On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the use of the drug midazolam for lethal injections in a 5–4 decision that pitted the five conservative justices against the four liberal ones. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote her own dissent, argued that the use of the drug, which prolongs the execution process and sometimes doesn't work at all, was in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment." Then she went a step further, comparing the drug to a more notorious form of punishment—the burning of heretics at the stake:
[T]he Court today turns aside petitioners’ plea that they at least be allowed a stay of execution while they seek to prove midazolam’s inadequacy. The Court achieves this result in two ways: first, by deferring to the District Court’s decision to credit the scientifically unsupported and implausible testimony of a single expert witness; and second, by faulting petitioners for failing to satisfy the wholly novel requirement of proving the availability of an alternative means for their own executions. On both counts the Court errs. As a result, it leaves petitioners exposed to what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.
Later in her dissent, Sotomayor added a few more comparisons for good measure. "Under the Court's new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake."
Justice Stephen Breyer, in a separate dissent, went a step further, arguing that the death penalty itself might be unconstitutional.
Antonin Scalia didn't mince words in his dissenting opinion on Friday's Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage. The conservative justice called his colleague Anthony Kennedy's opinion for the majority "as pretentious as its content is egotistic," adding that it diminished "this Court's reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis." Over the last three decades, he has peppered his dissents (for the most part) with put-downs of his colleagues, plaintiffs, or whatever it was he was angry about on the day of writing. And now, with Mother Jones' handy Scalia Insult Generator™, you can create your own!
Unless you're former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, that is. Earlier this week, even before the Supreme Court issued its ruling, the GOP presidential candidate called on conservative Christians to engage in a massive "Biblical disobedience" campaign against the "false god of judicial supremacy," comparing the widely expected majority decision in the gay marriage case to the Dred Scott case that upheld the Fugitive Slave Act:
For a lot of believers, the question comes, do we have civil disobedience, or do we have Biblical disobedience? For many of us, civil disobedience—when we believe that the civil government has acted outside of nature, and nature's god, outside of the bounds of the law, outside of the bounds of the Constitution—we believe that it's the right and the moral thing to do. Now I understand that's a very controversial thing to say. But Todd, what if no one had acted in disobedience to the Dred Scott decision of 1857? What if the entire country had capitulated to judicial tyranny and we just said that because the Supreme Court said in 1857 said that a black person wasn’t fully human—suppose we had accepted that, suppose Abraham Lincoln, our president, had accepted that, would that have been the right course of action? And I don't know of anyone, I mean seriously, I don't know of anyone who believes that the Supreme Court made the right decision in Dred Scott.
In the war for marriage equality, Huckabee is the lonely Japanese soldier dutifully defending his island bunker years after the last shots were fired. He just doesn't know it yet.
The Supreme Court's Thursday ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, that upheld a core tenet of the Affordable Care Act is good news for the millions of Americans whose health insurance was on the line. But it's also, in a strange way, good news for a completely different group: the Republican politicians who have all but called for Obamacare to be shot into space on a rocket.
Had the court gone the other way, gutting federal subsidies while leaving the shell of the law on the books, congressional Republicans, as well as GOP governors such as Scott Walker and Chris Christie, would have been put in the uncomfortable position they've managed to avoid since Obamacare was signed into law—having to fix it. The Associated Press outlined Walker's dilemma neatly on Wednesday:
About 183,000 people in Wisconsin purchase their insurance through the exchange and nine out of 10 of them are receiving a federal subsidy, according to an analysis of state data by Wisconsin Children and Families. The average tax credit they receive is $315 a month.
Health care advocates who have been critical of Walker for not taking federal money to pay for expanding Medicaid coverage have also called on the Republican second-term governor to prepare for the subsidies to be taken away.
And many of those Wisconsonites enrolled in the federal exchange are there because Walker put them there. As Bloomberg's Joshua Green noted in a prescient piece in March, Walker booted 83,000 people from the state's Medicaid program and put them on the federal exchange instead. That's not the kind of crisis you want to be dealing with in the middle of a presidential campaign—or ever.
Conservatives would have been thrilled with a ruling in their favor on Thursday. But Roberts' decision spares Walker and his colleagues from what would have come next, and frees them to continue lobbing rhetorical bombs at the law they're now stuck with. As previous generations of Washington Republicans can advise, it's much easier to go to war if you don't need a plan for how to end it.
Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal launched his presidential campaign on Wednesday by releasing a video—a very strange video. In it, he and his wife, Supriya, break the news to their three kids that he'll be spending much of the next six months (at least) in Iowa. What makes it so unusual is that it appears to have been filmed with a camera hidden in a tree. Jindal himself is partially obscured by a large branch. His kids don't sound particularly excited about their father's presidential bid. Maybe they've seen the polls.
I had to tell a few people first. But I want you to be next. I’m running for President of the United States of America. Join me: http://www.bobbyjindal.com/announcement/