Scott Lemieux

Scott Lemieux is an assistant professor of political science at the College of Saint Rose. He contributes to the blogs Lawyers, Guns, and Money and Vox Pop.

Recent Articles

THE PURSE AND THE SWORD.

THE PURSE AND THE SWORD. Marty Lederman argues (correctly) that the Constitution plainly gives Congress the formal powers to prevent the senseless escalation of the Iraq conflict. Matt brings up another question: would the courts actually provide a remedy if Bush simply decided to ignore a Congressional enactment preventing the escalation? Unfortunately, history strongly suggests that the courts would defer to the president. The most obvious recent example is Vietnam, when William O. Douglas spent years trying to convince his colleagues that the escalation of the war was illegal. By the early '70s, there were probably several justices who thought this argument was defensible as a legal matter, and certainly a majority of justices were opposed to the war (at least before Harlan and Black were replaced by Nixon appointees.) But Douglas couldn't even persuade his Brethren to grant cert, and surely one reason for this is that if they had told Nixon to bring back the troops, and he refused...

"ALL ABOUT VANITY":

"ALL ABOUT VANITY": Following up on yesterday's post, Greg has the definitive takedown of Joe Klein 's infinitely irritating "OK, liberals may be right, but since they become wrong if you attribute the motives I just made up out of whole cloth to them, really I'm right and they're not" shtick. (As Jon Chait pointed out last year, Klein isn't so much a political writer as a bad theater critic; policy is always less important to him than silly, tautological personality impressions, which makes his audacity in calling Paul Krugman a "dilettante" all the more remarkable.) Greg ends his post with the following challenge: Back up your arguments with facts and evidence. Produce one example of someone whose comments betray the fact that they're tacitly rooting for American failure. Quote this person. Explain why this person's quotes should be interpreted that way. If you manage to get that far, then maybe consider finding a second example, and even a third. That doesn't sound all that hard,...

THE FORGOTTEN TERRORISM:

THE FORGOTTEN TERRORISM: Garry Wills 's fine recent New York Review of Books article about the Bush administration's systematic evisceration of the separation of church and state recalls this important story: After his nomination but before his confirmation, Ashcroft promised to put an end to the task force set up by Attorney General Janet Reno to deal with violence against abortion clinics -- evangelicals oppose the very idea of hate crimes. The outcry of liberals against Ashcroft's promise made him back off from it during his confirmation hearings. In 2001, there was a spike in violence against the clinics -- 790 incidents, as opposed to 209 the year before. That was because the anthrax alarms that year gave abortion opponents the idea of sending threatening powders to the clinics -- 554 packets were sent. Nonetheless, Ashcroft refused for a long time to send marshals to quell the epidemic. And although this has also been largely forgotten, the fake anthrax attacks were mild...

LATE NOTES ON FEDERALISM AND JIM CROW.

LATE NOTES ON FEDERALISM AND JIM CROW. I'm very late in wading into the Jim Crow/federalism debate , but a couple of points I haven't seen anyone else make yet: Eugene Volokh is right that the "federalism permitted Jim Crow, and hence it's bad" argument is fallacious. Just as no constitutional theory can consistently prevent normatively odious outcomes when they have substantial political support, there is no institutional arrangement that can always produce outcomes than one considers to be normatively desirable. (If asked to design a new American constitution, I would unquestionably choose a Parliamentary model with a very powerful federal government; but while I strongly believe that this would produce more congenial political outcomes from my perspective in the long run, it would also have produced much worse outcomes from my perspective than the current Madisionian framework did in 2002-6.) However, I don't think this is the real problem with "states' rights" and Jim Crow. The...

WHEN DID RULINGS OF THE MASSACHUSETTS COURTS BECOME NATIONALLY BINDING?

WHEN DID RULINGS OF THE MASSACHUSETTS COURTS BECOME NATIONALLY BINDING? Mickey Kaus has the latest iteration of the countermobilization myth: Even in a highly Republican town like Plano, in other words, the religious objection to gay marriage isn't the crucial objection. Fear that moral entropy will envelop your family's children is the crucial objection. I don't see how that fear is addressed theologically. I would think it has to be addressed practically, over time, by repeat demonstration . But time is one thing a rights-oriented, judicial route to gay marriage doesn't allow. I've been through the extensive theoretical and empirical problems with the claim that litigation is a more divisive means of achieving social change than legislation many times, so I won't repeat them in detail here. But leaving aside the fact that last year Kaus was using anecdotes from Plano on the assumption that it was a bastion of cultural liberal elitism, what's remarkable about the argument is that the...

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