- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 23, 2005

We’ve come to expect zealotry on the left in the campaign to derail the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court, and in the superheated partisan atmosphere prevailing in Washington it’s probably unrealistic to expect good humor. These guys not only can’t take a joke, they can’t recognize one.

The Washington Post analyzed 38,000 pages of documents covering Judge Roberts’ tenure as associate counsel to President Reagan (1982-85). Such a task might boggle even a nimble and well-meaning mind, but The Post concluded that its analysis demonstrated that Judge Roberts “consistently opposed legal and legislative attempts to strengthen women’s rights during his years as a legal adviser in the Reagan White House, disparaging what he called ‘the purported gender gap’ and, at one point, questioning ‘whether encouraging homemakers to become lawyers contributes to the common good.’ ”

Since “the lawyer joke” is perhaps the most widely appreciated humor in America, you might think that anyone could recognize one. This particular memorandum was written for the eyes of Linda Chavez, who was then the White House director of public liaison. She was not offended. Who would be? Well, the ladies at the National Organization for Women, where humor is taboo. When The Post sought comment in those quarters, Kim Gandy, the president of NOW, gave the expected Pavlovian response: “Oh. Wow! Good heavens! I find it quite shocking that a young lawyer, as he was at the time, had such Neanderthal ideas about women’s place.”

Mrs. Chavez, who is now the president for the Center for Equal Opportunity and a newspaper columnist who is not difficult to find, was apparently not asked what she thought then, or now. She responded, anyway: “John Roberts’ comment in that one memorandum … was obviously a joke at the expense of lawyers, not a sexist slam. It is ludicrous to suppose that Mr. Roberts would make a sexist remark to the person who was, after all, then the highest ranking woman on the White House staff — and a working mom to boot.”

White House spokesman Steve Schmidt was, in fact, allowed to remark that the remark was “a lawyer joke,” but only in the 18th paragraph of The Post’s “analysis.” The campaign to Bork the nominee is not gaining altitude, and humorlessness may be the only weapon available to NOW, The Post and whomever else can be recruited for the shootout. But dueling with pop-guns loaded with blanks won’t make a very interesting fight.

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