The suburban Milwaukee congressman's behavior is so disturbing it takes a whole blog just to keep track of it.
DeLay [. . .] escalated his talk of a battle between the legislative and judicial branches of government on Thursday [. . .]. Mr. DeLay faulted courts for what he said was their invention of rights to abortion and prohibitions on school prayer, saying courts had ignored the intent of Congress and improperly cited international standards and precedents. "These are not examples of a mature society," he said, "but of a judiciary run amok."
Now, that's not so surprising, given the disturbing rhetoric recently from "the Hammer," as they call him, and from the way-past-mainstream cultural conservatives. And every vote for Sensenbrenner is a vote for that kind of rhetoric in the Republican leadership.
We are starting to hear more of that rhetoric, though, from Sensenbrenner's team itself. Further down in the NYT article, we get this piece of work:
In an interview, Jeff Lungren, a spokesman for Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the panel was likely in some way to take up the issue of how the federal judges handled Ms. Schiavo's case.
While it is true that I passed high-school civics, I suppose it is possible that not everybody did. But for Mr. Lungren, I recommend a refresher on one of the most basic, fundamental tenets of U.S. government, that our federal system consists of three separate and independent branches of government.
Moreover, the courts were, in fact, established to help keep in check the excesses of the Congress. I'm no constitutional lawyer, but here's what Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 78 (my bold, Hamilton's CAPS LOCK):
According to the plan of the convention, all judges who may be appointed by the United States are to hold their offices DURING GOOD BEHAVIOR; which is conformable to the most approved of the state constitutions and among the rest, to that of this State. Its propriety having been drawn into question by the adversaries of that plan, is no light symptom of the rage for objection, which disorders their imaginations and judgments. The standard of good behavior for the continuance in office of the judicial magistracy, is certainly one of the most valuable of the modern improvements in the practice of government. In a monarchy it is an excellent barrier to the despotism of the prince; in a republic it is a no less excellent barrier to the encroachments and oppressions of the representative body. And it is the best expedient which can be devised in any government, to secure a steady, upright, and impartial administration of the laws. [. . .]
I have no doubt that Jeff Lungren was authorized by Sensenbrenner to say what he said to the New York Times, and that his statement accurately reflects the view of the Congressman. In other words, then, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee holds a 180-degree opposite opinion of the role of the judiciary than those who wrote the Constitution! Yes, yes, yes we have an "independent judicary"--if we didn't, Hamilton says, our civil liberties would amount to nothing.
Maybe that is what Sensenbrenner and the Republicans want: A nation where our civil liberties amount to nothing.
It is bad enough that Sensenbrenner doesn't remember his civics lessons; it also turns out, he's actively trying to subjugate the courts to the Congress.
Max Blumenthal of The Nation attended the "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference that some of the most extreme elements of the Republican party held recently. This is the conference, you may remember, at which conservative activist Edwin Vieira said that Stalin--you remember Stalin? Brutal killer? Bad goatee?--"offered the best method for reining in the Supreme Court. 'He had a slogan,' Vieira said, 'and it worked very well for him whenever he ran into difficulty: "No man, no problem." ' " (The complete Stalin quote is, "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem.")
The Sensenbrenner part comes on page two of Blumenthal's article, where he writes about an attempt to strip judges of their Constitutional authority:
The threatening tenor of the conference speakers was a calculated tactic. As Gary Cass, the director of Rev. D. James Kennedy's lobbying front, the Center for Reclaiming America, explained, they are arousing the anger of their base in order to harness it politically. The rising tide of threats against judges "is understandable," Cass told me, "but we have to take the opportunity to channel that into a constitutional solution."
Howard Phillips, you may remember, is the founding father of the Constitution Party, which invites you to join them as they "work to restore our government [. . .] to its Biblical foundation." (This does explain Sensenbrenner's desire to over-regulate the entertainment industry.)
The "Constitution Restoration Act" is to the Constitution what the "Clear Skies Initiative" is to air and the "Healthy Forest Initiative" is to trees (read more about it here). Call Sensenbrenner right now and ask him why he thinks our Constitution isn't worth protecting, and why our civil liberties amount to nothing: (262) 784-1111 (district office); 1-800-242-1119 (the HOTLINE for those outside of the Milwaukee metro area); (202) 225-5101 (D.C. office).
April 21, 2005