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2005. It was a different time; a simpler time; a time in which Autobots and humans lived side-by-side, but more importantly for our story today, it was a time in which the GOP controlled the White House and the Senate. When Harry Reid earned a lasting place in infamy by triggering the nuclear option, it was the culmination of a debate that began in earnest in 2005, although its roots go back to 2003 when the Democrats began to use the filibuster as a tool against judicial nominees. But it was 2005, at the beginning of the Congress elected with President George W. Bush, that the GOP turned up the heat with the threatened "nuclear option."
I maintained throughout (and subsequently) that I was less troubled by the nuclear option itself than I was by the defective and often frauduluent Constitutional arguments used to justify it. Nevertheless, lest I be thought a partisan on this point, I wrote at the time:
I am a Republican and an Originalist, someone who really, really likes the US Constitutional order; I don't want to mess around with it simply because it suits my immediate cause. America is not, was not created as, and never will be, a strictly majoritarian democracy; it is a Republic, if we can keep it, in which majority rule is tempered with minority rights, as provided by a written Constitution, the meaning of which does not change other than by its amendment. I see no reasonable, originalist interpretation of the Constitution that is consistent with Senator Frist's nuclear option—and as such we must call it, because, Q.E.D., it most certainly is not a 'constitutional' option—and thus I must respectfully dissent.
And lest President (then Senator) Obama be thought anything but a partisan on this point, he wrote at the time:
"I rise today to urge my colleagues to think about the implications the nuclear option would have on this chamber and this country. I urge you to think not just about winning every debate, but about protecting free and democratic debate. … [T]he American people sent us here to be their voice. They understand that those voices can at times become loud and argumentative, but they also hope that we can disagree without being disagreeable. And at the end of the day, they expect both parties to work together to get the people's business done. What they don't expect is for one party - be it Republican or Democrat - to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet. The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster - if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate - then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.
Again, I urge my Republican colleagues not to go through with changing these rules. In the long run, this is not a good result for either party. One day Democrats will be in the majority again, and this rule change will be no fairer to a Republican minority than it is to a Democratic minority. Mr. President, I sense that talk of the nuclear option is more about power than about fairness. I believe some of my colleagues propose this rules change because they can get away with it rather than because they know it's good for our democracy.
One might plant tongue firmly in cheek and say that it's sporting for the Democrats to eviscerate the power of the minority shortly before being returned to it. But that's politics. On substance, which is what really counts, this is a day that will live in infamy. Tonight, every American goes to bed in a country that is a little bit worse than the one in which they awoke.
It would seem like the time to get on the record about this. Perhaps the best way to describe my attitude toward military intervention in Syria is "I'm open to it." I am not actively in favor of it, I am uneasy about the prospect, but I am not opposed.
In the abstract, my attitude has always been "give war a chance." As a teenager, I watched the meat-grinder of the Yugoslavian civil war and wondered why no one was helping—stop talking and help—and then the feckless response of the United Nations wondering why no one was helping effectively. That was formative. I argued for intervention in Rwanda, Kosovo, Zimbabwe, Iraq, and Libya, and supported those interventions that we carried out. (On Libya, compare my post here with Pat's post here.) Generally-speaking, I say: When western military power can be used to prevent small men from slaughtering their populi, we should favor intervention. I am emphatically an interventionist when we foresee intervention being a net plus and the costs being reasonable. I think it naive to suppose that you can talk such men out of office and into a short and predictably-fatal retirement. I think it facile to complain that war takes lives when lives are already being lost, as they are in Syria.
"When," however, is often "if." To be more precise about it, I tilt toward intervention when there are discrete problems that can be resolved through the application of military force. While I realize that this is a mushy standard rather than a clear test, Iraq may provide a helpful example: The problem was that Saddam Hussein's control of Iraq was unacceptable, our goal was to remove him from power, and this could readily be accomplished through precise application of military force. (Operation Opera furnishes a non-American example—the problem was the existence of an object susceptible to military force—as, mutatis mutandis, does Operation Corporate.) Egypt, by contrast, will serve as a counterexample: Its problems can't be solved by troops on the ground, let alone by letting some firepower off the chain, and so it's hard to make a case for intervention. Moreover, that is a threshold test, and there is another piece to the analysis, which is even mushier, alas: The negatives of intervention must not outweigh the positives. North Korea exemplifies that point: There is no doubt that we could crack that nut, but the collateral costs are horrendous. Not every problem that can be solved by military force must be—or should be.
The problem that I have with supporting intervenion in Syria is that it's easy to say "intervention" but more difficult to articulate precisely what that means: What are we trying to do? How are we going to get there? What are the waypoints—by what metrics can we assess progress and failure? What are the criteria for deciding whether we're "there" and/or whether we're going to get "there"? What happens once we're "there"? At what point or in what circumstances do we leave? Broadly-speaking: What's the plan? Is it to kill Assad? To remove the Syrian government? To destroy the regime's chemical weapons? To destroy or disrupt the regime's military? To referee the dispute?
