Thursday, August 27, 2009

"Meretricious"


The Non Sequitur takes on George Will's Kennedy eulogy. The quote at issue,
Kennedy's second-most memorable speech, a remarkably meretricious denunciation of Robert Bork, demonstrated the merely contingent connection between truth and rhetorical potency.
The use of a term like "meretricious" is, I think, intended by Will to disguise the true meaning of his statement. If you read older case law, particularly family law cases, you'll see references to "meretricious relationships". If you don't know what the word means, you could glide right past it, or even think it's a compliment... "He said something about Kennedy's speech having merit".

Whatever excuses the Post throws up from time to time about not editing its columnists, do you think the editorial would have gone to print in that form had Will described Kennedy's speech as "whore-like", rather than hiding behind an equivalent but less obvious term?

5 comments:

  1. Once Will's true meaning is derived, does his comment have merit?

    CWD

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  2. Bork would have been, in my opinion, an atrociously bad justice. Will seems to think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread. So to that extent, it's a matter of opinion. Although I think Bork's last decade of rants supports my position and completely undermines Will's.

    But if the accusation is one of whoring, the question is raised, for whom does Will think Kennedy was whoring? If what he really means to say is that Kennedy's comment was out of line and wrong, his choice of words was wholly inappropriate. If he actually meant what he wrote, he should have the backbone to identify the person or interests for whom he claims Kennedy was prostituting himself.

    Can you identify a beneficiary?

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  3. The quote boy must have been out sick that day.

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  4. re: Bork - I've always kind of thought that Bork went nuts as a result of being "Borked" not that he was always like that or would have been like that if he made the court, but I (obviously) don't know for sure.

    re: For whome did Kennedy whore? I've always thought that Kennedy served only his own ego, so you've got me on that one. I suppose you could make some sort of argument that he "sold out his principals" or some such blather, but hey, he was a politician. If you meant in the context of the quote - I would guess that Will was talking about Kennedy selling out his principles (by launching unfair attacks) in order to pander to Bork's opponents on the left - but that is only a guess.

    re: Can I identify a benificiary of Kennedy's whoring? No - see above.

    CWD

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  5. If Kennedy's comments on Bork were consistent with his principles, and there's no other conceivable beneficiary, then even by the most convoluted interpretation of the term there's no "whoring".

    I guess it's fun to say that Bork went mad because he was rejected for the Supreme Court, but that again would only serve to evidence how ill-suited he was for the Court. If his psyche truly was that fragile....

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