Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Childish Conservatives

The nomination of Sonia Sotomayer has really brought out the childish side of Conservatives, as they try to pretend something that just manifestly isn't true. Take David Limbaugh's latest article.
Obama said a Supreme Court nominee's two most important qualities are her rigorous intellect and mastery of the law and her recognition of the limits of the judicial role -- that a judge's job is to interpret law, not to make it.

Then came the "but," the exception that imperceptibly swallowed the rule. He quoted former Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes as saying, "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." In other words: "Forget what I just said about how judges should interpret, not make, the law. I want my judges to have empathy. And don't tell anyone, but when I say 'empathy,' that's code for bending the law to achieve the results I want based on the selective empathy I have for certain victimized groups."
Or Thomas Sowell's latest article.
"Empathy" for particular groups can be reconciled with "equal justice under law"-- the motto over the entrance to the Supreme Court-- only with smooth words. But not in reality.
Here's the childishness; the assessment that the law has basically one honest interpretation. When a judge rules, there is one right answer, clearly stated in the laws. If Sotomayer fails to apply the clearly self evident law, because of empathy or reverse racism or anything, she is unfit to serve. Conveniently the law, if properly applied, is always conservative.

But of course that is childish. If the law were so self evident, as Anonymous Liberal points out, well, Courts of Appeal and Supreme Courts wouldn't really be necessary.
But in Simplistic Republican World, none of this actually happens. Good conservative judges don't "make policy," they simply enforce the law. The law is apparently always clear. Indeed it's a wonder that lawyers even bother to appeal cases in the Fourth Circuit. After all, they should know that the conservative jurists in that circuit will simply "enforce the law" (because they wouldn't dream of "making policy"), so the outcome should be very predictable.
And, finally, it goes without saying that it wouldn't matter who Obama put up, they were always going to be the most liberal person ever nominated to the supreme court.


Random Goblin said...

They would still be necessary for when lower courts made errors. That's what "courts of appeal" did for most of the entire history of the Anglo-American legal tradition. Their function as guardian of the law's interpretation as we are familiar with it is a relatively recent phenomenon.

And it isn't childish to think that language has a clear, exclusive meaning. It's not right, but it's not childish.

Bryant said...

It depends on your definition of childish, I suppose. Insisting that the conservative interpretation is the only "real" interpretation of the constitution seems similar in kind to a child saying "only my mom really knows how to make meatloaf."