William Saletan gives it a good try, but comes up short. Nick Clegg says that “[t]he objective [of military action in Syria] is to deter the further use of chemical weapons on humanitarian grounds,” but that's not good enough either. That is not a goal, it is an aspiration. And it's a weaselly aspiration: Are we really to tell Assad that chemical weapons are out, but that, if he might kindly return to butchering his people with conventional arms, we will mutter and resume our fitful sleep? And it's a dangerous aspiration: Plastic aspirations produce open-ended commitments, which is precisely what we don't want. While recognizing that the situation on the ground sometimes dictates a certain fluidity of strategy, there should be tangible, concrete, defined goals: we're going to go in with X, we're going to do Y, and (ideally, although less importantly) we're going to leave when Z.
It must also be noted, tangentially, that many of the cheerleaders for intervention, from the President on down, have displayed a level of raw partisan hypocrisy that is astonishing. The speech of Secretary Kerry, for example, could have been given almost word-for-word, with only superficial changes, by Vice-President Cheney in the runup to Iraq. To be clear, the act of hypocrisy was then, not now—Kerry is right now and was wrong then. And to be sure, there are Republicans who supported war in Iraq but who are now skeptical of attacking Syria, which might, one supposes, leave them open to comparable charges of partisanship. But I doubt that such charges can stick. The liberation of Iraq, unlike our hypothetical action in Syria, had a clear and precisely-defined goal that could be measured. (It is important to be clear about this: Those who opposed the liberation of Iraq were wrong. Period. That assesment does not change because of the subsequent mismanagement of post-Hussein Iraq.) It would be hypocrisy for those who favored the liberation of Iraq to reject action in Syria on principle, but surely not if their concerns are practical.
Let me end on this note: One of the few things on which President Obama and I coincide is our shared distaste for sitting by idly in the face of slaughter. Political expedience may have induced him to oppose Iraq, but we saw his true colors, I think, with intervention in Libya. He and I are unimpressed by the notion that such-and-such "is not an American problem" or that "America is not the world's policeman"; we are skeptical of the idea that we may not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy and certain that Adams' sentiment, whatever its wisdom in abstracto, is cold-blooded in a world where ambition is so often invoiced in innocent blood. My threshold for supporting the President on this is very low. I tilt toward intervention, and I should like to defer to his judgment if he would articulate as much as a plausible and coherent approach. (Cf. Simon Dodd, The NSA programs: Deference, secrecy, libertarians, conservatives, and the Fourth Amendment, part I, Motu Proprio, June 19, 2013.) He has yet to do so. Syria deserves better, and so do we.
In the beginning, there was John McCain. People forget that “Birtherism” was summoned into being to challenge McCain’s quest for the Presidency, and we presciently debunked it in two posts in February 2008, one of mine and one of Pat’s.1 It was Phillip Berg, a Hillary Clinton supporter, who took the fateful step of applying the notion to Barack Obama, and thus was born a cottage industry of conspiracy.2 To their credit, the birthers sought to be consistently wrong, and went after Marco Rubio when he became flavor of the month: Rubio was born in Florida, but, they charged, he was born to non-citizen parents, and is therefore not a natural-born citizen.3 Perhaps we will one day have to confront that question, but Rubio’s swift fall from favor moots it.
The new flavor of the month is Ted Cruz, now a Texan Senator but fondly-remembered by many of us as a Texan litigator.4 I rather like him; like Chris Christy, he is a brash brawler well-suited to his home state, and while one would not wish to see him as a model for the next generation of politicians, he has a certain charm. I account the chances that he will run for President at something approaching one hundred percent. But Cruz, it turns out, was born in Canada to an American mother and non-American father,5 and this requires some discussion.
Article II section 1 of the Constitution of the United States requires that the President be a “natural-born citizen.” Constitutional text draws its content from the original meaning of that language.6 In particular, when the Constitution avails itself of the argot of the common law, it incorporates the relevant precepts thereof.7 We do not parse such terms-of-art as natural language, but rather give them the meaning that would have been inferred by a reasonable person contemporary with the founding.8 “Natural-born subject” was such a term-of-art, and, as we explained in the context of the McCain challenge, “natural-born citizen” therefore means in Article II law what Americans of the founding generation understood “natural-born subject” to mean in English law, mutatis mutandis.9 Thus, I argued, McCain is a natural-born citizen because he was born on American sovereign territory (which the Panama Canal Zone was at the time), and even if he wasn’t, Pat argued, English law at the time of the founding recognized that foreign-born children of Englishmen sent abroad by the king were considered natural-born subjects, and this rule was sufficiently embedded by 1788 that children of soldiers and diplomats would have been thought of as natural-born citizens. Either of these foundations alone would support McCain’s natural-born citizenship; both together make it a slam-dunk.
Neither, however, settle the question of whether Cruz’s citizenship is natural-born or statutory. The first is irrelevant; Canada is not American territory. The second won’t do it either, though, because Cruz’s parents were not there on the errand of the United States. They were there in a purely private capacity, and that is a distinct question.
