The Constitution has served this nation well over the past 216 years. The document clearly defines the roles of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. When the president has declared himself "above the law" as Richard Nixon attempted to do during Watergate, the legislative and judicial branches have stepped in to check the president's power. Legislation that infringes on Constitutionally protected rights of the states or citizens is overruled by the Supreme Court.
But what happens when the Supreme Court oversteps its authority? Where are the checks and balances to make sure the Court doesn't infringe on the rights of U.S. citizens or their elected representatives? After all, Supreme Court judges, once confirmed by the Senate, serve for life. Where is the accountability? What can be done to stop a runaway jurist?
The current debate over the next Supreme Court nominee comes down to a difference in philosophy on the role of a justice. Is he a super legislator? Someone who can make laws and apply his will on the entire country? That's judicial activism.
The left favors it because it's out of power. Democrats have lost the White House (actually lost 7 of the last 10 presidential elections) and haven't held a majority in Congress since 1994. Democrats have been losing ground in both the House and Senate ever since and that pattern is expected to continue into the 2006 mid-term elections.
So Democrats and their big-money backers on the radical left (the ACLU, Michael Moore and his Hollywood pals, People for the American Way and nutty billionaire George Soros) have focused on the federal courts to gain the upper hand.
Unable to win a majority in the executive or legislative branches, the left has launched an all-out campaign for control the federal courts. And that's the easiest thing to do. All you need is five votes on a nine-member Supreme Court to impose your will on the majority. That's why the left will spend millions to obscure the issues during the fight to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. And the battle will continue if Chief Justice William Rehnquist (age 80 and battling cancer) or Associate Justice John Paul Stevens (age 85) step down.
When Ted Kennedy complains that a judicial nominee is not in the "mainstream" he means that the nominee is not acceptable to the far left. Ask yourself if Ted Kennedy has ever been in the mainstream of American politics.
This is not a new tactic on the left. They've been at it for the past 50 years. The late Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote about the left's attempts to legislate from the bench in a dissenting opinion in a 1982 case called Plyler v. Doe: "The Constitution does not constitute us as 'Platonic Guardians' nor does it vest in this Court the authority to strike down laws because they do not meet our standards of desirable social policy, 'wisdom,' or 'common sense.' Ö We trespass on the assigned function of the political branches under our structure of limited and separated powers when we assume a policymaking role."
What's different today is the money behind the radical left. They may be the political minority, but they control great storehouses of wealth. The liberals have circled the wagons. They've rallied their forces (Hollywood, college professors, big city newspapers led by the New York Times and the elite big media of CNN, CBS, NBC and ABC and their various cable offshoots).
Facing an increasingly conservative American public that is tired of the left's worn out agenda of higher taxes, more government spending, increased privileges for marginal groups and appeasement on the world stage, the left is making a last stand to keep control of the courts.
Judge Roy Moore, who was ousted as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court because he refused to take down a display of the Ten Commandments, has framed the debate perfectly in his most recent book, "So Help Me God."
"There are attacks upon our Constitution today from a most unlikely source ó the federal courts that are sworn to uphold and support its authority," Moore writes. "Turning to foreign law and international authority or even one's own feelings to interpret the Constitutionís principles is something like asking a total stranger to direct the affairs of your household. It is a dangerous proposition, especially when this stranger has no regard for the values and principles upon which your family has prospered. The Supreme Court of the United States and lower federal courts of this land have demonstrated their disdain for the fundamental morality upon which our country was established by creating 'rights' granted by man and not by God."
Tony Phyrillas is a leading conservative political columnist and blogger based in Pennsylvania. He is a veteran journalist with 25 years experience as a reporter, editor and columnist for several newspapers. Phyrillas received recognition for column writing in 2010 from the Associated Press Managing Editors, in 2007 from Suburban Newspapers of America and in 2006 from the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone Chapter. A graduate of Penn State University, Phyrillas is the city editor and political columnist for The Mercury, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning daily newspaper in Pottstown, Pa. In addition to The Mercury website (www.pottsmerc.com), his columns are featured on more than a dozen political websites and blogs. Phyrillas is a frequent guest (and occasional host) on talk radio and has been a panelist on the "Journalists Roundtable" public affairs TV program on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN). Phyrillas was named one of the '10 Leading Greek-American Bloggers in the World' in 2007 by Odyssey: The World of Greece magazine. BlogNetNews.com ranked Phyrillas the Most Influential Political Blogger in Pennsylvania for three consecutive years (2007-2010). You can follow Phyrillas on Twitter @TonyPhyrillas