Unpack the Court

     Quick quiz time – put away your pocket Constitutions.
     How many justices of the Supreme Court are required by the U. S. Constitution?
     Just to make this a bit easier, let’s make this multiple choice.
     
     A: 87.
     B. The number of states divided by the number of political parties represented in Congress minus 16.
     C. Any multiple of three.
     D. 9.
     E. MC squared minus the coefficient of friction calculated for Halley’s Comet.
     F. Any of the above.
     
     The answer, as those of you who cheated and checked your Article III will know, is F – any of the above.
     The Constitution just doesn’t say.
     We could have nine justices or we could have 3,000.
     Or we could have just one.
     I thought about this after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his retirement and the almost immediate public/pundit reaction was that there was going to be a huge nomination battle – over a non-existent appointment.
     It didn’t matter whom President Obama picked for the job – the right wing was going to fight. Obama could pick Mitch McConnell and the Republicans would be outraged.
     It hardly seems worth the trouble.
     And it doesn’t have to be.
     OK, I can understand that Obama will want to pick a liberal to replace a liberal, but what if a conservative gets sick or decides to quit?
     Imagine the uproar if he picked a liberal to replace a conservative.
     Now imagine it not happening.
     The President needs to learn from the experience of Franklin Delano Roosevelt who came up with a plan to pack the court with good guys by expanding the number of justices to 16.
     Perfectly constitutional and perfectly unpopular.
     Consider Obama’s problem when a conservative vacates. He’ll want to tilt the court to the left and not get into another annoying fight in Congress.
     Court packing gets you the liberal majority but it doesn’t avoid the political battle.
     Court unpacking gets you the liberal majority and does avoid the political battle.
     Just don’t appoint anyone.
     With a little luck, you can turn a 5-4 disadvantage to a 4-0 majority without a single Congressional hearing.
     Less is more.
     
     BLOWING SMOKE. I don’t usually think much of conspiracy theories, but this volcano eruption in Iceland seems awfully suspicious.
     Could this be the work of radical environmentalists?
     Isn’t it a tad convenient that a volcano erupts just when the world is getting seriously concerned about global warming but still not doing anything much about it?
     One of the geoengineering solutions for global warming being bandied about is blowing a bunch of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere in some northern clime – just like a volcano would.
     Hmm.
     You make the event look natural and you avoid the political debate.
     Very convenient.

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