Monday, August 25, 2008

Justice Thomas's Indictment Of Senator Biden

Despite serving for eons in the U.S. Senate and running for President, Senator Joe Biden remains a relative unknown to most Americans. Undoubtedly we will all get to know him better in the coming days.

To get things started, here's an assessment from Justice Clarence Thomas, Senator Barack Obama's favorite jurist (not), who wrote in his book My Grandfather's Son about the slimey questioning conducted by Obama's future running mate at Thomas's confirmation hearing:

Senator Biden was the first questioner. Instead of the softball questions he'd promised to ask, he threw a beanball straight at my head, quoting from a speech that I'd given four years earlier at the Pacific Legal Foundation ad challenging me to defend what I'd said: "I find attractive the arguments of scholars such as Stephen Macedo, who defend an activist Supreme Court that would . . . strike down laws restricting property rights." That caught me off guard, and I had no recollection of making so atypical a statement, which shook me up even more. "Now, it would seem to me what you were talking about, Senator Biden went on to say, "is you find attractive the fact that they are activists and they wold like to strike down existing laws that impact on restricting the use of property rights, because you know, that is what they write about."

Since I didn't remember making the statement in the first place, I didn't know how to respond to it. All I could say in reply was that "it has been quite some time since I have read Professor Macedo . . . But I don't believe that in my writings I have indicated that we should have an activist Supreme Court or that we should have any form of activism on the Supreme Court. It was, I knew, a weak answer. Fortunately, though, the young lawyers who had helped prepare me for the hearings had loaded all of my speeches into a computer, and at the first break in the proceedings they looked this one up. The senator, they found, had wrenched my words out of context. I looked at the text of my speech and saw that the passage he'd read out loud had been immediately followed by two other sentences: "But the libertarian argument overlooks the place of the Supreme Court in a scheme of separation of powers. One does not strengthen self-government and the rule of law by having the non-democratic branch of the government make policy." The point I'd been making was the opposite of the one that Senator Biden claimed I had made.

Throughout my life I've often found truth embedded in the lyrics of my favorite records. At Yale, for example, I'd listened often to "Smiling Faces Sometimes," a song by the Undisputed Truth that warns of the dangers of trusting the hypocrites who "pretend to be your friend" while secretly planning to do you wrong. Now I knew I'd met one of the them: Senator Biden's smooth, insincere promises that he would treat me fairly were nothing but talk. . . . .

No comments: