Monday, September 05, 2005

Notebook: On Rehnquist and Katrina

Two side notes: "Various notes" posts will from now on be labeled "notebook" posts. And my embryonic stem cell research op-ed piece from a few weeks ago, which compares conservative Sen. Bill Frist to the Nazis, is now posted here.

1) The excellent Chief Justice William Rehnquist has passed away, to be replaced by John Roberts (if confirmed). The Roberts choice is very practical; nominating anyone else would likely mean an eight-justice court for a time. And President Bush apparently wanted a young chief justice who could lead the court for decades.

I've always wanted Antonin Scalia to be promoted to the job, but he's older than Bush would prefer. And there's little doubt that Roberts will foster an amiable and respectful feeling in the courtroom, as opposed to Scalia, who has perhaps alienated some of his colleagues with his scathingly truthful remarks.

But at least we know that Scalia is an originalist, which is what really matters. Is Roberts? I don't know if anyone can tell for sure. Hopefully, the president knows what he's doing. If so, Roberts will make an excellent chief justice; if not, a disappointing one.

Speaking of accurately interpreting the Constitution, Steve Wagner writes that "the recent judicial tendency to interpret the constitution as a living document is really just an expression of deconstructionism, the idea that documents don'’t have a single objective meaning..."

Update: Cal Thomas writes on Bush's next Supreme Court nomination and the opportunity it presents. Thomas is confident in Roberts and also in Bush, who "
is not about to see his legacy tainted by someone who is a closet liberal."

Terence Jeffrey writes an excellent column praising Rehnquist's integrity. Jeffrey tells of him sticking to the blatantly obvious meanings of certain parts of the Constitution while his pathetic colleagues faltered.

Ben Shapiro says that Roberts isn't an originalist, but may still vote correctly a good percentage of the time. Clarence Thomas, he says, is the clearest originalist on the current court, ahead of Scalia. (I'm not qualified to clearly distinguish the differences between judges like Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas, but all, generally, are Constitution-defenders.) But Roberts may be seen as an ideological replacement for Rehnquist, which means a change in the court depends on Bush's next pick. A true originalist will make a difference. And it'd be politically much easier if the nominee happened to be a minority. But most importantly, Bush must stick to principle:
"Now, with his presidency under grave assault by both the anti-war cadre and the newly formed 'Bush the Racist caused the hurricane' crowd, Bush must pick a political fight." Absolutely.

Shapiro's pick for the nomination:
Emilio Garza. Other good possibilities: "Judge Michael Luttig (Fourth Circuit), Judge Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit), Judge Samuel Alito (Third Circuit), and Miguel Estrada."

Also, Laura Hirschfeld Hollis writes about the basics of the judicial system that no liberal understands. She also uses a particular case to draw out some differences between Scalia, Thomas, and O'Connor, which seem to support Ben Shapiro's claim, above, that Thomas is slightly more dedicated to the Constitution than Scalia, who may be less willing to overturn bad precedent - in order to preserve "procedural integrity."

The author seems to agree with that approach:
"If conservatives are willing to dispense with proper judicial process in order to obtain the substantive result they want, they will end up with neither – as we are discovering now. It is the process that protects us." But is overturning bad rulings "improper"? The "process" should be to follow the Constitution, which is what really protects us. I have to agree with Shapiro and Thomas here.


2) Hurricane Katrina has provided another opportunity for hateful politics.

Indeed, this is a complicated time in American history. As Hugh Hewitt writes:
Five years after a disputed and deeply divisive presidential election, a week short of the fourth anniversary of a devastating attack on the United States and the start of a war with a deadly enemy which has seen the U.S. invade and topple two brutal enemy dictatorships and replace both with the seedlings of free regimes, two months after a surprise resignation from the highest court in the land and now on the night of the death of the court's anchor for two decades and a member for 33 years, and just five days after the greatest natural disaster to ever smash into our country, with order restored in the New orleans and a massive relief effort underway throughout thousands of square miles for the displaced and the devastated...

...We continue to see just how amazing our system of government is. It's "the genius of 1789" that has given us, despite countless troubles, a secure structure that works.

Update: Cal Thomas writes on the bureaucratic shortcomings surrounding the Hurricane Katrina response. Charles Krauthammer also assigns blame - first, of course, to nature itself, which did the killing. But also to others who apparently made costly mistakes. And how about global warming, the war in Iraq, and tax cuts? Blameless. Michael Fumento goes into greater depth on the global warming charge.

Mary Katharine Ham: "All taxpaying citizens should live in fear of these times, when politicians cannot be satisfied with their own contributions to Hurricane Katrina relief and start healing with our money." The least we can do is make them spend responsibly, which they're not inclined to do.

As David Limbaugh writes, liberal politicians have used this tragedy to advance a baseless charge that Republicans in power are racists. I doubt the state of political discourse on the Left has ever been lower (not just "radicals," but mainstream Democrats. Look at their leader!). Also pathetic are the Hollywood celebrities making fools of themselves over Katrina.

And as Chuck Colson says, the great evil and the great good that have arisen from this disaster are powerful evidence for the Christian worldview, which makes sense of such notions.

Update: Star Parker responds to the absurd charges of racism, which Jeff Jacoby calls "
sickening slander" and "hateful." He goes on to write that "Americans of every color are helping Americans of every color, loving their neighbors as themselves, and proving by their selflessness yet again that racism is dead as a force in mainstream American life."

And should we fix Katrina with more government?

Linda Chavez:

New Orleans has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. Nearly one-third of its citizens live below the poverty line. But as Michael Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, points out, the federal government has given billions of dollars to New Orleans' poor since George W. Bush took office. Tanner estimates that the Bush administration has spent some $10 billion in welfare assistance in Louisiana, including $1.2 billion in cash assistance and $3 billion in food stamps, as well as public housing, Medicaid and more than 60 other federal anti-poverty programs. But all that money did not buy self-sufficiency, the commodity that largely differentiated those who escaped the deluge from those who got stuck at the Superdome and Convention Center.

The poverty we're all suddenly observing in New Orleans is demonstrative of the failure of the welfare state - and the importance of the free market and the family.

Also, was the federal government response to Katrina really so pathetic? Some comparisons are in order - plus, "
Why weren't the roughly 2,000 municipal and school busses in New Orleans utilized to take people out of the city before Katrina struck?"

Update: Armstrong Williams: "This notion that race was a factor in the relief effort is not only dishonest, it is reprehensible....New Orleans has a black city Council. They have black elected representatives. They have black judges. All of whom failed to send any buses to evacuate New Orleans’ residents before the hurricane hit."

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