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Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices

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  • Posted March 25, 2012

    If truth be told, I did not read every word of this book. For th

    If truth be told, I did not read every word of this book. For the layman, the ordinary reader, there is simply too much detail. A history buff or scholar would be more inclined to do it justice. It was recommended to me by someone reading it for a course at the local college. It is better suited to a classroom with someone organizing and leading the discussion about Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s extended Presidency. The book is about the effect of his appointments to the Supreme Court, in his attempt to pack it in his favor to gain passage of his bills. He did not like to be opposed and it examines how he shaped the Court and its future. The working and personal relationships of the men appointed by FDR is discussed and explored. It is really interesting and not all that hard to read, but it is really difficult to remember the myriad details without an expert guide.
    It can honestly be remarked that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born with a silver spoon; he carefully planned his political life very early on. He married Eleanor, against his mother's wishes, for reasons of both love and ambition. He changed parties to win elections and in order not to compete with his distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt. He always had high ambitions and eventually joined forces with Theodore, to reform the corrupt Democrats, but then after two years in the Senate, still green around the gills, he went to Washington to get more experience for his future as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. He was a pragmatist, perhaps a bit mercenary, and did whatever was necessary to rise in the political world, changing parties for political advantage.
    As President, FDR created the first activist Supreme Court by appointing “good old boys” who would support his philosophy. He changed the court from a body strictly examining and interpreting the constitutionality of the law, to a body that interpreted and created it. He appointed Justices Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Jackson and William O. Douglas, four men of completely diverse backgrounds and beliefs. The selection was based solely on political advantage. Roosevelt surrounded himself with men who would do his bidding rather than men of strong conviction. He did not want to deal with disapproval or dissent. However, the judges he appointed rarely got along and harbored long standing grudges against each other, bickering angrily when they convened.
    The book is timely in the sense that today we see a similar political and financial situation occurring. There has been a financial crisis. There is deep unemployment. There is a divided country that is suffering and demanding change. The world, at large, is in conflict and there are battles raging abroad. Coincidentally, we have a very progressive President who is once again trying to pack the Court and influence its decisions in ways not seen since FDR. He is lobbying the Supreme Court, even now, in an attempt to influence their decision on the Affordable Health Care Act. He dislikes criticism and does not like opposition, vowing to make judgments and issue orders to pass the policies he wishes even if he cannot get the Congress to support him.
    The intentional effort by Roosevelt to change the way in which the constitution was deliberated and judgments were delivered should give one pause. Should ideology effect the interpretation of the constitution? With the dramatic changes to the Supreme Court, under Roosevelt’s guidance, it surely did.
    In Charles Murray's recently published book, Coming Apart, it is noted that “Francis Grund, son of a German baron, published a two volume appraisal of the American 1825, in which he states "no government could be established on the same principle as that of the United States, with a different code of morals"....."change the religious habits of Americans, their religious devotion, and their high respect for morality, and it will not be necessary to change a single letter of the Constitution in order to vary the whole form of their government."
    One has to wonder if our code of morals has not already changed and if other changes to affect our current form of government are not already in progress: is this the intention of the progressive movement today?
    Many questions arise as you read this book.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 22, 2010

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    Posted December 17, 2010

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