Thursday, June 30, 2005

Katherine Kersten on...the Supreme Court

I'm not going to spend much time debating Katherine Kersten's points in her latest Strib column. In the two Supreme Court decisions she has chosen to highlight - loosening eminent domain* rules and a confusing stance on two separation of church and state cases** - I share some of her concerns.

Using these two cases as a backdrop, though, Kersten goes on to seek an "expert" opinion on what makes a good Supreme Court nominee, as a vacancy is widely anticipated. Who did she choose as an expert? None other than U.S. Senator Norman Coleman, who predicatably makes the assertions that any Supreme Court judge should follow a strict reading of the Constitution, should not be moderate (because apparently moderates don't have principles), and should share George W. Bush's political philosophy.

I apologize for sounding crude, but what a load of crap. A large part of the reason conservatives hate judges and the courts is because they are a moderating institutional influence on the nation that resides outside of the two- and four-year partisan election cycles. The fact that they tend to be moderate is good because that's precisely where most Americans stand in their principles. One need only look back a few months ago at the horror known as the Terri Schiavo debate and its aftermath to see that the extreme conservatives in power can't stand the notion of others challenging them. But those challenges are necessary in order to protect the country and its citizens from overzealous legislators such as Norm Coleman and many of his counterparts in the Republican party.

Here's another problem I have with the Kersten's article, and ones in the past. The best columnists seek out people who they may disagree with and then explain why they have those disagreements. Kersten only seeks out and writes about people she agrees with, thereby presenting herself not as a thoughtful writer but as a shrill ideologue shilling for the Republican party platform.

*Eminent domain (in which a municipality is able to acquire privately owned land for far less than it may be worth and develop it for the "good" of the community) can be a blessing and curse; and in the hands of overzealous well-to-do suburbanites its power can now be used to create a further stratification of wealth in this country.

**The Court split on two separation cases in which public displays of the Ten Commandments were called into question. One decision, a Texas case involving a Ten Commandments monument built in a public park sometime in the '50s, was upheld leaving the structure intact. The other decision, a Kentucky case where the commandments were framed and displayed in courtrooms, was ruled unconstitutional. The fact that the cases were split in their direction reveals the ideological difficulties they represent, but also leave many questions left unanswered, which will in turn lead to many more lawsuits before it's figured out.

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