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Joseph Sobran’s
Washington Watch

The Thought-Crimes of Judge Alito

(Reprinted from the issue of January 12, 2006)

Capitol Bldg, Washington Watch logo for The Thought-Crimes of Judge AlitoIn an attempt to create the impression that they aren’t obsessed with abortion, liberals are scrounging around for other reasons to oppose the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. And they think they have found a hot one: his views on the Warren Court’s “landmark” decisions on reapportionment.

Sen. Joe Biden, the Delaware Democrat, thinks Alito’s reactionary opinions on the one-person/one-vote principle may jeopardize his confirmation even more than his criticism of Roe v. Wade. Adam Cohen of The New York Times, an incurable liberal, calls Alito’s position “radical,” says it “raises serious questions about his views on democracy and equality,” places him among “far-right lawyers” outside the “legal mainstream,” and suggests he is “at heart an elitist.”

That’s a liberal for you — always calling for independent thinking, while pillorying anyone outside the “mainstream.”

I hope Alito sticks to his guns. The rulings in question were radical in their day, which is why liberals loved them, and the Court wasn’t unanimous, which is why there should be room for doubt about them now. Cohen is asserting the liberal version of the Brezhnev Doctrine: “What we have, we keep.”

The Court’s demand for the reapportionment of state legislatures, led by William Brennan, was based on a strained reading of the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause that ignored the 10th Amendment. As so often happens, the Court disliked the way the states were doing business, so it usurped their powers to get the result it wanted.

Felix Frankfurter, a liberal given to fits of honesty, dissented, arguing that his colleagues were exceeding their authority. He was right, and there is no reason why a bad decision should stand forever.

The majority held that it was unfair, ergo unconstitutional, for the states to apportion their legislatures in such a way that some votes (in thinly populated rural districts, say) should have more representation than others (in heavily populated urban districts). Well, unfair or not, it had always been constitutional. The Court might as well have ruled that the U.S. Senate is unconstitutional, since it gives voters in Alaska just as much representation as voters in New York.

But the liberals didn’t dare press their own “equal protection” logic quite that far. In a nutshell, they decided that the states were forbidden to practice the same kind of federalism the federal government is based on. “Equal protection” became a fetish, a matter of mere arithmetic.

The result, as intended, was a huge shakeup of the internal politics of the states, ensuring urban and liberal dominance. Conservatives, naturally, thought there was room for more than one opinion about this, and they resented this liberal power-grab made in the name of equality and democracy. Once again the Court had arbitrarily used the 14th Amendment to nullify the rest of the Constitution and long-established tradition. Earl Warren gloated that the reapportionment rulings were the greatest achievement of the Court during his tenure.

Pace Joe Biden and Adam Cohen, the winning side isn’t always the right side. Anyone with an open mind must realize that in the short run, error often prevails, especially when it has power going for it; and Samuel Alito, by being critical of “mainstream” precedents, is showing a more open mind than his opponents who will tolerate no questioning of old liberal dogmas.

Anyone who really treasures valid traditions must also hate the fads that undermine our heritage, and the work of the 21st century will include undoing the harm of the 20th. But of course liberals want us to treat their own recent fads as hallowed traditions. This is what the Alito confirmation fight will be about.

Rumors of War

Charles Krauthammer, a bellwether of the neoconservatives, has recently predicted that the Israelis will soon attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. This could mean that it’s likely to happen, and that the neocons have been tipped off to emit propaganda for it.

In his weekly column, Krauthammer called for such an attack, noting that Iran’s new president has not only denied Read Joe Sobran's columns the day he writes them!the Holocaust but called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” (or moved to Europe).

What happens next may depend on Ariel Sharon’s failing health (as I write, he has just had a serious stroke), so it’s hardly a certainty. But the Bush administration, seeing Iran as part of the “Axis of Evil,” isn’t in a position to widen the war now, and would give its tacit approval if the Israelis saved it the trouble by taking the initiative; Vice President Cheney has already hinted as much.

Nobody can want yet another state to join the nuclear “club” by acquiring weapons of mass murder. But the Israelis already have them, and they want to retain their monopoly in the region (setting aside Pakistan), not, I hope, because they mean to drop them on civilians, but because mere possession of these things determines the balance of power.

Whatever ensues, the American-Israeli alliance ensures that we will find ourselves even more isolated and unpopular than we already are. The neocons have a record of getting the wars they want.

Tragedy under the Earth

From West Virginia, a long stone’s throw from where I sit, comes the horrifying story of 12 coal miners found dead — only one surviving — after an underground explosion. The grim discovery followed an agonizing attempt to rescue them and false reports that it had succeeded.

Most of us complain about our jobs at one time or another, but as I followed this story on the radio I could only feel blessed that the good Lord has spared me the necessity of making a living mining coal — dull, dark, dismal, unhealthy labor, with the additional element, now underscored, of danger.

Who would do such work if he had any choice? I keep thinking how easy it has been to mistake my good fortune for desert, when it’s really divine mercy I’ve failed to see.

If there is any consolation here, it’s that these poor men almost surely turned to God in their last desperate moments, and He would not forsake them.

SOBRANS ponders the perverse spiritual appeal of Darwinism. If you have not seen my monthly newsletter yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.

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Joseph Sobran

Copyright © 2006 by The Wanderer,
the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867
Reprinted with permission

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