Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Supreme Court & politics as usual

Bush has made his pick for the Supreme Court, and he's picked a young (50yo) conservative leaning white male judge. Apparently his record is vague & not extreme enough to make him easy for liberals to rip into, though they will no doubt try in vain. There is so much behind this selection, more than meets the eye, and most of it is just common sense.

Should we be surprised at his selection of a non-moderate? I'm certainly not. I admit, I'd never heard of the guy before, and I am still not sure what to expect from him, but I have to give the Bush Administration credit, they have yet again made a move that was astute and clever. Now by praising their abilities I'm not saying they do it all the time, I mean the Bush Administration has blundered BIG TIME, like the Iraq war. That was a major blunder. I don't mean for going, they had reasons for going to war in Iraq and they're getting much of what they want from it, oh no, their big SNAFU in Iraq was in being unprepared, not having a good exit strategy, & not planning for what comes after you bomb the shit out of the place. Add this with not being more careful about coming up with a more solid case for why we had to go there, truly illustrates just how massive the incompetency of the Bush Administration can be. But, as I was saying before, they also can be very clever, like conning the American people into going to war in the first place, and winning elections by creating & exploiting extremely controversial hot button issues like abortion & gay rights, which done in a judicious way brought maximized results, which allowed an idiot spoiled brat 'cowboy' from Texas to win when he shouldn't have made it through the primaries.

So why was it such a wise choice to pick Judge John Roberts Jr. for the replacement of Justice O’Connor? They picked someone who they know they can count on to lean to the right, he doesn't have much of anything in his record to justify the title of 'right-wing extremist', so that ensures he's not going to get knocked down by the democrats, and to top it all off, he's very young. All of this means that if he becomes a Supreme Court Justice, which is all but assured, that he will be there doing his part to ensure the court will lean to the right for 20 to 30 years.

I have to admit it could have been worse, he could have been a fire breathing socially conservative prick, and apparently Judge Roberts isn't all that militantly conservative. It’s a good thing, because that could be disastrous for civil rights & social issues in general. But then again, in a way Bush's selection makes it even worse. As I said, it ensures that he will be appointed, there just isn't enough against him to justify not appointing him. Furthermore, as it stands, some of the most controversial cases have been decided by one or two votes - votes that Sandra Day O'Connor had voted in the non-conservative. And while this Judge might not 'tow the conservative line' on every case, more often than not he will. So now, when these issues are revisited (and they will be revisited rest assured), there will undoubtedly be a different outcome. By picking a 'right leaning' guy like Roberts rather than a staunch conservative, Bush has accomplished more for social conservatism than he probably could have otherwise.

So where did this clever idea come from? Well, who knows for sure... But I'd bet the house it was Karl Rove. Again, so many of the 'clever' moves Bush has made have been Rove's handy work. It's when Bush tries to think on his own, or lets the Neocon's pulling his strings like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Kristol, et al. make the decisions that the true DUMBASS moments come up. This latest clever move is just more reason why I hope Rove ends up with his nuts in a sling.

Well, all this "genius" talk aside, some are outraged that a 'conservative' rather than a 'moderate' was picked. Agree. But then let’s be realistic here. Afterall, we knew Bush wasn't about to pick a liberal! And while I have to admit, if Bush were truly trying to be fair and if he were truly concerned about picking a judge that would actually uphold the Constitution & follow the law (as he claims) rather than have a particular agenda, then he would have picked a moderate wouldn't he? Indeed. But alas, he did not.

I must say, I suppose I can't blame him for picking a conservative. He has to look out for his interests, and he had an obligation to give the (fascist) Christian Fundamentalists that voted for him just what they wanted - that their intolerant views on social issues & religious 'values' would be promoted & given the State’s seal of approval.

If I would have been Prez I would have been compelled to pick a liberal judge. I say this not because I'm particularly liberal, because I'm not, but rather I would have picked a more liberal judge to make up for the conservative nature the court already has (Sodomy Laws, Flag Burning, Roe Vs Wade & 10 Commandments cases notwithstanding). I think the Court needs more balance right now. Idealistically I would rather pick a moderate, or a 'libertarian' judge, because that is precisely what the Supreme Court needs! It doesn't need agendas, it doesn't need activists – it doesn't need liberal or conservative. The Supreme Court should not promote ideologies, it needs to interpret & uphold the law, to protect liberties; it needs to ensure the Constitution isn't just a piece of paper, & it needs to keep things simple. The Supreme Court serves to strike down overreaching laws the president and the congress (who do have & promote particular agendas) when they go too far and violates the very basic freedoms & rights that this country was founded upon and is supposed to ensure for its citizens, everlasting. But it seems so many have lost sight of that fundamental need.

