Cook on Concord: Constitutional indigestion at the state and federal levels
GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Coburn was reported in the press as having made several pronouncements lately that, if truly representative of his opinion, are troubling. He was quoted as saying that if he were governor, he would pick and choose among orders by the state Supreme Court as to which he would follow and which he would enforce. He made similar comments about other laws passed by the Legislature. What is troubling is that Coburn, were he elected, would take an oath to “uphold the Constitution and the laws of the State of New Hampshire.” The final arbiter of laws in our state is the Supreme Court, which interprets the Constitution and, whether politicians like it or not, the system would fall apart were it not to respect those decisions. Politicians always can attempt to amend the state Constitution if they don’t like decisions — they cannot ignore them. Throughout American history, from the threshold case of Marbury v. Madison, in which the U.S. Supreme Court established the right to review the actions of other branches of government, the supremacy of court decisions has been respected, notwithstanding the frustration of politicians. Indeed, at the federal level, Richard Nixon produced the tapes and resigned the presidency after the historic decision in U.S. v. Nixon. He commanded the armed forces of the United States, but the moral suasion of the Supreme Court and its place in the government took precedence, notwithstanding the fact that the nine justices had no “troops.” Likewise, Al Gore disagreed with but accepted the decision of the Supreme Court in the case Gore v. Bush in 2000. If Coburn means what he says, he would join such characters in American history as George Wallace and Lester Maddox in defying the court. I am not sure that is the company he wants to keep.