Non-answers to non-questions

2012-09-29

“Why are candidates silent on Supreme Court?” wonders CNN’s Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He, too, seems to have noted the absence of the Supreme Court as a presidential campaign topic.

Jeffrey ToobinJeffrey Toobin | CNN

But while I did at least offer a feeble explanation rooted in my unwavering belief in chief justice John Roberts’ political mastery, Toobin’s write-up doesn’t even attempt answer his own question.

And what’s worse, he tries to evade the non-answer by modulating his question into a non-question:

With a little more than a month to go, it’s not too late to ask the candidates to take a stand on their plans for the court. […] [W]hat does Obama, a former law professor, think about the court? […] [D]oes he believe, like Justices Scalia and Thomas, that the meaning of the document was fixed when it was ratified, in the 18th century.

By the same token, what kind of justices would Romney appoint? Who are his judicial role models?

Really? These are the questions we need to ask?

I mean, it’s fine for politicians to pretend that the Supreme Court is apolitical. But the fact is we all know which kind of justices Obama or Romney would nominate. It’s so obvious is doesn’t even make for a rhetorical question.

Toobin is right, though, that the electorate seems painfully oblivious to the consequences of these choices.

So we don’t have to ask the candidates which kind of justices they would appoint. We have to ask the public what kind of Supreme Court they want for the next 30 years.