Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bush to focus on "character" of SCOTUS possibilities- All together now, "Oh, shit."

Dubya announced today that there would be no litmus test for Supreme Court nominees, which I suppose is a good thing. I don't believe it, of course, but it's nice to hear nevertheless. What really scares me, though, is that he will focus on the character of the candidates- not their legal rulings.

"I will let my legal experts deal with the ramifications of legal opinions," Bush said. "I will try to assess their character, their interests." While Bush initially considered announcing his pick next week, aides said there's talk of delaying the decision to protect the nominee from prolonged attacks from the left or right. Either way, Bush wants the new justice approved and on the bench in early October.

Bush said the criteria for the job is simple -- "I'll pick people who, one, can do the job, people who are honest, people who are bright and people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and not use the bench to legislate from." Bush was mum on who meets such criteria.
So he seems to equate good character with a particular theory of constitutional construction. I'm always amazed at the ineffable stupidity of strict constructionists. It means what it says, they argue. Take the commerce clause, the source of much judicial explication since the earliest days of the Republic. "The Congress shall have power... To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Seems simple enough right? Except that the words "commerce" and "regulate" are not really defined. Moreover, there are many instances in which intrastate activity affects interstate commerce.

A strict constructionist would have no problem with these issues- interstate commerce means exactly the same thing today that it did in 1789- what the Framers knew of commerce is what controls. This, of course, is hogwash. The Constitution was written in a world lit by candlelight and coal fire, where merchandise rarely left the city it was made in, let alone the State. The people made goods in their houses and sold them to their neighbors. It was a world which had neither transportation nor communication. It was a world in which almost everyone was self-employed.

This is not the world we live in today. Wal-Mart decides in its Arkansas home office to set up shop in Middle of Nowhere, Indiana to peddle goods that were made in China and India, imported at Los Angeles, and trucked through 25 states on its way to the new store. The new stores displaces the local merchants, who also sold goods made elsewhere. Wal-Mart deposits their money in a local bank, which deposits its money in another bank, which in turn deposits its money in a Federal Reserve Bank. Everything is fluid, everything is moving.

The Framers may have a vote on the issue, but a veto? C'mon! Anyone with half a brain can plainly see that this is exactly the situation in which there needs to be Federal control. Fifty states with fifty different sets of laws makes absolutely no sense.

Of course, I shouldn't worry. He'll name someone of good character.


Brew said...

The idea that character, as opposed to their decisions, or scholarly work is going to be the deciding factor likely means we'll get another author of incomprehensible opions - so maybe using O'Connor as a model isn't so far off after all.

Charlie said...

O'Connor was by no means the most incomprehensible jurist in recent memory- that would be the late "Whizzer" White. Ne'er had a bigger nincompoop donned a robe of such magnitude.