Friday, March 25, 2005
Maybe Bill Clinton was right: Overshadowed by the Eason Jordan slander of the American military at the Davos conference was statements made by former President Bill Clinton on Iran's "democracy."
“Iran is the only country in the world that has now had six elections since the first election of President Khatami (in 1997). (It is) the only one with elections, including the United States, including Israel, including you name it, where the liberals, or the progressives, have won two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote in six elections: Two for president; two for the Parliament, the Majlis; two for the mayoralties. In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own.”
Bill Clinton was rightly derided for this nutty statement because it ignored the fact that Iran's mullahs pre-approve all of the candidates for office. It's not much of a democracy if only certain candidates can run for office. Instead, Iran is run like a quasi-judicial oligarchy -- much like the United States. If we've got a democracy, then surely Iran does too -- however imperfect it may be.
The system of checks and balances has gotten out of whack.
Last weekend, in an extraordinary move, the legislative and executive branches of the federal government worked together to order the judiciary to take a second look the facts underlying the Terri Schiavo case. The judiciary took this under advisement and after much deliberation told the legislative and executive branches to pound sand.
This wasn't the first time this has happened. The Florida legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush also passed a law that was designed to save Terri's life -- a law the courts deemed unconstitutional.
In high school civics classes, you're taught that the system of checks and balances is like some grand game of rock, paper, scissors. Unfortunately, this game doesn't work when one can be assured of victory by simply choosing rock every time.
We have unelected, unaccountable judges who wield an unassailable veto over anything our elected representatives and executives do.
On the radio yesterday, law prof/radio host Hugh Hewitt refused to consider the possibilitly that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would send in state marshals to take custody of Terri Schiavo and reinsert the feeding tube in defiance of the court.
You see, the courts are apparently allowed to tell the executive and the legislative branches to pound sand, but they cannot tell the unelected judiciary to do the same.
The three branches of government are equal -- but the judiciary is more equal than the other two.
Hewitt stated that if Jeb Bush were to act in defiance of the courts, that it would seriously damage our Constitutional system. Saving Terri Schiavo's life would not somehow create legal chaos. Jeb Bush would be acting in an extraordinary manner, but this act would not result in a descent into lawlessness, nor would it encourage other legislators or executives to cavalierly disregard court orders.
Instead it would restore some balance to the "checks and balances" system.
The executive branch can act in defiance of a court order, but he must face judgement from the legislative branch on the question of whether that defiance was warranted. Governors will not choose to make such a haphazard move when they could face impeachment or recall.
Two of the three branches of government should be able to bend the third to their will -- whether that is the executive and legislative to order the courts to rehear or reconsider a case or it is the legislative and judicial to oust an out-of-control executive. That's not the case today.
In the limited time I was able to listen to Hewitt, he didn't acknowledge that executives have acted in defiance of courts before and no permanent constitutional damage resulted. In 1957, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus ordered the National Guard to Little Rock's Central High School to prevent its integration -- in violation of a federal court order.
The republic survived.
In 2000, Elian Gonzalez was seized by the INS (read: federal executive branch) and repatriated to Cuba in violation of a Florida State court ruling giving custody to his Miami-area relatives.
The republic survived.
If Jeb Bush does the right and moral thing and tells the courts to pound sand . . . the republic will survive.
We're not talking about predetermining the outcome here. We're talking about Gov. Jeb Bush demanding a fair hearing for Terri Schiavo. We're talking about having a PET scan done to see if anyone is "home" inside Terri's head. There are questions that need to be answered. If Terri's not there, then we can dispose of the shell in a quick and respectful manner. Unfortunately, we don't know if she's in there. The courts don't want to know. The courts don't want anyone else to know.
That's criminal. That's immoral. That's wrong.
And Jeb Bush shouldn't feel barred from doing something about it because the judiciary has willfully defied the legislative and executive branches.