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Joel Epstein Headshot

Chief 'Justice' Roberts and the Long Shadow of W

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Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a bad novel by a norteño cousin of Gabriel García Márquez. If it isn't Senator-elect Scott Brown posing naked for Cosmo, or former presidential candidate John Edwards owning up to his love child, it's Chief "Justice" Roberts and the Supremes out on the freeway putting up billboards that read, "Step right up and buy the next election."

It's a shame really, as I was just getting used to naively believing Aristotle's quip that the law is reason free from passion.

As Maya Angelou wrote, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Well right now the long shadow of George W. Bush is giving me indigestion and I don't like the way that makes me feel. After reading the paper today, I started feeling the way my son must have felt on Wednesday when I came home short tempered and screamed at him just because I'd had a bad day. But unlike the inexcusable situation with my son (I'm still apologizing...), no one from the former Texas White House is dropping by to tell me how sorry he is for leaving me and the rest of the country with a stomachache, and not a Tums in sight, because of the "reasoning" of his activist Supreme Court appointments. I guess there are no direct flights between Crawford and Los Angeles.

The way I am feeling, I wish I hadn't read Angelou's poignant words, or for that matter all of the Scott Brown and Supreme Court news I wasted my early morning consuming. "What's in the Daily News? I'll tell you what's in the Daily News. A story about a guy who bought his wife a small ruby with what otherwise would have been his union dues..." If all continues to go as W (spelled "B U S H - C H E N E Y") and his Guys [and Dolls] apparently planned, not only will the word "union" vanish from the English language but so will "Democrat," "Progressive," "Liberal," and the other dirty words you can't say on television. Even in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation George Carlin, RIP, didn't face a Court this hostile to a sensible interpretation of the Constitution.

It's a long shot, but I'm still hopeful that the high-as-a-kite Court's ruling won't pan out as planned. Let's face it, despite all the proclamations of gloom and doom, the sky rarely does fall completely after landmark decisions of this sort. Additionally, even Rush, Beck, O'Reilly and the rest of the third rate entertainers in the talk radio and Fox News cuckoo's nest have to be wondering if perhaps they should have been more careful about what they wished for. After all, buying all the municipal, county, state and federal elections is going to cost the Chamber of Commerce plenty and maybe the business community isn't going to be too happy about its return on investment after it realizes its wallets have been fleeced by the lobbyists and true believer birthers and tea partiers out to roast President Obama and his cabal because they actually think he's the devil incarnate.

On what it all means, as a lapsed lawyer I'm not leaving it to Nina Totenberg to explain. Once I finish reading Too Big to Fail I'll be cracking open the actual decision to try and make sense of the Court's reasoning overturning decades of precedent to rule that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections. Maybe then, à la Justice Potter Stewart in his concurrence in Jacobellis v. Ohio (a case involving hard core pornography), it will become clear how corporations got to be "persons" within the meaning of the First Amendment. Right now though, I'm doubtful that I'll know it when I see it.