The Corner

Durbin Distorts

Kennedy also spoke of Alito’s “clear record of support for vast presidential authority, unchecked by the other two branches of government.” Others spoke similarly. None of them offered any real evidence bearing on the question of how Alito would likely rule in cases turning on the scope of executive power.

Here’s the way Durbin tries to make the same claim as Kennedy. “As a government lawyer, you pushed a policy of legislative construction designed to make congressional intent secondary to presidential intent. You wrote that ‘the President will get in the last word on questions of interpretation.’”

This is grossly misleading. Alito didn’t say or imply that congressional intent should be “secondary.” Durbin is distorting the meaning of the quote he uses. Alito was arguing that presidents should issue “signing statements” offering their interpretation of the laws they sign. In context, it is clear that those statements would not be “the last word” in the sense of being binding on anyone else—there is no suggestion that the courts would have to consider the president’s interpretation as more authoritative than the interpretations of legislators, or even that the courts should so consider it.

All Alito said was that the signing statement would be “the last word” only in that it would (necessarily) come after the legislative history in time. Moreover, he is not talking about this feature of the signing statements as a reason to do them—he is saying that a disadvantage of them is that congressmen will be unhappy that the president will get to put in a word after they can. The words preceding the quote Durbin uses are “Congress is likely to resent the fact that. . .”

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Sinking Collusion Ship

The entire Trump-Russia collusion narrative was always implausible. One, the Washington swamp of fixers such as Paul Manafort and John and Tony Podesta was mostly bipartisan and predated Trump. Two, the Trump administration’s Russia policies were far tougher on Vladimir Putin than were those of Barack ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Problem with Certainty

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Including those of you having this read to you while you white-knuckle the steering wheel trying to get to wherever you’re going for the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More
World

Theresa May: A Political Obituary

On Friday, Theresa May, perhaps the worst Conservative prime minister in recent history, announced her resignation outside of number 10 Downing Street. She will step down effective June 7. “I have done my best,” she insisted. “I have done everything I can. . . . I believe it was right to persevere even ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More
Culture

The Deepfake of Nancy Pelosi

You’ve almost made it to a three-day weekend! Making the click-through worthwhile: A quick note about how National Review needs your help, concerns about “deepfakes” of Nancy Pelosi, one of the most cringe-inducing radio interviews of all time, some news about where to find me and the book in the near ... Read More
U.S.

America’s Best Defense Against Socialism

The United States of America has flummoxed socialists since the nineteenth century. Marx himself couldn’t quite understand why the most advanced economy in the world stubbornly refused to transition to socialism. Marxist theory predicts the immiseration of the proletariat and subsequent revolution from below. ... Read More