Friday, April 01, 2005

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers...."

I came upon this in a very roundabout way, but it seems clear now: the GOP is going to declare war on the judiciary.

But don't take my opinion for it:

Republicans, many of whom led the charge to focus federal attention on Terri Schiavo (search), are vowing to hold the judiciary system responsible for rulings in the case that some believe were tantamount to murder.
We are all, by now, familiar with Tom DeLay's statement on the matter:

Mrs. Schiavo’s death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo’s friends in this time of deep sorrow.

Which some have interpreted as a call for violence, although not yours truly (having heard too much such language from too many "evangelical" pulpits here in the "belt-buckle of the Bible Belt"). But Sen. Ted Kennedy's response is commendable:

"I believed that the courts are the fairest forum to do what is right in this case. I intend to do all I can to see that any action Congress takes is constructive and free from partisan politics, and does not make a tragic situation worse by exploiting this terrible tragedy," said the senior senator from Massachusetts.

"Mr. DeLay's comments today were irresponsible and reprehensible. I'm not sure what Mr. DeLay meant when he said 'the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.' But at a time when emotions are running high, Mr. DeLay needs to make clear that he is not advocating violence against anyone ... it is time for mourning and healing not for more inflammatory rhetoric, and responsible national leaders should understand that and stop this exploitation."
But wait, there's more. On the issue of war between the branches, this is language I haven't heard since Earl Warren desegregated the nation's schools (which was a real social issue, not an invented one, as the death of Terri Schiavo is):

"The actions on the part of the Florida court and the U.S. Supreme Court are unconscionable. In California, Scott Peterson, a convicted murderer, was sentenced to death, yet his constitutional rights were upheld to ensure that he received due process and fair consideration in court. Terri Schiavo was given a death sentence, and passed away without the right to due process."

In a later conference call with reporters, Santorum said the courts had practiced nothing less than "judicial tyranny" in this case and took aim at those who say Congress overstepped its bounds.

"[This is] routinely done by the courts — deciding they are now a super-legislature," Santorum said. "I'm not sure if the press realizes how serious this conflict is between the branches of government and how gravely concerned members of Congress are with [the] kinds of judicial tyranny we've seen...."

"To suggest Congress has exceeded power shows you there are judges who simply ignore written law and substitute their own judgments."
Yes, the words of Sen. Rick Santorum.

The inmates are in charge of the asylum. Or at least, they think they are. Had it come to the question, there is no doubt in my mind every court would have agreed with Judge Birch, and held the "Schiavo law" unconstitutional. Likewise, Congress has no power under the Constitution to pass laws in the area of family law, which is what the Schiavo case involved. The doctrine of Congressional limitation where the Constitution is silent, and judicial review, goes back to Marbury v. Madison. That doctrine will not be uprooted without taking the Constitution with it.

But that doesn't mean they won't try. And Juan Cole is right: "It is about hierarchy, power and control. It is not about life."

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