The NY Times has a recent editorial that
suggests says outright that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled so badly in three First Amendment cases that it no longer pays attention to precedent and is in effect operating beyond the law:
Chief Justice Roberts and the four others in his ascendant bloc used the next-to-last decision day of this term to reopen the political system to a new flood of special-interest money, to weaken protection of student expression and to make it harder for citizens to challenge government violations of the separation of church and state. In the process, the reconfigured court extended its noxious habit of casting aside precedents without acknowledging it ….
For the Times to identify a voting bloc that functions to contravene precedent in something as significant as the First Amendment is pretty astounding. The timing of the Court also reads pretty clearly as politically informed. The First Amendment isn’t a hotly contested issue, though certain instances (such as flag burning) may be. My take on bedrock principles of the U.S. Constitution — so basic and assumed back in the day that they were omitted from the first version and only added later as amendments — is that they should be protected slavishly unless some clear public interest is served by revoking rights. It is far better to extend protection in questionable cases than to infringe someone’s rights, not unlike the conventional wisdom (enshrined in someone’s famous quote, no doubt) that it’s better to let ten guilty men go free than to convict one innocent one.
In other news likely to become a political firestorm in the coming days (and then blow over in favor of some new revelation, as nearly all of Bush’s missteps do), Pres. Bush commuted Scooter Libby’s 2.5-year prison sentence. Leaving the fine, probation, and criminal record intact rather than a full pardon is nothing to these guys, which is say almost no punishment at all. Haven’t members of the Bush Administration also shown themselves brazenly willing to operate beyond the law? So much for accountability. Of course, it should surprise no one that the Prez steps in to protect one of his aides, but sheesh. Isn’t there even a sacrificial goat to quell the need for political balance anymore?