The famously cool George Will goes unhinged in his Sunday tirade against the nomination of Harriet Miers. Among his wild and sweated swings against all who disagree with him, there is this: “Miers’s advocates tried the incense defense: Miers is pious. But that is irrelevant to her aptitude for constitutional reasoning. The crude people who crudely invoked it probably were sending a crude signal to conservatives who, the invokers evidently believe, are so crudely obsessed with abortion that they have an anti-constitutional willingness to overturn Roe v. Wade with an unreasoned act of judicial willfulness as raw as the 1973 decision itself.”
Leaving aside the clever but ludicrously inapt “incense defense” in discussing an evangelical Protestant (who, it turns out, was not reared as a Catholic), consider the crudely repeated references to crudeness. Who are these people who some think are “so crudely obsessed with abortion.” Is it permitted to be elegantly obsessed with the death of 44 million babies? As for the willingness of the crudely obsessed to overturn Roe “with an unreasoned act of judicial willfulness,” does Mr. Will think it cannot be overturned with a reasoned act of judicial judgment? Does that mean he thinks Roe should not be overturned, and, if so, how does he square that with the many columns he has written condemning the decision since January 22, 1973?
I would not be surprised if the intemperance of critics beating up on Harriet Miers conduces to more people praying her all the best in her confirmation hearing.
“Catholic Bishops Again Reject Married Priests.” Oh don’t tell me. Not again! The headline of the report by the New York Times’ man in Rome, Ian Fisher, suggests that there was a vigorous contest over whether the Synod of Bishops would reaffirm celibacy as the norm for priests of the Latin Rite. In order to give credibility to that suggestion, Mr. Fisher is reduced to quoting Sister Christine Shenk who said, “It’s very frustrating.” Sister Christine, he writes, “represents Future Church and Call to Action, two American Catholic groups.” He does not mention that Future Church and Call to Action represent, at most, a few thousand of the farthest left of the 66 million Catholics in the United States, who, in turn, represent about five percent of the Catholics of the world represented by those gathered at the Synod of Bishops. In fact, by reaffirming the norm of celibacy the bishops did not reject married priests, of whom there are estimated to be a couple of hundred among approximately a half million priests worldwide. These are married Protestant clergy who became Catholic and were later ordained to the priesthood. A norm allows for exceptions. A more accurate headline for Mr. Fisher’s report would be “Catholic Bishops Again Disagree with the Times .” For some reason, possibly having to do with journalistic hubris, that is considered newsworthy.
It’s back to Nicholas Kristof again. His Sunday column is titled, “Mr. Bush, This is Pro-Life?” Kristof files from Niger where he has witnessed the tragedy of women dying because they could not afford the medical care offered by a hospital that is assisted by the U.N. Population Fund. “I wished Mr. Bush were with me,” writes Kristof. “Last month, Mr. Bush again withheld all U.S. funds from the U.N. Population Fund.” The U.S. does not fund the Population Fund because the Population Fund is in the business of promoting abortion, and is only marginally involved in providing medical care for the poor in Africa. Mr. Kristof knows that. He has written about the leading role of Catholic and evangelical projects in providing such care. For some reason, possibly having to do with maintaining liberal credentials by bashing Mr. Bush, Mr. Kristof misrepresents the work of the U.N. Population Fund and the reason the U.S. declines to support that work.
Many conservatives are complaining, writes David Brooks, that George W. Bush has betrayed conservatism. The indictment reads: “Bush has radically increased spending on housing, community development, farm subsidies, and a raft of big government programs. He’s federalized the American education system. He’s failed to seal the borders against illegal immigration. He’s created a huge new entitlement program and exploded the deficits. He’s increased government regulation and hasn’t even nominated a true conservative for the Supreme Court.” Mr. Brooks doesn’t disagree with the description of what Mr. Bush has done, but he draws a different conclusion. “Bush hasn’t abandoned conservatism; he’s modernized and saved it.” The fight, says Brooks, is between pre-Bush conservatives and post-Bush conservatives, and the future belongs to post-Bush conservatives. But then he suggests that Bush himself may be a pre-Bush conservative. “Bush could have built a broad coalition across the right and center of American life. Unfortunately, his political strategy was a base strategy, which led him to reinforce the orthodox divisions between the parties.” This is getting very complicated, but one thing stands out: The post-Bush conservatism proposed by David Brooks looks for all the world like liberalism.