THE BLOG
10/06/2008 02:43 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Palin, the Supreme Court and States' Rights

Pay attention. These --- and these alone --- were the real questions that were raised by Palin's responses last week to Katie Couric's questions about Roe v. Wade.

The rest --- the tabloid obsession with Palin's evident brain freeze --- was just the sideshow that reinforced the existing narrative about Palin's ignorance of national issues.

For, although Palin failed the essay question, there was, in her answer, both a studied --- I daresay, Cheneyesque --- evasiveness and a chilling clarity about the limited role that she sees for the Supreme Court.

Look at what Palin actually said.* When asked why she thinks Roe v. Wade was "a bad decision," Palin answered:

I think it should be a states' issue --- not...federal-government-mandated, mandating yes or no --- on such an important issue....I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas.

When Couric pointed out that Roe is grounded in the belief that the Constitution recognizes "an inherent right to privacy," Palin agreed but added her own belief

that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see...in an issue like that.

When Couric asked "what other Supreme Court decisions" Palin disagrees with, Palin said that

there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there.

Pressed for details, Palin said that

any...that could be best dealt with on a more local level, maybe I would take issue with.

So: Palin is asked to respond to Roe v. Wade, and says that "states should have more say" and that, indeed, "individual states can best handle...an issue like that."

Invited to look more broadly at the history of Supreme Court decisions, Palin says that she might also "take issue" with "any" other of the court's decisions "that could be best dealt with on a more local level."

Well? Which ones?

But before asking Palin that question, it's worth asking what she means by "local." Take note: Palin took the trouble to speak to Couric not only of states but also of sub-states --- "individual areas" and "people of different constituencies" --- as groups whose views and actions with respect to the most basic Constitutionally guaranteed rights potentially should be given free rein.

Does Palin believe that the issues of racial segregation addressed by Brown v. Board would better have been dealt with piecemeal, by individual states or "individual areas" or "people of different constituencies"? Indeed, if Sarah Palin does not believe that a right as fundamental as a woman's right to choose should be federally mandated by the Supreme Court, does she believe that any specific right is fundamental enough to be protected at the federal level?

Bear in mind: This is the woman who, when asked --- less than three months ago --- about her Vice Presidential prospects, said:

As for that VP talk all the time, I tell ya, I still can't answer that question until somebody answers for me, what is it exactly that the VP does every day? I'm used to, uh, bein' very productive and workin' real hard in an administration. We wanna make sure that that VP slot would be, uh, a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we're tryin' to accomplish up here for the rest of the U.S., before I can even start addressing that, uh, that question."

"We wanna make sure that that VP slot would be...a fruitful type of position...for Alaskans"? "We"? Who's "we"? Alaskans? The Alaskan Independence Party?

Just how much of a "state's rights" fundamentalist is Sarah Palin?

What does she think the Supreme Court is for?

Connect the dots.

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* All emphases mine.