The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Commentary November 4, 2005

The Wankery Report

Welcome, readers, to the first-ever Wankery Report. As a highly-successful blogger whose website receives a minimum of two visitors per day (myself, and some other person who, more often than not, finds it via a Google search for “horny nightclubs”) and has won critical accolades from one out of three producers for Natural Born Killers (1994), I hope to bring the Oberlin community a unique or at least somewhat interesting perspective on politics. Not just politics or political science in general; we have programs for that here which provide “critical frameworks” and encourage students to base their study of the subject on “verifiable facts,” “well-grounded arguments” and “analysis.”

No, this column is to deal with punditry, the art that emerged when political thinkers realized that no one cares about verifiable facts and well-grounded arguments and analysis and would instead prefer to hear two men in suits take turns calling the other a “drink-soaked Trotskyist popinjay” and exchanging theories of an apocalyptic culture war between gun-toting pro-life potato farmers and the latte-drinking trust-fund Prius owners that make up the other half of the country, but only after a blowjob scandal brings their attention to politics in the first place.

The British-ism “wankery” will, of course, herein be used interchangeably with “punditry,” while particularly skilled practitioners of the trade will be referred to as “wankers,” per standard practice. Actually, wanker-rooted words will be used as a stand-in for most any derogatory term; get used to it, this focus group-tested shtick is the only thing this column has going for it.


After Bush’s announcement of the nomination of long-time confidante Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, many right-wing commentators were in an uproar:

Neoconservative luminary Bill Kristol announced that he was “disappointed, depressed and demoralized” by the selection of “an unknown and undistinguished figure.” Kristol, of course, is known for his solid support of Ahmad Chalabi, the undistinguished Iraqi expatriate almost entirely unknown within the country (he left at the age of 12) who sought to take over Iraqi leadership from afar and finally did arguably become “distinguished,” albeit as a million-dollar embezzler and leaker of false information to the CIA.

But this is the Supreme Court we’re talking about here, not some silly experiment halfway across the world; decisions could have lasting consequences.

In a use of language that may seem a bit funny to those who’ve waded through one of his New York Times columns decrying “elitism,” David Brooks furthered the “undistinguished” theme, writing of the form and content of Miers’ released body of writings: “[I]t doesn’t even rise to the level of pedestrian.”

Brooks used the indeed rather impenetrable writings as a jumping-off point to a likewise impenetrable attempt to clarify the differences between conservatives, “founded upon the supposition that ideas have consequences” (your guess as to what this means is as good as mine), and Republicans like Miers, who “are more suspicious of intellectuals and ideas” (but not, apparently, in the sense of worrying about an idea’s consequences) and “are as likely to be members of the corporate establishment as the evangelical establishment.” The evangelical establishment is, of course, well-known for its great respect for intellectuals and ideas.

– Jan LaRue, “chief counsel” for Concerned Women for America, which headed up various “withdraw Miers” efforts, voiced her concern as being Miers’s choice of female role models: “Every time she quotes or cites women she admires, they’re to the left of Betty Freidan....We’d prefer to have someone fond of quoting Margaret Thatcher or Antonin Scalia rather than Barbara Streisand and Gloria Steinem.” Scalia, The Wankery Report can assure you, is widely regarded to be a great female thinker, even among groups that don’t publish articles with titles such as “Harry Potter: Seduction of the Occult.”

– Jonah Goldberg, online editor and contributor to the Republican flagship rag National Review, kindly self-imposed a “moratorium on writing about Miers” so as not to offend anyone, only volunteering that “her nomination was a letdown for many conservatives”; those who welcomed a decrease in the volume of Mr. Goldberg’s writings were disappointed when, the next day, he wrote on The National Review’s weblog that he was now “officially against Miers,” after reading an article that confirmed the nominee’s support for racial quotas during her tenure at the Texas Bar Association (it had already been known that she was in favor of non-quota “preferences”).

So, when the administration caved to the opposition of the National Review crowd and others, withdrawing Miers and announcing the nomination of Samuel Alito on Monday, you can be sure how pleased the aforementioned pundits were. NR opened its editorial on the new nomination: “In one respect, Samuel Alito is a more reassuring nominee even than John Roberts was.” Your highly-diligent columnist will admit that he did not read past this sentence, but he’s pretty sure that the “one respect” in question is hardcore wankerism.

Alito co-authored a 1986 Justice Department policy affirming an employer’s right to discriminate against AIDS victims out of “fear of a contagious disease.” He opposed the federal ban on machine guns and supports required spousal (yes, that shouldn’t read “parental”) notification of abortions, called the Family Leave Act, which requires employers to allow workers 12-week unpaid leaves, unconstitutional when even William Rehnquist thought opposite. He could not grasp why females would be in greater need of maternity leave than males.

Sure, he has a strong record of the “constitutionalist” sort of legal interpretation desired by the right and, per the requests of both sides, is presumably more of a coherent writer than Miers, who set a rather low bar. But most important to the success of his nomination, he has solid, straight-up wankery cred, passing the “should you be able to kill your own grandmother if the constitution doesn’t specifically prohibit it?” test with his gavel behind his back.


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