Charles Krauthammer is blind to his irony

Charles Krauthammer’s May 29, 2009 column is full of irony, but I am not sure that he sees it.

The sum of his criticism of Obama’s choice of Sonia Sotomayor to be the next supreme court justice is this:

Since the 2008 election, people have been asking what conservatism stands for. Well, if nothing else, it stands unequivocally against justice as empathy — and unequivocally for the principle of blind justice.

So that is pretty clear, justice should be blind, it should look only at the law, not the situation of the defendants or plantiffs.

So why does he start out his column painting a sympathetic picture of Frank Ricci, a plantiff?

Sonia Sotomayor has a classic American story. So does Frank Ricci.

Ricci is a New Haven firefighter stationed seven blocks from where Sotomayor went to law school (Yale). Raised in blue-collar Wallingford, Conn., Ricci struggled as a C and D student in public schools ill-prepared to address his serious learning disabilities. Nonetheless he persevered, becoming a junior firefighter and Connecticut’s youngest certified EMT.

After studying fire science at a community college, he became a New Haven “truckie,” the guy who puts up ladders and breaks holes in burning buildings. When his department announced exams for promotions, he spent $1,000 on books, quit his second job so he could study eight to 13 hours a day and, because of his dyslexia, hired someone to read him the material.

He placed sixth on the lieutenant’s exam, which qualified him for promotion. Except that the exams were thrown out by the city, and all promotions denied, because no blacks had scored high enough to be promoted.

Seriously, if irony was water, Charles Krauthammer would have waterboarded himself here.  We shouldn’t be deciding cases on empathy, but hey you should look at this guy Frank Ricci and be empathetic to the obstacles he has overcome.  If Krauthammer really wanted to take on the issue of that case, he could have used his column-inches more wisely and explored the idea of throwing out the promotions because of the lack of diversity of those who passed the lieutenant’s exam, rather than a empathy building exercise.

And then there is some more irony, but this a multiple column irony, in this same column, Krauthammer says that empathy’s proper place is not on the bench but in other branches of government. 

Empathy is a vital virtue to be exercised in private life — through charity, respect and loving kindness — and in the legislative life of a society where the consequences of any law matter greatly, which is why income taxes are progressive and safety nets are built for the poor and disadvantaged.

But back on April 3, 2009, his column contained this gem,

Obama has far different ambitions. His goal is to rewrite the American social compact, to recast the relationship between government and citizen. He wants government to narrow the nation’s income and anxiety gaps. Soak the rich for reasons of revenue and justice. Nationalize health care and federalize education to grant all citizens of all classes the freedom from anxiety about health care and college that the rich enjoy. And fund this vast new social safety net through the cash cow of a disguised carbon tax.

Obama is a leveler. He has come to narrow the divide between rich and poor. For him the ultimate social value is fairness. Imposing it upon the American social order is his mission.

Fairness through leveling is the essence of Obamaism. (Asked by Charlie Gibson during a campaign debate about his support for raising capital gains taxes — even if they caused a net revenue loss to the government — Obama stuck to the tax hike “for purposes of fairness.”) The elements are highly progressive taxation, federalized health care and higher education, and revenue-producing energy controls. But first he must deal with the sideshows. They could sink the economy and poison his public support before he gets to enact his real agenda.

Now in all fairness to Krauthammer, Obama is no longer in the legislative branch, but in the executive branch.  And he didn’t say that empathy belongs in the executive branch, but he didn’t say it must be excluded from it, like it must from the judicial branch.  So it could be a wash on the branch of government issue.

But yet, his April 3rd column made him seem like he was against progressive taxation, or at least extreme versions of it, and not that big a fan of the social safety net, at least looking like nationalized health care and more affordable access to higher education.

I guess that isn’t really irony so much as rampant hypocrisy, in one column railing against progressive taxation and social safety net programs, and then praising them as part of the empathy that exists in the legislative life.  That is often par for course for the highly paid talking heads that dominate the group-think inside the beltway, that often think that we don’t check what they wrote before.




  1. ickster said,

    May 30, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Krauthammer is an idiot. I don’t know why is columns get published.

  2. Josh said,

    May 30, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    He is an idiot. I suspect the Strib publishes him regularly, because I am sure they are cheaper columns to buy, or may even be subsidized by some conservative think tank.

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