John Paul Stevens
When Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement, President Obama promised he would appoint someone like Stevens, who “knows that in a democracy, powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.”
In the world of politics, that phrase is self-explanatory. In the cultural arena, it’s more murky. When it comes to First Amendment cases on broadcast indecency, who is the “powerful interest” and who was the “ordinary citizen”? The roles are now reversed.
The president can’t use that analogy, because the powerful interests are now in Hollywood, facing the millions of regular Americans who oppose graphic violence, gratuitous sex, and avoidable profanity on television. Sadly, judges like Stevens have labored ever harder to protect perverse televised “expression” like orgy scenes or “wardrobe malfunctions” on CBS as somehow the sun-kissed summit of all free-speech causes.
Newsweek's Dahlia Lithwick and law professor Sonja West wrote for Slate.com about how empathy is a much better quality than diversity in Supreme Court justices: "If we can't in fact have a court that looks like America, we should seek a court that feels for America." But this push grew really weird when they suggested retiring Justice John Paul Stevens was somehow a Latina:
Perhaps they've also imagined him having the ability to take the lead away from Jennifer Lopez in the movie Selena. Lithwick and West concocted the idea that the media threw a fit against the "empathy" principle, somehow confusing the media and their "war on empathy" with objections from the Republican minority:
He grew up white, male, heterosexual, Protestant, and wealthy. At no point in time was he a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay or a frightened teenage girl. And yet, over the decades, his rulings and written opinions repeatedly showed us that he could see the world through the eyes of those with very different life experiences from his own. In other words, he tapped his inner 'wise Latina woman' when the case called for it, and we are all better for it.
At last count, there were about 200 law schools in the United States accredited by the American Bar Association, but apparently only two of them -- Harvard and Yale -- can be a path to serving on the highest court in the land.Fair enough. But he goes off the rails claiming that Stevens, who has held down the liberal wing of the court for years, is actually a moderate. In fact, Egan seems to go further than even liberal former Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse in bizarrely claiming that there are no liberals on the court, just four moderates, balanced, presumably, against five conservatives! This on a court that includes, besides Stevens, former ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
It was surprising enough to see that with the retirement of Justice John Paul Stevens, the Supreme Court will not have a single Protestant among its black-robed elite. But equally jaw-dropping was the fact that without Stevens, every member of the court has attended Harvard or Yale law school.
Stevens, one of four moderates on the Court, has held that seat. He is not just the last World War II veteran to serve, but as a product Northwestern University Law School, he succeeded a very iconoclastic justice, William O. Douglas, whose law school days were not spent in Cambridge or New Haven.
The front pages of the New York Times over the weekend were dominated by the announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, with stories looking back at his legacy as well as looking toward the upcoming political battle over replacing him.
The upcoming-battle story was provided Sunday by Peter Baker and Carl Hulse, "G.O.P. Weighs Political Price Of Court Fight," complete with the paper's usual ideological imbalance. A sampling:
....some conservatives who led the fight against Justice Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation last year said they should learn from mistakes made then, like making grand claims about raising vast sums of money only to find that Republican senators were not as committed to an all-out battle.
"We will all be laughed at -- including laughed at by Republican senators -- by raising the war cries too loud and too early, when in fact the senators will not deliver what we are promising," said Manuel Miranda of the Third Branch Network, who organizes regular conference calls of like-minded conservatives about judicial nominations. Instead, he said, conservatives should take a more "modest" and "measured" approach at first.
Retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is actually a conservative according to Newsweek columnist Andrew Romano, who apparently hasn't read any Supreme Court decisions in the last 20 years or so.
Romano rejects the notion that Stevens is a liberal, going so far as to chastise his fellow members of the media who frequently get suckered by "whichever shorthand, cheat-sheet label gets repeated most frequently." Romano further writes that the current coverage is "myopic" and that the lowly uniformed "laypeople are being given little choice but to remember the hunched, bow-tied Stevens, 89, as really, really liberal—Dennis Kucinich in robes."
So what is Romano's proof for this theory?
Schieffer agreed with that assessment and declared that for President Gerald Ford "sending John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court is not a bad legacy." He concluded: "As Justice Stevens's fine service was being rightly celebrated last week, I couldn't help but think of that as well."
