Good night, Justice Clinton

By Paul Fallavollita
web posted April 17, 2000

Several nights ago I had a dream that after the 2000 election, Bill Clinton was nominated by President Al Gore as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Ridiculous? Unthinkable? A nocturnal fantasy induced by watching too many pundits and pols thunder about which of the presidential candidates will nominate justices to the Court vis-à-vis Roe v. Wade? Possibly.

But eight years of Bill and Hillary Clinton as a political duo have created many new...possibilities. Eight years can change a country in deep, lasting ways. Ways that stretch the old cliché that time heals all wounds. Conservatives know that it is easier to destroy than create or maintain, as they have the harder job of preserving a fragile civilization.

Yet, over the last eight years, the Clintons have also conserved and maintained. In a sense, Bill Clinton was the real "education president," despite his relatively more conservative opponent, George Bush senior's, claim to the title. America learned a lot from the teacher-in-chief. We learned it was still possible to withstand an impeachment trial and survive in office, a feat last accomplished by Andrew Johnson. We know it is possible to be re-elected to a second term of office after the attempt of his wife to revamp the American health care system and socialize one-seventh of the American economy. Not to mention names and places such as Joycelyn Elders, Waco, and "don't ask, don't tell." After all, it's the economy stupid, and this focus was definitely maintained by the Clintons.

We also learned it is possible for the First Lady to run for a U.S. Senate seat in New York via residency in Arkansas and Illinois. So, as the First Family scrambles all previous political codes and conventions in these postmodern times, then it is quite possible that dreams can come true and Clinton could be named an associate justice to the highest court in the land. The president has been in a number of political offices for most of his life, so the next logical step is to occupy an office whose set term is...life. Apparently my mind still works in a roughly linear fashion even when asleep.

What else is Bill Clinton going to do? He's still quite young as ex-presidents go (not counting the musical band). Clinton has certainly been around the block. He was a Rhodes scholar and a graduate of Yale Law School. He also served as Attorney General in Arkansas. There is no Constitutional bar to his serving on the Court. There is, however, the issue of the Arkansas bar that reportedly seeks to oust Clinton's legal credentials in the aftermath of his perjury in the famed Monica Lewinsky scandal, in which Americans learned a little too much from our "education president."

Daytime is the best time for indulging in speculation as to the direction these night terrors might have gone in. If I had slept a little while longer, how would things have turned out-we know what President Clinton has done, what would Justice Clinton do? One thing that would happen is Clinton would hire law clerks that specialize in writing drafts of opinions with two-way flexibility. Remember, one of his main lessons for America was that the Republican initiative for welfare reform was really his idea. Clinton would magnify the mysticism of the Court, rendering the principle of stare decisis unusable and obsolete. A side consequence of this would be full employment for law professors engaged in analyzing his contributions to constitutional law. This yields yet more possibilities for American institutions.

If I were a young ex-president, I would enjoy spending the rest of my years serving my country as a venerable "guardian" of the Constitution of the Republic. Of course, my motivations would be based on principle, not the mere occupancy of the office and its accompanying accoutrements of power. Bill Clinton's motivations, as we have learned over the last eight years, would likely be based on the latter. This distinction is the same one that separates a statesman from a politician, and an associate justice from...an associate justice. Good night, Justice Clinton.

Paul Fallavollita is currently a first-year graduate student in political science, studying international relations and political theory, at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.

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