A reader sends this NYTimes analysis along, saying it points to “the danger of epistemological closure.” Why? Look:
With the Supreme Court likely to render judgment on President Obama’s health care law this week, the White House and Congress find themselves in a position that many advocates of the legislation once considered almost unimaginable.
In passing the law two years ago, Democrats entertained little doubt that it was constitutional. The White House held a conference call to tell reporters that any legal challenge, as one Obama aide put it, “will eventually fail and shouldn’t be given too much credence in the press.”
Congress held no hearing on the plan’s constitutionality until nearly a year after it was signed into law. Representative Nancy Pelosi, then the House speaker, scoffed when a reporter asked what part of the Constitution empowered Congress to force Americans to buy health insurance. “Are you serious?” she asked with disdain. “Are you serious?”
Opponents of the health plan were indeed serious, and so was the Supreme Court, which devoted more time to hearing the case than to any other in decades. A White House that had assumed any challenge would fail now fears that a centerpiece of Mr. Obama’s presidency may be partly or completely overturned on a theory that it gave little credence. The miscalculation left the administration on the defensive as its legal strategy evolved over the last two years.
Adversaries said the law’s proponents had been too attentive to liberal academics who shaped public discussion. “There’s very little diversity in the legal academy among law professors,” said Randy E. Barnett, a Georgetown University law professor and a leading thinker behind the challenge. “So they’re in an echo chamber listening to people who agree with them.”
Read the whole thing. The administration may, of course, prevail (the ruling could come as early as Monday). But the idea that there couldn’t possibly be a rational objection to what the administration and its legal advisers wanted to believe is telling. I thought the left was always about pushing for “diversity” to bring in alternate viewpoints? Might have helped to have had some conservative legal scholars in the room when the policy was being devised, you think?
UPDATE: On the same theme, Walter Russell Mead, noting that the Saudis just executed a man for witchcraft, says the US would be wise to allow for the fact that there are plenty of people in this world who believe that witchcraft is a real and powerful force in human affairs:
When formulating our foreign policy, we must take into account the fact that many of our interlocutors believe utterly absurd things and are willing to act upon them. Simplistically projecting our own Western sensibilities onto international actors is not a basis for sound geopolitical strategy. We must rather take seriously the values and conceptual systems of those we wish to engage diplomatically if for no other reason than to understand how they will perceive and respond to our acts.
Second, incidents like these remind us what real theocratic bigotry looks like. Jumpy American liberals who see theocracy behind every Mormon temple, Baptist convention or Catholic church are as ridiculous and over the top in their way as the Saudi witch hunters are in theirs. Both groups whip themselves into frenzies of terror over imaginary threats; both groups make ridiculous accusations; both groups mistake shadows for truth.