Prior to his commentary, Schieffer spoke with CBS legal analyst Jan Crawford about possible nominees to replace Stevens. Crawford argued that President Obama and Democrats would attempt to "counter" Republican efforts to "beat up on their candidate," "by continuing to portray the Supreme Court as out of touch with everyday Americans."
On the front of Sunday's Washington Post, Supreme Court reporter Robert Barnes unfurled the first liberal spin line of the battle over a new Supreme Court justice: that there's no way whoever Obama nominates will be more liberal than retiring John Paul Stevens. Barnes said "almost certainly" the court will be more conservative after Obama's second nominee is confirmed.
Can anyone imagine the media buying that spin for a second after, say, Chief Justice Rehnquist passed away? Oh, Bush can't possibly make the court more conservative. "Almost certainly," the court will be more liberal now.
Barnes completely accepted Justice Stevens laying down a marker for his half of the court, and made it the newspaper's own front-page spin:
Appearing in the 11AM ET hour on MSNBC Friday, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams gushed over the legacy of retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens: "He was famously called a 'lawyer's lawyer'...He leaves the court approaching his 90th birthday here, with one of the great quality minds, 90 or not, on the Supreme Court. Always had a kind of finely tuned intellect and nuanced opinions."
Apparently, consistently handing down left-wing rulings is what Williams considers "nuanced. "
Williams went on to conclude: "It's just been so interesting to see his ideology change over the years. You never know what's going to happen to a person when you appoint them to the Supreme Court....no one in 1975 would have believed you if you'd said someday this man, President Ford's appointment, would be known as the lion of the liberal wing of the court in 2010."
Appearing on Sunday's "This Week" on ABC, Huffington foolishly claimed that Supreme Court justices John Paul Stevens and David Souter would never be appointed by a Republican President today due to "how far the Party has traveled," obviously meaning to the Right.
All three of her fellow Roundtable panelists were quick to correct her flawed logic beginning with Sam Donaldson (video follows with partial transcript, relevant section at 9:20):
On Monday’s Countdown show, MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter – also of Newsweek – claimed that liberal Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens is, in fact, a "moderate" who has such "great intellect" that he makes conservative Justice Antonin Scalia "look like a pygmy." Alter: "Justice Stevens is the great intellect on the court in our generation. He makes, say, Scalia look like a pygmy, intellectually, despite all of his fireworks that Scalia gives off. Stevens was an appointee of Republican Gerald Ford. But he`s always been a moderate who has tried to interpret the law, which is his job, in an intellectually honest way."
Alter also charged that the Republican majority on the Supreme Court constitutes a "hypocrisy court" as he claimed that Republican justices support judicial activism. Alter: "For a generation, they`ve been saying they don`t want to legislate from the bench. Now, they are the hypocrisy court. The majority, the Republican majority is the hypocrisy court. They`ve completely turned on a dime. They now believe in judicial activism. So pretty much anything that they would try to say, any argument they would try to have against an Obama nominee would be intellectually empty, because the argument that they`ve been making against liberals is completely bankrupt after these recent very activist, conservative decisions."
While it is an illustration of just how far left Alter’s views are if he sees Justice Stevens as a moderate, it is noteworthy that last November, as he recounted that conservatives like former Congressman Bob Barr, Grover Norquist and David Keene are "principled conservatives" as they disagreed with Rudy Giuliani on the trying of terrorist suspects in civilian courts, Alter admitted to disagreeing with conservatives 98 percent of the time. Alter: "But, you know, they are principled conservative – even if you disagree, as I do with, you know, 98 percent of what they stand for."
Update (11:25 EDT): The Stevens opinion in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, along with the Scalia concurrence and the dissents by Justices Souter and Breyer can be found here.
This morning the Supreme Court issued a 6-3 ruling upholding Indiana's voter ID law. That law requires voters to present photo identification prior to voting in order to curb voter fraud.
Yet AP writer Mark Sherman cast the decision as a political victory for Republicans in a "splintered" ruling from the bench. Oh, and for good measure Sherman invoked the controversial 2000 Bush v. Gore decision that "sealed" President Bush's electoral victory, a favored talking point of liberals who argue the president was "selected not elected" (emphasis mine):
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can require voters to produce photo identification without violating their constitutional rights, validating Republican-inspired voter ID laws.
In a splintered 6-3 ruling, the court upheld Indiana's strict photo ID requirement, which Democrats and civil rights groups said would deter poor, older and minority voters from casting ballots. Its backers said it was needed to deter fraud.