Saturday, January 17, 2009

‘The Nine’ Gets an Enthusiastic Rating of 10

I have just finished a book called The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin that will be a fascinating read no matter where one sits on the political spectrum.

This is an amazing account of how members of a small, extreme conservative clique targeted the U.S. Supreme Court as far back at the late 90s. Their entire raison d’etre was to engineer presidential appointments to the court of “reliable” conservative jurists … judges who would vote the “right way” on the only two issues that really matter to those folks: abortion and the power of the executive.

The politics of this whole effort is fascinating. These conservative republicans effectively sabotaged the Supreme Court nominees of their own party’s president. For instance, they headed off Bush’s anticipated nomination to the high court of Alberto Gonzales (obviously, this was well before Gonzales was forced to resign under pressure). And you’ll really shake your head when you read about how they scuttled W’s infamous nomination of Harriet Miers.

The book is an astonishing look at the personalities and the politics of all the justices, but especially of Antonin Scalia, William Rehnquist, Clarence Thomas and Sandra Day O’Connor, who was the pivotal vote on many of the Court’s more significant decisions for more than a decade. (A life-long Republican, she was contemptuous ot the Bush Administration, by the way.)

There is a particularly fascinating portion that deals with the 2000 presidential election and the Court’s decision in Bush vs. Gore. (This is the section that really gave me heartburn!) One justice, David Souter, was so distressed at what he felt were the crude partisanship of the court’s 5-4 decision giving the election to Bush, that he seriously considered resigning.

I doubt there has ever been such a detailed look at what goes on inside the Court. It is an amazing read and I recommend it … especially to others like me who believe the Supreme Court of the United States should be above politics.


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