October 24, 2011

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson is a hypocrite

Somebody's ghostwritten an item in the Washington Post on behalf of Wisconsin's Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson, complaining — that's pretty much all he ever does is complain — about a change to the Senate rules doing away with a requirement for supermajority votes. Because, you see, Democrats control the Senate, but only by a narrow margin, and abandoning the supermajority requirement would restrict Johnson and his colleagues' ability to obstruct the majority party's initiatives.

But that's not the remarkable bit. It's Johnson's fatuous claim that "our Constitution was established to protect the rights of a single individual — the ultimate minority." Obviously it's not a fatuous claim on its face; what makes it fatuous is that it's Ron Johnson who's making it. Because there's nothing in the U.S. Constitution about individual rights. Those references appear in the Amendments to the Constitution and most of them are to the individual rights of criminal suspects and defendants, like it or not (and most people don't like it, when they figure it out).

What specifically makes Ron Johnson's claim fatuous is the fact that Johnson is blocking one of the President's judicial nominees who has a record of protecting and enforcing the very rights that Johnson is suddenly celebrating. And it was that record that Ron Johnson's pals and allies among Wisconsin Republicans used as a weapon to falsely portray Louis Butler as overwhelmingly sympathetic to criminal defendants.

(Indeed, Butler's challenger in the 2008 State Supreme Court election, Mike Gableman, depicted the sitting justice as an accessory to rape.)

Johnson's fellow travelers at Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, for example, ran thousands (literally) of broadcast ads attacking Louis Butler for his lone dissent in a case called State v. Mark Jensen, wherein Butler objected to the admission as evidence of certain statements made by the deceased, an alleged spousal homicide victim. The Sixth Amendment guarantees that "in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him."

Subsequent to Butler's opinion, a similar case arose in California which made it to the United States Supreme Court. In a decision authored by Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by the other conservative members of the Court, Butler's legal and historical reasoning in his Jensen opinion was almost identically reproduced. To my knowledge, conservative special interest groups in Wisconsin never once acknowledged this fact.

And why would they? It would be an admission of their dishonesty.

So to now hear Johnson crying out for the constitutional "rights of a single individual" while blocking the nomination of a judge with precisely the record that Johnson's Wisconsin Republican buddies had previously criticized is both comical and pathetic. And it's especially hypocritical.

Speaking of Scalia, Ron Johnson claimed during his campaign that he was an admirer of "strict constructionists" like the celebrated Justice. Except Scalia is not a "strict constructionist" and moreover would surely scoff at Johnson's reliance on what Johnson himself admits is a "legend" in Johnson's attempt to determine the original intent for the Senate, an anecdote attributed to Washington and Jefferson about a tea saucer.*

And of course there was Ron Johnson's ridiculous insistence — which was supported by a bevy of conservative Milwaukee attorneys — that he, as a Senator, retains the power to nominate judges to the federal courts, a power which the Constitution clearly confers on the President. During his campaign Johnson admitted to only having read the Constitution a couple of times. Nothing has changed since then except that Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson has become an even bigger hypocrite.

* By way of the late former Klansman, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The letter wreaks of the handiwork of P-Mac. I need to be sanitized!