Posted tagged ‘David Souter’

Nader for SCOTUS: The Fetal Stage

May 3, 2009

The Supreme  Court of the United States has made some pretty alarming decisions over the last decade, at least two of which can and have adversely impacted the lives of every American. Bush v. Gore installed a man who lost the election into the Presidency. Retiring Justice David Souter was reportedly disillusioned by the decision. Kelo v. The City of New Haven made it legal for the government to confiscate your house, business, or land, and sell it to a private corporation. Sadly, Souter was of the majority opinion that supported the practice.

In case you aren’t aware, Ralph Nader considered both decisions to be appalling and unconstitutional.

But when it comes to the politics of the Supreme Court, one issue above all others seems to get the press: abortion. Pro life v. Pro Choice. A woman’s right to “choose” v. a fetus’ “right” to be born. Both sides want a litmus test for any Supreme Court nominee, and every President claims they will not administer one. Don’t believe them.

I’ll admit that I tend to lean to the pro-choice side of this argument, at least up until the third trimester. But I also have to confess that I have grown extremely bored with the subject as well. This is a debate that has been raging with virtually the same talking points, the same logical constructions, and the same approaches since 1921. And yet, in 88 years, science still hasn’t bothered to answer the question “when does life begin?”

The abortion issue has become such a vapid, brain-dead debate, populated essentially with business people who raise (i.e.,make) money by promoting one view or the other. Legal points about eminent domain, election reform, tax policy, interrogation techniques, separation of powers, media conglomeration, and scores of other issues come before the Supreme Court all the time. There was also an impeachment trial not too long ago and a hearty call for another during the last administration. But when Obama does finally make his nomination, expect the stock price of cable news companies to skyrocket. Because our country is going to be forced once again to listen to well-funded talking heads rabbit on about a subject that will only ever affect the smallest fraction of our population.

Men will never get pregnant. And women can prevent it if they choose to. This news hasn’t received its fair share of coverage in the last 88 years. So neglected is this fact, this miracle that could satisfy both sides, that I feel compelled to donate some free ad space to a little known startup that sells affordable, easy-to-use, and medically sound devices that prevent unwanted pregnancies:




These little wonders are easily available to all sexually active men and women of any age, and in many cases they can even be obtained for free. Okay, this may not completely solve the problem this post is devoted to, but the information should help lower the blood pressure of abortion activists everywhere, on both sides. We talk about abortion in this country as though the British are coming, when in reality we are. And prophylactics can do something to contain that… literally.

Unfortunately, if President Obama went on television and said, “Use condoms. They’re free. Take as many as you want,” we wouldn’t have as much fun this summer as the confirmation hearings would be more boring. Leave it to Americans to take a steady supply of free condoms and still be unable to figure out how that can make life fun. 

So bring on the litmus test. 

One of the benefits of having a Supreme Court nominee who has run for President is that he has probably had to take a public position on most of the issues the Supreme Court will face. Being a Justice is supposed to be apolitical, and many appointees have surprised their Presidents by swinging in directions they didn’t expect. But SCOTUS confirmation hearings are nothing if not a determined hunt to discover the nominee’s ideology. William Howard Taft was not our best President, but by most accounts he proved an excellent Chief Justice (succeeding to the post, ironically, in 1921). Having been President, the country likely knew where he stood on issues of the day, and Taft brought a unique perspective on the interrelation of the branches of government.

So where does Ralph Nader stand on abortion? The best resource I’ve come across is a website called On the Issues, which appears to be an objective compendium of where just about every current politician stands on every issue you’ve seen reported, complete with sources. On Nader’s page, we see that he has been criticized for not treating the abortion issue with the same gravity that he would treat, say, poverty. Or cancer. Or nuclear war. Rep. Barney Frank and activist Gloria Steinem have often faulted Nader for not making abortion the center of his universe. Still, I bet if either of them ever encountered a broken condom, he’d be the first one they’d call.

But what is his actual opinion on the legality of abortion?

Nine years ago this week on NBC’s Meet the Press, Nader said this to Tim Russert:

“I don’t think government has the proper role in forcing a woman to have a child or forcing a woman not to have a child. And we’ve seen that around the world. This is something that should be privately decided with the family, woman, all the other private factors of it, but we should work toward preventing the necessity of abortion.”   

