There’s something in the water in DC more so than there usually is, because twice in one week, a leader in each house of Congress has come out and strongly insulted two current SCOTUS justices, one of them the Chief Justice.
The latest attack is even worse. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went on record today as suggesting that Chief Justice John Roberts was a liar:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that John Roberts misled the Senate during his confirmation hearings by pretending to be a moderate — and that the United States is now “stuck” with him as chief justice.
“Roberts didn’t tell us the truth. At least Alito told us who he was,” Reid said, referring to Samuel Alito, the second Supreme Court justice nominated by President George W. Bush. “But we’re stuck with those two young men, and we’ll try to change by having some moderates in the federal courts system as time goes on — I think that will happen.”
Reid’s comments, which came during a wide-ranging discussion hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, reflect Democratic concerns that Roberts presented himself as a neutral arbiter of the law but has wielded a relentlessly conservative agenda. Republicans reject the attacks, saying Roberts has been a fair judge and has been consistent in his opinions.
A couple of things: First, what’s Reid saying here? That it’s ok after all to apply a philsophical litmus test to prospective judges and justices? The rule of thumb – or so I thought – is that justices and judges were supposed to be confirmed or denied not based on their personal philosphical beliefs but instead on their Constitutional knowledge and whether or not they could make their rulings based on a strict reading and understanding of Constitutional law. Reid’s comments confirm what conservatives have believed about the left all along, in that liberals indeed do believe philosphical litmus tests should be applied to prospective benchers.
Secondly, is it just me, or are both Frank and Reid exceptionally out of line with their remarks about sitting justices? It’s one thing for a political figure to make a general comment about the court by suggesting they want to see more strict constructionists on the bench, or to criticize a ruling, but it’s another thing altogether to attack the integrity of the court itself by suggesting without basis that not only were there “liars” on the court but also that there are justices on the court who hate entire groups of people. And Ed Whelan reminds us that this isn’t the first time Reid has lashed out at a SCOTUS justice:
Unfortunately, Reid has a long history of reckless and irresponsible statements. Recall Reid’s baseless assertion that Justice Thomas is an “embarrassment” to the Court because his opinions are supposedly “poorly written.”
Reid’s comments then and now, along with Frank’s, are shameful and embarassing – especially since both Frank and reid are prominent leaders in the Dem party – and would lead the casual follower of politics to believe that they should have little to no confidence in the Supreme Court due to alleged “liars” and “homophobes” serving on it. So far, neither one has backed up their remarks about Roberts, Thomas, and Scalia with definitive proof (although in Frank’s case he attempted – and failed badly – to explain himself via a post published at the HuffPo, which I noted earlier). Both of them need to either get specific and show strong evidence to prove their assertions, or apologize.
Yeah, I know – I won’t hold my breath.