IN THE COMMENTS: Inwood writes:
I don't know how anyone could fail to, um, decide correctly which is more reasonable from both a commonsense POV, & a Con Law approach: (a) the carefully reasoned & well-expressed points presented by both Mukasey & Simon or (b) the, um, “self-righteous” as well as hysterical "five days from the effective date of Mukasey's appointment, we're all gonna be back in the McCarthy era where, because we've talked to certain people, expressed certain ideas, or are some kind of free thinkers; we’re gonna be on the "National Wire Tapping List", following which we may well be randomly water boarded by the jackboots of BushHitler" nonsense of The NYT & these guys.And Simon is unruffled by the Kausfluffle:
BTW, IR, how about “Kausfluffle”?
I'm not sure how ruffled my feathers could really get when someone whose sole claim to fame is having a brother more famous, more erudite and more accomplished than he is decides to demonstrate the same lack of reading comprehension skills (he completely misapprehends my post, not to mention making some very questionable assumptions) by scrawling some graffiti on the sewer wall of the internet.
I mean, really, Steve Kaus? For all the world, he's the blogosphere's equivalent of the brother of the Paul Bettanny character in Wimbledon.
And what's with the "Simon" in scare quotes? It's not as if my last name's a secret or hidden.
ALSO IN THE COMMENTS: Too Many Jims said "there are better indictments of Kaus' writing than "kafuffle is not a word." And I said:
I have many indictments, but that doesn't mean I'm going to spend my scarce time rebuffing some lawyer who writes for readers that he thinks will be awed by the title "Yale Constitutional Law Professor." I've seen too many things written by Yale Constitutional Law Professors to get stirred up when a non-Yale Constitutional Law Professor comes along and acts like something must be true because it was written by a Yale Constitutional Law Professor. Kaus must be: unsophisticated/blinded by ideology/out to manipulate readers. I have no time for that.MORE: Jed Rubenfeld — the Yale lawprof who wrote the NYT op-ed that started all this — emails:
In response to my op-ed, some have said, "But Judge Mukasey in no way suggested a presidential authority to ignore constitutional statutes; all he meant was that the president has authority to ignore unconstitutional statutes." Others have wondered, on my behalf, whether, given Judge Mukasey's actual statements, and given the history of executive-power claims by the present Administration, this reply is in fact a meaningful reply to the point I made in my op-ed. Of those posting on your blog, "Laser" comes closest to saying what I myself would have said. But in case it would be helpful, here is my own answer.What is key is that there are some things with respect to which the President has exclusive power. This is commonly known as Jackson's category 3 (from the Youngstown case). Here is Justice Jackson's delineation of the concept:
There are two interpretations of Judge Mukasey’s statements that I meant to be addressing simultaneously and that I would object to equally.
Judge Mukasey indicated that the president has constitutional authority to disregard a federal statute if “what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the president’s authority to defend the country.” The president was not above the law, Judge Mukasey emphasized, but the law “starts with the Constitution.” A "statute, regardless of its clarity, can't change the Constitution."
The first question — and what I regard as the real question — is whether Judge Mukasey's statements imply a presidential authority to ignore a federal statute in the following kind of case: (a) where both the president and the Congress possess constitutionally granted power over a certain subject matter; (b) where Congress has exercised its constitutionally granted power; but (c) where the president, in the exercise of his constitutional power, wants to do something that is otherwise constitutionally permissible, that he believes justified in the name of defending the nation (at least in wartime) as he thinks best, but that the enacted statute prevents him from doing. I think Judge Mukasey's statements at least leave open the possibility that the president has authority to disregard the statute in this kind of case.
There are two interpretations of Judge Mukasey's statements according to which he could have endorsed such an authority. First, he might have meant: (1) that, under our Constitution, executive power simply trumps a constitutionally enacted statute in those cases. This is not an unintelligible position. Where two branches each have power over a certain subject matter, one must be supreme over the other, even if both are acting within their constitutionally granted powers. In matters of defending the nation in wartime, someone might intelligibly believe that the executive power must be supreme. On my view, however, this position is plainly unacceptable, contrary to Youngstown, contrary to the supremacy clause, and a subversion of the Constitution’s foundational principles.
Second, Judge Mukasey’s statements could be interpreted to mean: (2) that in the cases specified, the statute becomes unconstitutional just because the statute has infringed on executive power. Now, some people seem to think that this is very different from position (1). They say, "On this view, Judge Mukasey was merely arguing for an executive power that everyone agrees to -- the power to disregard an unconstitutional statute." For myself, I do not view position (2) as meaningfully different from position (1). I think position (2) just is position (1), dressed up in different words; or, to put it the other way, that position (1) just is position (2), dressed up in different words. I take position (2) to be unacceptable precisely because it boils down to the same thing as position (1). I also take position (2) to be close, if not identical, to the position articulated in the repudiated “torture memo.”
I thought about trying to distinguish these two positions in my op-ed, but in the end decided not to. I made this decision not only to save words. On my view, the two positions are in the end not distinguishable, so it is obfuscatory to try to make them sound distinct.
Let me emphasize that I take both positions (1) and (2) to be distinguishable from position (3), which holds that the president has the authority to disregard a statute that unconstitutionally asserts congressional power over a subject matter that the Constitution simply does not grant Congress power over. Thus if Congress passed a statute ordering the deployment of troops in a fashion so specific that Congress had attempted to exercise a power that only the commander-in-chief possesses, Congress would not have been exercising one of its constitutionally granted powers and would not have passed a valid statute at all. By contrast, I take FISA and the military commissions act clearly to govern matters that both Congress and the president have powers over (at least, in FISA’s case, as applied to communications made by United States persons on United States soil). It follows that the president is simply breaking the law if he unilaterally violates these statutes, regardless of which position, (1), (2), or (3), is asserted in defense thereof.
When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter. Courts can sustain exclusive presidential control in such a case only by disabling the Congress from acting upon the subject. Presidential claim to a power at once so conclusive and preclusive must be scrutinized with caution, for what is at stake is the equilibrium established by our constitutional system....I think this is what Mukasey was referring to, and, as such, it is a solid and unremarkable position. The real dispute is not over whether the President can violate statutes, but how big "category 3" is: How much power does the Constitution give exclusively to the President? I don't doubt that Mukasey has a more expansive view of "category 3" than Rubenfeld does.
[Where the President's action is contrary to a federal statute,] it can be supported only by any remainder of executive power after subtraction of such powers as Congress may have over the subject.