Monday, January 03, 2005

Inserted Foot Gets Bigger

Evidently Harry Reid was not satisfied with calling Clarence Thomas an embarassment. No, he now compares Clarence Thomas' writing style to that of an eighth-grader. James Taranto has the scoop on his Best of the Web column. It seems that Senator Reid appeared on the CNN program Inside Politics, and named a specific case to cite Thomas' poor writing skills. Here's the part of the transcript that Taranto cites.
Henry: When you were asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" whether or not you could support Justice Thomas to be chief justice you said quote, "I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written." Could you name one of those opinions that you think is poorly written?

Reid: Oh sure, that's easy to do. You take the Hillside Dairy case. In that case you had a dissent written by Scalia and a dissent written by Thomas. There--it's like looking at an eighth-grade dissertation compared to somebody who just graduated from Harvard.

Scalia's is well reasoned. He doesn't want to turn stare decisis precedent on its head. That's what Thomas wants to do. So yes, I think he has written a very poor opinion there and he's written other opinions that are not very good.

Well at least Reid has tangible proof that Thomas is not a very good writer, right? Well, here's the entirety of the dissent written by Tomas in Hillsdale Dairy v. Lyons:
I join Parts I and III of the Court's opinion and respectfully dissent from Part II, which holds that §144 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, 7 U.S.C. §7254, "does not clearly express an intent to insulate California's pricing and pooling laws from a Commerce Clause challenge." Ante, at 6-7. Although I agree that the Court of Appeals erred in its statutory analysis, I nevertheless would affirm its judgment on this claim because "[t]he negative Commerce Clause has no basis in the text of the Constitution, makes little sense, and has proved virtually unworkable in application," Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 610 (1997) (Thomas, J., dissenting), and, consequently, cannot serve as a basis for striking down a state statute.

Don't know about you guys, but I don't know too many eighth-grade students who can write like that.

Taranto continues, commenting on Scalia's supposedly more intellectual dissent:
What about that Scalia dissent Reid found so impressive that he thought it worthy of a recent Harvard undergrad (rather a backhanded compliment, since Scalia actually graduated from Harvard Law School 45 years ago)? Here it is, quoted also in its entirety: ""

That's right, there was no Scalia dissent. Scalia joined the court's majority opinion, written by Justice John Paul Stevens, as did every other justice except Thomas, and he dissented only from Part II.

Ladies and gentlemen, your Democratic Senate leader.

I have defended Reid elsewhere, at least from the charge of racism. I thought it too easy to use the label, especially one so flippantly used against conservatives. It still might be true that Reid's comments do not reveal a racist mind at work, but they do show him to be a rather intellectual lightweight. It would be fascinating to witness a debate between Senator Reid and Clarence Thomas on some constitutional issue. I'm sure Reid could run circles around the embarassment that is Thomas, after all Reid obviously has a firm grip on Supreme Court precedents.


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