On this day in 1974, the Supreme Court decided unanimously against the president in United States v Nixon. This was the decision that said that Richard Nixon had to hand over the tapes. It was Nixon’s last hope. He resigned 16 days later.
Here’s what I find interesting. Somehow, all of the justices managed to get together on his decision. Does anyone doubt that had the current Supreme Court decided the same case that at least three justices would have found in favor of Nixon? And given what happen in 2000 with Bush v Gore, it is hard not to escape the conclusion that Nixon would have won with a 5-4 ruling.
I don’t much go in for all the discussion about this or that judge overstepping their bounds. The Supreme Court really has been mostly terrible throughout its existence. And the truth is that judges have generally been bad throughout human history. The justice system was created as a way of formalizing the oppression of the weak. It isn’t about determining truth.
So now we have three judges — Scalia, Thomas, and Alito — who have given up all pretense of judicial restraint. They don’t even need to come into work any more. They could outsource the work to Rush Limbaugh, who could just fax in their opinions each morning. And think about that. If Nixon hadn’t lost that case, he never would have been forced out of office and conservatives would still be claiming that he did nothing wrong. And if we had our current Supreme Court, that might have happened.
How far we’ve fallen!