The Corner

Speaking of Linda Greenhouse. . .

She had this to say recently: “It took just hours after Justice Stevens’s retirement announcement on April 9 for the editors of National Review Online to proclaim: ‘The question for conservatives will be not whether but how to oppose Obama’s nominee.’ Without intending to excuse this kind of knee-jerk obstructionism, I still have to wonder whether it is just possible that our judicial politics comes with the package. . .”

The words Greenhouse quotes do not form a complete sentence in the original, which is why, if I were quoting it, I’d start it with a bracketed capital letter. The full sentence is: “Unless Obama provides evidence of having dropped his litmus tests, the question for conservatives will be not whether but how to oppose Obama’s nominee.” Omitting that context makes the line seem at least a bit more “knee-jerk” than it is. (The word “obstructionism” is out of place here, too, since the editorial explicitly argued that Republicans should allow Obama’s nominee an up-or-down vote.)

Not that Greenhouse’s point seems compelling to begin with. The judicial-confirmation debates are full of actors who can be counted on to support or oppose nearly any nominee Obama (or any other president) puts forward. The Alliance for Justice will almost certainly support Obama’s nominee, and Senator DeMint will almost certainly oppose the nominee. Many of these players begin the debate with a big show of how open-minded they are. They say that they will make no prejudgments and suggest that their final decision on the nomination is in some meaningful sense up for grabs. I myself think it would be refreshing if more people owned up to what their real positions are. Complaining about NR’s candor seems, well, a little knee-jerk–especially when the complaint comes from a writer whose knee jerks pretty notoriously to the left.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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