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Thursday, October 02, 2008

"Can you think of any?"

Katie Couric asked both Joe Biden and Sarah Palin about Roe v. Wade, and then asked each about other Supreme Court decisions, specifically to name decisions, other than Roe, with which they disagreed. Asking Biden that question is a little bit like asking John Madden to name a manly linebacker or two, of course--he could, literally, talk for days on the question. Palin's response was, predictably, evasive. It actually seems like she can't name a Supreme Court case other than Roe:

Couric: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

Palin: Well, let's see. There's, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but …

Couric: Can you think of any?

Palin: Well, I could think of … any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.


But here's the fun part: If you had to prep Palin for this interview, other than Roe and other than Scott v. Sanford ("Dred Scott"), what is the perfect Supreme Court case for a conservative pol to disagree with. By that, I mean the decision that one can disagree with that would both signal one's conservative bona fides and, at the same time, not offend any mainstream sensibilities.

I think that Kelo, the recent Takings clause case involving use of eminent domain for economic redevelopment, is the perfect case. And it's actually surprising to me, given Palin's background in state but especially local government, that she couldn't come up with that. I guess that Takings issues (and community redevelopment issues) don't arise in Alaska?


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At 7:08 AM, Blogger Frances said...

Of course, Kelo might not have been the best case for a former mayor. In fact, she has economic development controversies from her time as mayor of Wasilla, one involving a property dispute over the location of the hockey rink she built at public expense. I don't think takings were involved, per se, but it might have been a little too close for comfort.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that she didn't think of mentioning Kelo at all.

At 8:58 AM, Blogger fronesis said...

#3 - You have to clarify for me, when you say that you were surprized she couldn't come up with Kelo, was that meant to be read with deep and biting sarcasm, or were you being genuine?

I know that Palin could have been prepped on this, but what percentage of Americans do you think could name the Kelo case? I'm guessing well under 10%, but probably under 5%.

I mean, this woman couldn't name a NEWSPAPER, so I'm not one bit surprized that she doesn't know any recent SC cases.

As for cases she disagreed with, dropping historical or constitutional subtleties (which is how we usually frame SC cases anyway), isn't there now an American consensus that Plessy v. Ferguson was a disgraceful decision?

At 9:05 AM, Blogger fronesis said...

p.s. Apologies for my inability to spell. I'm having a real identity crisis when it comes to UK/US spelling...

At 11:33 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Plessy was the obvious pick, but Kelo was the bullseye, at least for anyone who has listened to more than 20 minutes of talk radio over the last year. Problem is, she DID use eminent domain in that hockey rink case as a way of getting around not having secured the land before she issued the bonds.

Now, I doubt she was thinking that. I think she really didn't know one way or another. Anyone who can't name a single newspaper probably can't pick out a court case either. And as bad as her answer was, I think it was less embarrassing than I had expected since early reports said she couldn't name any decision at all. A case that you "disagree" with is a marginally tougher question, and she might have frozen up thinking about the potential minefields.

Incidentally, I gave one of my classes a pop quiz yesterday. All of them could name at least one newspaper or magazine, and all of them could identify a court case.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

One additional thought on Kelo. There is a trap there, although one she's unlikely to get called on. The liberal majority in that case is preserving state decision-making against an activist conservative minority. So the issue is the logical OPPOSITE of Roe, and Palin spends most of her Roe answer talking about leaving things with the states. So citing Kelo would have twisted her in a logical knot. I can't imagine she would have known that, however.


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