clap clap blog: we have moved

Tuesday, January 17, 2006
The Supreme Court upholding Oregon's assisted suicide law is absolutely amazing--less for legal reasons, I think (in retrospect, the 1997 decision denying the constitutionality of a "right to die" seems less a rebuke and more a clear "uh, let's send it to the states, and we'll let the lefty ones try it out and see how it goes" sort of compromise in the face of something whose time had either come or was very close to coming) and more for political ones. The personal rebuke to Ashcroft ("'authority claimed by the attorney general is both beyond his expertise and incongruous," whoa) is in a certain sense kicking a dead horse, but in another way it's very much a warning to one still on its feet. Ashcroft's behavior at the Justice Department was, at the time, the most blatant and public display of the administration's assertion of an all-power executive branch, with maybe the best example being his policy of forcing federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty in jurisdictions where public opinion about capital punishment would make it extremely hard to get a conviction; it didn't fit into any system of political reasoning except for one that sought to advance executive power at all costs. Ashcroft now stands out not as an Icarus of the right but as the canary in the coalmine, pushing the strategy without stating the ideology and seeing how far they could take it before he kicked the professional bucket. Now that the whole "the President can do whatever he wants" thing is being said out loud, especially in the face of the rebuke of the previously-fashionable "the Republican part can do whatever it likes" doctrine, it's interesting that after Ashcroft's fall from grace, he's become a successful lobbyist. Canary indeed.

It's also amazing because even the principals didn't see it coming. Miss Clap's uncle was one of the lawyers on the Oregon side, and when this was discussed, the attitude was pretty much "that's so great that he's arguing a case before the Supreme Court, too bad they'll never win." You never know.