Monday, October 10, 2005

Dobson's Acknowledgement of Immorality

On Tuesday, October 4, James Dobson, the founder and leader of the religious conservative organization Focus on the Family, said on his radio program, "When you know some of the things that I know, that I probably shouldn't know, that take me in this direction, you will understand why I have said with fear and trepidation, why I have said that I believe that Harriet Miers will be a good justice.”

There is no way to understand the terms "shouldn’t" in this case to refer to anything other than a moral claim. Dobson is saying nothing less than that, "I learned something that I would not have learned if everybody else had done their moral duty."

This has a number of further implications that we will get to shortly.

The speculation is that the person who gave Dobson the information he probably should not know was Senior White House Advisor Karl Rove, though this is speculative. He was talking about being pressured to discuss conversations with Rove when he made the comment about “things that I know that I probably shouldn’t know.”

Dobson certainly knows of at least one immoral act that took place. He said so.

Furthermore, he senses that it was wrong for him to have this information. Again, he said so when he said that this information was probably something he should not know.

Furthermore, Dobson does not seem even a little bit upset that somebody did something that they ought not to do. He does not seem to be concerned that a wrong had been committed. In fact, he seems almost happy at the fact, and certainly shows no interest in correcting these wrongs by seeing that the wrong-doers get punished.

From this, we can infer that Dobson's moral character is that of a person who does not care if an immoral act is committed as long as it advances a project of his. In this, he certainly is not presenting himself as a paradigm of moral virtue he claims to uphold.

So, now, we have strong reason to suspect that somebody in the Bush administration (perhaps Rove) has been giving out information that they probably should not be giving out, and that Dobson knows about this, and is aware that it is probably wrong.

We need to ask about the nature of what Dobson knows.

We know that some of what Dobson probably should not know leads him to believe that Harriet Miers would probably be a ‘good justice,’ using Dobson’s concept of a ‘good justice’. This means somebody who will put the 10 Commandments above the 10 Amendments, and the Bible above the Constitution.

We have no reason to believe that Dobson learned that, "Harriet Miers is a fair and impartial lawyer who will judge each case on its merits and not try to legislate from the bench." This is not the type of information that Dobson ought not to know.

In fact, we can be relatively confident that, whatever Dobson was told, he was not given an argument that aims to prove that Miers was the best qualified in terms of credentials and impartial personality to be a member of the Supreme Court. There is simply no reason to keep this type of information secret.

We also know that the-fact-that-should-not-be-known turned Dobson into a supporter of Harriet Miers. What type of fact-that-should-not-be-known could have had this type of effect? The most reasonable option is that Dobson learned that his own social agenda can be advanced further and faster with Miers on the Supreme Court than with any other candidate. He knows that with Meirs on the Supreme Court, he is that much closer to claiming victory in establishing his political agenda. This seems the only cause that could have had this particular effect.

So, we have reason to believe that a wrong has been done. Dobson knows that a what was done was probably wrong, and that he does not care because the wrong will likely advance his political agenda. We know that this probable wrong concerns Harriet Miers, and that as a result of this wrong Dobson is more confident that Miers will not be far and impartial in hearing cases that come before her, but instead will be partial towards supporting Dobson and his political agenda.

Either that or he is lying (which also does not say anything favorable about Dobson’s moral character).

If we have reason to believe that Harriet Meirs' approval will complete some immoral activity -- even if we do not know what that activity is, then we have reason to oppose the nomination of Harriet Miers on moral grounds. We have reason to see to it that immoral activities not reach a successful conclusion -- particularly immoral activities that as one of their objectives the placement of a particular person in a position as powerful as Supreme Court Judge.

This is not a trial. This is not a case where we must assume that a person is innocent unless proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In this case, we do not have to go beyond reasonable doubt; reason to doubt alone is good enough.

Speaking politically, I do not think that Harriet Miers’ withdrawal will do any good. Evangelicals want Bush to nominate a judge with bona fide conservative credentials – somebody who is on the record as saying the things that they want to hear. They want Bush to nominate a candidate that the Democrats cannot support. They want to force a battle, because they think that they can win and defeat the battered forces of liberalism, giving them even fuller control over America.

This is likely what will happen if Harriet Miers is defeated.

Yet, politics is not my realm of expertise. I am concerned with ethics. In that realm, Dobson has proved that he is a person of poor moral character, willing to support and participate in actions he knows to be wrong in order to promote his agenda. A wrong action is, by definition, an action that a person of good moral character would not support, yet Dobson supports them.

There is one additional fact regarding Miers’ nomination that should be defeated. Since Bush started to be attacked on the right for naming Miers to the court, he and the rest of the administration has sought to defend his choice. However, they have not done so by showing Miers’ excellent legal qualifications to do the job. Rather, the evidence they have offered as proof that Miers should have the job primarily concerns her religious stand. Miers’ should be a Supreme Court Judge because she is a born-again Christian, as if this is a requirement for office.

In short, when an American citizen stands before a Bush-appointed judge, he should plan his case with less reliance on statute and the Constitution, and more reliance on the bible, in proving his actions right or wrong. Because the judges he appoints are not expected to know the law and the Constitution as much as they are expected to know (Bush’s interpretation of) scripture.

Knowledge of scripture seems to have become the only criterion to look at in determining whether an individual is qualified to be named as a judge.


Anonymous said...


Greetings from a new reader; I'm very much appreciating your nuanced and balanced analysis of ethical issues. I share your interest in this area. You don't shy away from taking as much time and using as much text as you need to cover the pertinent angles. Kudos.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Dobson considers moral issues like abortion to be far more important than the fact that someone told him something they shouldn't have?

If that is the case, then maybe he ought not be so worried about someone giving him this info. Abortion overrides the issue of knowing things he shouldn't by many orders of magnitude.

And at least he said acknowledged that he "shouldn't" know what he knew. He didn't have to say anything like that, and the fact that he did shows that he thinks in terms of right and wrong. He just thinks receiving this info is secondary to the importance of abortion-- like lying to protect an inncocent person from being hurt or murdered.

That he thinks in moral terms may be a good thing. And he's thinking morally about what I consider to be something very minor i.e., someone told him "Don't worry, James, she's pro-life." What a crime! Give me a break. And just for the record, I am an atheist and I think Dobson a goofball of the highest order. This just looks like you're repenting for defending Bill Bennett.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Anonymous #2:

I trust that Dobson believed that he was doing the right thing, and that any 'wrong' that was done was justified in service to an even greater good.

In fact, i think it is difficult to find anybody who does not think that their immoral actions were justified by some sort of greater good.

However, in a democracy, we agree that even though we disagree on policy, we agree to certain rules that we will not break in the pursuit of that policy -- that there are certain policial means that cannot be justified by the policy ends.

Dobson's statement suggests that this is the type of rule that was broken -- a rule about proper and improper ways of securing a political victory.

If Dobson believes that there are no improper ways of securing a political victory, this is a problem in its own right.