It's really easy to go for the lulz when it comes to Sarah Palin, and even though I become more horrified with every YouTube clip I watch, I'm also becoming increasingly bored with the same links being re-posted all over LiveJournal (including my own!).
And that's why I was so interested in Ann Althouse's posts analyzing the ways in which both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin were treated by Katie Couric in the mini-interview about Roe v. Wade. A lot of people say that Couric asked each of them the same questions, but she really didn't. Her interviewing style for each candidate was very different (interrupt one, and let the other have free reign). Also, because Althouse is a Constitutional Law professor, her analysis is an extremely intelligent one. Althouse has also taken an oath of neutrality for this year's presidential election coverage, which I appreciate.
Her post on Joe Biden: "Katie Couric invites viewers to admire the impressive constitutional expertise of Joe Biden."
Questions! Questions! Katie, where are your questions?
Let me suggest a few: Why is that a consensus? And should the Supreme Court be serving up consensus and calling it constitutional law? If you say the case is good because it is consensus, then why would it not have been preferable to allow the democratic processes to play out and produce consensus? Why should courts impose consensus? And why are you praising the lines drawn in Roe, when the Court redrew the lines in Planned Parenthood v. Casey? "It says in the first three months that decision should be left to the woman"... ahem... that hasn't been the doctrine since 1992!
Why didn't Couric press him on his expansive view of his own power and disregard for the role of the states? Will he bring similar expansive theories of constitutional power to the executive branch?
Absolute deafening silence from Katie Couric. She gave him a free pass. The viewer is invited to sit back and admire Joe Biden as an impressive authority on constitutional law... not like that ignoramus Sarah Palin. Very few viewers will perceive what has been done here.
And her post on Sarah Palin: "Sarah Palin was absolutely right to decline to name Supreme Court cases -- other than Roe v. Wade -- that she disagrees with."
Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?
Palin: Well, let's see. There's, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but ....
Translation: I'm not going to answer the question, so I'll just repeat myself about how wonderful federalism and add that American history is great.
When you're talking about bad Supreme Court cases, it's not a good time to call American history "great," since the worst decisions entail slavery and segregation, which were, to say the least, not great.
Couric: Can you think of any?
The gotcha is dripping from her lips.
Palin: Well, I could think of ... any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.
Now, it would have been better to go back into history -- Palin brought up history -- and name a couple of the notorious cases that everyone acknowledges were bad. I suspect that Palin worried that she might get a case name wrong or that she'd be quizzed about exactly what happened in those cases and that she had a risk-avoidance strategy. Stalling for time, she began to repeat the old federalism point -- "best dealt with on a more local level" -- and then she shifted to a perfectly good excuse for not accepting the invitation to discuss Supreme Court cases: An executive official -- a mayor, governor, or vice president -- should respect the authority of the Supreme Court as it has articulated the meaning of the law.
If Palin had named some current cases -- as opposed to the historical cases that the Court itself has already disavowed -- that she disagrees with she would be claiming greater expertise in legal analysis than the Court itself or, alternatively, she would be saying that the Supreme Court's interpretation of constitutional law is not final.
Either proposition would be difficult to maintain and should not be attempted in an impromptu style in a high-stakes situation. This is the sort of thing a Supreme Court nominee facing confirmation hearings would prepare for intensely and face with trepidation. Palin deserves credit for seeing the situation for what is was and opting out.
It is difficult enough to maintain that one Supreme Court case is wrong, and Roe is that one case. The decision to oppose that case has been carefully thought out and is exceedingly important to Palin and others. (Note: I support abortion rights.) Roe stands apart from everything else because it entails what Palin, I presume, sees as a profound moral wrong: the continuing widespread murder of innocent babies. There are not some additional cases to toss in alongside Roe. The general rule, to which Roe is a unique exception, is that the Supreme Court is the authority on the meaning of constitutional law. And that is exactly what Palin said.
If nothing else, it's much more thought-provoking than most of the Internet commentary I've been seeing.
Labels: politics, politics: campaigns, politics: supreme court, presidential electionscribbled mystickeeper at 7:24 PM