Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Don’t Gloat About DeLay; Get Scared

As most of us know, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay is trying to avoid facing his own ethical lapses by attacking others, including the judiciary. This might simply seem humorous (an exterminator with a degree in biology suddenly acting as an expert on the judiciary) if it weren’t for the fact that similar strategies were part of what led to many of the horrors of the last century.

In trouble? Find someone else to blame. Direct attention away from yourself.

On the face of it, Delay’s current round of charges seem particularly laughable. He’s after Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy (himself a conservative) for conducting research on the Internet and for considering international law in his decision making. Oh, my! Using the Internet to find things out! My goodness! Kennedy might even come across a blog with links to other information, perhaps even to books and scholarly journals! And international law? How nefarious can you get? Them foreigners, they ain’t never up to no good.

What particularly bothers DeLay about consideration of international law is that the justices used examination of it as part of their Supreme Court determination that executing children is unconstitutional. To DeLay, discovering what others believe is “judicial activism.” On The Tony Snow Show, Delay said:



We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous. And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous.

What’s much more outrageous is the idea that DeLay can even argue that our Constitution exists outside of and separate from international law and the international community. We are part of this world, not above it—and our actions, even our laws, should recognize that—and our Supreme Court rightly agrees. This is not “judicial activism” but bowing to the reality of our place in the world. And complaining that Kennedy does his own research on the Internet? Today, that’s as silly as complaining that Kennedy uses a microwave to heat his oatmeal.

But then, as we all know, what Kennedy does (or doesn’t do) isn’t the point.

DeLay’s the point. Power’s the point.

In his quest for power, DeLay isn’t really after Kennedy, but after the federal courts as a whole. Somehow, he got hold of Article III of the Constitution:

The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

And this is what is really scary: On the Snow show, DeLay said:

We want to define what 'good behavior' means.

In other words, he wants Congress to have the power to review court decisions—for he clearly isn’t talking about good personal behavior.

If DeLay has any success at all in this--any at all--our entire system of government is doomed. No longer will there be separation of power. No longer will there be checks and balances.

By deflecting attention from his own bad behavior, DeLay is attempting to further his own quest for power. Nothing, not even calls for investigations into his behavior, will deflect him from that path.

As Frank Rich wrote in last Sundays The New York Times:

The values alleged so far in this scandal - greed, hypocrisy, favor-selling, dissembling - belong to no creed except the ruthless pursuit of power.

Anything else is beside the point.

We should be scared. We should be very scared.

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