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Saturday, January 07, 2006

"It must take a man or woman with an especially strong constitution, no pun intended, to be a Republican SCOTUS nominee. I am appalled by the demogoguery, the character assassination, the misrepresentation and distortion, and the intense scouring of one's public and private life that any nominee must now endure. God give strength to any individual who submits to this process. They need it. I'm sure the Founders never envisioned this process becoming an inquisition."
Hear, hear. I first realized the toll that public life exacts when I was working on the campaign staff of U.S. Senator Howard Metzenbaum. He and I once walked into a diner to grab a bite to eat before a campaign appearance, and before we sat down to order Metzenbaum walked through the entire restaurant shaking hands with everyone there. It was clear to me that a good many of the diners were simply embarrassed by the glad-handing and artificial familiarity. I was, too. It wouldn't occur to me to systematically greet a room full of strangers in that way. For one thing, it strikes me as rude. Plus: I'm too much of an introvert. But of course the emailer is describing something that goes beyond different normal zones of privacy for different kinds of normal people. Inquisition is really the right term for the sustained process of assault we now ask and expect our public people to endure. The worst is over for Supreme Court justices after they get confirmed, because the campaign is over. It's the perennial candidates who become grotesque charicatures. Many decent men and women spend untold hours in public life calling strangers and asking for large sums of money, and raising their fingers to the wind so they can stay abreast of the prevailing winds. I happen to know that many of them find the process demeaning, degrading, even repulsive. Many who stay with the process become zombies. On the other hand, look at the expression on the faces of candidates who opt for fellowships at think tanks or media gigs instead of running for reelection. It's called relief. For one thing, they can say what's really on their minds. Like bloggers.