Monday, April 19, 2010

Government, and Justice, by Crap Shoot

Supreme Court appointees sometimes surprise everyone, even the Presidents who nominated them, with the work they do after they've been seated.  Earl Warren's record as Chief Justice surprised and did not always please Dwight Eisenhower.  Byron (Whizzer) White surprised and did not always please John F. Kennedy.  John Paul Stevens surprised and did not always please Gerald Ford.

Then again,  Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, John Roberts and Samuel A. Alito have produced exactly the kind of ultra-conservative, law-bending jurisprudence their conservative nominators expected of them.

President Obama is about to make his second Supreme Court nomination, to replace Justice Stevens.  Already the Republicans are blowing Force Twelve hot air without even knowing who the nominee will be.

Whomever Mr. Obama chooses, we can only hope that he or she will serve in the distinguished tradition of Justice Felix Frankfurter, who memorably wrote in a 1943 dissent, "As a member of this Court, I am not justified in writing my private notions of policy into the Constitution, no matter how deeply I may cherish them or how mischievous I may deem their disregard."

The nation desperately needs another such judicial philosophy on its highest court, as counterweight of sorts to the Four Horsemen of the Far Right who routinely write private notions of policy into the Constitution from their narrow point of view as doctrinaire Roman Catholics with an inbred loathing of federal government.

Whether such a nominee will in fact be offered depends largely upon which Mr. Obama makes the appointment.  Will it be the Obama who boldy threw down the gauntlet to the Four Horsemen and their collaborator in perfidy, Anthony M. Kennedy, for the dreadful Citizens United decision?  Or will it be the Dr. Kidglove who caved in to the minority party in Congress on the economy, the wars, human rights and medical care for our citizens?

Even if Kidglove seizes the day and nominates a milk sop to the right-wing Republicans and Democrats of the Senate, we can cling to the hope that somehow he or she, once confirmed and seated, will evolve into another Warren or Stevens.

That would be a monumental piece of good luck for the country.  But when the leaders of the nation lack the spunk do do what's right simply because it is right, there's nothing left for citizens to trust but luck.

Do the deed, Mr. President, whether as Iron Glove or Kidglove.  Everything's a crap shoot now.

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