That about sums it up for me. He went on later that year to express support for the so-called “morning after pill,” which was just being introduced to the US market, saying use of the drug was “up to the woman, not the government,” and calling it “preferable to surgical procedure.” I don’t see anything Barney Frank or Gloria Steinem could argue against here. As of 2008, Nader was on record as fully endorsing the National Organization for Women’s Agenda on Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights. 

He did get into some hot water during his campaigns by stating that Roe v. Wade was in no danger of being overturned, even by an ultraconservative President. Nader claims such talk is simply a scare tactic designed to rally the respective bases, and the Republicans would never allow themselves to preside over the first back-alley abortion death. Even conservative Justices like Scalia and Thomas were confirmed by Democrat-controlled congresses. Of course he said this years ago, before conservative Justices like Roberts and Alito were confirmed… with the help of Democrats. Neither Roberts nor Alito took a position on abortion at their hearings, both vowing to keep an open mind on the issue or respecting Roe v. Wade as “settled law.”

Of course, George W. Bush did try to sneak ultra-right-wing-nut Harriet Miers past us in 2005, but was roundly panned… by Republicans (Democrat Harry Reid actually recommended her for the nomination). 

So, it seems that Nader was right. Eight years of Bush and Cheney gave us two stagnating wars, an economy in collapse, torture, domestic wiretapping, several impeachable offenses and transgressions, not to mention a total failure in preparing for or responding to Hurricane Katrina… but abortion is still legal. Oh, and remember RU-486, the debated “morning after pill”? It’s legal too.

So bottom line: If you care about protecting abortion rights for women, Nader is on your side. He would be the least likely person you’ve ever heard of to overturn Roe v. Wade, but would probably spend most of his energy on more fundamental Constitutional issues that affect far more people. Only with the issue of abortion would Ralph Nader support the status quo. Heck, he might even try to make it financially easier for poor women to obtain the procedure, or at least the drug.

It has been nearly four years since John Roberts assumed the office of Chief Justice, and still there has been no assault against the right to choose from the Court. His predecessor, the arch conservative William Rehnquist, served as Chief Justice for 19 of his 33 years on the Court, and abortion never came up. If Roberts and his conservative brethren decided to launch an attack all of a sudden, wouldn’t you rather have them forced to go up against Ralph Nader than anyone else?


The Vacancy: A New Beginning

May 3, 2009

We’ve all heard by now that David Souter will retire from the bench this summer. This gives President Barack Obama his first shot at appointing a new Supreme Court Justice. 

He has said that he will nominate someone with empathy and independence. Most pundits expect him to pick a centrist. Most liberals want a hard-lefter. Activists want a woman or minority. Progressives are expecting a disappointment. Republicans are vowing to fight the choice almost no matter what. 

Uphill battles are seldom fun, but are important by definition. I humbly submit a bachelor of Lebanese stock with a decades-long career of public advocacy. An Ivy-trained lawyer, military veteran, son of immigrants, and just about the most successful activist in American history:  

Ralph Nader.

Yes, let me say it again. Ralph Nader. 

If I’ve caught your eyes before you’ve rolled them, let me explain why, though I shouldn’t have to. If you’re too young to have heard much about Nader before he was derided as a “perennial candidate” for President, do a google search. I plan to push this blog as a campaign, and will flesh out his resume as much as I can. But it will help us all if you come to this site informed. Between seat belts, anti-pollution, occupational safety, the Freedom of Information Act, anti-nuke support, food labels, and dozens of other issues that have certainly impacted the life of someone you love (if not yourself), Ralph Nader has pretty much done everything for this country except breast feed it.  

He has always been a consistent opponent of government avarice and corporate greed, as well as a booster for civic empowerment. Many of his old campaign speeches sound like prophecy today. If you want real change, the kind of change that Obama promised, what would be better than putting Ralph Nader on the Supreme Court? Who else could give Scalia, Roberts, and Alito as much hell? Who else would be as tenacious a defender and enforcer of our ideals as a nation? 

Nader-hating “liberals” wouldn’t have to worry about him “siphoning off” votes in future elections. Pragmatic “progressives” wouldn’t have to worry about how he could possibly push legislation through Congress (though he did it successfully enough for three decades somehow). And conservatives wouldn’t be able to dig up any dirt on the guy.

And like your favorite rock star (and unlike Obama), he once sold out Madison Square Garden. Imagine the confirmation hearings with a guy like this: