His friends in the psychiatric community would call it projection.
His friends in the administration would call it a clever ploy.
One week the attorney general of the United States, Ed Meese, stands before the American Bar Association and in the purest tones of unsullied legal concern accuses the Supreme Court of playing politics with the Constitution. The very next week his minions throw a ball at the top court, a ball damp with the juices of Reagan ideology.
The Meese team filed what is technically known as a "friend of the court" brief in two abortion cases. The tone was far from friendly. They lectured the court on the wrongheadedness of its prior rules on abortion and then, in a rare and hostile mode, directly instructed them to overturn the 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade.
The argument sounded as if it had been written by a political copywriter rather than by a lawyer.
At the very end, for example, it describes the pro-choice position as "an intuition based in controversial moral and social theories of the good life." This is a lift from the sort of right- wing brochures that caricatures women seeking abortion as trendy me- generation types.
The prose style, if nothing else, prompted Janet Benshoof of the American Civil Liberties Union to say, "They are now using the office as an ad agency."
This brief came from the government in connection with cases the court will hear next fall. The justices will decide whether two state statutes, one from Illinois and one from Pennsylvania (both of which try to limit abortion in the guise of regulating it), are constitutional.
One of the mysteries is why the Supreme Court decided to hear these cases at all. The Illinois law had already been repealed.
A recent article in the The National Law Journal entitled "Was the Court Bamboozled?" suggested that the justices thought the appeal had come from the state and not just from two pro-life doctors.
The Pennsylvania statute has some bizarre wrinkles of its own. Among other things, it requires that a doctor inform his patient, even one who has been raped, that a father is legally responsible for child support. But the statute is similar to the Akron, Ohio, law that the court struck down by a 6-3 vote just two years ago. That opinion came with a clear affirmation of Roe v. Wade.
The Supreme Court chambers are relatively leakproof, so no one knows precisely why the justices decided to let these cases onto the docket. But the speculation runs high.
Since you need four justices to accept a case, it is likely that one has changed his mind since Akron. Nevertheless, the Akron Three plus one makes four; not a majority. It's unlikely that the court will vote in favor of these statutes, let alone vote to overturn Roe v. Wade.
What, then, are the government's motives in making this rare, full-tilt frontal attack on the court's abortion rulings? I doubt that it is looking for a quick victory. Legally, it has little to gain. But politically, it has nothing to lose.
Neither the court nor the public is unaware that the administration would like to ban abortion. Reagan has been clear in his belief that a human life begins at the moment of conception. Right-to-Lifers would like the embryo to have the constitutional rights of a citizen.
But the troops are growing restless. Unable to change the Constitution through the traditional political process, in the legislatures, the pro-life forces have either degenerated into terrorists or are impatiently waiting for the next appointment to the Supreme Court.
What Meese et al. are offering the troops is action, waving the anti-abortion banner.
This brief is not about the United States Constitution. It's about the Reagan constituency. It's not written in cool measured legalese that appeals to the audience of nine. It's written in the language that appeals to the audience of right-to-life masses.
It's campaign season over at the Justice Department. Plaaaay politics.