. . . And how it pleased the 'thought cops'! The Arnick Affair

George Dail

February 25, 1993|By George Dail

OVER the past week, Marylanders have had front-row seats on a war waged and won by the state's thought gestapo. While the enemy supposedly was John S. Arnick, the war was really waged against free thought and free public discourse, against people who cry out for fairness and justice.

The methods are always the same: The gestapo screams the theme, the media adopt it and the mindless join the chorus: "The man is a bigot. He's a racist, an antisemite, and, most important, he hates gays and women."

Thus, John Arnick was damned, his bid for tenure as a District Court judge shattered. The thought gestapo, the media, and the mindless mob won another one. None cared that Mr. Arnick's record of public service was unblemished. None cared that he had helped pass legislation proposed by the thought cops. None cared that he had represented his constituents well.

What they cared about was simple: power. In this and all examples of wanton disregard for the rights the thought gestapo claims to defend, the goal was the demonstration of political power. John Arnick was there, and he was vulnerable.

Mr. Arnick is neither a friend nor an associate of mine. I did meet him some 20 years ago at a gathering of politicos, hangers-on and movers and shakers in Dundalk. The topic of conversation was legislation, which at that time was of great importance to several of those in attendance. I was there by accident, having been invited by a friend.

Uncharacteristically, I played mouse, kept my mouth shut and paid attention. Insults were exchanged freely, and some who weren't at the meeting also were insulted. As we left, I said to my friend, "Arnick is a pompous, arrogant, egotistical bastard." I remember the exact words, because my friend laughed at my choice of language then and reminded me of my remark again last week.

Over the 20 years since that meeting, I've watched John Arnick's career closely. I've marveled at how anyone could have voted for him. I've decided he must be a brilliant lawyer; no sane client would countenance Mr. Arnick's arrogance if he weren't providing excellent service.

But pomposity, arrogance and egoism were not the reasons Mr. Arnick was deprived of his seat on the bench. Indeed, a judge needs some of these characteristics to succeed and keep his sanity.

No, Mr. Arnick was qualified for the job. He failed to get it because his mental dictionary contains politically incorrect words, because he was a politically powerful man with whom the thought cops disagreed. He was bound to lose the battle. There is no defense against being labeled racist, antisemitic, anti-feminist, anti-gay. And the thought cops know it.

George Dail writes from Aberdeen.

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