Throughout our previous discussions, we have habitually referred to what was understood “at common law.” Truth be told, however, this has been a loose synonym for “settled English law”; the technical distinction between statute and common law is not the object in view.10 What we are interested in is English law as it would have been understood by the founding generation as the legal backdrop to their work.11 Their primary source for that law was Blackstone,12 the relevant portion of which was quoted by Pat’s post. It bears extended quotation here:
THE first and most obvious division of the people is into aliens and natural-born subjects. Natural-born subjects are such as are born within the dominions of the crown of England, that is, within … the allegiance of the king; and aliens, such as are born out of it. Allegiance is the tie, or ligamen, which binds the subject to the king, in return for that protection which the king affords the subject. The thing itself, or substantial part of it, is founded in reason and the nature of government; the name and the form are derived to us from our Gothic ancestors. …
. . . .
WHEN I say that an alien is one who is born out of the king's dominions, or allegiance, this also must be understood with some restrictions. The common law indeed stood absolutely so; with only a very few exceptions: so that a particular act of parliament became necessary after the restoration, 29 Car. II. c. 6., for the naturalization of children of his majesty's English subjects, born in foreign countries during the late troubles. And this maxim of the law proceeded upon a general principle, that every man owes natural allegiance where he is born, and cannot owe two such allegiances, or serve two masters, at once. Yet the children of the king's ambassadors born abroad were always held to be natural subjects, 7 Rep. 18: for as the father, though in a foreign country, owes not even a local allegiance to the prince to whom he is sent; so, with regard to the son also, he was held (by a kind of post-liminium) to be born under the king of England's allegiance, represented by his father, the ambassador. To encourage also foreign commerce, it was enacted by statute, [the Status of Children Born Abroad Act, 1350,] 25 Edw. III. st. 2., that all children born abroad, provided both their parents were at the time of the birth in allegiance to the king, and the mother had passed the seas by her husband's consent, might inherit as if born in England: and accordingly it hath been so adjudged in behalf of merchants. Cro. Car. 601. Mar. 91. Jenk. Cent. 3. But by several more modern statutes, [the Foreign Protestants Naturalization Act, 1708,] 7 Ann. c. 5. and [the British Nationality Act, 1730,] 4 Geo. II. c. 21, these restrictions are still farther taken off: so that all children, born out of the king's ligeance, whose fathers were natural-born subjects, are now natural-born subjects themselves, to all intents and purposes, without any exception; unless their said fathers were attainted, or banished beyond sea, for high treason; or were then in the service of a prince at enmity with Great Britain.
THE children of aliens, born here in England, are, generally speaking, natural-born subjects, and entitled to all the privileges of such. In which the constitution of France differs from ours; for there, by their jus albinatus, if a child be born of foreign parents, it is an alien.
A DENIZEN is an alien born, but who has obtained ex donatione regis letters patent to make him an English subject: a high and incommunicable branch of the royal prerogative. A denizen is in a kind of middle state between an alien, and natural-born subject, and partakes of both of them. …
NATURALIZATION cannot be performed but by act of parliament: for by this an alien is put in exactly the fame state as if he had been born in the king's ligeance; except only that he is incapable, as well as a denizen, of being a member of the privy council, or parliament, etc. 12 Wm. III. c. 2. No bill for naturalization can be received in either house of parliament, without such disabling clause in it. 1 Geo. I c. 4. Neither can any person be naturalized or restored in blood, unless he hath received the sacrament of the Lord's supper within one month before the bringing in of the bill; and unless the also takes the oaths of allegiance and supremacy in the presence of the parliament. 7 Jac. I. c. 2.13
The most obvious clutch of points to take from this are that a natural-born subject is in the first place distinct from the "artificial" subject, i.e. a denizized (by executive act) or naturalized (by legislative act) subject,14 that the subject naturalized by legislation is categorically different from the subject naturally-born,15 and that the political rights of artificial subjects were limited.16
But perhaps the more important thing to take from it is that at the time of the founding, the materials available to the founders would have suggested to them that English law on who was a natural-born subject was more pragmatic than coherent. The common law, strictly-understood,17 seems to have generally required both of the elements that Pat and I discussed: "There are two Incidents regularly that are necessary to make a subject born; First, that his parents, at the time of his birth, be under the actual obedience of the King; secondly, that the place of his birth be within the King's dominions."18 But the child of an alien, if born in the king's realm, was also held to be a natural-born subject of the king, which tilts more toward ius solis, and the child of an Englishman is a natural-born subject even if he is born outside of the king's realm so long as his parents were sent there by the king, which tilts more toward ius sanguinis. Meanwhile, statutory law tilted decisively toward ius sanguinis: The child of an Englishman in good standing was accounted an Englishman. Its drift in the eighteenth century was doubtless liberal, but its substance was ancient. Blackstone appears to frame the organizing concept as a practical one of allegiance, and this makes a lot of sense when we consider the statutes, but it is hard to understand how this can explain the common law's more ius solis moments, and so it's hard to set that concept to work in explaining the law's vector. What would the framers have made of this?
Fast-forward two centuries. In 1970, Rafael and Eleanor Cruz are working in Canada for an oil company.19 Eleanor is an American citizen, but Rafael is not.20 If we now try to apply English law as reported by Blackstone, problems quickly mount. The common-law exception privileging the children of agents of the crown doesn't apply, and the statutory privileges are framed in stubbornly androcentric terms: Children born on foreign soil "whose fathers were natural-born subjects, are … natural-born subjects themselves." The foreign-born child of a British man was a natural-born subject, but what of the foreign-born child of an British woman married to a Cuban political refugee domiciled in England? What would the founders have understood English law to say of that child's citizenship?
