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Friday, June 1, 2007

Politicians curb pursuit of happiness

Cold 'Comfort'

Most college commencement speeches tend toward banality, though it's often worse when politicians are involved. Take the startling graduation advice from U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, at the University of Oregon School of Law last Friday.

The Oregon Democrat passed along the philosophy he said he'd learned from a former U. of O. dean and later Congressman: "You must find some ways to use your training to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable," Mr. Wyden told the assembled legal graduates.

"Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" happens to be an old cliché about journalism; and to the extent it serves as a charge to be skeptical, as opposed to harass the unpopular, journalists can indulge this piece of liberal piety without doing much harm. But it is another thing altogether to hear the phrase embraced as an anthem by a Congressional leader with the power to subpoena, tax and punish. And by a lawyer, U. of O. class of '72, no less.

The Declaration of Independence says that among the "inalienable" rights of American life is "the pursuit of happiness," which sounds to us like one definition of "comfortable." Is this what Mr. Wyden wants to "afflict"? The phrase would certainly help explain the class warfare beloved by so many in the current Congress. We always thought the job of a lawyer was to pursue justice, and the job of a lawmaker to preserve liberty. But times seem to have changed. Let's hope the graduates were dozing off.

The Wall Street Journal, May 31, By THE EDITORS

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