Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sarah and the Constitution

Much kerfuffle over how Sarah (it is said) couldn't name any Supreme Court case except Roe v Wade. Oh, give her a break, some say; con law is for wonks. Experienced pols may know how to dance around the question, but not many of them could do much better.

I've got some sympathy for that. I've got smart, cultivated friends who probably would have a tough time Roe. And as a sometimes bankruptcy lawyer, I have to accept the fact that it is not a black mark if you can't immediately conjure up the holding in Shapiro v Wilgus or Case v. Los Angeles Lumber Products.

Yet I guess I am a little surprised that she wasn't able to come up with the names of other abortion cases--Webster v. Reproductive Health Service, or Planned Parenthood v. Casey Or other cases on issues that are hot-button with her core constituency on the politico-religious right--Lemon v. Kurzman, maybe, or Bowers v. Hardwick.

I think there may be a non-snark insight here. That would be: my guess is that Sarah's actual commitment to these hot-button issues isn't as deep as it appears on the campaign trail. They're raw meat for the faithful, but when it comes to governing, she has other priorities. You'd certainly expect Hillary, by contrast, to be able to brief on the question of whether and to what extent Casey restricts Roe, or whether Bowers has in fact been completely overruled. She cares about the nuts and bolts of these issues to a degree that Sarah probably does not.

This is not necessarily a slam against Sarah, or an endorsement of Hillary. Excessive wonkiness has been the ruin of many a good politician, and most of the best have been pretty shaky on the details. Still, it might have been nice if Sarah could at least been able to rattle off a few of the high points--Brown v. Board of Education, maybe, or Dred Scott. This is, after all, a person who by her own account was listening to Joe Biden speeches in the second grade. If she is still searching for backup, she might want to check here.

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