Well, that was quick. Forty-eight hours after the release of “On All of Our Shoulders” — a critique of Paul Ryan’s libertarian tendencies signed by about one hundred fifty Catholic scholars and ministers — Robert P. George took to the First Things website to denounce it as a partisan “attack” on the congressman from Wisconsin, whose running mate, you may recall, George has endorsed and is advising. So he knows from partisanship. George also knows from courageously defending one’s political opponents when they’re unfairly criticized. Just ask him:
When my fellow conservatives and Republicans were beating up on President Obama for his “you didn’t build that” remark, representing him as having claimed that business owners didn’t build their own businesses, the government did it, I spoke out in defense of the President…. It is both wrong in itself and damaging to the spirit of democracy to misrepresent one’s political opponents or interpret their words tendentiously to depict them in the most unfavorable possible light.
Do read his defense of Obama. Keep reading. Did you get to the third paragraph yet? You’re looking for the sentence that follows the one with “Obama has a dangerously inflated view of the proper role of government.” Find it yet? If you hit “this comment of mine is not intended as a defense of what Obama said, much less of his economic and regulatory policies generally,” you’ve gone too far. Here’s what it looks like: “I don’t think it is correct to interpret the ‘that’ in ‘you didn’t build that’ as referring to businesses.” Thank goodness George managed to emerge from the avalanche of criticism he doubtless received for that stirring defense, so we could be reminded that the spirit of democracy is besmirched when we misrepresent our political opponent’s views or interpret them tendentiously in order to cast them in the worst light. We would all do well to heed that advice. Too bad George doesn’t.