Richard Painter: Beyond the Pale

As Ed Whelan has so ably shown, Richard Painter’s HuffPo attack on him, concerning Ed’s spot-on criticisms of Goodwin Liu, is assiduously allergic to the facts about Liu.  And as John Yoo says, it would be more ethical if Painter would link to the specifics of Ed’s criticisms of Liu rather than (frequently) “misdescribing” them.  But I want to highlight something truly contemptible about Painter’s attack on Ed.  It’s this paragraph, near the beginning of his diatribe:

Liu is not the first nominee to go through a barrage of unfair attacks. Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish American to join the Supreme Court, had a nasty Senate confirmation hearing in 1916. The Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing was another debacle; Senators caricatured and attacked the nominee instead of discussing his ideas about judging. President George W. Bush’s nominee to the D.C. Circuit, Miguel Estrada, was attacked by critics who had preconceived notions about how a Hispanic jurist should think about the law. He eventually withdrew.

What do these three examples have in common?  Only their minority ethnic or racial status.  Brandeis “had a nasty Senate confirmation hearing” thanks to rank anti-Semitism.  Thomas memorably described his hearings, in their final phase, as a “high-tech lynching.”  And Painter himself attributes opposition to Estrada as grounded in “preconceived notions about how a Hispanic jurist should think.”

If Painter is not insinuating that Ed Whelan is an anti-Asian-American racist, then I don’t know how to read.  Ed is too nice to deign to notice this ugly smear, so I’ll say what he has a right to say: quite apart from the merits of the arguments for and against Goodwin Liu, Richard Painter owes Ed Whelan an apology for this paragraph.  He owes it now, and ungrudgingly, in public.

And for any of Painter’s defenders who don’t know how to read, the word “pale” in the metaphor “beyond the pale” is a noun that has nothing to do with anyone’s skin color.

Matthew J. Franck — Matthew J. Franck is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

Most Popular

Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Science & Tech

Set NASA Free

The Trump administration has proposed shifting the International Space Station from a NASA-exclusive research facility to a semi-public, semi-private one. Its plan would nix all government funding for the ISS by 2025 and award at least $150 million per year to NASA to help with the transition. This would be a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More