Just Above Sunset
April 10, 2005: The Conservatives Get Deadly Serious

Home | Question Time | Something Is Up | Connecting Dots | Stay Away | Overload | Our Man in Paris | WLJ Weekly | Book Wrangler | Cobras | The Edge of the Pacific | The Surreal Beach | On Location | Botanicals | Quotes

Remarks by Senator John Cornyn (Republican-Texas) on the Senate floor last week:


I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country. Certainly nothing new, but we seem to have run through a spate of courthouse violence recently that's been on the news and I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters on some occasions where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in - engage in violence.


A comment by at Markos Moulitsas Zúniga Daily Kos -


Violence against judges is nothing short of domestic terrorism. And Cornyn (along with DeLay and their ilk) are nothing more than apologists for such violence.

The GOP's war on the judiciary is now entering dangerous territory.


Zúniga’s roundup of other comment –

The Left Coaster


[I]f Cornyn and DeLay think that there may be a connection between violence against lifetime appointment judges and their allegedly political decisions, does that mean that DeLay and Cornyn would have found it acceptable if millions of Democrats had made direct threats against the GOP majority in the Bush V. Gore case? Would DeLay and Cornyn somehow excuse any subsequent violence that may have ensued against Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and the rest of the gang by wondering if there were a connection?




GOP Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) says violence against judges is understandable

We now have Republican Senators making excuses for terrorists. Explaining why terrorism is understandable. Why terrorists have legitimate concerns. Justifying why the victims of terrorism are really to blame for these heinous crimes. Wonder what Senator Cornyn thinks of rape victims?

This is utterly outrageous. Outrageous. The GOP is now embracing domestic terrorists who are trying to undermine our democracy. And they're doing it so they can take down the judges who "killed" Terri Schiavo, and instead impose some Pat Robertson-like theocracy on our country. This is absolutely utterly beyond contempt. Tell Judge Lefkow in Chicago that her mother and husband are dead because she brought it on herself.

And the ultimate irony is that it is people like John Cornyn who now risk inciting violence against judges by giving aid and comfort to these homicidal maniacs. Cornyn should resign immediately.


Michigan congressman John Conyers here -


This apparent effort to rationalize violence against judges is deplorable. On its face, while it contains doubletalk that simultaneously offers a justification for such violence and then claims not to, the fundamental core of the statement seems to be that judges have somehow brought this violence on themselves. This also carries an implicit threat: that if judges do not do what the far right wants them to do (thus becoming the "judicial activists" the far right claims to deplore), the violence may well continue.

If this is what Senator Cornyn meant to say, it is outrageous, irresponsible and unbecoming of our leaders. To be sure, I have disagreed with many, many court rulings. (For example, Bush v. Gore may well be the single greatest example of judicial activism we have seen in our lifetime.) But there is no excuse, no excuse, for a Member of Congress to take our discourse to this ugly and dangerous extreme.

My message is not subtle today. It is simple. To my Republican colleagues: you are playing with fire, you are playing with lives, and you must stop.


Atrios -


We get so used to hearing this kind of wingnuttery, and while it's wrong when Michael Savage says something like this, it's certainly way beyond any standard of decency for a United States Senator. And, as Josh points out, it's certainly fascinating for Senator Cornyn to find common cause with murderer and accused rapist Brian Nichols...


Kos didn’t mention what else Josh Marshall said –


So the recent murders of judges and their families are blow-back from widespread judicial activism?

Suddenly the folks in robes are like the girl who dresses too provocatively to the fraternity dance.

And who knew Cornyn and crew wanted to embrace Brian Nichols, the accused rapist who murdered Fulton County Superior Court Judge Rowland Barnes and three others last month, as one of their own?


And Marshall later added this –


Apropos of Sen. John Cornyn's suggestion today that judicial activism may be an underlying cause of the rash of murders of judges and their families, perhaps the Democrats need to introduce a sense of the senate resolution condemning those who threaten violence against judges or offer excuses for those who commit violent acts against members of the bench.


And then this –


One of the great weaknesses of blogs, across the political spectrum, is the repeated and convulsive expression of more or less contrived outrage. Of course, some of the folks are just outrage-addicts and so it's not contrived, but more of an addiction. But same difference.

Yet at the risk of committing the sin I've just described or the malady I've just diagnosed, I invite everyone to again look at this statement today from floor of the United States senate in which Sen. Cornyn (R) Texas suggested that a slow build-up of outrage against activist judges may be the root cause of the recent rash of murders and assaults against members of the judiciary around the country.

(Bear in mind that Cornyn is a former District Court judge, a former member of the Supreme Court of Texas and a former Texas Attorney General.)

… Let alone the fact that the statement is ridiculous on its face since violence against judges in this country is almost exclusively the work of disgruntled defendants or homicidal maniacs who manage to wrestle a gun away from a bailiff, what Cornyn is trying to suggest here seems genuinely outrageous.

I'm curious to know whether you agree.


Hey, the senator from Texas didn’t say go out and kill the judges. He just said it is understandable if you do – a perfectly natural reaction.

Marshall adds this -


Late Update: The [Washington] Post has picked up the story. And if anything, the context of the statement some of which they provide, makes the statement even more of a stunner. The passage … was apparently preceded by this: "It causes a lot of people, including me, great distress to see judges use the authority that they have been given to make raw political or ideological decisions. [Sometimes] the Supreme Court has taken on this role as a policymaker rather than an enforcer of political decisions made by elected representatives of the people."


The court’s role is to enforce political decisions? Really?

Some think the court –and specifically the Supreme Court - adjudicates on acts passed through the political system by Congress and President. The Supreme Court's task is to declare whether an act is constitutional or unconstitutional. The Supreme Court cannot initiate a bill or an act - it can only adjudicate. There’s something about that in Article III of the constitution, some thought about keeping the courts independent of political pressure – ‘checks and balances’ and all that.

It’s kind of like this

- Judicial decisions involve the application of law to specific circumstances and they have to be made in accordance with the law as made by the Legislature and they have to be made without reference to political belief.

- Political decisions are made by those who have been elected to do so. As judges have not been elected by the people, they do not make political decisions.

By the way, Article III also clearly states that judges cannot be dismissed or receive unfavorable treatment simply because they make a judgment that does not find political support or favor from the party in power. Marbury v Madison (1803), anyone?

Oh, never mind. It’s a new world.

And if judges don’t act as enforcers of the will of the current politicians, who have the pulse of the public, always, and just plain folks get mad and kill a few of them, well, what did they expect?

I guess this is getting serious.






The senator retracts his remarks, sort of -


As a former judge myself for 13 years, who has a number of close personal friends who still serve on the bench today, I am outraged by recent acts of courthouse violence. I certainly hope that no one will construe my remarks on Monday otherwise. Considered in context, I don’t think a reasonable listener or reader could.


But it’s not HIS fault!


I regret it that my remarks have been taken out of context to create a wrong

impression about my position, and possibly be construed to contribute to the problem rather than to a solution.


A bunch of pesky lefties just trying to make him look bad, of course.



Weekend update:


Over this weekend Dana Milbank in the Washington Post reports

on a recent conservative conference about out-of-control judges.  As Kevin Drum summarizes first came Phyllis Schlafly, suggesting that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy ought to be impeached. Up next was Michael Farris, who said that not only should Kennedy be impeached, but so should anyone who voted against impeaching him.


The there’s the money quote –


… lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."

Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.


The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."


Drum says - “Lovely. But here's the scariest part: as Milbank says, ‘This was no collection of fringe characters.’  He's right. Increasingly, this is the mainstream of the Republican party.”




Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

This issue updated and published on...

Paris readers add nine hours....