And what are we to infer from the Immigration Act, 1 Stat. 103 (1790), which provided that "the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens"? Does the first clause abolish the patrilineal focus of the English statutes? Does the second restate the understanding that such children were natural-born citizens, or does it imply that they were not (insofar as statutory text is not to be read as a nullity)? Does "as" mean "as if they were" (as it clearly does in the preceding clause of the statute) or "to be"?
The reader may be anxious to know how these vexing and intricate questions may be resolved, and may be frustrated to learn that I will not do so here. For our purposes, it suffices to say that although Cruz is probably eligible, a legitimate question mark hangs over it. The practical question therefore becomes this: Is Cruz really so good a candidate that we want to license another four or eight years of birtherism? Is he really so good a candidate that we are willing to risk a constitutional crisis if the Democratic candidate should lose the election's voting phase and seek victory in its litigation phase? (Do not think for a moment that they are not sufficiently brazen.) Because I have a hard time answering those questions in the affirmative, it seems to me that the existence of this question mark suffices to end Cruz's candidacy before it begins.
Yes, three quarters of the country can be wrong; the meanings of legal texts aren't decided by polls. But which texts are law can often be decided by polls, and if the President hoped to make a cause celebre of a decision by the court to strike down Obamacare, that door would appear to have been closed by the fact that even a New York Times poll says that three quarters of the country—so read four fifths, correcting for bias—would agree with the court.
Unions hardest-hit. I liked this line, from Politico's coverage: "Vince Lombardi, the man who taught [Wisconsinites] to think with clarity about the severe consequences of victory and defeat, once offered this gem about life: 'Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser.'” Somehow one gets a sense of what Lombardi would have made of John McCain's 2008 autorotation of a campaign.
Only four in ten Americans will admit to being pro-choice; half identify themselves as pro-life. But, remember, WE'RE the kooky extremists who are waging a war on women, right?
As I've pointed out before, the problem with majoritarian rhetoric is that if you slip into the minority, you're in trouble.
Predictably, liberal feminists like Shakesville's Melissa McEwan are spinning furiously, but Melissa's argument just doesn't work. She says that a different graph, finding 52% of Americans want abortion to be “[l]egal under certain [circumstances],” proves that “77% of USians still favor keeping abortion legal in some form” (presumably the abominable neologism “USians” is cod political correctness), a number that she obtains by aggregating the 52% with the 25% who think it should be legal under any circumstances. But why count the 52% with the 25% instead of the 20% who think it should be illegal in all circumstances? The claim that 77% of Americans wouldn’t ban abortion under all circumstances is weak tea for someone in Melissa’s position, and the same graph also proves, no less correctly and considerably more apropos, that 72% of Americans favor tighter restrictions on abortion than can exist under Roe-Casey, which means that 72% of Americans would tighten abortion law from the abortion-on-demand status quo, and, if they were consistent and it was explained to them properly, favor the overruling of Roe and its poisonous progeny.
I have made it quite clear over the years, that I don't think that the so-called "delegates" should be speaking in any House hearings, except perhaps as a witness, so my immediate thought on seeing the headline " D.C. Delegate Norton silenced at abortion bill hearing" was not sympathetic. But it was as a witness that Ms. Norton sought to appear! While I disagree with the House's sufferance of her as an ersatz member, and while I suspect that I would disagree with her testimony, my inclination is to see the refusal as churlish and unreasonable. This is not like the Sandra Fluke business. Insofar as Congress is proposing to legislate in its capacity as overlord of D.C. and she is an elected representative of the D.C. community (whether she ought to be or not), the committee would be as well-advised to hear from her as to hear from, say, the mayor of the district. And insofar as since Ms. Norton is in fact a member of the Congressional community (whether she ought to be or not)—no more or less than the Clerk of the House, the Secretary of the Senate, and so forth—while the committee would have been within its rights to decline to invite her testimony, to refuse to her permission to do so, sought in good faith, would be exceedingly ill-mannered.
Committees don't have to agree with what they hear from witnesses. To be sure, committees shouldn't be soapboxes, either for members or witnesses—I would lock the cameras out of the committee rooms as well as from the Capitol, and see no reason why the commmittee would have to provide a public platform for Norton's comments. But out of professional courtesy if nothing else, the committee should throw out the cameras, and (given what I know of Ms. Norton's views), listen politely to her, thank her for her time, and then ignore her.
Greg Stohr at Bloomberg, with my emphases and comments:
In January, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of “high-handedness.” He was just getting warmed up. [So was the court; the agency lost that case--Sackett v. EPA--nine to nothing.]
. . . .
Scalia’s tone this year, particularly in cases involving the Obama administration, is raising new criticism ... [that he] is crossing the line that separates tough scrutiny from advocacy. ¶ “His questions have been increasingly confrontational,” said Charles Fried, a Harvard Law School professor who served as Reagan’s top Supreme Court advocate. While the justice has always asked “pointed” questions, in the health-care case “he came across much more like an advocate.” [Prof. Fried has made clear in a number of appearences and interviews that he regards the challenges as risible. It's thus unsurprising that his perception would be skewed.]
