Saturday, May 08, 2010

Will Obama's Supreme Court Nominee Be Another Bought-And-Paid For Corporate Hack Like Roberts, Alito, Scalia-- But With A Faux "Liberal" Tag?


Yesterday Robert Reich posted a terrific piece on his blog, The White House Should Stop Pandering to the Street and Support Three Critical Banking Reforms. He hits the nail on the head... as usual. But as long as he's giving the White House advice about how to stop pandering to Wall Street and corporate predators in general, he should make sure they don't appoint a Supreme Court justice who thinks her job is primarily about preserving the corporate status quo. Sometime in the next few days-- or even few hours-- President Obama is going to announce his nominee to replace Justice John Paul Stevens. As Ken explained last month, there is no "Liberal Bloc" on the Court because there are no actual liberals on the court. This is at odds with the way one of the CBS talking heads in the video above discusses it with the other CBS talking heads. [Perhaps the two of them forgot to read Ken's post last month.]
I refuse to refer to Justice Stevens's position as leader of a "liberal bloc" on the Court. Can we be serious for a moment, and acknowledge that there are no liberals on the Court? Just because you're not a screaming right-wing loon hell-bent on shredding the Constitution for the greater glory of the super-rich and powerful, that doesn't make you a liberal.

I assume that for the foreseeable future no liberal can even be considered for the High Court on grounds of confirmability. And it would be fairly silly to expect President Obama, who isn't a liberal and seems to have mostly contempt for liberals, to be looking for one.

William Brennan was a liberal. Thurgood Marshall was a liberal. Whereas Steven Breyer is... um, has anyone figured out yet what that guy is? And with all due respect to Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor, and to former Justice Souter, fine justices all, they never claimed to be, and aren't, liberals. In his recent NYT interview, Justice Stevens insisted to Adam Liptak that he's a conservative.

Glenn Greenwald has been leading the opposition to frontrunner Elana Kagan in the blogosphere and this morning he tied all the strands together over at Salon: the blank slate thing presidents seem to be looking for in order to not have their nominees suffer the same fates as Nixon's hapless-- and spectacularly, glaringly unqualified-- Haynsworth and Carswell; the unfortunate Goldman Sachs/Wall Street bankster connection that Digby exposed yesterday; the "diversity problem;" and the likelihood that Kagan is a supporter of more unfettered executive power, a worrisome position for SCOTUS followers on both sides of the partisan divide. Today A.P. has a far more prosaic, superficial, demographic-oriented and horse-racey perspective on how the nomination might unfold. See how many howling errors you can find in this statement (which is, of course, the lens through which almost anyone looking at the nomination will be told to see it): "This time around, Obama is certain to name a left-of-center successor to Stevens, the court's leading liberal. Finding a younger justice, who theoretically would serve longer, could enhance Obama's legacy."

Fortunately for the Insider elite, most people don't seem all that exercised over this-- at least not so far. Yesterday MoveOn and People For the American Way ran an ad (which was rejected by the NY Times and released a poll, with the intention of sparking some populist interest in the process (and outcome) and drawing attention to how incredibly unbalanced the Supreme Court has become in favor of corporate interests over the interests of ordinary people (or, you might say, the victims of corporate interests). The ad makes a point that most Americans, across the ideological (non-corporate) divide agree with:
The United States Supreme Court was founded to protect the American people, not American big business.

Yet recent rulings have allowed corporations to get away with paying women less than men, discriminating against the rights of older workers, dodging liability for faulty medical devices, ducking the Clean Water Act and avoid paying damages for the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Most alarmingly, the Court has also just declared that corporations have the same rights as people, with unlimited rights to pour money into electing corporate candidates who will protect their interests.

Senator Charles Schumer declared of this ruling, “The bottom line is, the Supreme Court has just predetermined the winners of next November’s election. It won’t be the Republicans or the Democrats and it won’t be the American people: it will be Corporate America.”

A Supreme Court designed to protect our citizens has instead expanded the rights of powerful companies, working through the radical right majority led by Justices Roberts and Alito.

So much is at stake. A recent poll shows that the majority of Americans believe that this Supreme Court favors big corporations over individuals. The Court will soon rule on consumer rights in bankruptcy, workplace protection against discrimination, the new health care law and a copyright rule that could dramatically increase consumer prices. Justice Stevens was a staunch advocate for the rights of ordinary Americans, and his replacement must be too.

Americans need a Justice who will dispense justice to Americans, not protect corporate profits at our expense.

The findings of the poll-- done by the White House's favorite pollsters (and Rahm Emanuel's housemate, Stanley Greenberg)-- show that average Americans want Obama to nominate someone willing to stand up for consumers and workers in need of protection from powerful, predatory forces beyond the control of individuals. "In an age," explains Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, "of intense partisan polarization, this preference is expressed in near-equal numbers by both Democratic and Republican voters." (Limbaugh and Beck haven't telegraphed their walking orders to the mindless right-wing troops yet, but, nonetheless, this is a good position from which Obama can start.)

Ø  While the Supreme Court enjoys the respect of average voters, its standing is colored by a majority of voters who believe that the Court favors big corporations over individuals. Such views of the court are shared by Democrats and Republicans. 
Ø  The perception of corporate bias is underscored by broad disagreement with many recent Supreme Court decisions, the Citizens United case among them. 
Ø  By a 20-point margin, voters believe that when Senators evaluate the President’s nominee, they should focus on the nominee’s understanding of the impact that legal decisions have on the lives of everyday Americans, rather than focusing solely on the nominee’s experience and qualifications. A 61 percent majority of Democrats feel this way, as do 60 percent of Republicans. 
Ø  Similarly, the most appealing description of a potential nominee tested in this survey is someone who will “be fair so that individuals and families get an impartial hearing and not give preferential treatment to powerful individuals and big corporations.”

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