Soon after I put up my post, this morning, on Ed Fitzpatrick’s Providence Journal column, the man himself responded to my Twitter link that he’d criticized Sen. Whitehouse for commentary on the floor of the Senate in which he raised the specters of the French Revolution, the Nazis, and Southern lynchings in a column back in 2009.
That column didn’t appear in my search of the Providence Journal’s archives because they don’t go back that far, but Fitzpatrick was good enough to send me the text. Rereading the 2009 column, while I would have definitely included it in my earlier post, I’m not sure it changes my criticism at all.
For instance, I suggested that Fitzpatrick should have tried to understand why Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia would have such strong sentiments toward his court, and if we look back to the 2009 column, it’s practically slathered with sympathy for Whitehouse’s heat. Fitzpatrick presents it as a response to Republican ire, emphasizes that Whitehouse “gave voice to the Democratic anger and frustration” (with examples), and gives the senator space to contextualize his comments.
If I may paraphrase the impression the column gives, it’s that: Whitehouse was only responding to the bad Republicans; he has a lot of company in how he feels; and after all, he’s got underlying reasoning, which Fitzpatrick validates with a “good point.” None of these qualities are present in the Scalia column. Indeed, here’s the point of actual criticism of Whitehouse:
Perhaps it’s good for Rhode Island to have a fiery, outspoken senator to go with the understated Sen. Jack Reed. Perhaps there is some political utility to such speeches. If Palin is going to be using her Twitter account to perpetuate the “death panel” idea (PolitiFact’s “Lie of the Year”), maybe Democrats need to do more to fire back.
But I don’t see why Whitehouse had to go all Judgment Day on the GOP when he knew they’d lose the vote. Why not just watch them wail and fail?
Scalia didn’t even go as far as “all Judgment Day,” and he was, in fact, issuing a warning about the actions of the victorious majority. In Scalia’s case, though, Fitzpatrick is on the side of those who want to insist that there’s nothing wrong, or even questionable, about the outcome or process by which they redefined marriage and likened traditional values to pure bigotry.
As the progressives march across the country trying to put pizza parlors out of business, prevent businesses that receive this treatment from using online tools to collect donations, and grab tax exemption away from churches and charities, one can only hope that liberal columnists prove to object to government oppression, not just reference to oppression from the past.
UPDATE (7/2/15 2:35 p.m.)
In response to the suggestion that I didn’t do an adequate job presenting Fitzpatrick’s objection to Whitehouse above, here’s another statement from the 2009 column, which was what Fitzpatrick put forward as the summary of his criticism in his tweet:
But in the end, Whitehouse only added to that toxicity. He accused the Republicans of going too far and, in the next breath, he went too far himself. Quoting Lord Acton and using vivid literary allusions didn’t save him from venturing down the well-worn path that ends with someone accusing an adversary of being like the Nazis.
I didn’t exclude this paragraph to downplay Fitzpatrick’s criticism of the senator; I just didn’t see that it added anything not covered in my descriptions or quotations. The context also brushes away much of the criticism. The paragraph before quotes somebody who liked Whitehouse’s outburst (as pushback against Republican “toxicity,” and the paragraph after notes references inappropriate Nazi references by Lyndon LaRouce (not labeled as a Democrat, though) and Rush Limbaugh.