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People can have pretty bad takes sometimes.
I’d count myself among that number. In hindsight, a few of my past columns in these august pages didn’t land well. I’m not going to cite them in hopes that they stay where they presently lie.
Fortunately, I’m not the only person to have written a dumb column or offered a foolish opinion. Last week saw several come to light.
The most prominent was written by Mr. Joseph Epstein in the Wall Street Journal. The gist? He argued that Jill Biden, the first Lady- apparent, should not use the prefix “Doctor” while residing in the White House. Because she is not an M.D. (or a D.O.), but rather a “mere” Ed.D., Doctor of Education.
Giving Mr. Epstein the benefit of every doubt, let’s assume it was an attempt at humor.
It failed miserably.
If someone earns a doctoral degree, then they have earned the “doctor” designation. Period. And Dr. Jill Biden, if she so desires, should be known by her earned title.
Mr. Epstein’s real argument seems to be that the academic rigor underlying academic doctorates has dropped precipitously. Maybe he has a point. Several studies have shown grade inflation in undergraduate programs; could de-rigor have become de rigueur in postgraduate education as well?
That would be an interesting take.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone, left wing commentators (and at least one congressman, Rep. Bill Pascarell of New Jersey) have seized on an even more silly argument. They suggest that 126 duly-elected congressmen and senators should be summarily discharged from federal office. Why?
Here’s their story: 126 Republican senators and representatives signed an amicus brief supporting the Texas’ lawsuit against Pennsylvania and other states filed directly with the Supreme Court.
Because Texas requested the court halt the casting of electoral ballots in the defendant states, those GOP officials were conspiring to overthrow the United States. And therefore, under the Fourteenth Amendment, they are disqualified from holding federal office.
Again, we’ll have to assume this is some remarkably lame attempt at humor. Like Epstein’s, it failed.
Texas’ lawsuit was a long shot, to say the very least. It had virtually no chance of success. And the Supreme Court — including apparently Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — summarily rejected it.
But accusations of “sedition” against officials for supporting it are asinine. The Constitution provides for a judicial branch where people can take their disputes. The courts then “say what the law is.”
If elected GOP members start arguing that the Supreme Court should be ignored? Then we can try to have a rational conversation about “sedition” and its boundaries.
Yet, the same way Epstein’s commentary attempts to devalue the legitimacy of Jill Biden’s doctorate, Pascarell’s “sedition” argument tries to turn a legal and political dispute into treason.
Both are pretty bad takes.
With luck, as 2020 comes to a close, we can turn a page in our political discourse. There are plenty of areas where people can strongly disagree with each other. That’s fine. In fact, it’s healthy; robust debate helps remedy weak thinking, and getting governmental police right takes work.
However, belittling a woman’s educational achievement adds no value. Accusing elected officials of treason for going to court distracts from legitimate threats to our nation.
Here’s to decent takes in 2021. They can’t get much worse.
Michael Cianchette is a Navy reservist who served in Afghanistan. He is in-house counsel to a number of businesses in southern Maine and was a chief counsel to former Gov. Paul LePage.