. . . .
The justice has never shied away from controversy. ... In 2009, he told a college student she had posed a “nasty, impolite question” when she asked whether book tours by the justices undermined their case for banning camera coverage of arguments. [I've spent a fair amount of time trying to track down sourcing for this, and while there are ample sources giving the quote from Scalia, I have yet to find any source that records the wording of the question, and it's beyond cavil that a query that might be substantively reasonable can always be framed in a nasty, impolite manner. Without the text of the question, the criticism of Scalia's response falls flat.] ...
. . . .
Of late, Scalia’s most pointed remarks have come at the Obama administration’s expense. [Is that so? I'd like to know how you'd quantify that.]
In January, [in Sackett,] he directed his fire at Malcolm Stewart, a Justice Department attorney. Stewart was defending the EPA’s use of administrative compliance orders that demand an end to alleged environmental violations, in many cases insisting that recipients restore their land to its previous state ... [and] Scalia made his contempt clear after Stewart said that people and companies could seek to change any “infeasible” requirements. ¶ “Well, that’s very nice,” the justice said. “That’s very nice when you’ve received something called a compliance order, which says you’re subject to penalties” of $32,500 per day. [What Stewart actually said was that "every version of the compliance order said to the Sacketts [that] if you think that there are things ... in here that are wrong or compliance measures that you regard as infeasible, you're welcome to tell us." Tr. 34 ff. And as Scalia was pointing out, a right to ask an agency to reconsider an order that may be ruinous is cold comfort indeed if the agency is charging you ruinous sums of money for every day that you don't comply, including the time taken for your request to be processed. Scalia was right. Even Stewart conceded shortly thereafter that the EPA had put the Sacketts "an unattractive position." Id., at 37.] ¶ When Stewart said the EPA had modified the order at issue, dropping a requirement that an Idaho couple replant vegetation on their property, Scalia scoffed again. “It shows the high- handedness of the agency, it seems to me, putting in there stuff that is simply not required,” he said. [See ibid. "[W]hen litigation was threatened or actually brought," Scalia had noted, "the EPA modified its order: Oh, you don't have to plant the trees. Does it do this as a matter of practice, issue compliance orders that go well beyond what the what the [Environmental Protection Act] would -- would demand?" Does it not show high-handedness for an agency to issue compliance orders that go well beyond what the enabling statute demands, if that is indeed what happened?] ¶ The court unanimously ruled against the EPA in March, giving landowners more power to challenge compliance orders in court. [So clearly Scalia was way off-base, right? The EPA's position was so reasonable that it attracted support from... um... not a single justice. That's... nice.]
. . . .
With health care, Scalia’s primary target was Verrilli, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer. Defending the law’s requirement that Americans get insurance or pay a penalty, the solicitor general argued that uninsured people often receive care, even if they can’t pay for it, because of the “social norms to which we’ve obligated ourselves.” ¶ “Well, don’t obligate yourself to that,” Scalia said. [We have to administer the death penalty because of social norms to which we've obligated ourselves. Well, who's "we" and why are they obliging us? How does that supply a font of (or obstacle to) federal power? Does a decision by a determined minority to oblige Americans to do something supply authority for the government to do that thing? Can the obligation of a treaty in which the United States government promised another nation that it would do something that it lacks Constitutional authority to do supply the power to do it? Of course not. Scalia is right.] ¶ Later, Scalia called one strand of the government’s defense -- its contention that Congress could legally enact the law as a tax -- “extraordinary.” [So what? "Extraordinary" isn't unusual Scalian vocabulary, and while I realize that that sounds odd, it's not a contradiction when his ordinary business is to deal with extraordinary cases. This term, he called the government's argument in Hosanna-Tabor extraordinary (by the by, Justice Kagan called it "amazing"); extraordinary too was Justice Kennedy's opinion for the court in Lafler. Once, Justice Thomas' opinion for the court was extraordinary. Last term, too. And in Santos. And Scalia's not the only Justice to use that word. Or the only person at the court: Sometimes, the SG tells the court that things are extraordinary; indeed, Mr. Stewart did so in Sackett, the case mentioned above. So.] ¶ The following day, he mocked an assertion by another Justice Department lawyer, Edwin Kneedler, as the court considered what would happen to the rest of the law should a key provision mandating that most Americans obtain insurance be declared unconstitutional. Kneedler said the court should look at “the structure and the text” of the 2,700-page statute. ¶ “Mr. Kneedler, what happened to the Eighth Amendment?” Scalia asked, referring to the provision of the U.S. Constitution that bars cruel and unusual punishment. “You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages? [It's a bit late for Greg to come on all humorless having observed above that "[i]n the courtroom, he is quick with one-liners, drawing laughter more frequently than any other justice...." What does Greg want, a rimshot? Even the transcript adds "(Laughter.)" Tr. 38.]
. . . .
