This morning's Washington Post, in A Governing Philosophy Rebuffed, includes this analysis:
[T]he Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate.
"Struck at the core"?
"Ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines"?
Sounds right, but here is how Tony Snow, the President's spokesman, viewed the decision, in the same WaPo article:
Snow later disagreed that the ruling undercut Bush's authority. "I don't think it weakens the president's hand, and it certainly doesn't change the way in which we move as aggressively as possible to try to cut off terrorists before they can strike again," he said.
What's going on here?
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, in a 2003 Boston College commencement address, told this story of President Andrew Jackson and the Supreme Court:
In 1832 the Cherokee Indian tribe lived on land guaranteed them by treaty. They found gold on that land. Georgia tried to seize the land. The Cherokees sued. And eventually the Supreme Court, in Worcester v. Georgia, held in favor of the Cherokees.
Georgia then refused to obey the Court. President Andrew Jackson reportedly said, "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it." And Jackson sent troops to evict the Cherokees, who traveled the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma, thousands dying along the way.
Despite this sad chapter in our history, and despite President Jackson's arrogant refusal to respect the Supreme Court, Justice Breyer argued that we had matured 170 years later, that we now respect the Rule of Law, and "that losers as well as winners will abide by the result, and so will the public." In his concurring opinion in Hamdan, Justice Breyer again expressed his faith in losers respecting the Rule of Law.
The statement by Tony Snow suggests that, as far as the President is concerned, this faith is misplaced. It also suggests a more subtle calculation at work: rather than recognize the broad implications of the blow that Hamdan has dealt to President Bush's notion of unlimited Presidential power, the President will just ignore it.
He will act as if his power is not impaired by this decision, as if the authority for his domestic spying has not been eviscerated, as if his claims to unlimited Presidential Power have not been dealt a fatal blow by the Supreme Court. Why should the President of the United States respect a 5-vote majority on the Supreme Court, when he looks forward to the opportunity to replace the author of the Hamdan decision, Mr. Justice John Paul Stevens, in coming years.
Mr. Justice Stevens has made his decision; now let him enforce it. That is surely what President Bush is now thinking. But instead of saying that openly, he will act as if nothing has happened, as if the court decision does not undercut his views of unilateral Presidential power.
If the people and the Congress allow the President to get away with this gambit, it will be the greatest tragedy for our democracy. The Supreme Court's rejection of his claims to unlimited Presidential power should be trumpeted loudly and broadly by all progressives, and the President's arrogance toward the Court and the Rule of Law should be called out by every progressive candidate this season.