Previously, the Supreme Court had upheld Congress' decision to stem the corrupting influence of big money on political campaigns. Even as the scandals surrounding former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and lobbyist Jack Abramoff proved that lawmakers were right to be concerned about big-bucks corruption of their own institutions, the Supreme Court this term struck down limits on contributions from corporations and unions - so long as those contributions come in the form of attack ads at least minimally disguised as "issue ads."
Although unions, which often back Democrats, benefit from the ruling, conservative Republicans are particularly thrilled because right-to-life groups have been aggressive in using such attack ads.
Note that Congress had not said such groups could not run attack ads. The law simply required that they be paid for with regulated "hard money" donations and not with unregulated "soft money."
The newly conservative court also took aim at Brown vs. Board of Education. Unlike that unanimous landmark delivered more than a half-century ago, the Roberts court could muster only a bare 5-4 vote to chip away at that important precedent. But the Bush administration's core supporters never have been shy about claiming total power from a slight - or even nonexistent - majority. The Roberts court said schools can't consider race as a factor when trying to rectify racial imbalance in schools. The upshot is that, in too many cases, schools will be unable to rectify racial imbalances. It's a step toward the bad old days of separate but equal.
The Roberts court has a habit of denying it is overturning established precedent even as it blatantly overturns established precedent. Expect, given the court's decision to outlaw a procedure used in mid- and late-term abortions, that other precedents concerning abortion rights will receive the same lack of respect.
The Bush presidency has been, by most methods of reckoning on the left and the right, a disaster. Depending on how long Mr. Bush's backward-looking majority dominates the high court, it could prove to be his biggest disaster, no matter how much his narrow base might celebrate it as his only victory.