In the past, an educated person was defined as one who was trained and skilled in rhetoric. Rhetoric is defined as the assembling of orderly, reasoned argument. In one textbook I used, rhetoric was defined as "the making of knowledge."
Much to the detriment of society, the term rhetoric has come to cover all the noise that issues from the mouths of humans. Consequently, many people think what they hear in the political world is rhetoric. Seldom these days does political discourse rise to the level of real rhetoric. And seldom are people exposed to the exercise of real rhetoric.
Nowhere is that more clear than in the Senate Judicial Committee hearings for Sonia Sotomayor. What Americans are getting a chance to see is crude politics devoid of careful attention to facts and rational argument. They are seeing one side doing a public relations campaign for the candidate, and the other side contriving ways to discredit her.
Maureen Dowd goes to the quick of what is really taking place in the hearings:
A wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not know that a gaggle of white Republican men afraid of extinction are out to trip her up.
After all, these guys have never needed to speak inspirational words to others like them, as Sotomayor has done. They’ve had codes, handshakes and clubs to do that.
The absurdity surrounding Judge Sotomayor is the accusation that her race and her gender and her political affiliations disqualify her from the status of impartiality. Justices Alito and Roberts were nominated to the Supreme Court precisely because they espoused conservative viewpoints and because their biases and political perspectives set an agenda they would follow on the court. Their decisions and opinions as Supreme Court justices demonstrate an unabashed pursuit of a political agenda.
One wonders how many people are fooled into thinking the Senate committee hearings have anything to do with anything but the petty squabbling that our democracy has devolved into. One wonders if the news will ever again reflect a serious consideration of real issues.