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Cass Sunstein: slimed

Posted by Christopher Shea  September 14, 2009 10:53 AM

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When President Obama nominated Cass Sunstein, of Harvard Law School, to be his regulatory "czar," the rumblings of protest were on the left, not the right. No one doubted his credentials, or his brilliance. The objections had to do with whether his views were too friendly to conservatives: In the area of environmental regulation, Sunstein has criticized use of the so-called precautionary principle (if there are any doubts about a pesticide, ban it), calling it hopelessly vague, and endorsed the measured use of cost-benefit analysis, an approach that some environmentalists believe tilts the field in favor of business and undervalues human life. As a constitutional scholar, Sunstein has been critical of liberal overreach. He has advocated an approach he calls "constitutional minimalism": keeping Supreme Court opinions as narrow as possible, to avoid impinging on the prerogatives of Congress.

Yet the Senate approved Sunstein by a vote of only 57-40, with few Republicans voting yes.

Was this because of Sunstein's advocacy, in his recent book "Nudge," of so-called liberal paternalism? Sunstein, for example, suggests requiring workers to opt out of 401(k) plans, rather than requiring them to opt in, so that more of them will save for the future. Some conservatives do object to such proposals, calling them plain old-fashioned paternalism.

"Nudge" surely cost him some votes. But the real issue, writes David Frum, at Newmajority.com, is that Sunstein, in a development few mainstream commentators noticed, had been targeted by the conservative-populist Fox News commentator Glenn Beck. Beck promoted the completely false view that Sunstein was "a disciple" of the controversial Princeton philosopher Peter Singer, an extreme utilitarian who believes that in some cases animal rights trump human rights. Beck and a guest, a researcher with the Center for Consumer Freedom, together said that Sunstein embraced the following views: animals should be able to file lawsuits; it should be legal to "abort" babies up to two years of age; and citizens with dementia should be euthanized. The guest, David Martosko, called Sunstein "a raving animals-rights nut."

"To anyone who knows anything -- anything! -- about what Cass Sunstein has actually written or actually said, it's a travesty and scandal" that U.S. Senators would lend credence to such falsehoods by voting against him, Frum writes.

"And ironically enough, if successful, it would have been a travesty and scandal in which conservatives would find themselves the main victims. Had Cass Sunstein somehow been stopped, the next [Office of Information and Regulatory Policy] nominee would certainly have been less favorable to markets, enterprise, and competition."

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1 comments so far...
  1. Yeah ... Since David Frum is a RINO, anyone he hates is probably okay with me

    Posted by James September 16, 09 11:39 PM
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