Sunday, May 25, 2008

In McCain's Court

Toobin is a talented reporter, a keen analyst, and a liberal; great combination. I saw part of his interview with Bill Moyers in the latter's Journal this evening, and was transfixed. Moyers, more than once, referred to Toobin's piece in the New Yorker. Here are some quotes from it.

Notice the scale is tipped to the right side, or, right wing.

The first sentence of the article jumps out at me: Successful politicians know how to attract attention, and how to avoid it" Both Senator Clinton and Senator McCain are such politicians, so when they speak they are speaking in considered and prepared words; they do not speak, all the more in hard-fought presidential campaigns, off-the-cuff. Every word said is meant to be said; at times, the words are not just words, but codes.

Senator McCain spoke mainly in generalities, rather than about such specific issues as abortion, affirmative action, and the death penalty. But even if he hoped to sneak the speech past a distracted public, and have its coded references deciphered only by the activists who were its primary target, its message should not be lost on anyone. McCain plans to continue, and perhaps even accelerate, George W. Bush’s conservative counter-revolution at the Supreme Court.

This guy courts (pun intended) the image of being a maverick, but he isn't. Right wingers know that; he is making sure to remind them.

“Sometimes the expressed will of the voters is disregarded by federal judges, as in a 2005 case concerning an aggravated murder in the state of Missouri,” Toobin quotes McCain as saying, adding that McCain used code words such as "discourse on international law, the constitutions of other nations, the meaning of life, and ‘evolving standards of decency.’ These meditations were in the tradition of ‘penumbras,’ ‘emanations' ..."

Staunch, activist right-wingers know these words, and what they mean.

The giveaway here was that McCain did not reveal the subject matter of this supposed judicial outrage.

The case involved a teenager committing a heinous crime, and subsequently being sentenced to death.

Nor were his references to penumbras and emanations accidental. Justice Douglas used them in his 1962 Griswold v. Connecticut, in which the Justices recognized for the first time a constitutional right to privacy. In short, this one passage in McCain’s speech amounted to a dog whistle for the right—an implicit promise that he will appoint Justices who will eliminate the right to privacy, permit states to ban abortion, and allow the execution of teen-agers.

Maverick? Not to me; right-wing nut. Nor to Toobin is McCain a maverick: When it comes to the Constitution, McCain is on the wrong side of the voters, and of history; thus, his obfuscations.

The stakes are so very high. That is why the Democrats must win.

For all the elisions in John McCain’s speech, one unmistakable truth emerged: that the stakes in the election, for the Supreme Court and all who live by its rulings, are very, very high. ♦

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