DADT and the Courts


Responding to my post earlier today about Republicans, not Democrats, being primarily responsible for blocking repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, Glenn Greenwald tweeted:

DADT was gone – done – and Barack Obama brought it back, probably for years. That’s just a fact.

Glenn was talking about the fact that the Department of Justice is appealing a September district court ruling that held DADT unconstitutional. But this is an argument I have a real problem with. It’s not because I have a problem with court rulings on issues like this, but because I have a problem with district court rulings on issues like this being used as a handy excuse for presidents to overturn laws they don’t like.

Let’s face it: if you pick your jurisdiction right you can probably find a district court judge to rule just about anything unconstitutional. It would be easy, for example, to find a district court judge somewhere to say that the healthcare reform law was unconstitutional. If this happened in 2013 and President Palin decided not to appeal the ruling, thus overturning the law, what would we think of this? Not much, and rightfully so. A district court judgment is just flatly not sufficient reason to overturn an act of Congress.

I guess the reason this is on my mind is that George Bush is back in the news, and it strikes me that this is the same category of reasoning he used to justify the use of torture on enemy combatants. Bush, of course, didn’t bother with the fig leaf of a court ruling, but he used OLC memos to provide the same kind of excuse to uphold only the laws he wanted to uphold. A lot of liberals spent a lot of time condemning this at the time, and we were right to do so. This is really not a tactic we should be defending now just because the law at stake is one we don’t like.

On a different note, I sometimes think that Republicans must be busting a gut over all this. Here they are, working loudly and relentlessly to prevent the repeal of DADT, and what’s the result? Lots of liberals sniping at each other. You can almost hear Karl Rove cackling over his Diet Coke. Political strategy rarely pays off so beautifully.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate