Keep in mind that this is intended as high laudation. Ken Johnson, art reviewer of the New York Times , is discussing a new exhibit at the Neue Galerie in Manhattan: “The Viennesse Expressionist Egon Schiele (1890-1918) had only two urgent interests: himself and his sexual fantasies. Out of such limited preoccupations and by means of a preternatural gift for drawing and graphic design, he created artworks that still burn with narcissistic yearning, erotic desire, bohemian dissent and existential anxiety.” Just what the world needs more of. Lance Esplund of the New York Sun picks up on the exhibit: “That Schiele appeals to the adolescent is not surprising. The artist, who died of influenza at 28, did not get very far past puberty himself. His subjects are sex and loneliness or, in the recurring theme of masturbation, a combination of both. Almost always in Schiele’s art, there is a sense of imminent, threatening change¯a stirring in the wiry line and the restless surface¯not only in the flesh but also in the trees, buildings, hair, and clothes. His angst-ridden paintings and drawings are often of skeletal, colorless, and isolated figures that look as if they were made of crumpled paper or carved out of stone. Their rustling, nervously agitated flesh is ghostly, waxy, and wan. Their bodies are elongated, as if stretched to the breaking point; their pale skin is scratched green and red, as if rotting or scraped to bone. Naked and vulnerable, they are full of mistrust, anger, yearning, or fear. Fixed to their roughened grounds, they telescope raw, adolescent emotion.” The exhibit is considered a great success. Think of all the people leading such boring lives that they are in search of mistrust, anger, fear, existential anxiety, and masturbatory fantasies. “Living, living, and partly living . . . ” Living vicariously through recapturing adolescent emotion. Ah, art.
I’ve been saying that Harriet Miers will not withdraw or be withdrawn, and will likely be confirmed, leaving us with no alternative to hoping for the best. Now I’m not so sure she will be confirmed. Facing the likely prospect of defeat in the Senate, she may decide to withdraw. Many conservatives are going over the top in their opposition to the nomination. Now there is this 1989 questionnaire. Miers was running for the Dallas city council and said she would actively support a constitutional amendment banning abortion except in cases of direct threat to the life of the mother. Apparently she was not just appealing to pro-life voters since she was running for a city-wide seat and the position she took no doubt offended many. Of course, in the years since 1989 she may have changed her mind about a constitutional amendment. But, if that is still her position, could she possibly support the Roe v Wade decision? Perhaps. If she thinks Roe is well-grounded in the Constitution and that is why the Constitution needs to be corrected by an amendment. Or if she believes in the “living Constitution” and thinks Roe is justified by privacy rights discovered in its “emanations and penumbra.” In either case she could, as a justice on the Supreme Court, vote to uphold Roe while at the same time, as a citizen, support an amendment that would nullify that infamous decision.
The White House has made a point of saying there is a big difference between how a politician running for office might answer a question and how a justice on the court would rule, and that is certainly right. As there is a difference between what Harriet Miers personally believes and how she would rule on Roe . The upshot is that her personal opposition to abortion will be an additional and powerful reason for Democrats not to confirm, and uncertainty about whether her personal position is also her judicial judgment is a reason for pro-life senators, mainly Republicans, to vote against confirmation. If she does not withdraw and the nomination moves forward, we will have to see how all this plays out in the hearings. If she withdraws or is not confirmed, the next move is up to President Bush. If Miers is defeated because of Republican as well as Democrat opposition, he will not be in a position to blame the Democrats. Nor, I expect, will he be in a mood to reward conservatives who so relentlessly opposed Miers by nominating someone from their wish list of judicial heavyweights who will lead the charge in the head-on confrontation they want. At this point, Miers’ withdrawal seems to be more of a possibility and her confirmation less of a certainty, with the latter having a strong bearing on the former. But I am still looking forward to the hearings. Not, of course, that I have a vote in the matter.