I don’t know how viable of a candidate former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee will wind up being this time around, but he’s certainly geting plenty of face time on cable news and stirring up the pot. Some of the positions he’s been laying out are a bit off the beaten path as compared to most of the other primary hopefuls, but he does raise some interesting points. Many of his comments which have been attracting attention have to do with the courts and their proper role in the nuts and bolts of governing the nation. He’s made a case for term limits on SCOTUS justices and clearly casts a rather jaundiced eye on the power they wield.
Huckabee was maintaining a similar tone when he sat down with Chris Wallace on Fox News this Sunday to talk about the limits of judicial power and the coequal branches of the federal government.
The two had several spirited exchanges over such issues as entitlement reform and taxes. One of the most animated was on the role of the courts.
Wallace told Huckabee that in his announcement speech, “You also seemed to indicate that as president, you wouldn’t necessarily obey court rulings, even the Supreme Court.”
Said Huckabee: “Many of our politicians have surrendered to the false god of judicial supremacy, which would allow black-robed and unelected judges the power to make law as well as enforce it.” Like many conservatives, he has expressed alarm at the court’s role in striking down state laws banning same-sex marriage. The country is awaiting a ruling from the Supreme Court on whether such unions are protected by the Constitution.
“The notion that the Supreme Court comes up with the ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it defies everything there is about the three equal branches of government,” Huckabee said. “Chris, the Supreme Court is not the supreme branch. And for God’s sake, it isn’t the Supreme Being. It is the Supreme Court.”
We’ve had more than a few discussions here about justices who are essentially “creating law from the bench” and the understandable dissatisfaction some people feel when observing the results of their decisions. I’m not saying there isn’t a problem to be addressed here, but Huckabee is taking this in a rather startling and difficult to defend direction. The judicial branch does have a lot of power, but that was pretty much baked into the cake when the Constitution was written. The idea that a sitting President would simply ignore a ruling from the Supreme Court because he or she disagreed with it isn’t just disturbing… it’s essentially the definition of a constitutional crisis.
He also expresses dismay at the idea that one branch comes up with the ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it. Again, I have to question the reasoning behind this. That’s sort of the definition of the court’s role in the legislative process. It’s absolutely true that the justices can not – or at least should not – be able to craft or pass any legislation. That’s the role of Congress and the President respectively. But when a law is challenged, the court is tasked with effectively being the referee who checks to see if it passes constitutional muster. While we may vehemently disagree with their decision, when they decide a law is not supported by the founding documents that’s pretty much the end of the discussion. The legislators have to go back to the drawing board and try again, hopefully addressing any objections which the court raises.
I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating in the context of Huckabee’s arguments. The court makes mistakes, not only in my opinion but that of many others. Sometimes they are real doozies. (Just look at Kelo.) But if you have a problem with what the Supreme Court is doing, the answer is to elect better presidents who will appoint better justices. Trying to hog tie the judicial branch isn’t a solution. It’s a breakdown in the master plan for the great American experiment.