Man Without Qualities

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Completely Burned Out

It's no surprise that Herr Doktorprofessor Paul Von Krugman doesn't like the Administration's claim to evidentiary privilege in connection with the Cheney energy task force. The Administration has advanced its constitutional policy arguments in the courts, and now before the Supreme Court. Reasonable minds may differ on those policies and the correct balance of constitutional imperatives - but Herr Doktorprofessor has nothing to do with any of that. No mention of any of the policy arguments or balances or the constitutional structure that the Court must construe, or an informed citizen should consider, is mentioned by Herr Doktorprofessor. Indeed, he gives no indication that he even understands that any of those things matter - or even exist.

So what? Why would one expect Herr Doktorprofessor to discuss or understand such things? He's a kind of economist, not a constitutional lawyer. He has absolutely no special claim to understanding what is driving this case - despite his bizarre, amorphous claim to speak for Those of us who have been following such things. He is neither trained nor a natural legal talent. But neither his complete lack of competence and facility in constitutional law, nor his lack of insight in this case in particular, keep his most recent column from arguing for a single, completely whacko conclusion:

What Mr. Cheney is defending, in other words, is a doctrine that makes the United States a sort of elected dictatorship: a system in which the president, once in office, can do whatever he likes.

I'll be frank: His assertion is just nuts. It is not worth a detailed response other than to point out that it is nuts. Herr Doktorprofessor's publishing such a claim suggests that he, personally, is more than a little nuts. Nor is there any chance that anyone who does not already share a figurative padded cell with Herr Doktorprofessor will be influenced one iota by his rant. This column is a symptom, not a syllogism.

Why won't Herr Doktorprofessor - or his handlers at the Times - take sad columns like this one to heart as indications that he should stay much closer to home. As already noted here, there are plenty of international trade matters to write about - and he's supposed to actually know something about that - and have some ability to understand it. The same clearly cannot be said of his aptitude for constitutional law. How about a column on "outsourcing," Herr Doktorprofessor? How about some "home market effect" insights with respect to software, say?

How about some columns that aren't so completely and obviously paranoid, ignorant and humiliating for their author? Isn't that something you'd like?


A lawyer for Judicial Watch, Paul Orfanedes, noted that some critics of the lawsuit had said that it was based "on nothing more than mere unsupported allegations."

"That is a false statement, in our view," Mr. Orfanedes told the justices. A moment later, he said, "We know that the vice president met with the chairman of Enron, Ken Lay. The vice president himself, in an interview he gave on `Nightline,' said, `We met with all kinds of folks. We met with energy groups. We met with environmental groups. We met with consumer groups."

"What does that prove?" Justice John Paul Stevens interjected. "What does that prove?"

"The point is," Mr. Orfanedes replied, "this shows the involvement of outside — "

"They talked to a lot of people," Justice Stevens broke in again. "Got a lot of advice. Does that make them de facto members of the committee?"

He may surprise us, but this interchange doesn't make Justice Stevens sound very sympathetic to demands that the Cheney task force data be disclosed. If Justice Stevens votes in the manner suggested by this interchange, is Herr Doktorprofessor going to insist that Justice Stevens is part of a conspiracy that makes the United States a sort of elected dictatorship?

Nuts. Just nuts.

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