Jim Jenkins

GOP presidential candidates misbehave in court responses

My grandmother used to have a custom when the year started in her classroom in her school in the North Carolina foothills. She had all the boys line up and gave ’em all a paddling. It set a standard for behavior, she used to say, that the good boys would follow. And the bad boys would at least know she meant business.

Would that Grandma were in Iowa and New Hampshire and points West, East and South right about now. The Republican Party of the United States desperately needs her, because the boys in the class don’t know how to behave.

They also appear to have been skipping civics class.

Following two Supreme Court rulings last week, one affirming the constitutionality of same-sex marriage and the other supportive of federal exchanges as sources of insurance under the Affordable Care Act (thus preserving “Obamacare” for more than 6 million Americans), GOP presidential candidates were throwing more hissy fits than a kindergarten class denied recess on a sunny day.

Good grief, fellas. Get a grip.

The gay marriage issue really set them off.

Said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, out to capture the evangelical vote as the most devout among his mates on the campaign trail, “I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

Easy, big fella. See, the whole judicial system, that was something the Founders, who whupped the British monarch, thought about and put in the United States Constitution. Fair trials, juries, all that. And if by “resist” and “reject” you mean you’re going to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court, you might need to pack a toothbrush for a trip upstate.

Then there was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who said, “Five unelected judges have taken it upon themselves to redefine the institution of marriage.” And rootin’-tootin’ Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who said the court’s ruling “tramples on state’s rights” and might be about a war on religious freedom. He also said, “Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.”

Lordy. No offense to the creator of marriage intended.

The thing is, Gov. Walker, the Supreme Court has been “unelected” forever, and conservatives don’t mind that as long as rulings go their way. And they didn’t really “redefine the institution of marriage” so much as expand the number of people eligible for that institution. And in talking about “state’s rights” is Jindal hinting he might stir up a little withdrawal from the Union, which is what happened the last time the term “state’s rights” got thrown around a lot?

A little tip, Guv: That didn’t turn out too well.

Now other Republicans, notably Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, all said they didn’t like what happened but would respect the court’s decision as the law of the land.

Friends, when Rubio, Kasich, Graham and especially Perry are at the head of your constitutional law class, you are not exactly loaded up with the Harvard faculty.

Of course, the GOP candidates’ reaction to the high court ruling upholding “Obamacare” for the second time was just as negative though not as loud. A few of the candidates, hearing that the court has preserved health insurance for 6 million Americans who had signed up with federal insurance exchanges (they were under challenge), said they’d still repeal Obamacare and talked about how terrible it was and how it had failed and all that.

The problem there is that Obamacare has worked for millions of people and has allowed states to expand Medicaid for lower-income and disabled people at no cost to the state for the first three years. (North Carolina Republicans, declaring no truce in their war on the poor, of course refuse to expand it.) The Republicans have no viable alternative and don’t want to have to come up with one, and they’d just as soon the whole thing would go away.

The court rulings and the angry, pathetic reactions to them show what’s fundamentally wrong with the Republican candidates: Younger people don’t care about the gay marriage issue, and Obamacare is gaining popularity. The electorate is racing ahead of the Republican candidates, who seem to be stuck driving around with old ideas in a ’34 Ford. Doggone thing keeps knocking off, and parts are hard to find. And it won’t be long before the kids crammed in the back start fighting with one another.

Grandma could straighten them out. But she was a Democrat.

Deputy editorial page editor Jim Jenkins can be reached at 919-829-4513 or at jjenkins@newsobserver.com