Saturday, June 28, 2008

Keeping "comprehensive": John McCain declares that "comprehensive immigration reform" will be his "top priority yesterday, today, and tomorrow."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Supreme Court overturns the DC gun ban in District of Columbia v. Heller. The decision was 5-4: Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito in the majority with Breyer, Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg dissenting. For analysis, see some of the usual suspects: SCOTUSblog, Volokh, and Hot Air. Here are some of the basic points of this decision, written by Scalia, as far as I can tell: the Second Amendment recognizes an individual right, and this right is subject to some regulation. The court doesn't lay out exactly what regulations are permissible but does find that DC's law crosses the line of Constitutionality. Since Heller's lawyers seemed not to quarrel with the notion of licensing, the court did not rule explicitly on that. Here's a relevant passage on the restriction of firearms:
Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
With its (admitted) numerous gray areas, this opinion would seem to pave the way for more lawsuits about the Second Amendment in the future.
One interesting point for further lawsuits in this area is whether the Second Amendment is incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment to apply to the individual states as well as the federal government. The court doesn't rule on incorporation directly, but the role of incorporation is mentioned in a footnote about the nineteenth-century ruling of U.S. v. Cruickshank, which ruled that the Second Amendment was not incorporated into the Fourteenth:
With respect to Cruikshank’s continuing validity on incorporation,
a question not presented by this case, we note that Cruikshank also
said that the First Amendment did not apply against the States and did
not engage in the sort of Fourteenth Amendment inquiry required by
our later cases. Our later decisions in Presser v. Illinois, 116 U. S. 252,
265 (1886) and Miller v. Texas, 153 U. S. 535, 538 (1894), reaffirmed
that the Second Amendment applies only to the Federal Government.
So the court does mention precedent denying incorporation to the Second Amendment. However, Scalia may imply an avenue for incorporation in this observation near the beginning of the opinion:
The unamended Constitution and the Bill of Rights
use the phrase “right of the people” two other times, in the
First Amendment’s Assembly-and-Petition Clause and in
the Fourth Amendment’s Search-and-Seizure Clause.
These First and Fourth Amendment provisions have been incorporated into the Fourteenth Amendment (reversing Cruickshank's denial of incorporation to the First Amendment). Could the "right of the people" be used as a vehicle for claiming incorporation?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Speaker Nancy Pelosi says, according to one journalist, that she supports the return of the "Fairness Doctrine." So the top Democrat in the House and the number-two Democrat, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (also a prominent and early Obama supporter), support the "Fairness Doctrine." Congress made attempts before to codify the "Fairness Doctrine" into law in the 1980s and '90s, but Reagan and George H. W. Bush vetoed those laws. Would a President Obama veto a "Fairness Doctrine" bill? Or would he staff the FCC with commissioners who would reinstate the Doctrine? Perhaps he opposes the "Fairness Doctrine"? Obama avoided a cloture vote on the anti-"Fairness Doctrine" Coleman amendment last July and, as far as I can see, has not made a clear statement on the Doctrine yet.

UPDATE: An Obama spokesman denies that the Illinois senator supports the "Fairness Doctrine":

"Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters," press secretary Michael Ortiz said in an e-mail to B&C late Wednesday.

"He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible," Ortiz added. "That is why Sen. Obama supports media-ownership caps, network neutrality, public broadcasting, as well as increasing minority ownership of broadcasting and print outlets."

H/T Hot Air, which is skeptical, considering some of Obama's other rhetorical moves over the campaign. I'll leave you with their exit question: "Anyone see President Obama vetoing a Democrat bill to revive Fairness?" Good wiggle possibility: not supporting is not necessarily vetoing...

This Politico story brings out an important aspect of the Obama money gusher (assuming this gusher doesn't keep slowing down) and Obama's wider plans. He is not only running for president; he is also trying to lay the groundwork for an enduring and far-reaching Democratic majority. This is what most presidents and presidential candidates try to do (Bush and Rove tried to do it), and Obama hopes to use any financial edge not only to build himself up but to support candidates further down the Democratic ticket. And he's reaching for more than a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in the Senate and an overwhelming majority in the House:
Barack Obama will focus his resources largely in 14 states George W. Bush won in 2004, his chief field operative said Tuesday, hoping to score upsets in places such as Virginia, Indiana and Georgia.

But winning the White House won’t be his only goal, deputy campaign manager Steve Hildebrand told Politico: In an unusual move, Obama’s campaign will also devote some resources to states it’s unlikely to win, with the goal of influencing specific local contests in places such as Texas and Wyoming.

“Texas is a great example where we might not be able to win the state, but we want to pay a lot of attention to it,” Hildebrand said. “It’s one of the most important redistricting opportunities in the country.”

Texas Democrats are five seats away in each chamber from control of the state Legislature, which will redraw congressional districts after the 2010 census.
Setting up local Democratic legislators in a strong position for the 2010 elections could pave the way for House redistricting very favorable to the Democrats in these states for the next decade.