11 Feb 2008

And Those Supreme Court Seats We Keep Hearing About…

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Andrew C. McCarthy identifies the key flaw in the most popular Pro-McCain argument.

I have not supported Sen. McCain. I admire his perseverance and love of country. Still, I don’t think he is a committed conservative, and his penchant for demonizing all opposition is, to me, extremely off-putting. Protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, there’s nothing delusional about that.

In fact, as between the two of us, it’s McCain’s supporters who are deluding themselves. I take them at their word, for example, that a hallmark of the senator’s politics is his tenacity on matters of principle. Consequently, I am skeptical of his assurances that he would appoint conservative judges who will apply rather than create law. Why? Because he has a recent, determined history of beseeching federal courts to disregard the First Amendment in furtherance of a dubious campaign-finance scheme in which he believes passionately. Conservative judges would (and have) rejected this scheme, just as they would (and have) rejected another signature McCain position: the extension of Geneva Convention protections for jihadists.

Now, the appointment of conservative judges is a crucial issue — one McCain posits as central to why we should prefer him to Obama and Clinton. Thus supporters breezily wave off such concerns, maintaining that McCain both promises there will be no issue-based litmus tests for judicial nominees and has conservatives of impeccable legal credentials advising him.

But for me to conclude McCain would surely appoint conservative judges, I also have to believe campaign-finance and the Geneva Convention weren’t all that big a deal to him after all — a possibility that runs counter to everything McCain’s fans tell us about his fidelity to principle.

Read the whole thing.

McCarthy is perfectly right.

Throughout his Senate career, John McCain has demonstrated an eagerness for the good opinion of the media representatives of the establishment elect. He has been steadfastly acritical of simple-minded policies nostrums and violently hostile to theory. Why would anyone suppose that John McCain would suddenly break with the New York Times’ editorial page and start appointing controversial judges likely to roll back what the Times considers progress, including some of his own landmark legislation?

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The Apostate

Shall we move from the world of prophecy and into the world of reason? The notion of expected value serves us well here, where E, the expected value, is the sum of the products of the value and cost and their probabilities.

E = Pr(V) + Pr(C)

For simplicity, let’s define the Value V of appointing conservative judges as 1 and the Cost C of appointing left-wing loons as -1.

First, consider the Obama/Hillary expected value, OHE

OHE = 0.0(1) + 1.0(-1)
OHE – -1

Being generous to the critics, let’s assume that the probability of McCain appointing conservative judges is only 0.5.
I think that’s fair, since no one really knows; a flip o’ the proverbial coin. A cipher.

ME = 0.5(1) + 0.5(-1) = 0

Zero is a better outcome than -1. I’ll go with the odds.

On the other hand, if Mr McCarthy’s crystal ball can also predict winning stocks and the Kentucky Derby, I’d like his mobile number.



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