Say this much for the right wing: electoral reality doesn’t stop their fantasies. The latest round of speculation among conservatives is who they would push for the empty seat on the Supreme Court when President Cruz takes office.
Forget Merrick Garland, who is disqualified by virtue of being Obama’s nominee. Conservatives want Sen. Mike Lee to succeed the sainted (to them) Antonin Scalia.
If you are unfamiliar with Mike Lee, here’s all you need to know about him: he’s Ted Cruz’s only friend in the Senate. And any friend of Ted Cruz….
Lee, who rode the Tea Party wave to victory in 2010, is the right wing’s idea of a Constitutional scholar. That means he espouses ideas that run the gamut from offensive to crazy. Lee believes that the Constitution does not support “the power to redistribute our wealth,” otherwise known as Social Security. He has proposed repealing the 16th amendment, which established a progressive income tax, and he has supported the idea of nullification, which allows states to opt out of federal laws that they don’t like.
Like marriage equality.
What’s scary about Lee is that he has the veneer of qualifications. He actually is a Constitutional lawyer. He clerked for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. His father was Solicitor General (the guy who argues the administration’s case before the Supreme Court) in the Reagan administration.
But Lee gets his ideas from one of the fringiest figures on the right: W. Cleon Skousen. Skousen was dubbed “an all-around nut job” by William F. Buckley’s National Review, but that hasn’t stopped him from surfacing, a decade after his death, as one of the leading intellectual lights of the modern GOP.
Needless to say, Skousen was a complete homophobe. When he was chief of police in Salt Lake City in the 1950s, Skousen encouraged the routine arrest and harassment of gay men as a moral crusade. He saw homosexuality as the gateway to Communism. After losing his job in Salt Lake City for being too crusading (he busted a card game that the mayor was attending), Skousen went on to work with or for a veritable who’s who of antigay activists: Tim LaHaye, Phyllis Schlafly, Paul Weyrich, to name just a few.
Skousen churned out books, including the one that seems to have left a mark on Lee: The Five Thousand Year Leap. In that tome, Skousen argues that the Constitution is divinely inspired and lays out what he says are the key tenets of the document. After languishing in obscurity for decades, the book emerged as a best seller when Glenn Beck embraced it.
So if you think that a man who considered Dwight Eisenhower a Communist should inform the thinking of a Supreme Court Justice, then Mike Lee is the guy for you. What kind of company would Lee be keeping? The armed occupiers who seized federal land in Oregon earlier this year were carrying a copy of the Constitution annotated by Skousen.
It’s just another sign of how far to the ultra-right the GOP has drifted that the party could find someone who would actually make Scalia look like a relative moderate.
Photo Credit: Mike Lee’s Senate website.