Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Hold the Phone

I'm all for criticizing Sarah Palin -- her scanty qualifications to serve as V.P., her extreme positions on many social issues, her habit of hunting wolves from airplanes or helicopters (not really sure which, but either way, doesn't seem like an 'Average Joe' pastime).

But I have some difficulty piling on her Supreme Court decision gaffe. I finally saw the text of what she said a few minutes ago, and here it goes:

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 rulings 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--

COURIC: Can you think of any?

PALIN: Well, I could think of--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.
Maybe I'm nuts, but it seems pretty clear to me that what Sarah Palin couldn't name, apart from Roe v. Wade, wasn't another Supreme Court decision, but another Supreme Court decision that she disagreed with. And that's a horse of a different color. I could rattle off a lot of Supreme Court decisions, but not very many that weren't reversed that I really disagree with. (Bush v. Gore is the obvious one, but I don't think Palin would say she disagreed with how that came out. I mean that would be interesting. But I doubt it.)

You could argue that this is just as bad; surely Palin doesn't agree with Plessy v. Ferguson! Breaking: Palin praises Taney's opinion on Dred Scott! But again, I think Palin was trying to think of active legal issues -- and trying to jump to the reassuring point, which is the same point that helped win her election in Alaska, that her personal views don't trump her sense that her role is to support he law of the land. Which is actually a very grown-up position to take.

The two big decisions that she could have / should have mentioned were:

1) Exxon v. Baker, a Supreme Court decision reducing the award paid by Exxon to Alaskan fishermen, which as you might expect, Palin strongly opposed as governor;
2) This year's Boumediene decision, which gave prisoners in the war on terror habeas corpus rights. This one, I actually hope Palin doesn't agree with, or at least doesn't have feelings about it as strong as her running mate, who called it one of the worst in the court's history. It's bad enough that McCain is willing, even eager, to let people sit in a cell indefinitely without the right to challenge the charges against them. Sometimes, opposition to physical torture just isn't enough.

But again, quick, quick, quick -- what's a SCOTUS decision that shapes active law besides Bush v. Gore that you disagree with? Do you think that everyone likely knows about it?

If Palin had implied that she was opposed to Marbury v. Madison, now THAT would be a story.

P.S.: Besides, everyone knows that the classiest way to mock Palin is to diagram her sentences.


Steve said...

Kelo v. City of New London

OK, so I did have to look up the name of the case, but I DID know much about it. (The 5-4 decision effectively expanded government's right to eminent domain, allowing land to be seized - with compensation - from one private owner and turned over to another private owner.) The majority of American's are/were against the decision. But Palin, and her history of building an ice rink on seized private property, probably is, in fact, for it.

Tim said...

Yeah, I mean the other recent decisions I could think of that I disagreed with include the Seattle decision about public school integration, the eminent domain decision that gives local governments broad powers to seize property for the thinnest of reasons, the case that made it nearly impossible for women to sue for back pay when they've been discriminated against. All sorts of things to disagree with.

I think, though, that Palin was really trying to get to this idea that she doesn't see herself as an activist on rolling back Supreme Court decisions. Which may surprise her hard-core supporters on the right, especially once you add her support of a constitutional right to privacy.

If you take her position seriously, and here I am actually inclined to do so -- then the right criticism is to say that she tried to duck the issue. Or you can say that she literally doesn't know any other Supreme Court cases. I don't have an especially high opinion of Palin, but I find that less plausible than the idea that she is trying to play for the center -- like Obama, she doesn't want people to see her as a crazy nutcase oddball.

angela said...

wouldn't it all be solved--the question of why she couldn't name a decision besides roe v wade--if palin could simply articulate a position?

that's what is so insulting...she can't even communicate! obv. choosing her was simple pandering by the mccain campaign.

all this nonsense from the man who brought us the straight talk express. the irony...