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Friday, April 13, 2007

"Federalist Society" as Epithet...Enough Already

Not a lot of time lately, and thus not a lot of posts.

I imagine I'll have more to write about the DOJ/WH/USA/RNC (did I miss any relevant 2-or-three-letter-abbreviated organizations?) soon, though I admit it's getting more and more difficult to follow the many avenues of misrepresentation down which those speaking for these organizations have driven. And, of course, it's Friday--which means that today's document dump probably has more damaging stuff in it than what's so far come to light.

That said, I want to go on record against the use of "Federalist Society member (FSM)" as an epithet by certain liberal blogs. For example, in this post and this one as well, the Center for American Progress blog ThinkProgress has made it sound as if being a FSM is itself some sort of terrible thing. They and others have also suggested that it's some sort of big deal to find that the DOJ made it a point to track FSM status of potential USAs.

There are plenty of FSMs with whom I disagree. There are some who I think are dishonorable and hypocritical. But both those statements also apply to plenty of liberals, both lawyers and otherwise.

More generally, so what if the DOJ and the WH in general look for FSMs to fill USA and other posts? Every administration seeks out politically likeminded folks to fill these jobs. That isn't and never has been the issue with fire-them-all-and-lie-about-why-gate.

It's hard for me to imagine that the same bloggers will see something wrong with the choice by President Obama/Edwards/(I-sure-hope-it's-not)Clinton to use, say, ACS membership as a good way to tell whether they've found someone with similar legal views.

Of course, some of this may be driven by the odd unwillingness of the WH to make the argument I just made. (And I can't help but remember John Roberts's strangely uncomfortable relationship to his FS history, whatever said history was, during the time surrounding his confirmation hearings. I do not, btw, think that Roberts's odd behavior can be explained by some fear that the GOP-held Senate would reject him on that basis--particularly given the Senate's history of confirming plenty of FSMs over the years.)

Anyway, I sure wish liberals would stop already with the ad hominem stuff. It's not like there's a shortage of substantively damaging information about this administration's brand of Justice.

Update: And another thing--Kumbaya.

Posted by Jonah Gelbach on April 13, 2007 at 06:52 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Tracked on Apr 13, 2007 8:07:18 PM


The use of "federalist society" as an epithet is an attempt at highlighting a perception that the federalist society is less of a committed group of lawyers dedicated to an abstract legal doctrine than it is a committed group of lawyers dedicated to conservative politics. IE, an upscale version of the Young Republicans.

Its an attempt to say that when the administration is hiring "like minded" people for jobs, the issues on which they have like minded opinions aren't legal principles, they're legal outcomes.

Posted by: Patrick | Apr 20, 2007 3:25:00 PM


I couldn't have (and didn't) say it better myself. The administration deserves every bit of the criticism it's gotten. My beef is with the knee-jerk (to use Professor Bainbridge's second choice of term) assumption that FS membership is a per se indicator of badness. So, I think we agree totally.

Thanks for your comment


Posted by: jonah gelbach | Apr 15, 2007 4:10:58 PM


I think it's context. I think most folks understand that Presidents properly have discretion to put people who are ideologically sympathetic to them in the Executive Branch.

But this particular President has consistently and intentionally abused that discretion, or at least gone beyond what many/most folks would consider good practice. There are now so many examples in which ideology and/or personal loyalty has entirely trumped anything like competence or qualifications -- from Michael Brown, to the folks doing reconstruction in Iraq who were quizzed about their positions on abortion before being sent over, etc., etc., etc.-- that some folks get edgy seeing more examples of it.

So no, Federalist Society membership should not be used as an epithet (hey, some of my best friends. . . .), but this administration has put itself in the position to be vulnerable to this sort of criticism.

Oh, and I'm a big Flying Spaghetti Monster fan myself.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Apr 15, 2007 11:48:04 AM

For the record, I am a HUGE Flying Spaghetti Monster fan! I've got T-shirts, mugs--even a bumper sticker that says "WWFSMD?" (which I admit I've misplaced, rather than placed on my bumper).

Posted by: jonah gelbach | Apr 14, 2007 12:23:02 PM

Ha...the abbreviation FSM made me think of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, not Federalist Society member.

Posted by: L | Apr 14, 2007 11:58:18 AM

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