In his radio address for the Democrats today, Mario Cuomo showed himself to be the faithful student of cornpone constitutionalist and former Ku Klux Klan Kleagle Robert Byrd. Thus spake His Honor:
Now, the Republicans in the Senate…are threatening to claim ownership of the Supreme Court and other federal courts, hoping to achieve political results on subjects like abortion, stem cells, the environment and civil rights that they can not get from the proper political bodies: the Congress and the presidency.
How will they do this? By destroying the so-called filibuster, a vital part of the 200-year-old system of checks and balances in the Senate that allows the fullest possible debate before one of the president’s choices for the Supreme Court or other federal courts is allowed to take his or her place on the bench. That would be a change so undesirably destructive that it has been called the nuclear option.
The Republicans say it would assure dominance by the majority in the Senate. That sounds democratic until you remember that the Bill of Rights was adopted, as James Madison pointed out, in order to protect all Americans from what he called, the tyranny of the majority. And it sounds nearly absurd when you learn that the minority Democrats in the Senate actually represent more Americans than the majority Republicans do.
How many whoppers, stretchers, flips and flops can you spot in these three paragraphs? It would be cruel to unleash Paul Mirengoff on them, but even I can follow the Cuomo postulates to the inference Cuomo shrinks from drawing explicitly: that the Bill of Rights was adopted to protect us from the tyranny of the Democrats. But then again, I am a Straussian and a believer in “reading between the lines.”
DEACON adds: I’m not sure what Mirengoff would say, but Cuomo has always favored the big lie, the better to work his rhetorical magic. Here, the big lie is that Republicans, not Democrats, are looking to use the courts to obtain specific policy outcomes unavailable to them through the political process. In reality, of course, the Republicans favor a judiciary that will grant serious deference to the wishes of our citizens (though not Europeans) as expressed through legislatures. Liberals, who have fared rather poorly when it comes to electing legislators and executives, consistently favor overturning “political” outcomes. For recent examples in Supreme Court jurisprudence, consider the decision that anti-sodomy laws are unconstitutional, that states may not apply capital punishment to juveniles, and that the sentencing guidlines adopted by Congress are unconstitutional.
ROCKET adds: These are the three most ludicrous paragraphs I’ve seen in a long time. First Cuomo stands history on its head; as in the classic instances of Roe v Wade and gay marriage, it has always been the Democrats, never the Republicans, who have used the federal courts to force policies on the American people that the “proper political bodies” won’t vote for.
Next he stands the meaning of the filibuster on its head, pretending that the device is intended to assure “the fullest possible debate” before a judicial nominee “takes his or her place on the bench.” In reality, as Harry Reid explicitly admitted just last week, the filibuster has nothing to do with assuring ample debate; that’s why he rejected the Republican compromise that offered 100 hours of debate–more than two weeks–on each and every judicial nominee. In reality, as everyone knows, the filibuster is intended to prevent Republican nominees from “taking their places on the bench,” ever.
Finally, he stands the Constitution on its head with the absurd suggestion tbat the minority should run the Senate rather than the majority, apparently on the theory that majority rule is per se tyrannical. It’s hard to respond to that except by saying, “Huh?” And he concludes with a stunning non sequitur: Senate Democrats represent more people than Senate Republicans; therefore it’s appropriate for the minority Democrats to get their way. We do, of course, have a body where votes are apportioned on the basis of population; it’s called the House of Representatives. But population is completely irrelevant to the Senate. It’s also irrelevant to the filibuster, which can just as easily be implemented by Senators from the twenty smallest states. And if the question is, where do most Americans stand on the question of who gets to appoint judges to the federal bench, they answered that question last November, when President Bush won by something like three million votes.