President George W. Bush enjoys saying that judges don’t make law, they interpret it, yet Bush himself is chiefly notable for unmaking or ignoring existing laws. Last week, when Democratic Senators threatened to mount a filibuster opposing the appointment of Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, Republicans were quick to accuse them of playing politics. But, of course, when Republicans showered Alito with treacle-drenched paeans during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings – while denouncing Democratic committee members for asking substantive questions – they were simply being good Americans. In fact, the battle over Alito was not just politics as usual. It was a gut struggle between those people who are dedicated to fulfilling the founding fathers’ promise of freedom and justice for all, and those people who would impose limits on the freedom of other people, and rarely speak of justice at all. Based on what we know of Alito, he believes in limits on everything but the power of the executive branch. Asked to explain a 1985 memo in which he wrote that the Constitution does not protect the right of a women to choose, he refused to explain it, much less disavow it. He also refused to agree that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” Equally disturbing is his belief in a more powerful executive branch, as made manifest In his endorsement of the ‘unitary executive’ theory that assigns powers to the President that are not subject to control by Congress, and thus subverts the checks and balances that were the keystone of the founding fathers’ design for government of, by and for the people. Alito epitomizes the obedient servant who has spent his life dutifully doing the bidding of his betters, rather than serving the American people or this democracy. In that light, it’s hard to imagine a less qualified Supreme Court Justice. The line between democracy and tyranny is very fine, and Bush has come closer to crossing it than any president since Nixon. In the America that Bush and Alito envision, the President would have something approaching imperial power, but women would be denied the right to determine their own destinies. Unless Bush declares himself Emperor, he will be gone from the White House in a couple of years, but Alito will be on the Supreme Court for 30 or 40 years. That may suit people who don’t believe in freedom or trust democracy, but for the rest of us and for America, it’s another backward step.
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