>I read the newspaper as I ate my breakfast sausage, as I do every morning. As happens almost every morning, one of the articles made me stop chewing. Usually, I temporarily discontinue eating because I am so outraged by whatever absurdity presented itself, but today I halted to parse language.
The front page of the New York Times proffered a story about one Republican's struggle with his party over the Sotomayor nomination. It said:
He quickly challenged the standing of the judge’s critics, like former Speaker Newt Gingrich, noting that they were not Republican officeholders and held no real responsibility for passing judgment on President Obama’s choice for the court.
“We are going to treat this nominee with the respect that she is entitled to,” Mr. Cornyn said in an interview this week.
There is important nuance in this sentence. To say that they will treat Sotomayor with "the respect that she is entitled to" is a lot different from saying that they will treat her with respect, period. It means that if they decide that they don't like her or her views, she is not entitled, as a human being, to respect. Respect is absolutely not the default, and they have the right to revoke it at any time.
Some time ago, I wrote about the phrase, "with all due respect," because I noticed that any time someone (including me) used it, it meant that the speaker accorded the person she addressed no respect because none was merited as due. However, whatever is said is somehow considered less rude since the speaker threw in the meaningless clause, "with all due respect." Cornyn's comment is a lot like that because he can credit for being civil, while not actually committing to do so. Very clever.
Tell it to them, Aretha!