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Ideology Before Competence

by Mytheos Holt, published

In a previous article, I wrote that Governor Schwarzenegger could vastly improve his conduct if only he obeyed the injunction "Don't just do something, stand there!" However, given the actions of the Democratic members of California's Legislature, Schwarzenegger's previous blunders have not had a good week, at least where logical consistency is concerned. From the Democrat's absurd budget proposal to their blatant violation of the balance of power, they seem intent on tearing down the solemn edifice of constitutional state government and replacing it with a veritable legislative/judicial Tower of Babel.

Or perhaps the phrase "tower of babble" would be more appropriate, especially given their most recent offense. According to the Los Angeles Times, California Attorney General Jerry Brown has actually put forward a legal brief intended to prove that he should not have to do the job he was elected to do. If this is "change we can believe in", then I don't want to believe in it for much the same reason I don't want to believe in ghosts or the Loch Ness Monster.

The facts of the case are as follows: Jerry Brown is, as we all know, a liberal Democrat. However, as attorney general, he is tasked with enforcing the laws passed by the governing bodies of California - namely, the Legislature and the voters themselves. Normally, given the overwhelmingly blue nature of this state, these two jobs are unlikely to conflict. Unfortunately, a little controversial proposition by the name of Proposition 8 was passed this November, and now faces a legal challenge which, despite their dubious jurisdiction, the California Supreme Court has decided to hear. Since Jerry Brown is tasked with defending California's laws, it is his job to mount a legal defense of Proposition 8 before the court, and to appeal the decision if it doesn't go his way.

Unfortunately, Mr. Brown is not just any liberal Democrat, but the kind who is apparently incapable of thinking outside his comfort zone. From Mr. Brown's point of view, supporting a backwater bill like this is apparently too painful to even think about, much less have an obligation to do. As such, Mr. Brown has filed a legal brief alleging that he has no responsibility to defend the bill because "the amendment process cannot be used to extinguish fundamental constitutional rights without compelling justification."

Mr. Brown's logic runs this way -- because the California Supreme Court has already declared that marriage is a right, the voters therefore have no right to amend the Constitution to take away that right. This is a cute argument, except for one problem -- there is absolutely no reason to believe that any right, even a fundamental one, is protected from removal by an amendment. Given that the United States Congress was able to suspend the arguably more fundamental right of habeas corpus and have that decision validated in Ex Parte McCardle, it seems flatly obvious that any trained lawyer, Jerry Brown included, would (and should) know better than to expect a court to stand in the way of the balance of power.

So Mr. Brown's legal objection is plainly an absurd one. But the unfortunate part of the whole business is that his objection quite obviously has nothing to do with law and everything to do with personal politics, which have no place in Mr. Brown's official capacity as attorney general. As already stated, Mr. Brown's job is to uphold the laws of the state, and if he didn't want that job, he absolutely should not have run for election.

The call of ambition frequently outweighs the call of duty where men like Mr. Brown are concerned, which means that we are very unlikely to see any sort of real debate over Proposition 8 until someone bound by the state Constitution and not the laws of cocktail liberalism is placed in his post.

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