Today is a very important holiday. The congress did not nearly unanimously pass a resolution recognizing it’s importance. But it’s pretty damn important in my mind, I am speaking of course of the Bill Of Rights day. How am I celebrating Bill of Rights day? I’ve already drunk some tea from my disappearing civil liberties cup as shown above and watch our bill of rights disappear (Thanks Patriot Act!) Now I’m mad enough to do something about it. But first I recommend you get a similar cup. Only 11 dollars on Amazon. Now on to the real topic of the diary, why I believe former Professor (He was actually a Senior Lecturer in Law but professor sounds better) Obama will restore our constitution and our Bill of Rights. And a little call to action.
Actually I just lied again. I’m not going to talk about Obama’s personal experiences, I’m going to talk about one of his teachers and supporters, why his support means a lot to me and why it is critical that we elect someone who will appoint good judges.
First up, Laurence Tribe. Tribe is is a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School and probably the foremost liberal constitutional law expert. He is one of the co-founders of the progressive American Constitution Society that was founded to counter the Federalist Society. He represented Gore in Bush v. Gore and if he was younger he would probably could have been a Supreme Court Justice. If any major liberal legal event is happening Tribe is probably involved in it.
When Barack Obama went to Harvard Law he took classes from Tribe. What did Tribe have to say about him?
“best student I ever had”
That’s pretty high praise from a man like Tribe. Not only has he praised Obama, he has actively campaigned for Obama. He campaigned in New Hampshire at house parties for Obama and appeared in a ad for Obama in Iowa. He appears at the end:
It’s hard to argue that restoring the constitution isn’t one of the most pressing issues facing us. And when probably the foremost constitutional scholar in America campaigns so actively for a canidate (I believe this is the first time he has done more then offer advice and legal support to a canidate) it means a lot to me at least.
And why does it matter that the foremost constitutional scholar is a Obamaite? Because of the Supreme Court. I want to point to one part of the above article.
“The court will remain conservative for a long time,” Tribe said. Issues that could be at stake over the next several years, he said, are reconsidering Roe v. Wade, maintaining habeas corpus for those in detention, and other human rights and civil liberty issues.
It is already conservative and as Tribe said it will stay that way for a long time. But that’s why it’s so important for us to elect a progressive president and one who knows the constitution so well. The next president will pick quite a few new judges (Ronald Reagan appointed 379 judges in his two terms, and George Bush 192 in his one term. Bill Clinton appointed 372 judges in eight years, and George W. Bush has named 292 in his almost seven years.) and if there is another Republican president they will be radical corporatist and we will have almost no chance of getting even semi-reasonable courts for maybe a generation. We are talking about saying goodbye to Roe v Wade, any affirmative action, campaign finance reform, you name a reasonable law and it will probably be overturned by a radical court if we allow another Republican president. But just getting a Democratic president won’t do. To roll back the “conservative” courts we need someone who will appoint real progressive judges and just electing a Democratic president won’t guarantee that. Case in point, Bill Clinton.
Let’s take a look at a New York Times article from 1996.
When Bill Clinton took office, many supporters were hoping he would quickly begin undoing a major legacy from 12 years of Republican control of the White House: the remarkably successful effort of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush to remake the nation’s Federal courts by selecting judges known for their conservative views.
At the time of Mr. Clinton’s inauguration, 15 percent of the nation’s judicial slots were open, and fellow Democrats were in control of the Senate, which confirms or rejects nominees to the bench. It was a politically enviable situation if the President wanted to move the ideological pendulum in a new direction.
But it quickly became clear that Mr. Clinton had little interest in trying to do so.
Not only was he not willing to appoint liberal judges in the mold of the ones that moderate Carter appointed his judges looked more like a Republican presidents judges.
The ideological fingerprints of the Clinton judges, Professor Songer said, most resemble those of judges selected by President Gerald R. Ford.
There was a study done on how liberal or conservative judges appointed by Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan Bush and Clinton were.
President Carter’s appointees rendered liberal decisions in 53 percent of their cases. Mr. Clinton’s judges were rated at 46 percent, followed by Mr. Ford’s at 44 percent, Mr. Nixon’s at 39 percent, Mr. Bush’s at 37 percent and Mr. Reagan’s at 36 percent.
So basically you’ve got 64 percent conservative judges by Reagan and 46 percent liberal judges by Clinton. That means that his judges were more conservative then liberal in there rulings. Granted they were much better then Reagan’s judges but they came nowhere near to balancing out the “conservative” judges that the Republicans have pushed through. But that was probably because he would only nominate judges that the Republicans were OK with and the selection process was put into the hands of poll driven political aides.
In the first two years of the Clinton Administration, the judicial selection process was run by a group of officials from the Justice Department and the White House counsel’s office. But after the Republicans gained control of Congress, the process was taken over by Mr. Clinton’s top political aides, including Harold M. Ickes, a deputy chief of staff, and George Stephanopoulos, a senior adviser.
When you’ve got political hacks picking the you’re judges you’re bound to back away from dedicated progressive scholars.
The most stunning change in course involved Peter Edelman, who with his wife, Marian Wright Edelman, is a longtime friend of the Clintons. Mr. Clinton first signaled that he would nominate Mr. Edelman, a law professor at Georgetown University, to an appeals court seat and then to a lesser seat on the district court. But after conservatives showed their opposition, Mr. Clinton abandoned the intention altogether.
I may have sounded a little harsh on Mr. Clinton but that isn’t my point. My point is that we can’t just elect a Democratic president if we want to restore the constitution, we have to elect a progressive president. We need to elect a president who taught constitutional law, a president who is being actively campaigned for by the foremost constitutional scholar in America. We need a progressive president who is going to stick up for the constitution even if the Republicans don’t like it. We need a president that will change America.
I believe that Barack Obama is the right guy to do that. We can’t take our chances and let “electability” get in the way of doing whats right. We can’t let “being tough on national security” come before the constitution. On this Bill of Rights day. We need to fight to restore the constitution. I hope you’ll join me in supporting Barack Obama but even if you support another canidate I hope you’ll join me in fighting for our constitution and donate to a organization that is fighting the fight. Here are a few suggestions.
Those are just three and there are many great organizations that I don’t list. If you have a favorite alert me in the comments and add the donor link so I can add it to that list. And in closing, remember the words of Thom Hartmann.
Democracy begins with you, activism begins with you, tag, you’re it.