One Of The Good Ones

by digby

Supreme court analyst, Linda Greenhouse, is retiring from the NY Times and I think it's going to be very, very difficult to get along without her. She is the best writer about the court out there, giving laypeople insight into both the history of the law, the justices participating in the decisions and the effect on our system and society. She's a rare reporter.

Read her final essay in today's Times. I particularly appreciate this:

In five days on the witness stand, Judge Bork had a chance to explain himself fully, to describe and defend his view that the Constitution’s text and the intent of its 18th-century framers provided the only legitimate tools for constitutional interpretation. Through televised hearings that engaged the public to a rare degree, the debate became a national referendum on the modern course of constitutional law. Judge Bork’s constitutional vision, anchored in the past, was tested and found wanting, in contrast to the later declaration by Judge Anthony M. Kennedy, the successful nominee, that the Constitution’s framers had “made a covenant with the future.”

It has made a substantial difference during these last 21 years that Anthony Kennedy got the seat intended for Robert Bork. The invective aimed at Justice Kennedy from the right this year alone, for his majority opinions upholding the rights of the Guantánamo detainees and overturning the death penalty for child rapists — 5-to-4 decisions that would surely have found Judge Bork on the opposite side — is a measure of the lasting significance of what happened during that long-ago summer and fall.

It is also a reminder of something I learned observing the court and the country, and listening in on the vital dialogue between them. The court is in Americans’ collective hands. We shape it; it reflects us. At any given time, we may not have the Supreme Court we want. We may not have the court we need. But we have, most likely, the Supreme Court we deserve.
The Senate has shown they will confirm a doorstop if the president wants them to. There are no Teddy Kennedy's who will lead the charge against another Bork. This is one reason why I'll vote for Obama enthusiastically. A President McCain will throw the wingnut zealots the most reactionary, federalist society hack he can find, like bloody bloody meat to a piranha tank. He doesn't care about anything but paying off his rich friends and making war. Whatever our problems might be with Obama we know that he won't do that.

We always say that the Supreme Court hangs in the balance when we come to election time and people see it as crying wolf nowadays. But this time it's for real. John Paul Stevens is very, very old and Ruth Bader Ginsberg is in ill health. They valiantly hung on through these last eight years of hell but we can't expect them to do it forever. A court majority under John Roberts is not what the nation deserves, certainly not the kids, the elderly,the poor, the disenfranchised and the average worker who will be hurt. The Democratic elites, yes, but there is no joy in that.

Meanwhile, Greenhouse is going to teach a Yale and her students are very lucky. I'll be looking forward to her books.