Lessons Sen McCain has learned from Pres Bush—part I
Sen. John McCain has officially earned an A in Prof. Bush's course on Tort Reform Tropes, 101. Maybe that's why they're embracing in this photo (source).
The Senator and presumed Republican party Presidential nominee spoke in Rochester, Mich., the other day. (Thanks, Matt at ThinkProgress, for pointing out and analyzing McCain’s statements and his track record on women's rights).
According to the Washington Post:
Although the Michigan audience was largely supportive, cheering McCain's pledge to provide easy health care access for veterans, the meeting started out with a few tough questions. McCain singled out a 14-year-old girl who questioned why he opposes eliminating the statute of limitations on lawsuits over workplace discrimination, arguing it amounted to opposing "equal rights for women."
"If you eliminate the statutes of limitations, and you make it unending, you may be violating the rights of the individuals who are being sued, whether they're a man or a woman," the senator responded. " I don't think you're doing anything to help the rights of women, except maybe help trial lawyers and others in that profession." (My emphasis added)
Haven't we heard this before? It's déja-vu all over again. McCain is using the same tactics Bush used to get elected: when in doubt, blame the trial lawyers.
When faced with a tough question about why people are being denied access to justice, say it's because that's the only way to stop the trial lawyers. Oh, and this will work no matter how inherently flawed, inane, or even insane your argument is at its substance. And for good measure you can sprinkle in some references to "evil in this world" to appeal to peoples' morals, thus creating the inference that all of your political stances are directed at combating that evil.
McCain's appeal to the breached rights of individual employers is strained from the start. First, the law does not create an unending statute of limitations--it clarifies that the statute starts running afresh with every new discriminatory act, such as the issuance of an inequitable paycheck based upon discrimination. Second, the defendant in employment discrimination claims is often a corporation and not an individual.
But even in cases in which the defendant is an individual, what is the right which McCain asserts is being violated? Is it the right not to be sued for discriminating against someone without getting caught within 180 days, even if you then discriminate over and over again after the 180 days are up? Even if it can be more cleverly articulated than this, does McCain really think one can compare the obstruction of some unsavory interest in evading responsibility to the infringement of a highly cherished right not to be victimized by discrimination and economic injustice? That's ridiculous.
So, McCain's not smarter than a twelve year old... but neither was Bush, and he got elected. The rhetoric works.
The "trial lawyers are evil" mantra addresses none of the values McCain touted in his speech to the Michigan audience. He told supporters that "evil still exists in the world" and "assails the great, animating truths we believe to be self-evident -- that all people have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- by subjecting countless human beings to abuse, persecution and even slavery." He observed that the "failure to [confront this evil] affects even those who are complacent with our own blessings and secure in our human rights," and pointed to this country's founding "belief in the inherent dignity of all human life [which] can only be preserved through shared respect and shared responsibility."
Of course that sounds great, but a true belief in those words would require McCain to recognize that discrimination is a form of persecution, and that the court system is a way for individuals to demand the "respect we are morally obliged to pay each other." As someone unlikely to face workplace discrimination, he would nonetheless feel called to confront the evil of discrimination and economic inequity. And his call for "shared respect and shared responsibility" would compel him to acknowledge the assault to human dignitiy that is an unvindicated act of discrimination.
But it appears as though McCain has learned from Bush that matching your professed values with the political decisions you make would be no good at all. After all, It might help the trial lawyers.