Getting Jesuitical

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There was an interesting exchange between Sen. Hillary Clinton and Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning. Russert was in his usual high-prosecutorial mode, challenging Clinton on her 2002 Iraq-war vote, when the senator blew the whistle on “this Jesuitical argument.”

Here’s the interview:

MR. RUSSERT: Did he (Obama) have better judgment in October of 2002?

SEN. CLINTON: You know, look, judgment is not a single snapshot. Judgment is what you do across the course of your life and your career.

MR. RUSSERT: A vote for war is a very important vote.

SEN. CLINTON: Well, you know, Tim, we can have this Jesuitical argument about what exactly was meant.

What did Clinton mean about “this Jesuitical argument”? Did she mean Russert was splitting hairs, employing casuistry to make a morally specious argument, did she mean it positively, to compliment the Jesuits well-known scholastic rigor, or did she mean to suggest that such rigor is sometimes pointless? Alas, the Jesuit-educated Russert did not press the point.

I watched the interview, I think it was the former. Clinton insists her vote was a vote for further inspections in Iraq; Russert challenged her, asking why she did not vote for Sen Levin’s amendment, which would have forced Pres. Bush to return to Congress for a war vote if UN inspections didn’t work out. It seemed Clinton was trying to escape the implications of her vote by calling Russert’s attempts to draw them out “Jesuitical.” It puts one in mind of another Jesuit-educated politician, fellow Hoya Bill Clinton’s dissection of the verb “to be.”

For actual Jesuits’ take on the matter, read America’s insightful blog here.

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