Chris Wallace, who has received all sorts of (in my view, largely unmerited) accolades for his performance Wednesday, began the debate with one of the dumbest questions I have heard this election cycle:
First of all, where do you want to see the court take the country? And secondly, what’s your view on how the constitution should be interpreted? Do the founders’ words mean what they say or is it a living document to be applied flexibly, according to changing circumstances? In this segment, secretary Clinton, you go first. You have two minutes.
Think about that for a moment. Chris Wallace asks the candidates where they want the Supreme Court to “take the country.” But it’s not the Supreme Court’s job to take the country anywhere!
For a constitutional conservative, this was a hanging curveball over the fat part of home plate. Trump should have been able to knock it out of the park! So what does the bumbling Donald Trump do with it instead? Well, because everything is about him, he immediately thinks about the time one of the justices insulted him personally:
Well, first of all, it’s so great to be with you and thank you, everybody. The Supreme Court, it is what it is all about. Our country is so, so, it is just so imperative that we have the right justices. Something happened recently where Justice Ginsburg made some very inappropriate statements toward me and toward a tremendous number of people. Many, many millions of people that I represent and she was forced to apologize. And apologize she did. But these were statements that should never, ever have been made.
This pathetic and predictably narcissistic answer got me thinking: how would the debate have gone if Ted Cruz been on stage instead of Donald Trump?
He would have let Hillary Clinton have it dozens of times. He would have explained the O’Keefe videos in a pithy way, and tied them to Hillary effectively. He would have had a mastery of the details of the Wikileaks revelations, and hit her hard on that too.
And how might he have answered Wallaces’s little softball question about the Court? I imagine it might have gone a little something like this:
Thank you, Chris, and thank you to UNLV and everyone who took part in hosting this debate. It’s great to be here.
Chris, it’s not the job of the Supreme Court to “take the country” anywhere. It is the job of Congress to pass laws, and the job of the Court to interpret them according to the plain meaning of the words. If the Court followed that simple mandate, it would not be “taking the country” anywhere. It would be interpreting the law, which is its only function.
But Chris, I understand why you think it’s the Court’s job to “take the country” places, because far too often, that’s what the court does: ignore plain meaning and founding principles in favor of instituting the policy preferences of its elite members.
For example, in their Obamacare decisions, this handful of unelected judges rewrote the text of Obamacare twice in order to impose that failed law upon millions of Americans.
The first time, the court ignored federal law and magically transformed a statutory penalty into a tax. The second time, these robed Houdinis transmogrified a federal exchange into a exchange “established by the state.”
This is lawless conduct. Justice Scalia said, “we should start calling this law SCOTUScare,” and I agree.
Unelected judges have become legislators — and bad ones at that. They are lawless and they hide their prevarication in legalese. Our government was designed to be one of laws, not of men, and the transparent distortions of the court are disgraceful.
These justices are not behaving as umpires calling balls and strikes. They have joined a team, and it’s a team that’s hurting Americans across this country.
If those justices want to become legislators I invite them to resign and run for office. That’s the appropriate place to write laws: on the floor of Congress — not from that courtroom. And if you elect Hillary Clinton, you’ll just get more of the same leftist and elitist arrogance.
Ted Cruz would have wiped the floor with Hillary Clinton.
OK, I have to confess: I’m not imagining Ted Cruz saying those words, so much as I’m repeating Ted Cruz’s words. Virtually everything you just read is a quote or very close paraphrase of things Ted Cruz has already said. You can read much of it here.
Why do I bring this up? Because, pretty soon, after Trump loses, we’re going to have to reassess where this party has been and where it’s going, and answer the question: What do we do next?
And, I don’t know. Somehow, I think this little mental exercise I just took us through . . . it feels relevant to that question.
Don’t you think?