erik lundegaard

Scalia Views Congress as Source of Tyranny

Another excerpt from Justice Scalia's conversation with Jennifer Senior in New York magazine. This is right at the beginning and seems, given recent events, prescient:

[In 1974] I knew very well that the 900-pound gorilla in Washington is not the presidency. It’s Congress. If Congress can get its act together, it can roll over the president. That’s what the framers thought. They said you have to enlist your jealousy against the legislature in a ­democracy—that will be the source of tyranny.

But weren’t you just saying that you learned from Watergate that presidents aren’t incorruptible?
What, and Congress is? I mean, they’re all human beings. Power tends to corrupt. But the power in Washington resides in Congress, if it wants to use it. It can do anything—it can stop the Vietnam War, it can make its will felt, if it can ever get its act together to do anything.

Apparently it doesn't even take all of Congress to get its act together. It merely takes one faction of one party, along with a yellowbellied Speaker, to create a kind of tyranny. Does Scalia view the current crisis (gov't shutdown, hostage taking, etc.) as just that, or do his politics, which tend to the right, get in the way?

Either way, what made me do a doubletake were his examples. 

OK, first, the follow-up is wrong. The question isn't who is incorruptible (which is no one) but who holds the power. And according to Scalia, Congress holds too much of it. His evidence?

It can do anything—it can stop the Vietnam War, it can make its will felt, if it can ever get its act together to do anything.

So: stopping a war it didn't start, despite Article One of the Constitution, and the vague “making its will felt.”

Sloppy. I need to see more work here, Antonin.

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Posted at 06:22 AM on Thu. Oct 10, 2013 in category Law  

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