Quote of the Day: Arlen Specter on Justices Roberts and Alito
Ex-Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania voted to confirm both John Roberts and Samuel Alito, but the outgoing Democrat, in his last speech on the Senate floor, rightly took aim at both:
The Supreme Court has been eating Congress' lunch by invalidating legislation with judicial activism after nominees commit under oath in confirmation proceedings to respect congressional fact finding and precedent.
Ignoring a massive congressional record and reversing recent decisions, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito repudiated their confirmation testimony given under oath and provided the key votes to permit corporations and unions to secretly pay for political advertising -- thus effectively undermining the basic Democratic principle of the power of one person, one vote. Chief Justice Roberts promised to just call balls and strikes and then he moved the bases.
Specter was referring to the notorious Citizens United decision, a 5-4 ruling (with the conservatives, including Kennedy, with the swing vote, in the majority) that essentially opened to the door to unlimited corporate spending on election advertising. As Justice Stevens wrote in his dissent:
At bottom, the Court's opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.
In other words, the decision paves the way for the corporate takeover of American politics -- as if the system weren't already corporate enough.
Of course, Specter could not have known this when he voted for Roberts and Alito, but he knew full well that such right-wing judicial activism was likely. If nothing else, he should have known after Bush v. Gore that what drives conservative judges these days is not adherence to the letter of the Constitution, as they self-righteously claim, but adherence to a generally partisan right-wing agenda and to a view of the judiciary as a key instrument for enabling the implementation of that agenda.