We're supposed to be the smarter ones

There was a beautiful moment on television a couple of weeks back. It happened on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," on the Comedy Central cable channel, and it was a reaction to another recent TV moment.

Several days earlier, on the CNN public affairs program "Inside Politics," veteran right-tilting columnist Robert Novak had broken off from the badinage typical of such shows, snarled "I hate this bull--," removed his neck mic and stalked off the set.

Maybe he'd had his fill of his fellow guest, Democratic-activist adversary James Carville. Or maybe he knew where the discussion was about to turn: toward his own increasingly embattled situation as simultaneously shadowy and glaringly public participant in "Plamegate," the ongoing scandal born of the outing of a CIA agent by friends and operatives of the Bush administration.

Novak's behavior earned him a rebuke and a suspension from CNN. And Stewart - who had long since taken to dubbing the columnist "the Douchebag of Liberty" - relished Novak's disgrace with a protracted, orgasmic sigh that stopped his own "fake news" show for several hilarious minutes.

This is, of course, the way it's supposed to be. After years of double talk and double dealing, the various fast shuffles of the Bush administration and its helpmates are turning into a game of 52 Pick-Up. The situation has become so egregious that conscientious Republicans and conservatives are speaking out in protest. The Light of Truth is about to bring a new dawn...

So what happens? Naral Pro-Choice America starts running an ad attacking the president's nominee to the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts Jr., as one "whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans."

Drawing heavily on anguished testimony by a woman who was nearly killed in the 1998 bombing of an abortion clinic, the ad contends that "Roberts filed court briefs supporting violent fringe groups and a convicted clinic bomber." The impression created is that the avowedly conservative Roberts, while perhaps not involved in the nefarious attack, rushed into court to defend it and those who had carried it out.

Right-wingers cried character assassination, and they should know - but in this case they were correct.

The ad, as corroborated in detail by the neutral media-watchdog group Factcheck.org, was flagrantly misleading. Roberts, in his role as principal deputy solicitor general for the first Bush administration, had filed a brief arguing that a particular federal statute could not be used as the basis for issuing injunctions against pro-life demonstrators. The Supreme Court agreed with him, 6-3. (Roberts went on to denounce abortion-clinic bombings and bombers, and Congress soon enacted legislation to cover this legalistic gap.)

And all this happened seven years before the bombing that is the centerpiece of the Naral ad.

It's even worse than that; you can go to Factcheck.org for the details. My immediate point here is, this was a clumsy, deceptive, transparently specious, unforgivably stupid thing for NARAL to have done.

Our politics, right and left, are at the mercy of extremists so hydrophobically self-righteous that they believe any misfeasance is justifiable because God (or his sectarian counterpart) is on their side.

I hate it when this happens. But I hate it even more when "we" do it, because we're supposed to be smarter than that.

Richard Jameson edits the Queen Anne News, an associate publication. You can write him at rtjameson@nwlink.com.

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