GOP’s Sense Of Justice Corrupted By Political Posturing

Conservative Republicans and the judicial branch have a tumultuous relationship, and that’s putting it nicely. One day the GOP blasts “activist judges,” the next they’re imploring the Supreme Court to rule on health insurance. It makes for great political grandstanding, and they know it.

GOP's Sense Of Justice Corrupted By Political Posturing
[Conservatives love to hate the justice system, yet still beseech it for political gain.]

Republicans were quick to put on their party hats yesterday, after Virginia federal judge Henry Hudson called part of President Obama’s health care reform unconstitutional. Describing the finding as a “victory for the constitution,” Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell demanded Attorney General Eric Holder send the matter straight to the Supreme Court.

“Since all parties agree that this case will ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court, getting the case there expeditiously is desirable,” wrote McDonnell.

Eric Cantor, the Representative from Virginia who will soon replace Democrat Steny Hoyer as House majority leader, also asked for Supreme intervention. “In this challenging environment, we must not burden our states, employers and families with the costs and uncertainty created by this unconstitutional law, and we must take all steps to resolve this issue immediately,” he said, referring to the law’s most contentious component, mandatory insurance, a component two other judges have held up as constitutional.

Meanwhile, up in Alaska, Joe Miller, the Tea Party’s failed Senate candidate, asked his state’s Supreme Court to weigh in on his never-ending race against write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski.

“We have consistently asserted that the law should be followed strictly,” insisted Miller, who wants a series of recalculations, including a hand recount and the dismissal of any ballots in which “Murkowski” has been misspelled. And if the Alaska Supreme Court doesn’t rule in his favor, Miller’s team said, they’re prepared to fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Considering these legal pleadings, it would appear Republicans have nothing but respect for the court system’s decision-making capabilities. But when the roles are reversed and judges go against conservative ideology, the Republicans take a far different stand on judicial wisdom. It suddenly becomes “activism.”

The right wing’s “activist judge” bogeyman was most recently exploited in Iowa, where conservatives successfully rallied enough votes to oust three state Supreme Court Justices who approved same-sex marriage law last year. Not surprisingly, right wing leaders hailed the news as a triumph of popular opinion over a runaway judiciary.

Said potential presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, “[This vote proves] people are sick to death of one branch of government thinking it is more powerful than the other two put together.”

The justice system was also questioned when Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California’s Proposition 8 this year. Walker, said conservatives, simply wanted to advance the “gay agenda,” and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich characterized the ruling as “an outrageous disrespect for our Constitution.”

He went on, “Judges who oppose the American people are a growing threat to our society.”

When it comes to health insurance in the courts, however, Gingrich stands alongside Cantor and McDonnell. “I’ve just signed my name to a letter thanking Attorney General [Ken] Cuccinelli for helping make today’s victory possible,” Gingrich wrote on his PAC’s website, before asking his readers to “support [Cuccinelli’s] request for President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to send this case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

None of the Republican leaders cited above have mentioned that Judge Hudson owns part of a GOP firm that has lobbied against health care reform, a fact that makes his ruling more susceptible to “activist” accusations than Walker’s Proposition 8 opinion. But such an ethical dilemma has no place in their narrative, because their narrative isn’t about justice at all. It’s about political performance.

With regard to health care reform, the Republican leadership have simply sidled up to the Supreme Court to grab the spotlight, biding their time until the new Congress commences and they can fight for repeal the old fashioned way: forcing the Democrats to compromise.

As for Miller’s judicial mission? Sure, he thinks he’s been wronged, but even he must know his efforts won’t amount to much more than an extra fifteen minutes in the spotlight, and his battle will be remembered as impetuous, not honorable.