Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Eugene "Draconian" Robinson

Eugene Robinson really likes the word "draconian." I've discussed his use of the word before, the origin of the word, and why liberal-type pundits favor it when discussing things like spending cuts:
The term "draconian," by the way, derives from Draco. No, not Draco Malfoy. Draco was an Athenian, living in the 7th century BCE, who was tasked with compiling the first written law code of Athens. By all accounts--the actual code is no longer extant--the punishments established by this code were harsh. Thus, "draconian" came to refer to overly harsh laws.
The term has since been appropriated to refer to anything one might deem harsh or severe; using "draconian" instead of harsh, however, invokes the sense of punishment. Thus, the reason for its now-common usage among the enlightened ones: spending cuts are equated with punishment. Who is being punished? Why the common folk, of course.
But the original usage--calling laws draconian--still gets a lot of play. With the Supreme Court decision on the Arizona Immigration Laws having been handed down, there has been a flurry of commentary and posturing by pundits on both sides. Initially, there was much rejoicing on the Left, as it appeared the Court had ruled mostly in favor of the Administration. But the realization crept in that the "worst" element of the legislation remained: the requirement for State officers to check the immigration status of people detained for criminal activity or potential activity. Luckily, the Administration came to the rescue by essentially saying it would not honor requests for such info unless its agencies deemed such actions necessary (translation: fee free to ask if Fred is illegal, but we're not gonna tell you, so there!).

It's school yard braggadocio to be sure (by the way, I like the word "braggadocio," but at least I know how to use it properly). And Obama fanboys--like Mr. Robinson--are thrilled to death with this step. But I digress. Back to the draconian world. Robinson calls the legislation "Arizona's draconian statute" and he refers to the portion the Court refused to overturn as "the most notorious section of the Arizona law." Yet, he's happy with the decision. He's at pains to cast it as "win" for the enlightened elites (like himself). Funny stuff.

But here's a serious question: what about the law is actually draconian? For as I noted above, draconian is about the punishment, not the specific action being made illegal. The answer: nothing. The Arizona law relied almost entirely on Federal penalties, with the addition of a mere misdemeanor charge on top of Federal charges. For someone here illegally, such a charge is--or should be--superfluous at best. And of course, as has been widely reported, this is the real issue: the failure of the Federal Government to enforce laws already "on the books."

If one feels expelling illegal aliens from the country is wrong, then it's the Federal statutes that should be labelled as draconian, not the Arizona ones.

Regardless, here are some more draconian excerpts from Mr. Robinson:
Arizona's draconian new immigration law is an abomination -- racist, arbitrary, oppressive, mean-spirited, unjust.--E. Robinson, April 27, 2010

Sucking that much money out of discretionary programs would require draconian cuts in programs, such as education grants, that both red states and blue states have come to depend on.--E. Robinson, September 24, 2010

With so little new revenue, we would need to make Draconian cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security that would radically alter the social contract in this country.--E. Robinson, November 24, 2011

Healthy economic growth would shrink the debt problem over time, even without draconian belt-tightening.--E. Robinson, August 5, 2011

But Obama is right that the cuts would be Draconian – and he's right to insist that House Republicans face reality.--E. Robinson, July 6, 2011
I could go on--there are plenty of additional examples--but you get the point. The word is a crutch for Mr. Robinson, he uses it as a substitute for substantive analysis. And more often than not, he uses it to refer to spending cuts, which in his world are draconian just because they are cuts. This point can't be understated: there are no lines drawn by Mr. Robinson--or pretty much anyone else talking about the issue--wherein a proposed cut becomes draconian. Just the fact that it's a cut makes it draconian as a matter of definition. And of course, that's just stupid.

By the way, some readers might have noticed that sometimes draconian is capitalized in the above quotes--taken directly from Mr. Robinson's articles--and sometimes it is not. Just as a point of information, it's a matter of preference for the editor/writer; both ways are acceptable.

Cheers, all.

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