Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, July 01, 2013

How Long Can American Dysfunction Last?

Barack Obama and John Boehner are stars of today’s Washington’s mess, but John Roberts is the game’s Mariano Rivera. The President will be gone in four years, the Speaker likely sooner but the Chief Justice has an actuarial chance of presiding for another quarter of a century.

In “The Real John Roberts Emerges,” Court watcher Linda Greenhouse reports that his distrust of all government runs bone-deep, not only the other two branches but “the modern administrative state with its ‘hundreds of federal agencies poking into every nook and cranny of daily life.’

“Congress can’t be trusted. The executive branch is out of control. What’s left? The Supreme Court.”

In 2014, voters could shrink the House’s Tea Party contingent and oust the beleaguered Boehner in favor of his Iago, Eric Cantor, who is edging toward the center on minority voting rights. In 2016, a new president will be unhobbled by racism; even sexism would be an improvement.

But Roberts will remain, bequeathed to us by George W. Bush in 2005. At his confirmation hearings, Roberts assured senators that on the bench it would be “my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat."

Sen. Barack Obama voted against him then despite the nominee’s promises that he would try to level the playing field, saying “it is my personal estimation that he has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong in opposition to the weak.”

Obama was prescient, but how many Presidents and Congresses will come and go as the Chief Justice goes through his lifetime appointment, seeing balls and strikes from his ever-hardening perspective? How much intelligence and determination will it take from the other two branches to balance the damage to basic American values from a bench that has now become the heart of the playing field?

Is the longevity of Roberts' rule crucial to America’s destiny?

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