Since you very likely haven't seen it, here is the latest twisted press release from the Attorney General Bill Schuette public relations mill. I'll start from the bottom because it explains the top. The subject is the Supreme Court decision last week validating most of the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to regulate greenhouse gases.
"Today's ruling is a victory for the rule of law and the Constitution. We are a nation of laws, and unelected bureaucrats cannot simply run roughshod over those laws. We will continue to hold the President and his administration accountable and rein in overreaching policies that harm citizens, states and our economy."
Let's start with the obvious. Isn't any decision by the U.S. Supreme Court a “victory for the rule of law and the Constitution?” Whether his office wins, as with the Court's affirmative action ruling, or loses, as it did with the recent Bay Mills Indian tribe casino decision, the process is purely constitutional, which the attorney general — or any student paying attention in civics class — knows well.
But consider the tone, first portentous, then pandering. It's the buzzwords that make this release and so many other from the Attorney General's office so obviously political.
“Victory for the rule of law.”
“Run roughshod over those laws.”
“Rein in overreaching policies that harm citizens.”
Doesn't exactly ring with the gravitas one might expect from Michigan's chief legal officer. But that isn't the point. This release is aimed at the conservative constituency Schuette wants to solidify for his likely bid to succeed Rick Snyder as governor. It plays to the belief that evil government is the root of the nation's ills. Never mind that Schuette has spend a lifetime on the public payroll: Congress, the Appeals Court, Michigan Senate and even one of those “unelected bureaucrats” — director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture.
The full release starts this way:
“Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today praised a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court striking down burdensome Environment Protection Agency (EPA) regulations that would have imposed new permitting requirements on large manufacturing facilities and power plants.”
A big loss for the government's interest in lessening pollution and carbon emissions? Not at all, says author of the decision Justice Anton Scalia. “It bears mention that EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case,” he said reading the decision from the bench.
So what's the point of this news release?
Schuette's office did not acknowledge that the press release was publicly funded and declined an invitation to discuss it.
This isn't the first time I have criticized the attorney general and how he misrepresents Michigan. Or the first time that Schuette has attacked the president and his policies. It's something to think about as we celebrate our Declaration of Independence on Friday, the bold affirmation of our right as American colonists to escape the oppressive rule of Great Britain. It was a significant advance toward the freedoms and rights later included in the U.S. Constitution.
The First Amendment freedoms, among them the right to a free press, set the United States apart from much of the world, where reporting is subservient to political agendas. The recent conviction and heavy prison sentences of three journalists in Egypt on clearly manufactured charges illustrates the dangers inherent in reporting. The three worked for Al Jazeera, the international news service that has lately expanded to the United States.
This is closer to home than you might think. My son, Kevin, works for Al Jazeera, in its international division, as an investigative producer. His travels so far take him safe places, most recently Japan. But the freedoms for speech and expression we expect really are unique. Journalists throughout the world are threatened in ways we can't imagine. The Al Jazeera conviction in Egypt is a reminder of the dangers. Certainly they are for me.