NRI Ideas Summit

America as the Forrest Gump of the World, in a Good Way

From left: National Review’s Luke Thompson, Berkeley law professor John Yoo, and the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo (Pete Marovich)

The United States is the Forrest Gump of the world, or so says John Yoo, law professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

“We’re Forrest Gump, and the Europeans are that girl, who every ten years goes off on the latest craze and ruins her life, and then comes back to Forrest and we have to save them,”  he quipped Thursday at the National Review Institute 2019 Ideas Summit.

“The Constitution is there to slow down the rate of change,” Yoo explained. “Look at Europe in the last century. In that last century they’ve had monarchies, they’ve had communist dictatorships, they’ve had fascist dictatorships, they have gone through every series of bad idea and form of government. Whereas the United States because of our federal system and separation of powers, we have not gone off on those bad experiments.”

Yoo and Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society, joined National Review on Thursday to discuss the modern threats that progressivism poses to the structural protections of freedom in America.

“I think threatening the constitutional order is very in vogue these days with our friends across the aisle,” said Luke Thompson, who cohosts National Review’sConstitutionally Speaking” podcast and moderated the discussion.

The panel addressed recent proposals by Democrats to “pack the courts,” or add seats to shift the court’s majority towards a particular ideological bent.

“I think the president has shown tremendous courage and determination and consistency” in appointing constitutional conservatives to the courts, said Leo, who advised Trump on some of his judicial selections and contributed to the Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court selections and confirmation processes.

Reform such as court packing or changing the Electoral College challenge “the form of government that we have,” Leo said. “For me it’s not as much as one particular proposal or another . . . it’s the way in which they mow down the structural protections.”

Conservatives “want generally the states and the Congress deciding a lot of issues, rather than the courts deciding them,” Yoo said.

Leo recalled the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s warning that as long is the court is viewed as political, confirmations will be political.

“As a culture we are unfortunately beset a constant interest in scandal, and so it’s not surprise that a confirmation process will degrade into that,” he said, referencing Kavanaugh’s acrimonious confirmation process.

The speakers also addressed the “administrative state,” Yoo saying that the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation, or appointing someone with “unlimited discretion” to make decisions, is the “high point” of such a state and “not what the founders intended.”

Conservatives embrace an “ideas-based” system, Leo concluded, adding that he does not generally support amending the Constitution but would rather “enforce what’s there.”

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