The Right Coast

November 01, 2005
The dumb one
By Tom Smith

Like other states, California has two senators, vivid proof that no constitutional system is perfect. I have always heard that one of them is really dumb, and I was never sure which one it was until I heard Barbara Boxer discussing the Alito nomination this morning with a newsmodel for Fox News. It was on XM radio, so I am just assuming she was one of those info-models. I have never heard an interview where the United States Senator made the expertly groomed one sound brilliant by comparison. Of course, Boxer carefully enunciated, as if to a 6th grade class (is she a former primary school teacher by chance?) the usual tendentious talking points against putting any conservative in the "Sandra Day O'Connor seat." (An O'Connor seat? Since when? Did I miss a constitutional moment, or something? Did she give a bunch of money to the Court?) But for me, the lowest moment had to be when the good Senator expressed shock at some of Judge Alito's dissenting opinions on the 3rd circuit court. I paraphrase closely: "He ruled that the Family Leave Act did not cover state employees! What if you had a sick baby at home?" I'm not making this up. She actually said sick baby. I was praying the "reporter" would ask as a follow up, "Senator, did the statute provide that it applied to state employees?" That is, did Judge Alito commit a legal error in concluding the statute did not? It's that whole, you know, law thing. There are many, indeed probably infinite, desirable objectives that any given law is not about. Just the other day I was looking at Section 203 of the Delaware Code, regarding corporate takeovers, and there was not a single mention of sick babies or state employees, shocking as that may seem. I can understand how difficult it is for most people to realize the Constitution is law, as opposed to say, a mission statement. But statutes are pretty obviously law. The idea is you read them, which, when you consider they are written by Congress is reason enough to pay judges more and provide free psychiatric care, and you figure out what they say. Deplorable as it may be, it is up to Congress to decide whether the act applies to the sick babies of state employees. Or their less deserving, but still extremely cute puppies, or their quirky, spritely, compassionate and still very active for their age grandparents. I am obviously going to have to limit my exposure to this whole confirmation process.