Per David’s Kelo anniversary posts below, skeptics are probably right to question the sincerity of the White House’s halfhearted embrace of property rights last week. Back in 2004, when Kelo was pending before the Supreme Court, the Bush administration not only refused to file an amicus brief on behalf of the property owners, but was actually on the verge of filing a brief on behalf of the land-seizing local governments.
The Institute for Justice’s Clint Bolick wrote at the time:
One would expect the Bush administration, with its professed support for strict constitutional construction and for property rights, to join the dozens of conservative and libertarian groups arrayed in this effort, or at worst to sit on the sidelines. But for reasons unfathomable to President Bush’s core constituency, the administration is seriously considering filing a brief opposing property rights.
So what is it that is impelling the administration to betray its principles?
Is it succumbing to pressure from federal bureaucrats born of solidarity with state and local power? Is it seeking to shelter big business interests that are beneficiaries of eminent domain abuse?
We can’t know because no one in the administration is saying. Even worse is the brazen disdain with which the administration has dismissed pleas from some of its staunchest allies to stay out of the case.
On Oct. 29, a letter signed by 44 conservative and libertarian luminaries — ranging from Grover Norquist to Paul Weyrich and David Keene, and encompassing such groups as the Free Congress Foundation, Family Research Council and National Taxpayers Union — sent the president a letter imploring him to stay on the sidelines. It would be nice to have the administration on the playing field on the side of its friends; but at this point, agnosticism is preferable to adopting the wrong religion.
When property-rights advocates presented a copy of the letter to Timothy Goeglein, the administration’s emissary to the conservative movement, he dismissively dropped it to the ground.
So when the arguments are submitted in the New London case, it will be jarring if we see the administration standing with the foes of property rights. Perhaps by then the administration will explain its betrayal — or maybe not, for its actions appear truly inexplicable.
Sadly, we now know that advocating for limitless government power isn’t “bizarre” for this administration, it’s routine.