The Solipsist thought of this when he read a lengthy front-page article in today's Times, imputing something scandalous in the fact that the newly appointed Senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand, served as a lawyer for the tobacco industry. Somehow, this fact merited a four-page (in the internet version) investigation. (By way of comparison, on the same page, a report of the increasing collaboration between Afghan and Pakistani elements of the Taliban--literally a life-and-death matter to Americans today--merited only two pages.)
The gist of the article was that Gillibrand worked for a law firm that was a major player in the defense of "Big Tobacco" against government lawsuits. Apparently, Gillibrand did her job well. She was seen as a "rising star" by many of her clients and colleagues. (Indeed, considering her current position, this was an accurate assessment.)
The tone of the article, however, suggested that Gillibrand had done something wrong. Much was made of the fact, for example, that her law firm had a policy that would have allowed a lawyer to recuse herself from the case if she had strong moral objections to big tobacco. Gillibrand's non-recusal, therefore, is somehow the equivalent of a moral "endorsement" of the tobacco companies.
The Solipsist is certainly no fan of the tobacco industry. Still, he cannot find it in his heart to condemn a young lawyer for doing her job. Could she have refused to participate? Sure. Would this have had negative repercussions for her career? Officially, no, but let's be realistic: How bright is the future likely to be for a young lawyer who refuses a plum assignment for some of her firm's most major clients? And once she accepted the case, was she not legally, professionally--indeed, ethically--required to provide the strongest defense possible?
While we could wish that a tough attorney's clients were all innocent exemplars of moral fiber, we all realize that this is not going to be the case. In short, far from convincing this reader of Senator Gillibrand's ethical dubiousness, the article proved to the Solipsist that New York has a good attorney filling Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. What more could one ask for?