Back in the 1980s a White House staffer told about a revealing incident on Capitol Hill. The staffer was walking down the corridors of one of the buildings on the Hill when a Senator motioned to him to step inside his office.
"I'm going to make a speech next week, denouncing the effect of the President's policies on my constituents," the Senator said. He added: "Pay it no mind."
My own experience with political cynicism in Washington came a few years earlier, back in 1976, when I was nominated to the Federal Trade Commission by President Ford. At a private meeting with a Democratic Congressional staffer for the Senate committee in charge of confirming my nomination, the staffer gave me the word.
"We have gone over your record with a fine-toothed comb," he said frankly, "and, since we could find nothing to object to, we are just not going to hold hearings at all."
He explained that, since this was an election year and they expected their candidate -- Jimmy Carter -- to win, they would just sit on my nomination until Carter became President, so that he could then appoint his own man to the FTC. Which he did.
Anyone who does not understand the utter cynicism of politics does not understand politics. An education on that subject can be found in Mona Charen's incisive new book, "Do-Gooders."
Ms. Charen's book is about the enormous damage done by liberal social policies from the 1960s on, but it is also about the shameless demagoguery unleashed against those who have dared to oppose the liberal agenda or reveal its failures. Examples range from cynical lies about judicial nominees to the biggest big lie of our time, the claim that black voters were "disenfranchised" by Republicans in Florida during the 2000 elections.
Depicting judicial nominees as being against civil rights -- and therefore implicitly racist -- is a political tactic that has been used cynically and successfully, even against judges with a history of being in favor of civil rights and who have even had the endorsements of civil rights leaders like Thurgood Marshall and Charles Evers, brother of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
The most famous example was the use of the anti-civil rights charge against Judge Robert Bork during his confirmation hearings as a nominee for the Supreme Court in 1987. It is a matter of public record that, before he became a judge, Robert Bork had filed briefs on the side of the NAACP in a number of civil rights cases.
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