Scalia described as “extraordinary” yet another administration position, this time when Verrilli urged the court to strike down Arizona’s illegal-immigration law. Scalia bristled when the solicitor general said “we have to have the cooperation of the Mexicans,” something Verrilli said the federal government could best secure without state interference. “So we have to enforce our laws in a manner that will please Mexico?” Scalia said. “Is that what you’re saying?” [Again, the point isn't objectionable, and I say that despite being somewhat sympathetic to Verrilli's argument. Verrilli argued, among other things, that generally, the foreign relations of the United States (indisputably a federal business) with a given country are or may be affected by how we treat illegal immigrants from that country, and in particular, our ability to enforce immigration laws depends (I think that's a little strong, myself) on the cooperation of the "donor" country, especially in Mexico's case. Thus, the argument goes, the United States has an interest in enforcing immigration law in a way that doesn't antagonize other countries. See Tr. 69 ff. Scalia's phrasing might have been unkind, but it wasn't unfair, unreasonable, or incorrect.]
. . . .
The result in Bush v. Gore was important, but the reasoning turned out to be perishable; the decision has not been cited again by the Justices
Yes, well; that's unsurprising, as I explained a few moons of Jeff's whining about the case ago.
[H]ere's my devil's advocate argument about all this. No justice since Rehnquist has wanted to revisit the basic premise of the new deal revolution, which is essentially that Congress can do anything, but only four justices are willing to embrace that outcome, and so every time a case challenging congressional authority arrives, liberals can't believe it's serious (because they don't believe there are limits other than individual rights), and the conservative justices desperately search for a limiting principle that preserves the fiction that the new deal settlement doesn't make congress omnipotent (because they don't want to revisit the new deal settlement).
Now, I'm not sure that it's true that the new deal settlement essentially makes Congress omnipotent; certainly that is the proposition that Lopez denies. But in the absence of a limiting principle, it's hard to see how that isn't the upshot, so we are backed into the corner of accepting one of three outcomes: Accept Congressional omnipotence, impose (sometimes slightly artificial) limiting principles to reign in that power, or overrule Wickard et al.
I saw that online earlier, quoted as a German proverb. I like G.K. Chesterton's comment on change and progress:
As enunciated today, 'progress' is simply a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative. We meet every ideal of religion, patriotism, beauty, or brute pleasure with the alternative ideal of progress—that is to say, we meet every proposal of getting something that we know about with an alternative proposal of getting a great deal more of nobody knows what. Progress, properly understood, has … a most dignified and legitimate meaning. But as used in opposition to precise moral ideals, it is ludicrous. So far from it being the truth that the ideal of progress is to be set against that of ethical or religious finality, the reverse is the truth. Nobody has any business to use the word 'progress' unless he has a definite creed and a cast-iron code of morals. Nobody can be progressive without being doctrinal; I might almost say that nobody can be progressive without being infallible—at any rate, without believing in some infallibility. For progress by its very name indicates a direction; and the moment we are in the least doubtful about the direction, we become in the same degree doubtful about the progress. Never perhaps since the beginning of the world has there been an age that had less right to use the word 'progress' than we.
In the Catholic twelfth century, in the philosophic eighteenth century, the direction may have been a good or a bad one, men may have differed more or less about how far they went, and in what direction, but about the direction they did in the main agree, and consequently they had the genuine sensation of progress. But it is precisely about the direction that we disagree. Whether the future excellence lies in more law or less law, in more liberty or less liberty; whether property will be finally concentrated or finally cut up; whether sexual passion will reach its sanest in an almost virgin intellectualism or in a full animal freedom; whether we should love everybody with Tolstoy, or spare nobody with Nietzsche;—these are the things about which we are actually fighting most. It is not merely true that the age which has settled least what is progress is this 'progressive' age. It is, moreover, true that the people who have settled least what is progress are the most 'progressive' people in it. The ordinary mass, the men who have never troubled about progress, might be trusted perhaps to progress. The particular individuals who talk about progress would certainly fly to the four winds of heaven when the pistol-shot started the race. I do not, therefore, say that the word 'progress' is unmeaning; I say it is unmeaning without the previous definition of a moral doctrine, and that it can only be applied to groups of persons who hold that doctrine in common. Progress is not an illegitimate word, but it is logically evident that it is illegitimate for us. It is a sacred word, a word which could only rightly be used by rigid believers and in the ages of faith.
(Heretics, Ch. 2, 1905.) By definition, aimless change isn't progress, because progress is always going somewhere; where and why ought to be threshold questions at each step. And while progress doesn't necessarily mean change within tradition—one may change destinations in midair—it is best when it is. In this sense, I suppose one could say that I'm not for progress at all, but rather, to the extent they are distinct in this sense, growth, which is to say that I prefer gradual organic development in continuity with tradition rather than "progress," the latter being most often a forced march toward artificial goals conjured up by men who fancy themselves clear-sighted and clever.
We haven't had one for a while, so let's. What's happening?
For musical accompaniment, check out a new band I've been enjoying this week, Metropol.
