It is has been pointed out by others that when the Republicans chose to organize the reading of the Constitution on the House floor, they conveniently left out parts they didn't like. But, they have intellectual--and I use "intellectual" loosely--support for this from Justice Scalia and his wing of convenient Constitutionalists who choose to find things in the document they so revere like rights of Corporations.
The point I am making is not a new one. But, it rises today thanks to a fabulous blog post by Linda Greenhouse whose regular legal commentary and coverage for The New York Times of the Supreme Court was a pearl and is missed now that she has moved on. But, she is a blogger there and she writes today on "Problems of Democracy". Let me build up to the critical part, from my vantage point, with her first example of the convenient way in which Scalia views the Constitution:
My own beef is not that the members of Congress chose not to acknowledge inconvenient parts of the document as written, but that their show of reverence for the written text obscured much of what really matters in our constitutional culture...
There is nothing inherently liberal, progressive or even ideological one way or another about acknowledging that the Constitution we have today is the multilayered product of original understanding mediated over time by perceived need. Nor is Justice Scalia himself, his protestations aside, immune from this reality. One of his opinions from the Supreme Court’s last term is my favorite recent example of how even this most original of all originalists sometimes bends toward the practical in his constitutional interpretation.[emphasis added]
Greenhouse then proceeds to describe a case, Maryland v. Shatzer, which involved the interrogation and then the re-interrogation of a prisoner. Scalia and the majority decided that 14 days was enough of a time period between a prisoner's invocation of his right not to answer questions and the next time the police could come at him again"
Fourteen days? Where did that come from as a constitutional principle? Fourteen days, Justice Scalia explained, provide "plenty of time for the suspect to get reacclimated to his normal life, to consult with friends and counsel, and to shake off any residual coercive effects of his prior custody." That sounds an awful lot like constitutional policy, not constitutional interpretation.
The point Greenhouse makes is simple: strict interpretation is conveniently in the eye of the beholder and, in particular, in the eye of Scalia.
And the main point that is really important:
Last month, before the new Congress opened for business, Representative Darrell Issa, a California Republican and the soon-to-be chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to 150 companies and trade associations asking them to let him know about any federal regulations that they would like to see removed. Perhaps Mr. Issa was emboldened to send such a letter by the business-friendly vibrations emanating from the Supreme Court these days. It was just last January, in the Citizens United case, that the court granted corporations a robust First Amendment right, as citizens, to spend money in support of or against candidates in federal elections.
House Republicans could read the Constitution every day between now and July 4 without finding a word about corporate citizenship. Funny, but it just doesn’t seem to be there. Call it a problem of democracy[emphasis added].
I can say what maybe Greenhouse thought. The Supreme Court conservative majority has become the legal bagman for the corporate world. In the midst of the great class warfare in 100 years and the greatest divide between rich and poor, corporations have no fear from having their wings clipped by the judiciary--because, ultimately, when any key case comes to the final arbiter, Scalia and his gang will deliver the payoff. The health care bill will likely be the next payoff.
So, let's step back and take a measure of where we are, in real-life, when it comes to the economic crisis we face in America. If we think of the three branches of government and the vaunted separation of powers outlined in the Constitution:
The Supreme Court majority has sold itself to the corporate world, which is principally responsible for the implosion of the American Dream. With the important caveat that I am not a lawyer and have a layperson's interest in the law, it strikes me that the Court has divined new rights to corporations that actually are not only not to be found in the Constitution but are precisely counter to the idea of guarding against any King or concentrated power ruling America.
The Congress--our legislative branch--is largely on the take as well because of the unholy alliance between the career of a Member of Congress and campaign contributions, a process that only gets worse because of Citizen's United.
The Executive Branch, while professing to speak for the "middle-class" (whatever happened to the poor, by the way) is much more focused on appeasing the business world, hiring one of the most visible, enduring, NAFTA-promoting, financial-sector operatives.
Who, then, will speak for the people?