Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


Ryan Sager posts in its entirety a letter from former House Majority Leader Dick Armey telling off James Dobson.

Read the whole thing. Holey-moley indeed!  

Discussions - 10 Comments

Armey is irrelevant. One thing’s for sure -Karl Rove or any GOP candidate running for office won’t be telling off James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Bob Jones, or any of the other disciples of Leviticus.

I wonder if Pastor Haggard is still talking to Bush every week.

Armey: "Nowhere was it more wrong, with more disastrous policy ends, than in the Terri Schiavo intervention. While her case was heartbreaking, our Founders created a government built on checks and balances, not a nation run by an arbitrary and imperial Congress."

Nor an unchecked, unaccountable, arbitrary and imperial Judiciary which was too busy defending its own arrogated power to defend the rights of a defenseless disabled woman. Congress--the accountable branch--was well within its "with such Exceptions"-rights. If only Miss Schiavo were a terrorist, the courts would have suddenly discovered her "Rights".


Congress can exercise all sorts of powers. It does not mean it is right, or prudent to do so. It could tax incomes at 99%, but that would not make it right.

The problem many have with the Schiavo case is that the case was decided according to the existing law. The existing law gives the trial judge discretion, etc. and the judge used it. The decision was reviewed for abuse of discretion and none was found. If people dislike the outcome in that case they are certaintly free to change the law, but they cannot argue, that the law should be ignored in a case before a judge!!

Republicans and conservatives used to argue that just because an outcome is unjust, etc. does not mean it is unconstitutional, etc. or illegal. I think some Republicans (Evangelicals esp.) no longer hold this to be true. They are as results oriented as liberals; and believe that if law, precedent, and 200+ years of history must be ignored to achieve a certain result, so be it. That does not further rule of law, rather it is rule of momentary passion.


Armey was saying that Congress was violating our system of checks and balances. I say Congress was exercising the check and balance specifically granted to them in the Constitution.

The case was not reviewed for abuse of discretion. It was reviewed with an eye to preserving Judicial Supremacy, a pernicious Anti-Constitutional and liberty-killing doctrine.

I generally agree with what much of Armey said. I do not want a "Christian" government. I do however want the government already promised and agreed to under the Constitution. That, it seems, is a radical proposition today.

ps; Miss Schiavo’s death-by-starvation at the hands of a Hemlock Society night-court judge also violated a good half-dozen provisions of Florida’s Constitution.

I would love to see a Christian government, if it were one truly ruled by Jesus, my Christ. However, I am stuck by the nature of things with the rule of men. Seeing what a "Christian" government will probably mean, which seems to be Christians feeding at the public trough with the rest of the crowd, I say, no thank you. So I will echo what Noel said: I generally agree with what much of Armey said. I do not want a "Christian" government. I do however want the government already promised and agreed to under the Constitution. That, it seems, is a radical proposition today.

I loved this part of the Armey letter: We must avoid the temptation to use the power of government to perfect our society and its citizens. That is the same urge that drives the Left and the socialists, and I can assure you that every program or power we give government today in the name of our values can be turned against us when the day comes where a majority of Congress is hostile to us. Instead, we need to limit the sphere of government and create civil space where private institutions, individual responsibility and religious faith can flourish.

I never understood why Florida’s government did not protect Terri Schaivo. Perhaps like many non-legal people, it was hard for me to understand how a judge could sentence an innocent person to death.

We don’t need pompous lectures about constitutionalism less than a month before the election. We need to win.
The only way constitutionalism has a chance is for Republicans to hold both houses. At least they are open to constitutional arguments. To the Democrats, the constitution is a tool, pure and simple.

Seems to me Dobson’s sin was to disagree with Armey and act upon that disagreement.

Armey taking offense at Dobson complaining about Congress not "delivering" for Christians is almost comical. Take "Christian" out of the equation & substitute, say, "Chamber of Commerce" and Armey’s effort to portray those sentiments as illegitimate falls flat on its face.

The GOP actively seeks the support of conservative Christians every election cycle. Armey apparently thinks it’s a one-sided deal: They give him their votes, he gets to tell them to get lost when it comes to policy.

If the GOP loses Congress this cycle, it will be due - at least in part - to Republicans like Armey who choose to train their fire on their own supporters rather than the Democrats.

Sometimes, the national GOP is like the 1962 Mets, of whom Casey Stengel said "Can’t anybody here play this game?"


It sounds like you have no legal training, which is not bad, but I think you misunderstand the term "abuse of discretion" and the standard of review when cases are appealed.

When a Court of Appeals gets a case (in this case it was the 11th Circuit of the Federal Ct. of Appeals) it looks for abuse of discretion and for clearly erroneous fact finding. I would assume that whether a person is dead is a question of fact. The trial judge looked at the evidence, decided who was more credible (his discretion) and determine that the person was dead. The Court of Appeals then reviews to see if the trial judge was clearly wrong in finding a witness or evidence (in this case medical testimony) more credible. If so, this is an abuse of discretion and the case is "overturned." Then looking at all of the appropriate evidence the 11th Circuit decides whether, from that evidence, the trial judge was so clearly wrong (the judge may be wrong, he must be extremely wrong to be overturned on this ground) that his fact finding is "clearly erroneous." If so, then the facts found will be overturned (in this case she would be alive, not dead).

You would overturn 200+ years or jurisprudence to suit a whim.

I amen Armey and raise him two, as in my brief run in with Knippenberg here, wrt Bush’s highly touted former speech writer Michael Gerson’s disappointing take on the role of government in our lives.

Conclusion: Beware the misguided lamb’s in sheep’s clothing!


You’re right; I’ve got no formal training and it’s not a bad thing. If five Justices with tons of credentials are able to, say, make the Takings Clause mean the exact opposite of what it means, then I’d rather be untrained.

I think there was an abuse of discretion, given that an essentially ex-husband was given complete control despite his conflicting motives. Teri was never given a guardian ad litum nor an independent medical evaluation, and the judge was in with the Hemlock Hospice crowd.

I read ’Quinlan’, of which this case was an extension. I read the opinion Congress ordered, and it barely discussed Teri’s rights. It instead was a polital screed at Congress for daring to question the Imperial Judiciary.

My point was that Armey implied that Congress violated the separation of powers. Wise or unwise, Congress was within its rights to order a review. Not a verdict, but a review.

This is no whim. But if anyone is overturning 200 years of jurisprudence, it is the Courts. In Hamden, for example, they--for the first time in history--blatantly ignored Congress’ stripping of jurisdiction. This is perhaps the only external check left on a lifetime judges. It is not illegitimate as Armey suggests.

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