Friday, March 31, 2006

The feces-flinging monkey

Katie’s Thursday column, titled We need to know who is telling the whole truth, is breathtaking. Rarely in the field of human polemics have so many been libeled in so many ways by so few ill-crafted words. Spot predicts that We need to know who is telling the whole truth will stand as a monument to the art of the smear for a generation. Just when you think that Katie couldn’t possibly get any more bilious, she goes out and draws a new mark on the tree for the hacks and hackettes at MOB and Pajamas Media to shoot at.

The subject of Katie’s harangue, of course, is l’affaire de johnson. Spot has written about this before. Here, too. He has also posted about Craig Westover’s lament that the drama is drawing to a close. Spotty has told you, boys and girls, that with Katie, subtext is everything. Why is she trying to reanimate this corpse? It is pretty simple, really. Katie wants to damage Majority Leader Dean Johnson as much as possible, hoping to help bring pressure on Johnson to bring the gay marriage ban amendment to the Senate floor for a vote. The Republicans want the amendment on the ballot this fall really, really bad, because they face a massacre this November if they don’t get their entire base out to vote.

Now, boys and girls, let’s spend some time at the examining table with the rancid remains.

The flingees in Katie’s blast include Senator Majority Leader Dean Johnson, Minority Leader Dick Day, the ethics subcommittee that examined the complaint against Senator Johnson, Chief Justice Russell Anderson, and the Senate DFL Caucus. Did Spot leave somebody out? Oh, yeah, the governor, too.

Katie starts out by telling us that either Dean Johnson or Russell Anderson is a liar (actually, she slyly puts the words in the mouths of our protagonists). Spot wants to start with a question: What do Russell Anderson and Katie have in common?

They both went to law school?

Yes, but that’s not what Spot had in mind.

They both have kinda geeky hair?

Spotty will not be the judge of that.

Okay, we give up.

The answer is that neither Katie nor Russell Anderson has any first-hand knowledge of the conversations that make up l’affair de johnson. If the definition of a liar includes actually knowing the falsity of the utterance, Russell Anderson cannot be a liar. An officious fool, perhaps. Spotty, that was uncalled for. Apologize! Ok, Spot is sorry.

On the other hand, Senator Johnson, through his lawyer, said he was willing to name names and call witnesses. Putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak. Suddenly, the Chief Justice clams up, a couple of members of the ethics subcommittee admit that Johnson’s version is “plausible,” and Dick Day and the Republicans back away slowly. Spot says connect the spots.

Katie also shrieks about the breach of judicial (and legislative) ethics that must have occurred here. She wants us to accept as fact that a breach occurred, but it isn’t so. First, let’s remember that Dean Johnson (for better or worse, probably better) is neither lawyer nor judge. The Code of Judicial Conduct does not apply to him.

Moreover, you will search the Code of Judicial Conduct that Spot just linked to in vain for the prohibition of a judge talking to a member of another branch of government. CANON 1 states that a Judge Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of the Judiciary. CANON 2 states that a Judge Shall Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All of the Judge's Activities. That’s as close as it gets.

Do these canons mean that a lawyer and a judge can’t have lunch and even talk “shop” about issues other than ones before the judge at the time? No, of course not. Nor does it mean that being a judge is such a priesthood that he or she cannot talk to a member of another branch of government. Do you suppose that Abe Fortas never spoke to Lyndon Johnson? Okay, bad example. How about Dick Cheney and Antonin Scalia? They shared a duck blind and a private jet when cases that included the name “Cheney” were before the Supreme Court. As friends in politics for a long time, don’t you suppose that they talk “shop” maybe even a little, from time to time? Of course. History is full of examples of governors or legislators who became judges. The oath of office doesn’t include an oath of conversational celibacy.

It must be remembered that no DOMA case is before the Minnesota Supreme Court. Senator Johnson did not receive an advisory opinion, which is a complicated doctrine that has built up a couple of centuries of jurisprudence on things like case and controversy, ripeness and standing, by the way. One might forgive Captain Fishsticks for confusion here, but not Katie – nor the Chief Justice, for that matter.

As Spot has said a couple of times, it was indiscreet of Senator Johnson to refer to conversations that whoever he talked to thought were private and off-the-cuff discussions. And Johnson has apologized for that.

Speaking of forgiveness, Katie says that she is not prepared to forgive Senator Johnson just yet. There isn’t a drop of forgiveness in Katie; we wouldn’t expect you to forgive, Katie. You’re incapable of it. Katie and the rest of the DOMA hyenas will stick the gay marriage issue up the public’s arse every chance and every way they can.


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