It's a shame really that so many seem to have lost an understanding for what purpose the Supreme Court was intended to serve, & moreover that it is imperative that they do. For some time now we’ve been hearing much whining, mostly from conservatives, including Bush, about 'activist' judges, or 'legislating from the bench'. These are cutesy phrases that can be quickly thrown around when a judge makes a decision that doesn't set well with the lawmakers who had a particular agenda they had wanted promoted or upheld. The fact is, if it wasn't for so-called 'activist’ judges, most of the civil and social change this country has seen would never have taken place. Civil rights for women and blacks granted in the Bill of Rights & the more recently added Constitutional Amendments were meaningless until the Supreme Court gave them meaning by using them to strike down legislation that defied equality. If it wasn’t for so called ‘activist judges’, free speech, religious freedom, gun ownership to name but a few would not exist today.

The conservatives who are so opposed to judges ‘legislating from the bench’, should keep in mind that Congress has the power to legislate our most basic freedoms, like freedom of speech, or the press, freedom of religion, at will at any time. In fact, they’ve attempted to do so before, and it was the Supreme Court that struck such legislation down.

It may seem inconvenient to these conservatives that the same Supreme Court that is keeping us from having our freedoms tossed aside at the whim of the Legislative & Executive branches, has also played a part in upholding liberties that allow or protect ‘godlessness’ & ‘indecency’.

It may be inconvenient that the same 1st Amendment that allows Christians to espouse bigotry, attend the church of their choosing, and subscribe to the beliefs they desire without government intrusion also upholds “a wall of separation between church & state” by restricting religious symbols from state buildings, banning forced or coerced prayer in public schools, and putting the pledge of allegiance back to where it used to be (no ‘under god’ phrases). It may seem unpatriotic that the 1st amendment which grants us the right to freedom of speech, has also upheld the exercise of free expression which can include profanity, vulgarity, pornography, political satire, and even flag burning – a ‘crime’ in countries such as China, Cuba, Iraq, Iran, & North Korea. And of course it is such a ‘shameful disgrace’ that the Supreme Court understands an implied ‘right to privacy’ which has lead to the repeal of sodomy laws, and granting women the right to choose abortion if they deem it necessary.

These decisions may not fit the agenda of Christian fundamentalists and social conservatives, but they have been reached by the same body, indeed the very ‘activist judges’ which have protected our freedom from the perennial attempts at removing freedoms which our Founding Fathers forged together, and which we supposedly have sacrificed so many of our own citizens lives for. Furthermore it is in the same spirit of protecting our most basic, cherished freedoms that these controversial decisions were reached. Protecting freedom means protecting freedom for all, it also means sometimes the things we might as a majority find unacceptable must be protected, or we risk losing so much more.

Does the Supreme Court ever overstep its bounds; does it ever base decisions on ideologies & agendas? It certainly does sometimes, most particularly when politics come into play. Having liberal or conservative judges ensures that there are times when decisions that could be bad for the country, bad for liberty, bad for its citizens are reached. It is because of this that picking moderates for the Supreme Court is not just a good idea, it is imperative. Sadly, as was expected, Bush has ensured that ‘partisan’ will remain a part of the Supreme Court for a long time to come.

As pleased as social conservatives may be with themselves if abortion is all but banned outright, and homosexual couples are once again criminalized for being intimate together, what societal good they believe they are achieving is nothing more than a myth, but even more so, the threat to our most basic inalienable rights far outweighs the perceived gains in ‘morality & values’.

The only silver lining for those of us who have so much to lose in the near future, is that someday new judges will have to be appointed, and when that day comes perhaps a more progressive executive & legislative branch will be deciding who those judges will be. Hopefully they will choose moderately, but perhaps it will be time to undo some of the damage the right-wing court has done. Just remember, what comes around goes around; the pendulum is not static, and Republicans will not always be in charge.

"Democracy is not a static thing. It is an everlasting march."
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

"History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency,
when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure."
— Justice Thurgood Marshall

"The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with its shield of protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances... (The Framers) foresaw that troublous times would arise, when rulers and people would become restive under restraint, and seek by sharp and decisive measures to accomplish ends deemed just and proper; and that the principles of constitutional liberty would be in peril, unless established by irrepealable law."
— (Supreme Court 1866)

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