway bestseller that left his reputation in tatters. James Comey may be doing a version of the same thing. The rap on Wolff was that he made stuff up. That's not the issue with Comey. It's that his shots at Trump -- although mild by Trump standards -- don't accord with his high-minded ... Read More
Culture

Wednesday Links

T'was the 18th of April in seventy-five: The midnight ride of William Dawes and Samuel Prescott (and Paul Revere). The Forgotten Nazi History of “One-Pot Meals.” Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz Ruby Slippers on Sale for a Whopping $6 Million. On April 18, 1906, an earthquake and fire destroyed 80 percent of ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Underappreciated Barbara Bush

Making the click-through worthwhile: realizing how little we appreciated Barbara Bush when she was in the public’s eye; Mike Pompeo meets with Kim Jong Un and the long road to presidential attendance at high-stakes summit meetings; and Democrats propose a vast, expensive new plan to tackle unemployment . . . at ... Read More
White House

McConnell and Russian Election Interference

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell says he won't bring legislation to the floor to protect special prosecutor Robert Mueller's investigation. The incident has inspired liberals to revive their complaints that McConnell put party before country in the last weeks of the 2016 election. The charge, which I have ... Read More