“When this lecture was booked, I said, ‘Oct. 24, 2012, I want to be at the center of the political universe,’ and here I am,” he said, referring to the national attention given remarks made by Indiana Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock during a debate Tuesday night.
Toobin, a staff writer for The New Yorker and a senior analyst at CNN, was the guest lecturer Wednesday at IPFW’s Omnibus Lecture Series. He has written several books on topics such as the O.J. Simpson trial, the Obama administration and the Supreme Court, President Clinton’s impeachment and the Bush-Gore presidential recount.
The free event in IPFW’s Rhinehart Music Center attracted more than 1,000 people, according to box office estimates.
Toobin’s lecture focused on the Supreme Court and evolution of the Republican Party.
“I think the Supreme Court and the judicial branch are more mysterious than other parts of the government,” he said during a news conference earlier in the day. “It’s my hope to give people some insight into what’s not normally visible to them.”
He said one of the most important facts about the Supreme Court is that justices almost always vote along party lines.
Appointments made by President George W. Bush were the turning point for the court, he said. Those justices reflect modern Republican Party views and support its agenda, which includes lowering the barriers between church and state and making abortion illegal, Toobin said.
The health care reform law passed by Congress and upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court, was not part of that agenda, he said.
Toobin believes Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative member of the court, sided with liberal justices because he didn’t want the Supreme Court to issue too many pro-Republican opinions. Toobin said Roberts thought the court could viewed as too political, risking damage to its reputation.
Mourdock’s defeat of Sen. Richard Lugar in the primary was “one of the defining events of the 2012 political season,” Toobin said.
The party is far more conservative now, which is evident in the Supreme Court. The focus of Mourdock’s comments dealing with God, rape and abortion “were a reflection of how much the Republican Party has changed,” he said.
Earlier in the day, IPFW students had an opportunity to hear from Toobin during a question-and-answer session. He said students should participate in the democratic process by at least voting if not working for a campaign.
“This is your job, your duty as a citizen,” he said. “You forfeit the right to complain if you don’t get in the game.”