Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade Are in Mortal Peril

The United States Supreme Court is moving to reverse long-cherished American notions of constitutional law.

The divisions that plague American society have invaded the sanctity of the court, with angry dissents and at times personal criticism among justices that illustrate both the passions and dangers of the debate.

These events escalate a pattern of extreme actions that violate cardinal American ideals on matters including torture, the Geneva Convention, attacks on the Bill of Rights, presidential assertions of authority to violate statutes with non-binding statements, secrecy of unprecedented scope, the inability of Congress to perform its historic function of preventing executive abuse, and now a bitterly divided Supreme Court that threatens values long thought to be part of our national consensus.

With the Supreme Court term ending, there is the possibility that one of the justices, or more, soon announces a retirement that will let loose a “war of the worlds” battle that will trigger extraordinary national divisions and political bloodshed.

Even without a Supreme Court retirement, the direction of the court today raises alarming questions about the first principles of freedom, the core values of American law, and basic notions of Americanism that date back to Washington, Jefferson and Madison.

We can no longer believe that Brown v. Board of Education establishes a national consensus on policies that promote integration versus those that tolerate segregation.

We can no longer believe that Roe v. Wade is settled law, based on a societal consensus, that protects a woman’s right to choose. Make no mistake, Roe v. Wade stands in mortal peril of being overturned or dismembered by the current court, and almost certainly, by the next court if another conservative justice is appointed.

The court’s recent attack on McCain-Feingold incorporates the Orwellian style of reasoning that has permeated partisan debates, rather then judicial logic at the center of constitutional law.

In that ruling, the court suggests that if a political interest group saturates the airwaves with highly charged attacks against a public official, in the guise of discussing a divisive political issue, it is not an attempt to influence an election. This is Orwellian, wrong, and guarantees a tidal wave of negative ads by highly financed interest groups in the days preceding the next election.

Today 4 1/2 justices are prepared to thoroughly overturn what was thought to be settled law. This counts Justice Kennedy as the 1/2, and his comments in the recent abortion case are chilling. Justice Kennedy writes that he will prevent adult women from abortions he says are a mistake. This is judicial reasoning?

The angry dissents from Justices Breyer and Ginsburg illustrate the gravity of the risk. The fact they read these in court only dramatizes the magnitude of their outrage and the danger.

Meanwhile:

General Taguba charges a cover-up of the crimes of Abu Ghraib while Guantanamo remains open, despite worldwide outrage and calls for closure from the secretaries of state and defense. George Washington’s opposition to torture is overruled by George Bush’s secret decrees and Dick Cheney’s strange obsession.

Our attorney general leaves footprints near virtually every allegation of wrongdoing from his years as White House counsel to attorney general. He meets with a sedated and very ill John Ashcroft in a bizarre and Nixonian attempt to push through possibly illegal actions.

Alberto Gonzales decimates and destroys the upper echelon of the Justice Department, to the advantage of terrorists, with grave risks to the rule of law.

The president claims unilateral authority to violate the Bill of Rights, operating in secret, seeking to circumvent the courts and Congress. The vice president operates a virtual shadow government, with a virtual shadow CIA, aiming to escape the rule of law, violating cardinal principles of Americanism. The attorney general desperately clutches to office while multiple investigations expand.

The current situation is most alarming because these actions and many more are very public, and the Supreme Court attacks what many thought were settled principles, such as Brown, and makes election rulings destined to let loose partisan forces. Partisan and personal rancor is taking an increasing place on the nation’s highest court.

Justice Scalia is right about one thing in his bizarre attack on the chief justice: It is time to state clearly what is happening. What is happening is a direct and aggressive attack on core constitutional values by multiple sources including the president and the Supreme Court.

Brown v. Board of Education is in mortal peril. Roe v. Wade is in grave danger. The First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and Eighth Amendment, along with others, are under attack. The Geneva Convention is under siege.

Extraordinary presidential powers are claimed. The Supreme Court is drifting into dangerous waters. Congressional courage is collapsing. Terrible misdeeds are justified by a politics of fear and intimidation while the Fourth Estate is otherwise engaged in cheap sensationalism and insider trivia.

There is much to discuss on the Fourth of July.

Liberals, libertarians, strict constructionists of the Constitution and true conservatives should see what is happening clearly, and mobilize to stop it.