March 13, 2010
Corrected at 3:00 p.m. on March 12.
For far too long, public debate about terrorism has been dominated by right-wing and left-wing ideologues. In this corner, the Cheneys and their allies. In that corner, the American Civil Liberties Union, gonzo House Democrats and academics, and their allies. In neither corner, common sense.
Typifying the quality of the debate was the ACLU's wildly overstated...
January 16, 2010
As one who has preached for years that presidents and Supreme Court justices should show more deference to Congress, I must admit that Congress seems less and less worthy of it. Might presidential and judicial despotism -- if enlightened -- be the lesser of evils?
Last week, for example, I criticized President Obama for failing to seek detailed legislation on detention and interrogation of...
October 4, 2008
It's hard for a broken political system to fix a broken financial system. That's one lesson of the failure of the House of Representatives -- and of its members' constituents -- on Monday to put aside partisan bickering and muster the seriousness necessary to contain the economic damage that is spreading so fast as to threaten calamity.
The 228 no votes on the bipartisan rescue plan -- cast...
October 20, 2007
Did you know that the Bush administration is pushing Congress to approve a long-term regime of governmental eavesdropping without judicial warrants on the overseas phone calls and e-mails of countless Americans?
And that the administration still insists on using interrogation techniques so coercive that human-rights groups call them torture?
And that it claims the power to hold dark-skinned...
September 1, 2007
For all the partisan bitterness in the air and the messes that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has made, it shouldn't be that hard for President Bush to replace him with someone far, far more effective. Nor should it be hard to get a conservative Republican nominee of quality confirmed without giving away the store to Democrats or weakening the presidency.
In particular, the right nominee could...
July 16, 2007
In 19 cases during the past year, the Supreme Court split down the middle along ideological lines. The court's four conservatives-Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito-lined up on one side, and the four liberals-Justices Stephen Breyer, John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter-lined up on the other. Each time, the tie was...
June 30, 2007
The most remarkable aspect of the Supreme Court's big 5-4 decision on June 25 easing restrictions on corporate campaign spending has gone virtually unnoticed: Like Congress, the Court is so ideologically polarized that even when a principled, pragmatic, nonideological solution to a knotty problem was staring them in the face, all nine justices spurned it.
The knotty problem was that Congress, in...
June 28, 2007
Measured by the passion of the dissenters, today's 5-4 vote to strike down two school districts' use of race-based student assignments to promote integration could be the biggest Supreme Court decision of any kind in years. Justice Stephen Breyer's 77-page dissent-which he summarized from the bench in a tone of mounting indignation, for a near-record 27 minutes-thundered that "to invalidate...
March 18, 2006
During the hiatus between Supreme Court confirmation battles, we may as well settle the clash between the conservative and liberal approaches to constitutional interpretation. The battle lines are familiar. Conservatives, led by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, say that the sole legitimate approach is to follow the literal text and original meaning of constitutional provisions and...
May 28, 2005
OK, OK, maybe I'm getting a bit carried away. My dream of a Militant Moderate Caucus (even a third party!) shoving the hard-right Republican and hard-left Democratic leaders to the margins, fixing Social Security and health care, and listening to mainstream voters instead of special-interest screamers remains forlorn. But the bipartisan, May 23 deal among 14 mostly moderate senators to bring some...
May 7, 2005
Like testosterone-crazed teenage drivers locked in a game of chicken, Democrats and Republicans seem on course toward a collision that could do grave damage to our democracy's distinctive blend of majority rule and minority protections.
March 19, 2005
The constitutional argument advanced by Senate Republican supporters of the so-called "nuclear option" to end Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees -- which is that any nominee who has majority support must be confirmed -- is weak.
February 12, 2005
When Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed last month to end (in California, at least) the incumbent-protection racket that is congressional and legislative redistricting, some Democrats accused him of a Texas-style power-grab for more Republican seats.
December 18, 2004
Consultation. Conciliation. Compromise. Such concepts are in eclipse these days in Washington. Everyone is getting ready for the mother of all confirmation battles. As soon as one of the nine aging Supreme Court justices retires, sports fans expect, President Bush will pick a clone of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas. Liberal groups will "Bork" the nominee as a retrograde, right-wing...
October 30, 2004
My last column explored some reasons for the bitter liberal-conservative polarization of our political class, which has helped spawn the anger, mendacity, and emotionalism that make our politics so ugly. Here I explain how the Supreme Court and the media have made this polarization worse, and sketch possible remedies.
October 23, 2004
The air is thick with lies, deceptions, distortions, demagoguery, sleaze, and vicious rhetoric, uttered every day by President Bush, John Kerry, or their surrogates. Both candidates offer evasion and snake-oil non-remedies for dire national problems, ranging from the existential threat of nuclear terrorism, to the war in Iraq, to global warming, to the looming Social-Security-Medicare-deficit...
January 18, 2003
On judicial nominations, Democrats accuse President Bush of fomenting racial division. On tax cuts, Bush and other Republicans accuse Democrats of "class warfare."
November 2, 2002
More than 90 percent of the nation's voters will go (or not go) to the polls on November 5 knowing that, as far as the House of Representatives is concerned, the elections in their districts will be largely a symbolic exercise. The main reason is that the winners in most states have been predetermined by the state officials and party operatives who drew the congressional district lines.
October 28, 2000
Would you like to see the estate tax repealed so that more people will be so flush with family money that they will never need to work? How about spending $100 billion or more on an easily circumvented missile shield that would wreak havoc with arms control? Or securing major cutbacks in federal environmental laws? Or speeding up executions of accused murderers without bothering to give them fair...
August 7, 1995
'State constitutional policies ... require a trial court to consider racial demographics in exercising its authority ... to change the venue of a criminal trial or to impanel a foreign jury."
So held the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court on June 12 in State v. Ambrose Harris, in which a black man is charged with raping and murdering a white woman. The court said that Harris...
July 3, 1995
The salutary tradition of showing respect for the dead has temporarily overshadowed the less-than-flattering image that Warren Burger had among Washington lawyers and journalists, especially those steeped in the liberal-leaning culture of the law schools and the media during his 17 years as chief justice of the United States.
We were told by our professors and our newspapers that Burger was...
December 2, 1991
In reversing the convictions of three once-powerful Reagan administration officials-Lyn Nofziger, Oliver North, and, last month, John Poindexter-the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has consistently cleaved along straight party lines.
Each of the eight Reagan-appointed and Bush-appointed judges (including now-Justice Clarence Thomas) has voted to reverse each of the convictions that he...
November 18, 1991
Richard Allen. Robert Bauman. James Beggs. Peter Bourne. Tony Coelho. Tai Collins. Daniel Crane. Deborah Gore Dean. Raymond Donovan. Fanne Foxe. Newt Gingrich. Stephen Gobie. Thereza Imanishi-Kari. Rita Jenrette. Tim Kraft. Bert Lance. Rita Lavelle. Donald Lukens. Robert McFarlane.
Edwin Meese III. Ozzie Myers. Lyn Nofziger. Oliver North. Theodore Olson. Tom Pappas. Paula Parkinson. Elizabeth Ray...