The Accountable Presidency
February 01, 2010
Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush By John Yoo (Kaplan, 544 pp., $29.95) Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State By Garry Wills (Penguin, 288 pp., $27.95) I. In December 2008, Chris Wallace asked Vice President Cheney, “If the president, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Cheney’s answer included a reference to a military authority that President Bush did not exercise.
Hoist Your Pitchforks!
January 25, 2010
WASHINGTON--"Populism" is the most overused and misused word in the lexicon of commentary.
October 01, 2009
The most-watched case of the Supreme Court's last term, which ended in June, invited the justices to hold unconstitutional a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. The law required certain jurisdictions--largely in the Old South--to "pre-clear" any changes in their electoral systems with the Department of Justice. It was intended to prevent states with poor civil rights histories from changing their voting systems in ways that would keep blacks from voting.
September 07, 2009
WASHINGTON -- President Obama's health care speech on Wednesday will be only the second most consequential political moment of the week. Judged by the standard of an event's potential long-term impact on our public life, the most important will be the argument before the Supreme Court (on the same day, as it happens) about a case that, if decided wrongly, could surrender control of our democracy to corporate interests. This sounds melodramatic. It's not.
Obama And The Court
February 16, 2009
Adam Liptak notes an interesting talk John Roberts gave a few weeks back about the importance of Supreme Court justices having prior judicial experience: As late as 1972, when Chief Justice Roberts’s predecessor, William H. Rehnquist, joined the court as an associate justice, former federal judges were in the minority.
Lib and Let Die
January 29, 2009
At Barack Obama’s inauguration, John Roberts’s adverb trouble, subconsciously driven by a “blackboard grammar” quest to deflect faithfully from “splitting” the verb execute from the auxiliary will, was a rather gorgeous example of how educated people can be tripped up by unworkable hoaxes about how language works. (“To boldly go where no man has gone before” is “bad” grammar?).
July 09, 2008
In 2006, at the end of his first term on the Supreme Court, John Roberts told me and other journalists that his goal as chief justice would be to promote unanimity and collegiality by encouraging his fellow justices to converge around narrow decisions with few dissents. During his first term, Roberts succeeded impressively: More than half of the Court's opinions were unanimous, and only 13 percent were decided by a 5-4 vote. The polarized Supreme Court term that ended last June, however, looked very different.
The Most Mysterious Right
November 18, 2007
Out of Range by Mark V. Tushnet (Oxford University Press, 156 pp., $19.95) In 1991, Warren E.
May 21, 2007
“THANK GOD for President Bush, and thank God for Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Samuel Alito,” intoned Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention last week, after the Supreme Court announced its decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, the so-called partial-birth abortion case. But Land also should have thanked Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose majority opinion dangerously reframes the abortion debate. Kennedy doesn’t proceed from the question of harm to the unborn—the premise on which the congressional act in question is based.
No Surprises (yet) From Alito And Roberts
April 23, 2007
by Cass Sunstein No one doubts the sheer ability of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. No one should doubt their characters or their commitment to the law. But at the time of their confirmations, there was real disagreement about whether they would turn out to be essentially predictable in their votes, or whether their commitment to the law, and their lawyerly skills, would lead them, on occasion, in surprising directions.