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Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Supreme Court’

political operative as romantic egoist

In a Boston Review essay, I had occasion to explore the early writings of William F. Buckley, Jr., on racial segregation. I argued then that Buckley’s famous 2004 apology for having once held racially regressive positions — an apology cited by his fans both conservative and liberal, part and parcel of a contention that, despite a perhaps unfortunate history together, racism and American conservatism aren’t ineluctably connected — was no apology at all. The aged Buckley was renouncing a position entirely different from the one he’d actually advanced in the 1950’s.

Writing in 1957, Buckley insisted that whites in the South were “entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, where they do not prevail numerically,” because the white race was “for the time being, the advanced race.”

In 2004, asked whether he’d ever taken a position he now regretted, he said “Yes. I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow. I was wrong: federal intervention was necessary.”

Neatly done. Where in ’57 he’d asserted a right even of a minority of whites to impose racial segregation by literally any means necessary, including breaking federal law, in ’04 Buckley expressed regret for having supposedly believed only that segregation would wither away without federal intervention. Stupid the man was not. He gets credited today both with honesty about his past and with having, in his own way, “evolved up.” Modern conservatives, more importantly, get to ignore the realities of their movement’s origins.

The persistence of the most virulent kind of racism and white supremacism in some National Review writers, leading to their recent firing, doesn’t mean to me that all of American conservatism is racist. But I think the firings, and ensuing discussion of them by, for two, Joan Walsh and Alex Pareene at Salon, support a suggestion I made in that essay regarding the nature of Buckley’s evolution away from his 1957 position. Buckley did evolve — but not in the way his fans like to imagine: (more…)

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Obama’s Press Secretary: Bill?

Me: The other day the President told reporters that the courts of the 1960’s had perhaps been overly activist. Now we’re getting reports that the administration is exploring possible qualifications of the Miranda rule, in cases of people suspected of terrorism. Would it be fair to conclude that the Miranda rule is a good example of an area where the President feels the 1960’s courts were overly activist?

OPS: Well, the President has been very clear on –

Me: I mean it’s OK with me if he does think that. I JUST REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHAT HE THINKS!

OPS: That’s enough, Bill. Yes, Brian?

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Yesterday I wrote about my perplexity over Obama’s comments on the history of federal judicial decisions. This morning’s New York Times – though not exactly playing the story up — unpacks some of the issues involved. Writing fast, I mentioned only hot-button items like abortion rights and affirmative action as products of those liberal courts; the Times zeroes in on matters at least as critical, from indigent suspects’ right to free lawyers, to Miranda, to fairer election districting, etc.

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Talking to reporters on Air Force One yesterday, President Obama pointed out, no doubt rightly, that conservative federal judges have been engaging in their own brand of activism. I heard the soundbite on “Morning Edition,” and here it is in print, from CBS:

In the ’60s and ’70s, the feeling was, is that liberals were guilty of that kind of approach [i.e., imposing judicial solutions to problems more properly addressed by legislatures]. What you’re now seeing, I think, is a conservative jurisprudence that oftentimes makes the same error.

Once again I’m clueless about what the President may really think about a historical subject that he has made a point of bringing up. (more…)

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