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Defining Viciousness Down:

Dahlia Lithwick has what strikes me as a rather overheated criticism of Judge Alito. One item that particularly jumped out at me (emphasis added):

It's magic. Almost as if the whole Harriet Miers debacle never happened, President Bush has rapidly retreated from his judicial preferences of last month. . . . In the true spirit of Halloween, a month of vicious attacks from the right has been papered over, and this nomination is dressed up as if the last one never occurred.

Is it really fair and accurate to describe the criticisms of Harriet Miers as "vicious attacks from the right"? One may agree or disagree with the criticisms from the right, but "vicious"? Really?

Incidentally, would this, this, this, and this qualify as "vicious attacks from the media"? I actually don't think they do, but the stuff I'd seen from the right wasn't generally much more hostile than these items.

James968 (mail):
In the current media mindset, it may be 'tenacious' = 'vicious'
11.1.2005 7:21am
Speedwell:
What, suddenly Miss Lithwick is shocked out of her bloomers at the thought that politics is vicious? Say it ain't so!
11.1.2005 8:34am
roy solomon (mail):
vicious is sufficently vauge to mean anything the writer wants it to. or the reader.
11.1.2005 9:23am
Jeremy Pierce (mail) (www):
I think she's referring to the people who made fun of her intellectual ability, including her writing ability and vagueness of language in the popular contexts the records we have of her reflect. I believe terms like "unqualified" and "incompetent" have been thrown around, which I think is pretty vicious when it would really be much more accurate to say "not as qualified" or "not a specialist in constitutional law". It may be that some of the best critics of her nomination didn't go as far as this, but I can't say that's true of the masses who commented on her nomination with little evidence but misinformation as early as minutes after it was announced. The early statements at RedState and ConfirmThem exemplified this well. I can't say that all of the Volokh Conspirators were innocent of this sort of thing, either, but I won't name names.
11.1.2005 9:41am
ggw (mail):
Scan The Corner from the past two weeks. Even the polite and mild mannered David Brooks basically called her stupid. There was plenty of viciousness from the right to go around.
11.1.2005 9:57am
Paul Zrimsek (mail):
"Vicious attacks" or no, whence Lithwick's clownish surprise that Bush should refuse to make the same political mistake twice?
11.1.2005 10:05am
Jack John (mail):
I don't think people called her stupid. They said her writing was too garbled to be reliable as precedent.
11.1.2005 10:33am
Robert Schwartz (mail):
Tell the Dahlia that we know vicious and we are saving it for her.
11.1.2005 11:29am
Bob from Ohio (mail):
Read some Laura Ingraham transcripts. Read Rod Dreher (and others) on NRO. Read George Will. Read the attacks on her Christmas cards. Read the guy on this blog who attacked her as an unqualified "crony" the day of the appointment.

Yeah, vicious is about right.
11.1.2005 11:40am
WHerndon (mail):
One can selectively find episodes of "vicious" criticism of Miers from the right -- as Bob from Ohio does -- or from the Left. Yet the preponderance of criticism was on legitimate grounds, mostly her lack of experience and unsettled judicial views. And that's entirely fair. Her nomination wasnt sunk because of the so-called vicious criticism. It was sunk by the legitimate criticism, some of which was leveled by Senators Leahy, Specter and others.
11.1.2005 11:51am
markm (mail):
Is any statement that might hurt someone's feelings "vicious"? In that case, every time anyone's qualifications for an important job are discussed in public, it will get "vicious".
11.1.2005 12:06pm
Brian24 (mail):
Dahlia is an amusing and informative writer on legal issues, but she's generally a bit out of her depth and knee-jerk on political issues.

Or was that vicious?
11.1.2005 1:00pm
Veggie_Burger (mail):
Some attacks were vicious; some were more mild. We can say that the attacks were relentless, unceasing, etc. Were people being unfair to Miers and the Process by demanding that Miers withdraw her nomination? Would it have been so terrible to give her a fair hearing, and then give her an "up or down vote," like the Republicans harp relentlessly, unceasingly? One definition of vicious is to be deliberately cruel. Can you say that many on right who attacked her weren't so, and didn't mean to be? Certainly, conservative political pundits hounded her relentlessly, unceasingly, forcing her to withdraw. Or is "hounded" to strong a word, making those who did it to her sound like uncivil dogs?
11.1.2005 2:37pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
I noticed the same problem with the use of the word "vicious" in a political ad for the Westchester County District Attorney. In the ad, the New York Attorney General lauds the incumbent's crackdown on drunk driving calling DUI a "vicious crime".

Murder or rape are vicious crimes. Drunk driving can be innocent or vicious depending on whether you actually kill someone. Increasing the risk of harm is not as bad as actually causing harm (as in Common Law crimes).
11.1.2005 4:06pm
Passing By:
To me, Krauthammer's comments, for example, seemed vicious (her nomination was a "joke" and a "mistake"; "There are 1,084,504 lawyers in the United States. What distinguishes Harriet Miers from any of them, other than her connection with the president?". George Will's also seemed vicious (Her nomination was a "perfect perversity ... that it discredits, and even degrades, all who toil at justifying it" and was a "reckless abuse of presidential discretion; "It is important that Miers not be confirmed unless, in her 61st year, she suddenly and unexpectedly is found to have hitherto undisclosed interests and talents pertinent to the court's role.")
11.1.2005 4:28pm
Jeremy Pierce (mail) (www):
There are two ways something can be vicious. The more classic usage that I think of when describing an action as vicious is that it manifests a vice. Certainly drunk driving is that, even if no one is killed. She may not have meant it that way, though.
11.1.2005 9:17pm