Kagan shouldn't recuse herself (neither should Justice Thomas, by the way) and there's really no need to explain it. The prevailing understanding of recusal is needlessly histrionic; generally-speaking, I think that judges should recuse themselves when, and not unless, they have a direct personal stake in the outcome (stocks, etc.) or a personal involvement with a private litigant (the defendant is a family member; the plaintiff killed their dog). The idea that judges should recuse themselves because they might have preexisting opinions about the legal issues in the case at bar is, in a word, fatuous. Writing for the court in Minnesota GOP v. White, Justice Scalia correctly said that
it is virtually impossible to find a judge who does not have preconceptions about the law. As then-Justice Rehnquist observed of our own Court: "Since most Justices come to this bench no earlier than their middle years, it would be unusual if they had not by that time formulated at least some tentative notions that would influence them in their interpretation of the sweeping clauses of the Constitution and their interaction with one another. It would be not merely unusual, but extraordinary, if they had not at least given opinions as to constitutional issues in their previous legal careers." Indeed, even if it were possible to select judges who did not have preconceived views on legal issues, it would hardly be desirable to do so. "Proof that a Justice’s mind at the time he joined the Court was a complete tabula rasa in the area of constitutional adjudication would be evidence of lack of qualification, not lack of bias."
(Citations deleted.) If anyone believes that there is a single member of the court who doesn't have reasonably well-formed ideas about the Constitutional issues at issue in these cases, and at least tentative views about the application of those principles to these cases, they're living on another planet. And so what? Nobody in their right mind believes that Justices Scalia and Ginsburg must recuse from the next abortion case down the pike simply because they have strong moral views on abortion and settled legal views on the constitutionality of abortion, so what basis is there for demanding that Kagan recuse for potentially having views that are certainly no more settled and more than likely considerably less so?
The only conceivable basis is to argue that Kagan does have a direct stake insofar as she helped create the defense that she is now called to adjudicate. (For precisely that reason, Kagan has recused in a number of cases.) But did she? An email expressing excitement that the bill might pass is hardly a smoking gun, and I see little reason to believe that we're likely to find one. Here's why: The Senate consented to Justice Kagan's appointment on August 5th, 2010; the district court ruling striking down PaPACA, Florida v. DHHS, was argued in December 2010 and handed down in January 2011; the 11th circuit affirmed in August 2011. How could Kagan participate in briefing, arguing, or strategizing in litigation that took place months after she joined the court? It is conceivable that in the spring of 2010, Kagan might have participated in general strategy meetings about potential issues that might be raised in potential litigation, but that just brings us back to the general legal views trap. I see little reason to believe that she participated in the earliest stages of the earliest actual litigation filed, and by the time that one would expect the SG's office to be involved in those cases, Kagan had joined the bench.
The calls for Kagan to recuse have nothing to do with judicial integrity, any more than do the left's recurrent calls for Scalia and Thomas to recuse from various cases. (I recall one article in which a professor seriously argued that five justices should have recused in Bush v. Gore, and what do you know, they just happened to be the five who voted for what the professor thought was the wrong result! Fancy that!) This is about stacking the deck. The left wants Thomas out to eliminate a vote against Obamacare and the right wants Kagan out to eliminate a vote for it. The court should decline the invitation to dignify such naked partisanship by responding any more than it already has.
It's hard to overstate just how completely the folks running Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure have managed to screw a charity that does such important work.
Earlier this week, Komen alienated a huge swath of pro-choicers by announcing that it would cut off funding for abortion industry mothership Planned Parenthood. Now, I'll go out on a limb here and say that those people are gone. They aren't coming back. Komen has, in their view, betrayed their trust and they will henceforth give money directly to Planned Parenthood; they will not be mollified by some kind of humiliating climbdown by Komen.
But the math was pretty clear to me: If you're trying to do work in an area that doesn't divide people, it makes no sense to hook up with an intensely divisive organization that instantly alienates about half your audience without commensurate benefit. Unsurprisingly, and mirroring the outrage on that side, there was something approaching delight elsewhere. Komen does important work, and their association with PP has long precluded support support from Catholics and other pro-lifers; what support there was came by-and-large from those who just didn't know about the association. In the wake of the news, just as outraged pro-choicers were announcing their intention to take their money and walk away from Komen, Komen's donations went through the roof.
So things stood this morning. Around lunchtime, however, Komen made a humiliating and foolish volte-face, announcing that they will keep supporting PP after all.
It's quite incredible that a group that does such important work could be run by such a bunch of boneheads. In the space of a week, they've alienated everyone. As I've said, getting in bed with an intensely divisive organization like PP only hurts the cause for which Komen works, and yet they've just antagonized people on both sides of that divide. The folks who sided with PP are gone, and quite sensibly won't return because Komen has lost their trust; now Komen has lost the trust of the people who were elated by the move, and we won't return either. Earlier in the week, Komen set itself up to thrive; today it's jumped off a cliff.
And it doesn't end there. Here's a comment that someone left on the Central Indiana Komen facebook page, one that ideally captures the other problem: "This is so wrong. I did not know [Komen] gave to Planned Parent hood and now that i do they will not get a dime from me and I am sure their are millions who did not know this." So, great job, Komen: You've not only lost the pro-choice folks, but in doing so, you've also managed to advertise that you support PP, further constricting your pro-life support base.
