Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Please "Attack" Sparingly

Thanks to Bob Hockett for responding to my post linking to Mark Stricherz's commentary on Bob Casey's apparent lack of courage with respect to resisting the federal funding of abortions in the proposed health care reform bill.

Mark is more than capable of responding to Bob's comments (i.e. as to whether Casey is or is not principled or courageous) in detail -- something that I hope he will do in in the near future.  So I will limit my remarks here to a single point.

Bob urges Mark to "reconsider his attack" on Senator Casey.  Whatever else one may think of Mark's post, it can hardly be characterized as an "attack."  Mark notes that Casey has made "unpopular votes on the prolife side" and that Casey "wants to overturn Roe v. Wade."  Mark says that he "has a soft spot" for the Senator and recounts a lengthy interview he once had with him.  Clearly Mark criticizes Senator Casey for saying that he "will vote for health-care reform even if the legislation allows private insurers who cover abortion to get federal dollars" but then acknowledges that "[c]oming up with Casey's possible objections to making a bold stand on behalf of the unborn is not difficult."

This is hardly the stuff of an "attack."  It is reasoned, considered and measured.  Indeed, I suspect that Mark's post would strike most readers as the work of a journalist who is attempting to present a balanced view of Senator Casey's situation while also criticizing the Senator for not acting with the same courage that his father demonstrated.  Most people would, I think, agree that it is possible to criticize a person for a failure or shortcoming that one explains, without "attacking" them.

Bob's mischaracterization of Mark's post as an "attack" highlights, I think, a larger problem with respect to political discourse in this country.

The liberality with which the word "attack" is thrown around is simply astounding.  Like plastic beer cups at a Friday night fraternity kegger or colored beads thrown to women lifting their tops on Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras, the frequency with which the word "attack" is invoked to describe a point of view with which one simply disagrees is in no short supply.

This hyperbole, this misuse of the term "attack" to describe anything the reader disagrees with is simply irresponsible.  Mark's comments are not severe and aggressive, let alone spiteful.  They are instead respectful yet pointed expression of criticism.  If Bob Hockett wishes to stand by his characterization of Mark Stricherz's post as an "attack" on Bob Casey, then he should point out where such an attack occurs in the post-- something he simply failed to do in his MOJ response.  If not, I wish that he would amend his remarks.  Which is not to say that he can't -- in a reasoned an measured way -- take issue with what Stricherz says.  But let's keep the attacks to a minimum.

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