Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jun 2005
Source: North Adams Transcript (MA)
Copyright: 2005 New England Newspapers, Inc.
Author:  Clark H. Billings
Note: Author is professor of history and political science at Massachusetts
College of Liberal Arts, North Adams, MA


Your Tuesday, June 7, editorial titled "Some justices need to take a
pill," concerning the U.S. Supreme Court's recent 6-3 decision to
overturn state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana is,
perhaps, the most mind-boggling  piece I have ever read. Your first
sentence reads, in part, "... the nation got  another preview of the
right-wing Supreme Court President George W. Bush and the  radical
Republicans in Congress would like to assemble."

In your zeal to bash President Bush, you totally ignore the
composition of the U.S. Supreme Court. You should have noted
(obviously you didn't) that four of the six majority justices
constitute the liberal block on the court. They are  justices Stevens
(a Ford appointee); Souter (Bush No. 41); Breyer (Clinton) and
Ginsburg (Clinton). They were joined by somewhat moderate conservative
Kennedy  and, in your words, "radical" conservative Scalia. How does
that assembly of six give anyone a preview of what a Bush No. 43 court
would look like? If that is indeed a "preview" of a Bush/radical
Republican court, should we expect Bush to nominate Ted Kennedy, Bill
Clinton  and Jesse Jackson?

The three dissenting votes came from Justices O'Connor (Reagan);
Thomas (Bush No. 41) and Rehnquist (Nixon and then named chief justice
by Reagan). When the four most liberal justices, including the two
appointed by Clinton, vote to overturn the state laws providing for
the medicinal use of marijuana, it  is impossible to see your
conclusion that this decision is a preview of a Bush  and radical
Republican court when two of the three most conservative justices
(Rehnquist and Thomas) upheld the position for which you advocate.
Given that,  is it not possible that a radical Republican/Bush court
might even overturn the  recent decision?

As to your assertion that this was a "power play by the likes of
Scalia to somehow punish those liberals ...," you are way off base.
Four of those justices  that voted to "punish liberals" were
themselves liberals. However, I do suspect a Scalia power play. I
suspect, because he broke ranks with the other two card-carrying
conservatives (Rehnquist and Thomas), that he  was trying to
ingratiate himself to the Bush White House in order to be elevated  to
chief justice when Rehnquist retires. It is also possible that Thomas'
  position was made in order to seem more moderate and more
filibuster-proof if a  Scalia appointment fails.

The position that O'Conner, Rehnquist and Thomas took, on the other
hand, was classically a conservative states' rights argument and
against the expansion of  federal government powers. And the position
your "liberal" justices took was  classically based on the expansion
of federal powers (the concurrence of Scalia  and Kennedy

I disagree with the decision, as you do, but it was no vast right-wing
conspiracy as you suggest.

Thus endeth the lesson for the day.


Professor of history and political science


North Adams
- ---
MAP posted-by: SHeath(DPFFlorida)