Dagger in hand

A man of prodigious fortune, coming to add his opinion to some light discussion that was going on casually at his table, began precisely thus: "It can only be a liar or an ignoramus who will say otherwise than," and so on. Pursue that philosophical point, dagger in hand.

--Michel de Montaigne, Of the art of discussion.

Stab back: cmnewman99-at-yahoo.com


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Monday, April 26, 2004
If you want to be snide and condescending, you also need to know what you're talking about.
I used to be a big fan of Doonesbury. I still occasionally see one that I enjoy. But this epitomizes why I often can't stand it these days. Look, I'm no fan of many of the directions in which this administration seems to want to take the law. And "strict constructionism" is not, in practice, a terribly useful jurisprudential concept. (It's not about "strictness," it's about accurate reading where possible and reasonable extrapolation where necessary.) But there is nothing inconsistent about believing in "strict construction" and also wanting to amend the Constitution. The former doesn't denote a belief that the Constitution is perfect or should never be altered--it denotes a belief that judges should not be the ones to alter it. Indeed, some people believe that the Constitution needs to be amended precisely to do away with erroneous interpretations foisted upon it by judges who failed to be "strict" enough.

I think one of the tests of good political humor is: Would you still find it funny (or at least appreciate its cleverness) if you shared the views being made fun of? Trudeau used to meet this standard for me. No doubt my politics have shifted since I used to collect his comics, but I don't think that explains why I don't read him much anymore. I love the Onion, and it often barbeques my sacred cows. And while I tend to agree with Day by Day, I sometimes find Muir to be heavy-handed as well. Of course, he's just starting out, while Garry's had 40 years to hone his craft. Instead he's blunted it. Trudeau has come to epitomize the smug liberal mindset, which takes its own superior perspicacity so much for granted that the broadest of pot shots and most facile of sneers pass for clever wit. Which is too bad.

Update: I just got a polite email from Chris Muir thanking me for the comment and asking for input when I think he's off-base. How many cartoonists solicit that kind of interaction?

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