Obamacare rulings underline continuing influence of Reagan attorney general.
The ripple that continues to spread across American society, law and politics based on an idea that is as simple as it is revolutionary.
Ronald Reagan wanted to restore the rule of constitutional law to the federal judiciary. It was a view shared by millions of Americans who had overwhelmingly responded to his 1980 presidential campaign in which the new president had carried 44 out of 50 states with a platform calling for the appointment of federal judges
whose judicial philosophy is characterized by the highest regard for protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens, and is consistent with the belief in the decentralization of the federal government and efforts to return decision making power to state and local elected officials.
Yet this was easier said then done. Many an American president has promised to do X, only to have the promise vanish into the policy weeds once elected, with no one inside his administration riding point on the issue, making certain the policy was implemented.
In the history of the American presidency only a handful of presidential aides and Cabinet members have made an influential, long-term impact.
One of that handful is Reagan’s onetime presidential counsel and later attorney general, Edwin Meese III.
Just as most members of the House and Senate have come and gone from Washington over the centuries leaving no visible mark, so too is this true of most White House aides and cabinet members.
The list of those whose work still plays an important role in current affairs is small. The list would include people like Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward, who (after Lincoln’s death) would dedicate himself to purchasing Alaska from the Russians — Alaska now the 49th state of the union and, through the presence of everything from oil resources to its formidable ex-governor Sarah Palin — very much a player in modern American life. Harry Truman’s Secretary of State George Marshall’s “Marshall Plan” secured a stabilized and free Western Europe after the devastation of World War II — and provided a significant counterbalance to the Soviets as the Cold War began. John F. Kennedy’s brother Robert is idealized today for his formidable role in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, the equality issues of African-Americans, long frustrated by Kennedy’s own party, were settled at last by RFK’s direct intervention as both the head of the Justice Department and his brother’s closest adviser. Whatever America’s relationship to China, the fact that it was changed forever by the work of Nixon White House aide and later Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is on the books for keeps — today’s relationship with the Chinese flowing directly from Kissinger’s work in the Nixon terms.
Likewise there have been aides whose long-term influence has been a clear negative, reflecting badly on both themselves and their presidential bosses. Andrew Jackson’s Attorney General Roger Taney — appointed by Jackson as Chief Justice of the United States — is indelibly identified in history with the Dred Scott decision that tried to permanently write slavery into the Constitution. So too is JFK’s Robert McNamara forever identified as the architect of the disastrous Vietnam War.
As the centennial celebration of Reagan’s life refreshes, it is clear that Meese is in the first category with a Seward, Marshall or RFK, America today still being greatly influenced by the work of the 40th president’s longtime aide and one-time attorney general — his friend Ed Meese.
“THE MEESE EFFECT” RIPPLES throughout American society — sometimes more tidal wave than ripple, washing over the legal precincts of American liberalism to devastating consequence.
One need only look at the recent considerable decision overturning ObamaCare by Florida’s Federal Judge Roger Vinson to understand the Meese Effect at work.
Vinson is a “Reagan judge” — appointed in 1983 when Meese was first exercising his influence in his role inside the White House as Counsellor to the President. At Reagan’s direction Meese, not unlike Robert Kennedy to JFK, was more than just an advisor on one subject. But while his views on everything from foreign policy to national security to the economy were heard, as a former legal counsel to then-Governor Reagan and a former deputy district attorney of Alameda County in California, Meese in the White House and at Justice lasered in on the role of the federal judiciary. He understood intimately that whether the legal issue at hand was law enforcement, drugs, family policy, civil rights, or anything else that took on a legal hue, the common thread for many problems was the role of the federal judiciary. Wrote Meese: “The connection between these issues and the courts was not accidental.”
So it was that Meese took the promises of the 1980 Republican platform and the specific instructions of Ronald Reagan to heart. “I wanted judges who would interpret the Constitution, not rewrite it,” Reagan had instructed. It was Meese who saw to it, saying:
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
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