Howling Dog Graphic
Point. Click. Search.

Contents: Archives:

Search this weblog
Search WWW
Howler Graphic
by Bob Somerby
E-mail This Page
Socrates Reads Graphic
A companion site.

Site maintained by Allegro Web Communications, comments to Marc.

Howler Banner Graphic
Caveat lector

SNORES AND WHISPERS! A Post op-ed “liberal” hadn’t read his own rag. But he did know conservative spin-points:


JESS B. SIMPLE: When it comes to the University of Michigan’s affirmative action plan, we can teach it flat and we can teach it round. We can see real costs—and real benefits. Luckily, the Washington Post’s fiery “liberal,” Richard Cohen, has made the whole story much simpler:

COHEN: Sooner or later the argument for [affirmative action] gets so attenuated it becomes downright silly. The reason is that some justification has to be found to overcome the obvious—that the constitutional protection of equal treatment under the law is being violated. Someone is being rejected on account of race. It is that simple.

At Michigan, it was Jennifer Gratz.

But if Cohen had read the front page of yesterday’s Post, he would know that, as a constitutional matter, it doesn’t seem to be that simple. On the front page of yesterday’s Post, Charles Lane limned Sandra Day O’Connor:
LANE: O’Connor said that [Gratz’s] insistence on absolute color-blindness in admissions might be too inflexible. “You’re speaking in absolutes, and it isn’t quite that,” she said. “I think we have given recognition to the use of race in a variety of settings.”
Swing-Vote Sandy explicitly said that consideration of race is often allowed. If Cohen had read to paragraph four of yesterday’s piece, the fiery “liberal” would have known it.

But so it goes on the Post op-ed page when its snooze-snoring “liberals” phone in their columns. They don’t know the law—and they don’t know the facts (see below). But they do know conservative spin-points:

COHEN: At Michigan, it was Jennifer Gratz. She alleges that she was denied admission because black applicants were favored. Whether she was denied admission for some other reason we may never know. We do know that the university awarded black applicants 20 points (out of 150) on account of race. By comparison, applicants with perfect SAT scores got 12 points. Race mattered—and mattered greatly.
Groan! As we pointed out months ago, the 20/12 spin-point is grossly misleading—and was invented by the conservative group that has led the fight against affirmative action (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 1/20/03, 1/21/03). We don’t mind when a “liberal” adopts a conservative view (or vice versa), and we think that conservatives have raised substantial points against some forms of affirmative action. But at the Post, op-ed “liberals” don’t just adopt the conservative view. They spread bogus spin as they do so. (By the way, does Cohen know the simplest facts of this case? The 20-point plan was not in effect when Gratz was rejected at Michigan. If Cohen had performed even cursory research, he’d be aware of that too.)

Just how clueless—out of touch—is this fiery “liberal?” The fiery lib was greatly impressed by an argument from Justice Thomas:

COHEN (pgh 1): It turns out that the much-maligned Justice Clarence Thomas has his uses. During oral arguments over affirmative action the other day, he had a question for John Payton, a lawyer for the University of Michigan who was arguing the supposed benefits of racial diversity. What about traditionally black colleges, Thomas asked. “Wouldn’t the same argument apply to them?”
Duh. For all we know, historically black colleges might be better off if they had larger white populations. (Some such schools have been seeking such diversity.) But what does that have to do with this case? No one is arguing that colleges should be forced to seek such diversity; Michigan is merely saying that such efforts should be allowed. Thomas’ question is far off the point. So what better place to find the query than in the first paragraph from a Post op-ed “liberal?”

Out of touch? Cohen returns to this point later on:

COHEN: In and of itself, diversity is good. But…if diversity is so crucial that it justifies racial discrimination by majority-white institutions, then why isn’t it just as important at majority-black colleges? The answer has nothing to do with diversity and everything to do with giving blacks an advantage. This is typical when it comes to defending affirmative action. A worthy societal goal is constantly being defended by well-meaning people who simply will say almost anything in its defense. The first step, almost always, is to deny that an affirmative action program exists. The second is to say it does not entail quotas, and the third is to exalt diversity—the ultimate justification of the unjustifiable.
Why isn’t diversity “just as important at majority-black colleges?” Perhaps it is. But it’s also possible that it isn’t “as important;” in a majority white culture, young blacks are exposed to whites and to the majority viewpoint more than young whites are exposed to minorities. This point would occur to almost any “liberal”—except to the slumbering breed at the Post. Beyond that, do institutions like Michigan “almost always deny that an affirmative action program exists?” Truly, Cohen lives in a different decade. Snoring, wiping sleep from his eyes, Rip Van Winkle now works at the Post.

Is the UM plan a good thing on balance? Serious writers could cite pros and cons. But on the Washington Post’s op-ed page, slumbering liberals don’t know the facts; don’t know the law; and don’t even seem to have read their own paper. They’ve been phoning in their pure piffle for years. The public interest suffers under this lazy reign. When will the Post let Cohen go, so he can snore, snooze, slumber, doze and gaze at the ceiling without interruption?

JESS D. SEMBLE: Ted Olson is perfect for the present Admin. In her New York Times report, Linda Greenhouse described an apt exchange involving the mother of all solicitors. Olson was challenged about the “Texas ten percent” plan. The Bush Admin publicly favors this plan—a plan which, as everyone knows, was put in place to increase racial diversity:

GREENHOUSE: Justice Kennedy asked Mr. Olson whether he disagreed that diversity was a “permissible governmental goal.”

Mr. Olson replied that under the [Michigan] law school’s program, diversity was “an end in and of itself” and, as such, “obviously it’s constitutionally objectionable.”

So wasn’t the Texas 10 percent plan just as objectionable, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wanted to know, because its motive and purpose “is to have diversity in the college?”

That was not the “stated motive,” Mr. Olson replied. He said the purpose of the program was to break barriers and open access, and accepting the top 10 percent was “one very race-neutral means of accomplishing that legitimate objective.”

The perfect man for a dissembling Admin! According to Olson, as long as you simply don’t say what everyone knows is the case, then you should be allowed to proceed unimpeded.