My Esteemed Crank-Calling Colleague once called Senator Barbara Boxer’s office and complained that she was denying his basic constitutional right to life, liberty, and a block of cheese. I thought about this while trying to decide whether or not Fred Thompson’s entry into the presidential race is a good thing.
Right now, I’m leaning toward “not.”
I watched him on Jay Leno last night, and he certainly looked the part of a president. My concern is with how his campaign will affect the dynamics of the race. Right now, the one with the most to lose is Mitt Romney, who is the only candidate who currently stands a chance of beating Rudy Giuliani.
And Rudy Giuliani would be an absolute disaster.
When it comes to presidential politics, I’m almost a single-issue voter. I say “almost” because success in the War on Terror is so overwhelmingly crucial to the future of this nation that it trumps everything else, and certainly Rudy would prosecute that war with as much or more zeal than anyone else in the Republican field.
But the issue that keeps me awake at night is the president’s judicial philosophy.
George W. Bush’s legacy will be shaped almost as much by what John Roberts and Samuel Alito do as it will by what happens in Iraq. The Supreme Court and the Federal Judiciary have more power to shape social policy than both of the other branches of government combined. Once the Supreme Court issues a decision, there’s nothing Congress can do about it, short of passing a constitutional amendment. (They could ignore the decision, but no one seems willing to go that route.) Consequently, huge issues like abortion, gay marriage, and even global warming are lifted out of the legislative arena by judicial fiat.
Let’s focus on abortion for a minute. Republicans who refuse to vote for a pro-choice congressman or senator are wasting their time and energy. Congress is no longer allowed to do or say anything about abortion, because the Supreme Court has determined that abortion is enthroned as a right in the United States Constitution. Now, how does that work, considering that the word “abortion” and/or anything like unto it appears nowhere in that sacred document?
Well, according to Harry Blackmun, it works like this. The Constitution guarantees a right to privacy – except that it doesn’t, as the word “privacy” doesn’t appear anywhere, either. But Justice Blackmun determined, through some wildly convoluted reasoning, that the right to privacy “emanates” from some of the other amendments, and that the right to abortion can be found in the “penumbra” of that “emanation.” In other words, the actual constitutional language is like a lightbulb, the right to privacy is like a beam of light shooting out of that lightbulb, and the right to an abortion is in the fuzzy glow surrounding that beam of light. So abortion is a right, and everyone should shut up about it. The end.
In other words, the Constitution is meaningless, because Supreme Court Justices can make up whatever crap they want as they go along. So everyone’s getting into the game. The Massachusetts Supreme Court “discovered” a right to gay marriage in a constitution written by John Adams, who could hardly have imagined such a thing. The Supreme Court recently determined that the executive branch needs to regulate carbon dioxide as a “pollutant,” thereby screwing up the whole global warming debate for decades to come. They also decided the First Amendment protects virtual child pornography but not political speech, which is now heavily regulated despite the fact that it was the kind of speech the First Amendment was drafted to protect. And private property can now be stolen by the government and handed to other private property owners. And on and on and on it goes.
Suddenly, the whole idea of a Constitutional right to a block of cheese looks more and more plausible.
The only thing that can be done about this is to put people on the courts who think the Constitution means what it says. And the only person who can appoint people to the courts is the President of the United States.
Which leads us back to Rudy being a total disaster.
Rudy Giuliani has tried to appease conservatives with promises that he will appoint “strict constructionists” to the bench in the mold of Roberts and Alito. Nifty. Except he won’t, because he doesn’t believe in strict constructionism, or else he has no idea what it is.
Please understand where I’m coming from. I’m pro-life, but if Rudy Giuliani said, “I want abortion to be entirely legal in all fifty states,” I could still support him to the ends of the earth if he added to his statement the following clause: “But Roe vs. Wade must be overturned, because the Supreme Court should not be in the business of making laws.”
Rudy doesn’t understand this. He tosses out phrases like “strict constructionist” as a sop to conservatives, while at the same time dreading the idea of Roe v. Wade being overturned and hoping that a “strict constructionist judge would view it as precedent.”
So when he’s out of the primaries and he doesn’t have to worry about them kooky religious nuts that he hates, who’s going to hold his feet to the fire on the “strict constructionist” issue once he gets into the White House? The media? Don’t make me laugh. Social conservatives? They’ll be powerless. Once he’s elected, the Republicans are stuck with him, just like we’re now stuck with the No Child Left Behind elements of the Bush Administration that we hate. The only thing that will make Rudy appoint solid judges is his own conscience, and his conscience wants Roe v. Wade upheld.
It’s hard enough to get conservative judges on the Court with a pro-life president in office. Souter, anyone? O’Connor? Kennedy? Even Blackmun, the Roe author himself, was appointed by Richard Nixon. Of all the treacherous things Nixon did, Blackmun’s appointment may have been the one thing that damaged this nation the most.
Back to Fred Thompson. He could conceivably be a good president. He could also be a spoiler, the guy who ensures we wind up with Rudy or Hillary in the Oval Office. Of those two, I’d prefer Rudy. But both Rudy and Hillary are going to screw up the courts.
Get ready for life, liberty, and a block of cheese.