Balkinization  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Richard Murcock and Theodore Bilbo

Sandy Levinson

I happen to be reading a wonderful manuscript (alas, confidential) on the degree to which the New Deal was fatally tainted by the felt (and, as a political matter, accurate) need to work with viciously racist, but "liberal" so far as poor whites were concerned, people like Mississippi senator Theodore Bilbo.  This is not, of course, a brand new insight.  There is an extensive literature on the pacts with the devil made by FDR  (including, ultimately, the equaly necessary pact with Stalin to overcome the greater evil of Hitler).  FDR, of course, tried to do what he could by "purging" the Democratic Party of some of these mossbacks in 1938, when he suffered a stunning political defeat that effectively brought the New Deal to an end. 

So what does this have to do with Richard Murdock and other denizens of the Mad-dog Right?  Mitt Romney, of course, has endorsed Murdock, whose theory of theodicy apparently includes the beneficence of rape-induced pregnancies.  (I suspect that Paul Ryan has much the same view, but he is much too smart to articulate it and, in any event, has sold out his Catholic convictions for the opportunity to pant after Mitt and hope to use him as springboard to the Oval Office.)  Surprise, surprise.  It's Romney's job to try to generate a Congress that would actually be amenable to his programs in a way that Democrats (one hopes) will not.  So it's somewhat beside the point to criticize Romney for standing with the mad-dogs.  Rather, it is up to Democrats to point out, far more insistently than Obama has in fact done) that a President Romney is almost certainly to be in thrall to a host of mad-dogs, beginning with his curiously vanishing VP, Paul Ryan, who belies every one of the faux-moderate Etch-a-sketching done by the Marvelously Malleable Mitt.  And why, oh why, was there literally not a single word during any of the "debates" about appointments to the federal judiciary.  It is true that Obama seems to have only a limited interest in the judiciary, but I strongly suspect that Romney (and, more to the point, the mad-dogs who will control the Republican Party) do not share that sense of lassitude or desire for a Sunsteinian "minimalist" Supreme Court. 

The worst judicial appointments in my life time within the "inferior" federal judiciary were by John F. Kennedy, in the 5th Circuit, where, among other things, he appointed the law partner of the viciously racist successor to Bilbo, James Eastland, Harold Cox.  Was JFK a racist?  No.  He simply didn't care all that much (as I suspect is the case with Etch-a-sketch Mitt on abortion) and bent to the political realities of the then-Democratic Party, which Lyndon B. Johnson, to his eternal credit, destroyed by fighting for, and then signing, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

We have this idiotic way of talking about Presidents as if they are truly independent of the poltiical party they lead and whose congressional members they must rely on for support.  It is as if Madison prevailed with an idealized 'separation of powers" system.  But as Rick Pildes and Daryl (no relation) Levinson accurate have pointed out, it's "separation of parties," not of powers, that define our system in most important respects.  That is why Romney has no choice but to offer enthusiastic support for cretins like Murdock and Akin (or, for that matter, why the liberal saint Adlai Stevenson thought it politic to pick Alabama Senator John Sparkman, a "moderate segregationist," as his running mate in 1960--and we can be sure that JFK did not realize who exactly he was getting, re race, with Lyndon Johnson, whose record in the Senate was thoroughly mixed, as Robert Caro points out.

It all comes down to the Constitution (at least in some important respects) and the utter failure of any candidates, debate moderators, or pundits to have anything useful to say it.  Better to treat the presidency as a one-man show for which the debates are an audition.  That may be true with regard to drone attacks, which now seem to be firmly established as a new prerogative of the President, regardless of such old-fashioned notions as "due process of law."  But, for better or worse, we haven't moved toward complete "constitutional dictatorship" yet, and Congress still has some prerogatives of its own, such as having to decide on tax policy.

Comments:

As my eyesight is improving, am I reading Sandy correctly?

" ...denizens of the Mad-dog right ... "

"Marvelously Malleable Mitt"

"Etch-a-sketch Mitt"

Or has Sandy been paying attention to me when I refer to:

"R-MONEY/R-AYN 2012"

TOMBSTONE (here, and here, and here, lies ..."

"CAMELEON"

in describing The Mittster? We here in MA, going back to The Mittster's run for the Senate, know well he will do and say what is necessary to get what he wants.
 

Is it coincidental that the current hurricane threat is called "Sandy"? Is this our October surprise?
 

If Sandy hasn't already read it, he might find David Brooks and Gail Collins "The Many Moods of Mitt Romney" at the NYTimes website amusing on the many "M" words used to describe The Mittster.
 

"the law partner of the viciously racist successor to Bilbo, James Eastland, Harold Cox"

Harold Cox stories still percolate amongst members of the Mississippi bar. The guy was an unbelievable piece of work.

Best one is his holding the courthouse's building superintendent in contempt for setting the thermostat to 78 per the Carter-era dictum: the poor man was locked up in a holding cell in the courthouse until he agreed to turn the temp down.
 

When the Supreme Court reverses Roe and allows the democratic branches of government to determine abortion policy, then I might care about the opinion of a president or senator on the subject.

Heck, since abortion is not interstate commerce, I should not have to care about the opinion of a president or senator under any circumstances, but that is a different discussion.
 

Sandy and shag,

I suggest that you do or take whatever helps you to relax on election day. Sudden massive stress from seeing election maps of the United States painted red is not healthy for gentlemen of your years. Heck, shag seems to be actively courting a stroke since the first debate.

;^)
 

Bart

You seem to be taking the usual playbook from the GOP in major elections: "hey pro-lifers, we are for you; hey, pro-choicers, [wink] we can't do anything about abortion, it's the courts baby."

In this election that is especially craven, most court watchers realize Roe v. Wade hangs by a slim thread and Romney's intentions regarding nominations in this area is clear. Why not own up to your party's clear stance?
 

I'm courting strokes with some more "M" words to judge The Mittster's weathervane style of campaigning:

"MITTOLOGY"

"MITTSTERY"

"MITTSTAKES"

(I'm not claiming originality but just assembling some "M" & "Ms" for trick or treating.
 

Mr. W:

Is Roe really hanging by a thread?

The last time Roe came before the bench, O'Connor caved because she did not want to upset the apple cart.

After his epic collapse in the Obamacare case, why should I have any confidence that Roberts will vote to reverse Roe when the left legal community starts to turn the screws again?

Should I put my faith in the inconstant Kennedy?

We have a bare chance of reversing Roe if Romney replaces Ginsberg with a firm anti-Roe vote and the conservatives have only one defection.

I will not be holding my breath.
 

"We have a bare chance of reversing Roe if Romney replaces Ginsberg with a firm anti-Roe vote and the conservatives have only one defection."

Let me get this straight, you think that if Ginsberg is out with a pro-life replacment, that somehow Roberts, whose joined the conservatives before to restrict Roe and was clearly vetted with that in mind, joins Kagan, Breyer, Kennedy and Sotomayor to uphold Roe? And that's a 'bare chance?'

Wow.
 

The Indiana Senate candidate's name is spelled "Mourdock." John Sparkman was the Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee in 1952, not in 1960. Adlai Stevenson was the Democratic presidential nominee in 1952 and 1956, but John F. Kennedy was the nominee in 1960. In 1952, Stevenson was rather passive about the VP choice (as he was about many other things), and the decision to put Sparkman on the ticket was mainly made by Democratic Party elders, including President Truman.
 

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There is an extensive literature on the pacts with the devil made by FDR (including, ultimately, the equaly necessary pact with Stalin to overcome the greater evil of Hitler). You can learn more: China Travel Agency | China tour operator | China tour packages


 

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