Jeff Shesol , a former speechwriter for President Clinton, with this book, becomes one of our leading non-academic American historians, following his previous book on the tangled relationship between Robert Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Here he examines the attempt by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to “pack” the Supreme Court by making new appointments even in the absence of the retirement or death of current members of the Court. It was, of course, provoked by the adamant opposition of the Court—led by the four conservatives known as the “Four Horsemen” (of the apocalypse] who, by gaining the vote of either the Chief Justice, Charles Evans Hughes, or Justice Owen Roberts could control the Court’s decision making—to major programs of the New Deal. Key programs of the New Deal were unceremoniously declared to be unconstitutional as beyond congressional power, and others were in a state of virtual suspension for fear of the same fate. Some of the decisions, most notably the one shooting down the “blue eagle” of the NRA, were no doubt quite popular, as the NRA had become discredited among large swathes of the population going well beyond conservative critics of the New Deal. Other programs, though, were at the heart of the New Deal program and seemingly threatened proposed legislation, including, say, the Wagner Act that would serve to empower labor unions against their employers.
|By: Sanford Levinson Saturday April 24, 2010 2:00 pm|