This week's Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Samuel Alito appear to have given rise to a new sport in the blogosphere: Whack-A-Pol.
Here's how the game is played: Every time a senator pops up with a comment on Alito, bloggers whack 'em down with a rhetorical hammer. But unlike the game Whack-A-Mole, where the nimble moles often avoid the blows by ducking into their holes, no senator -- regardless of party or popularity outside the realm of mouth-to-mouth combat over judicial nominations -- can escape the jabs of bloggers. Even worse, bloggers tend to prefer hammers of the sledge variety to the padded pummeling tools used on those carnival rodents.
This is what the state of political discourse has come to in the US – obfuscation through name calling, hyperbole and straw man bashing.
Read the potshot John Aravosis of Americablog took at Lindsey Graham, for instance. Aravosis apparently once thought that Graham might be different from his colleagues, but then he heard the South Carolina Republican address the issue of court reviews of "enemy combatants" being held in the war against terrorism.
"I'm disappointed to see that he has an evil, dishonest, political side just like most Republicans in town," Aravosis said.
What we call those people shooting at Americans in Iraq is CLEARLY more important than the policies that drive why we are actually in Iraq, what we are going to do while we are there and when we actually get to come home.
That dig was tame compared with the one Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of Daily Kos leveled at Tom Coburn, R-Okla. "OK, Tom Coburn really IS a loon," he wrote after Coburn ranted about sodomy, prostitution and abortion.
Armando, another Daily Kos contributor, dismissed "Box Turtle Cornyn" -- that's John Cornyn, R-Texas -- as a mouthpiece for the Republican Party line.
Nothing that they say is important because they are crazy ignorant assholes that only do what Bush tells them to do. None of this tells me what they said or why it’s wrong. The non-partisan reader must just take their word for it because they are obviously smarter than the rest of us, right?
Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters called Russ Feingold a "jerk" for his "outright insulting" suggestion that Alito may have been prepped for the hearings a bit too much by White House staff.
Or perhaps Russ is serving his constituents by trying to ascertain whether we are getting a White House mole or a living, breathing independent jurist. I think that is an important question for partisans on both sides of the aisle and Feingold should be commended for aggressively pursuing that line of questioning. It sure beats the preening and posturing that we have gotten from the rest of the Senators.
What it all comes down to is the reality that many bloggers (and many Americans, according to polls) just don't respect members of Congress.
I certainly don’t trust them, but for many of the same behaviors that bloggers have been showing – grandstanding, preening, demagoguery that skirts the actual issues and perpetuates an “Us vs. Them” philosophy. Instead of assisting the Senators in skirting the real issues bloggers should be digging deeper and finding the meanings in between the words that are said. The name calling isn’t telling us whether or not Alito is going to make a good judge or not, discussing whether his answer about why Freedom of Speech is readily apparent in the Constitution and why a “Right to Abortion” is not just may get us there.