There’s, Of Course In The Great History Of America There Have Been Rulings …

Here’s the video of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden answering questions on Roe v. Wade. It’s pretty stunning:

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Palin’s interview:

“COURIC (to Palin): Why, in your view, is Roe v Wade a bad decision?

PALIN: I think it should be a states issue not a federal government — mandated — mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I’m in that sense a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now foundationally, also, though, it’s no secret that I’m pro life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that’s what I would like to see further embraced by America.

COURIC (to Palin): Do you think there’s an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

PALIN: I do. Yeah, I do.

COURIC: the cornerstone of Roe v Wade

PALIN: I do. And I believe that –individual states can handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in in an issue like that.

COURIC: What other Supreme Court decisions do you disagree with?

PALIN: Well, let’s see. There’s –of course –in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are–those issues, again, like Roe v Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know–going through the history of America, there would be others but–

COURIC: Can you think of any?

PALIN: Well, I could think of–of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a Vice President, if I’m so privileged to serve, wouldn’t be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.”


A couple of points. First, I cannot imagine a conservative watching this video without wincing. I just can’t. Even if I didn’t agree with Joe Biden on anything, even if I thought he was all kinds of wrong for the country, he plainly has some idea what he’s talking about. The contrast is just painful.

Second, just to repeat what a whole lot of other people have said: not being able to come up with a single Supreme Court case you disagree with is really pretty staggering. There are the cases most people retain some dim memory of from high school: Marbury v. Madison, Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, etc. But, as Ed Kilgore points out, that and all those newspapers she reads are not her only source of knowledge:

“Supreme Court decisions are actually the one area of public policy in which Palin’s core constituency, the Christian Right, is extremely well-versed.

Any anti-abortion activist worth his or her salt knows all about Griswold v. Connecticut, the famous “penumbra” decision that first established a constitutional right to privacy, and thus provided the key precedent for Roe. They’d also know about Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the 1992 decision that reaffirmed Roe and demonstrated the eternal perfidy of Reagan appointees O’Conner and Kennedy. And more than likely, they’d be familiar with Gonzales v. Carhart, the 2007 decision that validated the federal ban on so-called partial-birth abortions, with Kennedy performing remarkably gymnastic judicial contortions in squaring the decision with Casey. And social conservatives focused on gay rights would be able to remember Lawrence v. Texas, yet another Kennedy decision, which struck down state statutes illegalizing gay sex, and scandalously (to conservatives, at least) citing international law as a relevant factor.”

There are also other cases that are wildly unpopular on the right, and which she might have known about — e.g., Kelo v. City of New London (pdf). Likewise, cases like Exxon v. Baker (pdf), which she had to deal with as governor, and commented on at the time. (And “at the time” means last June, when it was handed down.) (h/t)

This isn’t about being a legal scholar. It’s about being able to come up with one single example, when there are a lot of separate reasons why you ought to be able to.

Third, if Sarah Palin were to become President, it would be nice if she had some idea of how our system of government is supposed to work. In that light, consider the bit about whether there is an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution. Palin says yes, which is odd, since as Couric points out, that right is central to Roe v. Wade, and (pretending for the moment that what Palin said actually reflected anything worth calling a view) accepting it also means that she cannot accept the kind of Constitutional literalism that is gospel to a lot of conservatives. But Palin then goes on to say: “I believe that –individual states can handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in in an issue like that.”

If there is a right to privacy in the US Constitution, then protecting it is a federal issue. It has to be. You just cannot say that there is a right to privacy in the US Constitution, but that what to do about that fact should be up to the states. Not if you understand what the Constitution is, and how our system of government works.

At the end of the day, though, the story isn’t Palin’s ignorance, or the fact that she is manifestly not prepared to be President. It’s McCain’s shocking recklessness in nominating her in the first place.

No one who put country first would have done that.

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