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Janice Brown vs. the Enlightenment

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Anyone who doubts that the filibuster is sometimes justified should read this Janice Brown speech, which as Mickey Kaus notes is a manifesto for right-wing judicial activism. (Stuart Taylor does some detailed analysis from a doctrinal perspective.)

But the speech is much scarier than that. I thought of my earlier reference to the current Republican Party as an alliance between “the folks who want to repeal the New Deal and the folks who want to repeal the Enlightenment” as a pointed joke aimed at the theocratic pole of the plutotheocrat axis. Brown, however, comes right out and identifies the Enlightenment as the source of all modern evils (including, of course, the New Deal, which Brown mentions in parallel with the Russian Revolution).

Her speech consists mostly of the worst kind of dumb-Straussian ravings. (Having been taught by smart Straussians such as Harvey Mansfield, I can tell the difference.) Parts of it are truly embarrassing, as when the Duc de la Rochefoucauld’s comment about hypocrisy as “the homage vice pays to virtue” is attributed to Gertrude Himmelfarb (?!), or when Alfred Marshall, the father of marginal analysis and the founder of the “classical” approach to economic theorizing which Keynes so profoundly challenged, is identified ominously as “the teacher of John Maynard Keynes.” Brown’s essay makes me think of the Kevin Kline character in A Fish Called Wanda, who thinks that misquoting important authors is a sign of great intelligence.

Read, as they say, the whole thing. And then ask yourself what GWB (or Karl Rove) was smoking when the Brown nomination was decided on.
Oh, but I forgot. Brown is African-American. Therefore if I notice that she’s a fool I must be a racist. Was that the point? To pick an African-American woman so off the wall that Democrats would have to oppose her? Ain’t strategery wonderful?

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About Mark Kleiman

  • All you’ve done here is to denounce Judge Brown in haughty tones. You have NOT made any argument against anything she’s said or done.

    Having just read the 20 page pdf transcript you linked to above, I’m reasonably impressed. There’s only so much you can go into depth in a speech, but she’s clearly really thinking in basic principles about the role of government and of the judiciary.

    She most certainly did NOT say that the enlightenment is the cause of all our problems. Rather, she’s arguing that there were downsides, ie the bloody French revolution.

    More than espousing any kind of judicial philosophy, she mostly was questioning the basic justifications of government, and the proper role and function.

    Nowhere in this is there the least hint of being some crazy radical. Just based on this speech, I’d say she’d probably be a much better than average Supreme Court justice.