View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
The Supreme Court ruled 8-1 today against using RICO to punish political groups for political activities, sort of. The Court ruled that aggressive anti-abortion protests didn't "obtain property" for themselves, so they weren't extorting anythng when they got out of hand. This is excellent news, overturning another piece of the wretched Reno legacy. Now if we can only get Elian back...

The Court's lone dissenter was...John Paul Stevens, ever willing to put personal preference over the law.

The Court may or may not have had to be technical in this decision - I'm not certain what arguments were put forth before it. But the purpose of the law was to convict criminal conpiracies, specifically mafia-type operations, not political protesters, no matter what the criminal effect of their activities. If individuals assaulted women trying to enter clinics, they should be tried for that, but to shut down an entire political movement because of that, and no other, was to try to place a specific political issue beyond the realm of discussion. It was political correctness given the force of law, and it was wrong.

It's worth noting the specific application of this law as the Clintons grasped for a means to make political opposition on this issue illegal. Violence has dogged anti-war,anti-IMF, anti-World Bank protests for years, well back into the Clinton era, but it was never, never suggested that International Not The ANSWER, or any of the other organizing bodies, should face RICO prosecution for their routine property damage and assaults on the police. Thank goodness we elected an administration that elected to refrain from this sort of abuse altogether rather than try to turn it on its enemies.

This is an old lesson, and one that the Democrats seem to have forgotten - the distinction between ends and means, and the notion than if you make certain means legitimate, they will, not maybe, but certainly, eventually be turned against you, so better not to bring them into polite society in the first place. I've been reading Bruce Catton & William Catton's fine history of the colonial and early national era, The Bold and Magnificent Dream. They note that when the Puritans in England seized power and killed the King, they offered all sorts of help to the Massachusetts Puritans. The colonials turned them down, realizing that one day, the Cavaliers would be back in power, and they didn't want to be punished then. Indeed, when Charles II and William III did turn their attention to the colonies, they rewarded their friends with land grants, but notably avoided punishing the Puritan colonies.

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