Some animals are more equal than others
Has the equal protection clause of the US Constitution become the 'damned spot' of the Bush administration? A little while back, we noted the odd amnesia that afflicts the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy when writing about this amendment: sure, it led to desegregation, which was a Good Thing, but now it risks leading to special rights for the unGodly, which is a Bad Thing. Furthermore, there is a strange reluctance to mention the most momentous recent application of it ... the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, which put Dubya in the White House.
If only for the reason that he owes his current power entirely to it, one would have thought that Dubya would be somewhat familiar with the amendment's history and application; yet, as widely noted in the political blog world, he utterly botched a reference to it in Friday night's debate against Kerry. As is typical when Dubya strays away from the tested spin lines, it's not even clear what his chain of half sentences means, but the context gives us some pointers.
Dubya had been asked to specify his criteria for a good Supreme Court justice. He was trying to argue that a good justice is one who bases legal arguments directly in the text of the Constitution. Attempting to provide examples of cases where this was not followed, he knew that he couldn't mention the Court's reading of a right to abortion in the Constitution, risking offending moderate, pro-choice voters. So he reached into the haze of history and cited the Dred Scott case, in which the Court held that slavery was constitutional. Then the verbal chaos began:
[Dubya] Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.
That's a personal opinion [of the ruling justices]. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America.
Somehere along the way he seems to have realized that in fact the example of slavery exposed the deficiencies of the original constitution, since the amendments abolishing slavery, making all US-born residents citizens, and guaranteeing equal protection were added later -- but in bailing, he adds this curious present tense statement that the consitution "doesn't speak to the equality of America."
So who's been whispering that statement in his ear? Clearly, for someone as in love with tax cuts as he is, "equality" is already a tricky word, but as we said above, what does this imply for his view of the equal protection clause? Good enough to put him in office, but otherwise inoperative? Who among the fearless Washington "press corps" will ask him to explain?