So apparently incompetent has been Komen's performance that one almost wonders if this is a deliberate attempt to fly the plane into a cliff—but there are surely easier ways to wind up a charity. (The people who hired Komen's managers should look up "fiduciary duty" and call their lawyers.) You can't please all the people all the time, but it's a foolish strategy indeed to alienate everyone at once. There's no way back from this; Komen is dead.
The case of which Perry v. Perez—decided this morning—most reminds me is Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood. Although they deal with different issues, the common thread is a particular kind of judicial minimalism. In the context of an abortion law, Ayotte cautioned courts to strike down only those parts that were problematic, leaving as much as possible of the legislature's work intact; in the context of a redistricting challenge, Perry cautions district courts that if they must draw new districts, they should take as much guidance as possible from the legislature's plans; both expect courts to walk softly and tailor carefully, "limit[ing] the solution to the problem" as Ayotte puts it.
Perry is very short and worth reading, but I'll excerpt what strikes me as the key part:
To avoid being compelled to make such otherwise standardless decisions, a district court should take guidance from the State’s recently enacted plan in drafting an interim plan. That plan reflects the State’s policy judgments on where to place new districts and how to shift existing ones in response to massive population growth. This Court has observed before that “faced with the necessity of drawing district lines by judicial order, a court, as a general rule, should be guided by the legislative policies underlying” a state plan—even one that was itself unenforceable—“to the extent those policies do not lead to violations of the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act.” …
Section 5 prevents a state plan from being implemented if it has not been precleared. But that does not mean that the plan is of no account or that the policy judgments it reflects can be disregarded by a district court drawing an interim plan. On the contrary, the state plan serves as a starting point for the district court. It provides important guidance that helps ensure that the district court appropriately confines itself to drawing interim maps that comply with the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, without displacing legitimate state policy judgments with the court’s own preferences.
A district court making such use of a State’s plan must, of course, take care not to incorporate into the interim plan any legal defects in the state plan.
The following was sent as a letter to the editor for our local paper. This is a footnoted, annotated version, since I can digress here without a word limit.
Last week, President Obama claimed the power to make recess appointments even though the Senate is not in recess.1 He can do this, he argues, because he has determined that the Senate's session is a sham—that it's effectively in recess even though it's formally in session. While there’s a long-running debate over how long the Senate must be out before the President’s recess appointment power kicks in, no one has ever doubted that the clock must have begun ticking at some point with the beginning of a recess, so this is something new.
The fundamental question is: Who gets to decide when the Senate is in recess?2 While the obvious answer would be that Congress does, President Obama says that he will decide. We should consider the implications for checks and balances.
The Constitution's ordinary appointment process reflects two judgments: That the Presidency is the best place to lodge the appointment power, yet this authority must be constrained, as Hamilton explains in Federalist 76. Thus, in this ordinary process, a President cannot unilaterally make appointments over the objections of the Senate. Balance checks power.
The Constitution also supplies an extraordinary appointment process,3 which (to oversimplify slightly) allows the President to make "temporary" appointments while the Senate is recessed.4 But this authority, too, is hedged. Congress can forestall recess appointments simply by not recessing, by remaining in session.5 Thus, even in this extraordinary process, we might say that a President cannot make truly unilateral appointments over the objections of the Senate. Balance again checks power.
By contrast, the power asserted by the President last week is balanced against nothing; it is checked by nothing.
Some Democrats have cheered the President for "showing some spine," but they have not thought through the implications of the radical principle underlying his appointments. The President’s fundamental assertion is not that the Senate session is a sham; that's derivative. His fundamental (if tacit) assertion that he gets to make that call. It is that the President has unilateral authority to say when his appointment power is unilateral rather than being checked by any other Constitutional actor. That theory should raise your eyebrows; if the President can determine that Congress is not in session today, nothing intrinsic to the theory prevents him from determining that Congress is not in session at any other time.6 Would the Democrats who have cheered for these appointments out of immediate political convenience feel happy waking up in a few years to the news that, overnight, President [insert whatever name scares you most] determined that the Senate was in recess and handed out recess appointments for every vacancy in the administration?
Perhaps that hypothetical sounds absurd. It is—or should be. But the authority claimed by the President opens the door to that result, and when a principle leads to absurd results, we should look at it with skepticism. When it also suggests that a system designed to check every power with balance nevertheless affords unilateral authority, we should look even more closely.7
Candidly: Is your life likely to be materially affected if the Senate's check on Presidential appointments withers? No.8 But anyone who cares about our Constitution (and certainly anyone whose blood pressure rose when executive power was mentioned during the Bush administration) should be alarmed, because this is a radical assertion of power, one that is at war with the Constitution's system of checks and balances and likely to be abused.
Noting the shift in the definition of rape, Patterico says:
I have seen statistics that show more men are raped in this country every year than women, and while I am unsure of their accuracy, the fact is that rape of men is common — in prison. Long-time readers of the site know that I do not consider prison rape funny. Not only is it not part of the prescribed punishment, but the victims are likely to be weaker and less violent people — meaning that even if you did subscribe to a vigilante justice ethic, you’d still be letting the most violent get their jollies at the expense of the least violent.
I agree; more about that in this post from 2007.