A young lady inquired the other day about the meaning of the expression "smoking mirrors" that she’d heard relatives use. We explained that it’s really "smoke and mirrors" and it refers to the devices magicians use to pull off their tricks.
We thought of smoking mirrors this week while listening to Justice Antonin Scalia at the UALR law school. Scalia is such an entertaining speaker — and wonderfully brief, which always helps the entertainment quotient — that one can be misled into believing he’s talking sense, the way a conjurer makes us believe that the elephant has disappeared. In Scalia’s case, he aims to convince us that he disapproves of activist judges, when in fact he is the ringleader of the majority on the most activist Supreme Court ever. Not the Warren Court nor any other dared take a presidential election away from the people.
Inasmuch as he acknowledges this elephantine inconsistency, Scalia says that the Supreme Court was forced to intervene in Florida, to wage preemptive activism by stopping the vote count, the way President Bush wages preemptive war, because what was happening in Florida was "clearly wrong." We had no choice but to act — that’s what all the activist judges say.
"Nobody died when Clinton lied" is as simple as some of President Bush’s one-liners, but unlike them, it has the virtue of being accurate. Nobody died when Dan Rather made a dumb mistake either, though you’d think so from the way the right-wing media are yammering. They’ve shown far less interest in a far more serious misjudgment by The New York Times.
Rather and CBS apologized for reporting on memos about Bush’s military record that turned out to be apparent forgeries. Within 48 hours of the CBS admission, according to Mediamatters.org, "the story was reported 167 times in U.S. newspaper and wire reports and 57 times on cable news broadcasts." On the other hand, "In the 48 hours after The New York Times published its acknowledgement that it ‘was not as rigorous as it should have been’ in investigating the Bush administration’s claims regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that story was reported 38 times in U.S. newspaper and wire reports and seven times on cable news." No FOX News primetime program reported the Times story during those 48 hours; every FOX News primetime program reported on, if not elaborated on, the CBS story.
The media are not quite as diligent in protecting Bush and slandering his opponent as they were four years ago, when they were near-insane with hatred for Al Gore, but they’re not resting on their oars either.
We're sad to report that Doug Smith has decided to retire. Though he's been listed as an associate editor on our masthead for the last 22 years, he has in fact been the conscience of the Arkansas Times. He has written all but a handful of our unsigned editorials since we introduced an opinion page in 1992.
Last week, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel became the first elected statewide official to express support for same-sex marriage. His announcement came days before Circuit Judge Chris Piazza is expected to rule on a challenge to the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Soon after, a federal challenge of the law is expected to move forward. McDaniel has pledged to "zealously" defend the Arkansas Constitution but said he wanted the public to know where he stood.
Remarking as we were on the dreariness of this year's election campaigns, we failed to pay sufficient tribute to the NRA, one of the most unsavory and, in its predictability, dullest of the biennial participants in the passing political parade.