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The Right Wing War on the Judiciary and the Constitution

April 17th, 2005

From Rush Limbaugh, via TPM:

So while there are those of us who are devoted to defending the current US Constitution, there are a bunch of leftists and liberals out there that are toying around with the idea of rewriting and changing it.

Currently, the four big constitutional amendments floating around Congress are: a ban on same-sex marriages, a ban on flag burning, a change to allow Arnold Schwarzenegger to run for president, and a “balanced budget” amendment (the last being a hideous joke considering the fiscal record of Bush and the GOP Congress over the past four years). All are Republican proposals. Other proposals include a ban on abortions and to put organized prayer into classrooms. So the idea that liberals are trying to rewrite the constitution is laughable, to understate the matter considerably.

This goes along with the strong belief that Limbaugh and many other conservatives have that because several key judicial opinions disagree with their own political dogma, that must mean that these judges–just as often conservatives as they are liberals–are “activist” judges who are “legislating from the bench.” This knee-jerk response is utterly false and self-serving, and proves only that these wingnuts confuse their own political agenda with the highest law of the land. None of the complaints are back up with legal proof, of course, just the claim that these judges are swine who deserve to be killed.

And no, I’m not kidding about that last. Tom DeLay, the Republican leader in the House, said that all the judges in the Schiavo case will “answer for their behavior.” And surely you’ve heard of the Texas GOP Senator Cornyn statement that these judges’ “political decisions” are what led to recent violence against judges, that their “raw political or ideological decisions” make it such that “No one, including those judges, including the judges on the U.S. Supreme Court, should be surprised if one of us stands up and objects”–code language for “lynch those suckers, boys–you got my personal OK on that.”

Never mind, of course, that the two recent examples of violence conservatives point to–a judge being shot in Atlanta and another judge’s family murdered in Chicago–have no connection to politics. Neither case was about people objecting to ideological judgments in cases. The Atlanta killing was by a serial rapist trying to avoid being convicted again. The Chicago murders were over the judge’s dismissal of the killer’s frivolous medical malpractice suit. These are the new Republican poster boys for slapping down judicial activism, apparently.

The GOP outbursts, aside from being inappropriate to the point of illegally inciting violence, are completely dumb on at least two fronts. First of all, they bemoan the judiciary not being “answerable” or “accountable” to the public, referring to lifetime appointments. The thing is, as Jon Stewart noted, that’s the whole idea of lifetime appointments–so they won’t be answerable to any political pressure and can judge purely on law, answerable only to their own consciences.

Second, they claim that the judgments are objectionable because they are “political or ideological” in nature. That’s a stupid observation because if the judges had ruled the other way, these same people would be lauding them as heroes. The thing is, if the decision is political one way, how come it’s not political the other way? The judges are, very clearly, following the letter of the law; so if there is politics, it is due to the nature of the case, not the decision–and therefore if any decision can be labeled as “political,” then all decisions would be equally “political.” And again, the complainers can point to no article of law that the judges violated in the name of “ideology.”

What it comes down to is this: the judges are doing their jobs, namely following the law and its guiding hand, the Constitution. Current extremist Republican agenda (merging church and state, outlawing various types of free speech, etc.) are unconstitutional. When the courts slap them down, they rage against “activist judges” and make veiled threats of violence. The fact that these “activist” judges are just as often conservative as liberal should be evidence enough that the judges are not the ones following a political agenda here.

A Republican Representative from Kentucky put the icing on the cake with his “Congressional Accountability for Judicial Activism Act of 2004,” which proposed that the Congress could override the Supreme Court with a two-thirds majority, complaining that the justices on the bench “were not elected and are serving life terms.” How dare they! What right do they have to not be elected and serve on the bench for life, except that this is what the Constitution demands of them!

Republicans do not want checks and balances here; they do not want the Constitution to rule; they do not even want the rule of law. They want overriding authority on all matters, when they want it, where they want it, how they want it. They want absolute power to impose their own beliefs and desires on the American people. This is also known as a dictatorship. Welcome to the GOP.

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  1. Doom and Gloom
    December 18th, 2005 at 00:59 | #1

    The choices suck anymore. The Democrats are too liberal, the Republican’s are too conservative.

    Maybe the “middle of the road” politico’s will make a comeback. Kerry would have been a terrible president, and Bush is proving to be equally terrible.

    “Heads, you lose…Tails, you lose”

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