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Court Rulings Draw Fire; Senate Derails Immigration Bill Again

Politicians on both sides of the aisle reacted to a series of close Supreme Court decisions, while a controversial immigration bill died in the Senate. Political analysts Mark Shields and Rich Lowry discuss these developments.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Lowry, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and National Review editor Rich Lowry. David Brooks is off.

    Gentlemen, keep that debate in mind, because I want to start with the Supreme Court. Margaret was just discussing it with the two professors, but I want to get your take, first of all, Mark, on the significance of not only this week's school desegregation decision, but this court overall, the first Roberts term.

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Well, I think that, first of all, the Supreme Court has been the central player in the narrative that is the two terms of George W. Bush. I mean, there wouldn't have been a Bush presidency but for a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2001. And I think his legacy is wrapped up in the nominations of Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the court.

    We saw it this term, not simply this week. We saw it in the McCain-Feingold, which gutted the strongest provision in that legislation, which is prohibiting the use of corporate or labor union treasury money in campaign ads. We'll be guaranteed to have those around the clock next time. We saw the court overturn 12 verdicts assessing damages, turn back, including an $85 million settlement against Philip Morris. We saw them disallow clear evidence of discrimination against a woman plaintiff and a minority because it wasn't timely.

    So, you know, we had, I think, in yesterday's ruling that race cannot be considered even in a voluntary program seeking racial diversity with thousands of school districts, thus guaranteeing we'll have litigation in perpetuity.

    So I think — you can understand why conservatives were so upset when George Bush considered nominating Harriet Miers. I don't think there's any question that Samuel Alito and John Roberts are two stalwarts. And the three of the four conservatives on the court — reliable, dependable conservatives, I guess — three of them were appointed by presidents named Bush and they're the three youngest. So I'd say it's quite a legacy.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Is it? Are we already seeing the Bush legacy?

  • RICH LOWRY, Editor, National Review:

    Yes, presumably, they're going to be there a long time, and both Roberts and Alito are very talented men. I think what we've seen so far is they really are as advertised. They're incrementalist conservatives.

    On the highest profile cases this term, partial birth, the campaign finance, now Brown, the race in schools case, we've seen incremental steps to the right, and there's actually been an interesting divide between Roberts and Alito and Scalia and Thomas, where Scalia and Thomas have a tendency to want to be much more sweeping and go much further, and Alito and Roberts are more cautious. And we saw that in particular on the campaign finance case, where Scalia was rather scathing of Roberts for not going further.

    But, you know, there's been a lot of commentary, "Gosh, these guys are supposed to be, you know, conservatives. They're not supposed to be activists." But I think there are different kinds of activism. There's making up rights that aren't in the Constitution, and it's also ignoring rights that are in the Constitution. And especially on the campaign finance case, I think there's no question the First Amendment protects political speech, especially political speech around election time. So that was a good decision that should have gone further.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, we know these two new justices are going to be there for a long time; certainly, we expect them to be.

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    People can change the Congress, but only a God can change the Supreme Court.