Friday, July 31, 2009

Courting Disaster

I read Adam Liptak's description of John MacGregor Burns' Packing The Court with amazement.

Burns has trouble with the Supreme Court's activism, starting with the power of judicial review. Fine--it seemed a pretty breathtaking usurpation when Justice Marshall announced it in Marbury. But that's an old argument, and long settled. Burns' idea that the President should defy Court opinions isn't going to fly, either.

It soon becomes apparent that Burns is, quite literally, unprincipled. He only opposes the Court when it decides against what he sees as progressive legislation. But as long as they fight the good fight, any tactics are okay by him.

When he gets to discussing today's political situation, it's even more embarrassing. He's unhappy because he believes the present Court is planning to oppose "a president and Congress elected on a platform of change.”

Is Burns a child? It's a regular event that politicians are elected on the vague promise of change. If it's antidemocratic for the Court to oppose today's change, why wouldn't it be wrong for them to oppose the change of a Bush or Gingrich? For that matter, many proposals of President Obama don't poll that well (elsewhere Burns complains about the court propagating ideologies which the voters have already repuditated)--since Burns thinks so much of the wisdom of the public, what's wrong with the court siding with them over the President?

Liptak calls Burns a "distinguished historian." Why is it when historians start discussing today's politics, they always seem so much less distinguished?


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