Thursday, May 03, 2007

S 59 Debate: 'Pressions

I don't feel qualified to assess the political strategy involved, but the intellectual terms of National's capitulation on Sue Bradford's bill are depressing.
John Key apparently accepts that smacking your child is currently assault, and hence that S 59 is simply about adjudicating criminal responsibility for an offence. That's false. He also appears to accept Chester Borrows's buttressing view (which is quite at odds with S 59 let alone the vast majority of NZ-ers) that smacking is at best a mistake and a human frailty for which parents should not be harshly treated.
One has to hand it to Bradford, Clark, Public Address, No Right Turn, Just Left,.... Get a very substantive anti-smacking, or anti-(x≥smacking) bill passed while
  1. Denying that that's what you're doing (and decrying anyone who says that that's what you're doing as hysterical, and that instead you're really only anti-(x>>smacking)), and
  2. Fending off all compromises that would have narrowly tailored a smacking exception (an anti-(x>smacking) bill) as incompatible with your anti-(x≥smacking)/all-physical-punishment-is abusive/bad-parenting/human-rights-violating etc. views
Getting away with either 1 or 2 would be an achievement, but getting away with both at the same time is little short of amazing. I'm impressed in roughly the same way that I was impressed by the Bush admin. doing what it wanted on Iraq:
"We'll invade this country, see.... Anyone can do such a thing with lots of international support and lots of good evidence. Then it's easy! We'll do it with no support and no good evidence at all, just because we can. We create our own realities...."
Key and co. are playing what we might call the "Hillary Clinton" role. Whether that's a shrewd accommodation of difficult parliamentary realities, or evidence of soft-headedness in the face of opponents' slipperiness and unscrupulousness, or both remains to be seen.
More on the Iraq comparison: there was a case for invading Iraq, just not the hideous one that the Bush people made. Similarly, there was a reasonable case to be made for repealing S 59, just not the insulting dog's breakfast of lies, smokescreens, ad hominem attacks, genetic fallacies, question-begging, and guilt-by-association reasoning that Bradford et al. have served up. In both cases, any conceivable enthusiasm for the underlying message was utterly destroyed by the duplicity and general vileness of the messengers.

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