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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

You can stop holding your breath: Esenberg speaks!

by folkbum

Seriously. Make Plaisted was about to turn blue. Luckily, he can let it all out in a fit of laughter. The collective liberal-Cheddarspherean impatience was prompted by Rick Esenberg's initial silence over the Michael Gableman Supreme Court ad I discussed here over the weekend; Esenberg's response came last night.

Sometimes I feel bad for Rick; he's a genuinely nice man and certainly one of the smartest people on the conservative side of the blogging aisle. But he's also their resident legal expert, the one whom the rest of the conservative Cheddarsphere counts on to set the tone for discussion of legal issues. That's a lot of pressure. Moreover, while he continues to insist that he has not endorsed anyone in the present Supreme Court campaign, he's been so in the bag for anti-Louis Butler forces that we pro-Butler bloggers find his neutrality dance laughable--some more colorfully so than others. But reading between the lines, I also don't think he cares much for Gableman, but of course he cannot say so--because of that very in-the-bagness.

In short, I do not envy him his position.

Esenberg does not defend the Gableman ad (the only defense I have seen came from Brian Fraley, who in the process seems to decide that defendants should not have defense attorneys; for his sake, I hope he's never arrested), and in fact uses some strong terms to denounce it:
I am very disappointed that the campaign ran that ad. If the point of the ad is that criminal defense lawyers are "unsafe" as judges, it works against one of the presuppositions of our adversarial system of justice (albeit a presupposition that the general public tends to be uncomfortable with). [. . .] I have nothing to do with the Gableman campaign, but I would have rather strongly counseled against this ad.
I have no problem with that. But before condemning the Gableman ad, Esenberg first has to take a detour and get het up about a pro-Butler ad (Wigderson calls this the "Bullock Rule"):
The Greater Wisconsin Committee has put out an ad criticizing Gableman for not obtaining sufficiently weighty sentences as a prosecutor and pronouncing insufficiently weighty sentences as a judge. I haven't caught any bloggers on the left objecting to the ad which would have made them all apoplectic had it been directed at the incumbent. How can we possibly tell whether these defendants deserved more? You can't assess the propriety of an outcome without some background. The disingenuous nature of the ad is magnified by the fact that the Greater Wisconsin Committee--funded by trial lawyers, unions and casinos--has absolutely no interest in electing someone who is "tough on crime.
Yes, you read that right: Esenberg is taking a group to task for making soft-on-crime ads. Now, he did criticize the Coalition for America's Families (once, twice) for their Butler's-soft-on-crime ads, which is commendable; but when he did so, Esenberg criticized their accuracy--he did not damn them for existing at all, as he seems to here with the GWC ad.

Moreover, Esenberg does not note that the soft/tough-on-crime conversation was started by Gableman and his enablers at CAF and the WMC. It seems to me that if Gableman is going to tout his own tough-on-crime credentials and disparage his opponent on that front, he opens himself up to criticism in that vein. When he claims to have prosecuted arson, it seems reasonable for his opposition to point out that he prosecuted exactly one arsonist who was acquitted at trial. Or that for all his scary sex-offender talk about Butler, Gableman as a judge seemed to go pretty light on the sex offenders.

But what really made me laugh--that great exhalation of the breath we'd been holding--was the last part of Esenberg's criticism of the GWC ad, about its "disingenuous nature." Puh-lease. Is he trying to tell me that Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce--pushing the Butler's-soft-on-crime schtick--has as its primary consideration the handful of criminal cases before the Court every term? Does he think the the big-business money-men behind CAF (like industrialist Terry Kohler) are most concerned about sex predators? Riiiight. The response from WMC defenders is always that WMC wants safe places to do business. Does Esenberg think that union members, casinos, and plaintiff's attorneys would rather have crime-infested places to live and work, that they don't have as much interest as WMC in safety and security? Come on, Rick--that's just ridiculous.

MORE: Pundit Nation.

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