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The Supreme Court loses luster with 3 Trump appointees

Jamie Stiehm on

Even if President Donald Trump loses his bid to be a two-term president, he'll likely bequeath us three of the nine members of the Supreme Court. The Trump Three are the youngest, so his fingerprints will mark the scene of American politics for years to come.

In a flat monotone, Amy Coney Barrett, 48, told us too much of nothing in her Senate hearing, on a fast track to be confirmed Monday. Yet it became clear she opposed reproductive rights, questioned climate change and refused to support the usual peaceful transfer of power. She spells trouble in its "originalist" form.

The Supreme Court seems a lofty realm. Time to be real: It's a blunt political instrument.

We're feeling that cold reality now, like a winter wind. In the marble "equal justice under law" temple, most justices are partisans under black robes. The late Antonin Scalia was a conservative warrior. Justices are meant to be above it all, but they are right in the fight. That truth we can't forget in coming days.

Remember the Bush v. Gore ruling went 5 -4 in 2000, freezing the Florida vote count in the election deadlock -- a dark start to the 20th century. The high court charade was split along party lines. "Get over it," Scalia said. Trump hopes that will happen again.

Ending the Affordable Care Act is on the Supreme Court docket in November. The Indiana nominee's silence on that matter did not calm Senate Democrats' fury. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., launched a blistering tirade on the Federalist Society, rich with "dark money"(undisclosed), which gave Trump the three young judges to pick. The aim is to take over the judiciary branch with unlimited money, which the Court greenlighted a decade ago in Citizens United.

 

So, let's take a lightning look at how the Supreme Court, for better and worse, is shaped by presidents since John Adams. Come with me.

Adams appointed a chief justice from his losing political party under incoming President Thomas Jefferson's nose during their transition. Jefferson was mad. John Marshall, Jefferson's cousin, is considered the best chief justice in history -- but they hated each other.

Marshall made the greatest power grab ever by inventing "judicial review," meaning the court may strike down a law it judges unconstitutional. Jefferson was incensed.

Marshall lived long into the 1830s and clashed with President Andrew Jackson, his political opposite. His death created an opening late in Jackson's presidency. He named Roger Taney chief justice. Taney's brother-in-law, Francis Scott Key, recommended him.

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