Can you stand a bit more about conservative thinking, as exemplified by what is now being called Chokegate?
This isn't from Althouse; I can't bear reading the muddled thinking and hackneyed attacks that pass for her blog anymore. This one is from Christian Schneider, who sometimes writes columns and who in those columns mostly decides that he doesn't like democracy when democracy is inconvenient for him -- which saying is pretty much a plank in the Republican platform nowadays.
Christian's piece in the National Review Online provides additional details to the not-really-evolving story. It is notable first for its reliance, too, on anonymous sources; remember Althouse criticized journalists who rely on anonymous sources.
Lesson one: Anonymity, like democracy, is beloved by conservatives only when it suits them.
But a principle is not a principle unless it is applied uniformly, something that conservatives seem to have forgotten. If you dislike anonymous sources, you must insist your sources be named.
No source supporting the red-meat conservative point of view on "Chokegate" has been willing to be named.
The new anonymous sources -- just how many people were in that room? -- have spoken up, even more belatedly than the old anonymous sources. Remember, Bill Lueders had three sources backing his story, and nobody else would comment. When Lueders went public with the story, after some delay, a fourth person turned up, contradicting the first three. At that point, Justice Bradley issued a public statement, the only named source in this story.
Now, in a story published at 11:42 a.m. on June 28, a full three days after Lueders broke his story, Schneider has "multiple sources with first-hand knowledge of the incident."
These "multiple sources" provide additional details that -- surprise! -- help exonerate Justice Prosser (unlike Althouse, I accord all my characters equal dignity); one cannot help but wonder why these sources waited days to talk to Schneider -- or why Schneider waited days to publish their reports.
Just as one cannot help but wonder why Schneider did not interview Justice Bradley for her comment; Bill Lueders (who conservatives peg as evil) allowed Justice Prosser a chance to comment, clarify, or deny the charges. (Justice Prosser, of course, declined.)
That's the second lesson of today's entry into the Conservative Mind: Balance is achieved by presenting the story you want to present.
Conservatives will justify that by saying well, Bill Lueders presented the version he wanted; we're just presenting the counter.
But that's not journalism. That's argument. That's the adversary system at work: each side presents a viewpoint and a neutral arbiter picks a winner. Journalism doesn't work that way, Christian.
And Bill Lueders did not do that anyway. He did not present only his version of the story. Not by choice, at least: he offered Justice Prosser a chance to rebut the story, an offer that was not accepted. Justice Prosser opted to issue a denial, and his supporters opted to go to a friendly press person who perhaps would not grill them or challenge their version of events.
Bill Lueders presented the entire story that he had.
Christian Schneider presented the entire story that he chose to present.
There's a vast difference.
Schneider presents a great many post-Chokegate details, but does not say how many of his anonymous sources back those facts. The suggestion is that all of them do, but Schneider does not clarify that.
Lesson Three: Conservatives prefer that it appear many people back them, even if that requires misdirection.
But we knew that from Walker's emails, didn't we?
It seems likely that some, or all, of Schneider's sources are Supreme Court Justices. He presents details that seem likely only to be known to a justice: Justice Prosser stalking the halls looking for the Chief Justice. (I say stalking; Christian said marching.) The justices in a meeting discussing whether to order Justice Prosser to counseling (and whether they could.) It seems to me that clerks and other lower staffers would not be allowed in such a meeting.
But Schneider does not say -- because conservatives are attacking Justice Bradley for talking on the record, and conservatives including Christian are attacking Chief Justice Abrahamson for what they speculate is her role in the scandal:
Furthermore, sources unanimously believed that it was Shirley Abrahamson who has been the impetus behind the story, managing the press operation from behind the scenes. Justices had been working together regularly since the incident without any signs of rancor until Abrahamson decided to make this an issue, sources believe.
That's what Christian wrote. It would be unseemly to attack justices for speaking on the record or fomenting press... if the reports Christian relies on come from other justices.
That quote also slides from eyewitness into something else: Christian's eyewitnesses now are speculating.
How can one be an eyewitness to a guess? Only Christian's sources know.
Lesson Four, though, is obvious from that: "Facts" need not be based in reality.
Oh, the Conservative Mind!
Schneider also engages in some non-eyewitness speculation:
Speculation is abundant as to why Bradley decided to forgo a criminal complaint against Prosser, deciding instead to go to the press ten days after the event. Some say Bradley’s complaint wouldn’t have stood up if given the scrutiny of a criminal investigation. Furthermore, others speculate that if any formal criminal proceedings had moved forward (a restraining-order filing, for instance), Prosser would be afforded evidentiary hearings, testimony, and discovery.
He is "reporting" there on unsourced speculation -- a twist on the "reporting by questions" that Althouse (and US Magazine!) use to make claims that have no factual underpinning. Who is speculating about Justice Bradley's motives?
Not Justice Bradley.
And who is speculating as to what the legal process would allow Justice Prosser? Not lawyers who know how these things work. While discovery is theoretically possible in restraining order proceedings, the time limits on such things make discovery practically unavailable. Temporary restraining orders are issued ex parte, or not at all -- no discovery before that! A hearing must then be held in 14 days or less on the petition, and all written discovery requires a 30-day response time. Depositions can be noticed in shorter periods of time, but why would Bradley fear a deposition if she is prepared to testify at a restraining order hearing, as she would be required to do?
In a criminal case, there's no discovery at all; Justice Prosser's legal team would have to get discovery from the prosecutor, and depositions of witnesses are rare in criminal cases. Sometimes more than rare: depositions of the victim are entirely prohibited in criminal cases.
It appears as though those who are speculating about the legal process are also entirely unfamiliar with that process.
Lesson Five: You need not know about a thing to discuss that thing.
Finally, a lesson before the example.
Lesson Six: When all else fails, lump all your enemies together.
Christian finishes his article with this wondrous piece of writing:
While Bradley has not filed any charges against Prosser, an investigation was initiated by the Capitol Police, who then quickly turned the case over to the Dane County Sheriff, David Mahoney — who once actually appeared in a campaign ad supporting the reelection of Chief Justice Abrahamson. The ad also included not-yet-famous circuit-court judge Maryann Sumi, whose ruling the Supreme Court had to vacate in order to allow Scott Walker’s collective-bargaining bill to stand.
Wow! All the enemies are coming together! So it's a conspiracy! Judge Sumi must have been mad that she was going to be overturned, so she got her buddy Chief Justice Abrahamson to get Justice Bradley to goad Justice Prosser into goading her into attacking him, all the while knowing that Sheriff Mahoney would ultimately end up being the one to investigate the crime that Justice Bradley was reluctant to report...
And, I'm dizzy again.
The flaw in Christian's logic there is not just that Judge Sumi -- a fine judge who I frequently end up disagreeing with because she's good enough to not buy every argument I make -- had nothing to do with anything, here. No, the real flaw is that for any of that to matter, the participants would have had to know that the Capitol Police would refer the investigation to Dane County.
But the Capitol Police report to... Gov. Scott (Patsy) Walker's Department of Administration.
Which brings up Lesson Seven: In ConservativeLand, things don't have to make sense, so long as you keep saying them.