Tuesday, July 27, 2010

George Bush et al rock on in black robes . . .

Vivienne Flesher
The Bush Administration has ended, but its most lasting influence on America may be its appointment of one Justice, Samuel Alito, and one Chief Justice, John Roberts, to the Supreme Court.

Adam Liptik wrote a piece in the New York Times last weekend arguing that Chief Justice Roberts' Court is the most conservative court this country's had in decades and it is likely to remain so for a long time.

Writes Mr. Liptik,
. . . Chief Justice Roberts, 55, is settling in for what is likely to be a very long tenure at the head of a court that seems to be entering a period of stability.
If the Roberts court continues on the course suggested by its first five years, it is likely to allow a greater role for religion in public life, to permit more participation by unions and corporations in elections and to elaborate further on the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms. Abortion rights are likely to be curtailed, as are affirmative action and protections for people accused of crimes.
The recent shift to the right is modest. And the court’s decisions have hardly been uniformly conservative. The justices have, for instance, limited the use of the death penalty and rejected broad claims of executive power in the government’s efforts to combat terrorism.
The Court swung right, Liptik argues, with the 2006 appointment of Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. John Roberts had already been appointed Chief Justice in 2005,

Ed Whelen, writing in the National Review Online, begs to differ with Mr. Liptik's assessment.
The Supreme Court, with its eight current members and the prospective addition of Elena Kagan, will be no more “conservative” (in crude political terms) than [swing vote] Justice Kennedy is. . . . As I’ve previously explained, at most the Roberts Court has taken a small step to the right—and towards the center.  I am not contending that the Court is walking in opposite directions.  Rather, after decades of liberal judicial activism on so many issues, the Court’s starting position remains decidedly on the left. . . .
Whether or not you view the Roberts Court as liberal, conservative, or balanced, its ruling in the case known as Citizens United  did strike down a significant part of the 2002 McCain/Feingold campaign-finance reform law, thus allowing corporate and union money a much bigger voice in American elections.

The House has already passed legislation designed to promote full disclosure in campaign advertising. A Senate version of  the Disclose Act (passed in the House with NRA support in exchange for an exemption) probably comes up for a vote today, and its passage is looking iffy.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opposes passage, issued a statement saying, in part
. . .The DISCLOSE Act seeks to protect unpopular Democrat politicians by silencing their critics and exempting their campaign supporters from an all out attack on the First Amendment. .
President Obama spoke Monday in the Rose Garden urging Senate passage, saying in part: 
 . . .You'd think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense, particularly since they primarily involve just making sure that folks who are financing these ads are disclosed so that the American people can make up their own minds. . .
With all the hoopla caused by WikiLeaks' latest batch of leaked documents focusing our attention on the war in Afghanistan (for better, for worse, another Bush administration legacy that's been firmly embraced by the Obama administration), it's important for all of us to remain aware that there's arguably more important action underway a lot closer to home.

Our country's government works because governance is divided among three branches. We have changed administrations, but the last administration's Supreme Court (whatever your view of it) remains intact. Our system of government certainly provides high drama at times as these three branches duke it out, and one of those times promises to be the Senate vote on the Disclose Act.

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