Save Us From This Supreme Court

Karl Rove, with a little help from his friends, is working overtime to line up the most extreme hard-right ideological candidate list he can muster for possible vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court. No one knows who is leaving the court, but speculations are that Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice O’Connor will depart soon. Who knows what kind of deal was made between them and Bush’s handlers before they awarded the presidency to George? Recall that election night 2000, O'Connor was overheard saying something like, “Oh, damn. Florida returns in doubt? There goes my retirement.” More than one source has said that she would not retire unless a “Republican” was in power. Well, she saw to that.

As a lawyer, my cynicism of the Supreme Court did not begin until the election. Sure, I knew that politics plays a role in docketing and decision-making, but I was not a total cynic. Now, my cynicism and approbation are complete. We are the only civilized country in the world where nine people with life-time appointments have the final say on all laws, whether enacted by state or federal legislatures. This court has swept aside the principle of stare decisis, in which prior case decisions mean something. They take cases to “redecide” issues when the political winds shift, as they did when Bush ascended to the throne.

The Sunday New York Times reported on the progress of the plot to pick young-ish and extreme candidates. The purpose: to solidify the Bush regime’s rule for 30 or 40 years. All this falls in line with the plans of Karl Rove, as reported in an excellent piece in the May 12, 2003 New Yorker by Nicholas Lemann. Aptly named “The Controller,” the profile is a frightening depiction of a Karl Rove with a far grander vision than just George Bush's presidency (unless the repeal of term limits is also in his plan).

Rove fancies himself in a league with James Madison. Why else would he name his only child “Andre Madison Rove.” How weird is that? According to the Lemann, he keeps a copy of Madison’s Federalist writings ever at the ready, and cites chapter and verse in support of his vision for a new kind of republic. Referring to himself in terms of the imperial “we,” he plans to deal with the problems of the pesky majority that voted for Gore. He aims to create a new majority of right-wingers that can wreak tyrannical havoc over the rest of us. How will he do that? By convincing Americans that everything they want, Bush and the Republicans can offer them. Of course, their promises are lies, lies, as the tax cut indicated. Read the fine print—hey, read the large type—and half of what he says is there just does not exist. Like the non-existing WMDs.

If Americans are as gullible as Rove seems to think they are, then maybe the Supreme Court is the least of our worries. If Rove’s vision continues along the lines we are experiencing now, we will have a powerful central government in which the President controls the civilian work force government (see the report in the Sunday Washington Post), the Attorney General controls the Constitution, and Congress enacts whatever laws Bush and his handlers send up. The Court becomes just another stamp of approval, giving legitimacy to illegitimate means and results.

It couldn’t get much worse. Someday, we may look back on this Court as moderate, even as (I pause before admitting this) I, hearing a decades-old interview of Richard Nixon last week, thought, “Damn, what was so bad about him?”

Elaine Cassel practices law in Virginia and the District of Columbia, teaches law and psychology, and writes Civil Liberties Watch.

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