"If the Chief Justice believes his political judgment is so exquisite, I invite him to resign, travel to Iowa, and get elected. I suspect voters will find his strange views no more compelling than do the principled justices on the Court."

Just a line from Tom Cotton I wanted to memorialize, quoted at Fox News.

It's of a piece with the sort of rhetoric about judges I've been reading for the last 50 years and more. I can't remember a time when I was able to understand anything about the Supreme Court when there wasn't a notion that what they are really doing is politics. And I saw "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards when I was first learning to read — back when I had no idea what "impeach" meant (something about a peach?) or who Earl Warren was.

So it's an old, old theme. But it plays well, and I think Tom Cotton found a spiffy way to do the phrasing. Instead of calling Roberts unprincipled, he points to the other justices — "the principled justices" — and imagines them finding the Chief's "views" "strange" and uncompelling. That's a nice variation on the theme.

And you've got to give Cotton credit for complexity. He addresses the Chief Justice and invites him to do something he's obviously not going to do, though it's more realistic and respectful than the common insults that tell people to do things — like go to hell or kiss my ass — that they're not going to do. "Invite" is polite, and running for President is very grand. But the idea is that if you ran for President with your agenda, you would lose. Cotton predicts the loss in an elegant comparison of voters to "principled justices," who, he suspects, would have the same low opinion of the Chief's ideas.

Now, the so-called "principled justices" oppose the Chief because he's finding something in the law that actually belongs in the political decisionmaking process, and if the Chief were to run for President, he would be taking these ideas to the place where the "principled justices" say they belong. So if the voters rejected these ideas, it would not be for the same reason the "principled justices" rejected them.

Ah! Now, I see the little flaw in Cotton's rhetoric! The only way the voters and the so-called "principled justices" could share the same opinion of the Chief Justice's "strange views" would be if the "principled justices" were thinking in political terms — in which case, they would be no more principled than the Chief Justice.

But if Tom Cotton is reading this — hi, Tom! — I know you already know how to get off that hook. You only said the voters and the "principled justices" would find the Chief's views to be equivalently compelling. It can still be the case that these views are not compelling in court, because they are not law but merely political, and that they are not compelling in the political arena, because people just don't like them.

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