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I've mentioned this before, but sometimes things are worth rementioning. Several times. From Meet the Press this weekend:

MR. RUSSERT: Does he believe that the executive, legislative, judicial branches are equal?
SEN. CORNYN: Well, I don't know. We'll ask him, but I assume he would, that they're co-equal under -- that is basic high-school civics course.

I agree it is basic high school civics. However, it is also incorrect.

As Madison said in Federalist 51, "... it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense (from the other departments). In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates." He goes on then to explain some ways in which that predominance can be mitigated, such as with two separate (and therefore opposing) houses in the legislature. But it is without question that they beleived the legislature to be the most powerful branch of government.

And any modest perusal of the Constitution bears this out. The Congress can overrule the President on almost any matter, and the Court too, except in Constitutional matters, where the Congress can amend the Constitution, without any input or interference from the other two branches (though, of course, they require the aid of the states, but the states are comprised of the people who elected the Congress in the first place).

Congress can, in effect, do anything it pleases to, if it puts its collective mind to it, which is precisely why we've done so much work to prevent them from doing just that. Madison continued: "The remedy for this inconveniency is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them, by different modes of election and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions and their common dependence on the society will admit." And this, in a nutshell, is why the 17th Amendment was such a bad idea.

What's sad to me is that Senator John Cornyn is a lawyer, the former Attorney General of Texas, and is on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he doesn't know these things. Of course, I'd not single him out: he's probably in "good" company in his misunderstanding.

Update Ugh. Senator Grassley asked whether Judge Alito believed all three branches were coequal, and Alito responded affirmatively.

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<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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