Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed chair of politics at Ave Maria University, Seana Sugrue, to the newsmaker line to discuss her recent piece addressing the lawlessness at the CDC and the limits of the constitutional republic that are being broken.
Leahy: We welcome to our microphones Seana Sugrue. She’s the ambassador, Michael Novak, chair of politics at Ave Maria University. And she’s got a great, great article up yesterday at Law and Liberty. Lawlessness at the CDC. Welcome. Professor Sugrue.
Sugrue: Thank you so much for having me on.
Leahy: We are delighted to have you here. And, by the way, tell folks about the great Ave Maria University. And I think that’s Tom Monahan’s work down in Florida. He is the former founder of Domino’s Pizza and the former owner of the Detroit Tigers.
Sugrue: That is exactly right. Ave Maria University is a Catholic liberal arts institution in Southwest Florida. And we have the most beautiful students that I have ever encountered. I’ve been there for a number of years.
We want to make sure that they’re nurtured in their faith and that they really understand the principles that govern their country and when they go out they’re great citizens, great employees when they graduate.
Leahy: That’s quite true. We had an Ave Maria University graduate who worked at Breitbart for a while and now at The Washington Times. Alex Swoyer, she’s fabulous. And everything you say is great about Ave Maria. And now how long have you been there?
Sugrue: Well, I have been there since 2004, so I’ve been there for a long time and in the politics department. And all of that time, I’ve also been teaching constitutional law. And that’s actually how I came to write this particular piece.
I was looking for a moot court question for my students because they deal with these very issues like the CDC and an inferior officer. And how do you know the difference?
Leahy: Before we go any further, I want to extend an invitation to you. We have a little nonprofit here that’s part of our company at The Star News Network. We’ve got this radio program and eight state-based news sites, including The Tennessee Star and The Florida Capital Star.
This October will be our fifth year for the National Constitution Bee, which we hold in Brentwood. And it’s for kids ages eighth grade to 12th grade. We give out educational scholarships, $10,000 to the winner.
And it’s based upon a book that I co-authored, Guide to the Constitution Bill of Rights for Secondary School Students. And it’s really a lot of fun. And I’m going to invite you to come on up here and take a look and see how we do with that.
Sugrue: I would love that. Thank you for that generous invitation. That sounds like a lot of fun.
Leahy: It is. Last year we had Alan Dershowitz address the kids in a Zoom setup. And he’s promised that if he gets permission from his wife with the COVID situation, he’ll come down again this year to do it. So the kids really liked that a lot.
Sugrue: Oh, I can imagine. What a great opportunity you’re providing for them. Thank you for doing that.
Leahy: Well, thank you for this article. Tell us about the lawlessness at the Center for Disease Control.
Sugrue: There’s so much that is wrong with the picture with the director of the CDC issuing orders. But the point that I have focused upon in this article is that she’s an inferior officer under our Constitution.
Now, that has a lot of significance under our Constitution. There are two ways in which you can serve the United States in an official capacity and the executive. One way is, you need to get Senate confirmation.
If you have Senate confirmation, you can have more power. And there’s a reason for that. And that is that we are a constitutional Republic. And being a constitutional Republic by we the people we’re not supposed to have people who are governing us that don’t get carefully vetted by our elected representatives.
There’s another way that you can serve and that’s as an inferior officer. And inferior officers have less power. The director of the CDC has not been confirmed by the Senate. That means that she shouldn’t be issuing orders that have national significance and interpreting congressional law for the purpose of extending her powers.
Leahy: Well, that makes an awful lot of sense. There are just so many examples of these ridiculous violations here of the Constitution by the Center for Disease Control.
It seems to be much worse under the Biden administration. What do you make of this? What’s her name? Rochelle Walensky? She gets up and talks, and it doesn’t make any sense what she says to me.
Sugrue: Well, you know, I’m sure that she’s a fine doctor of infectious diseases, but it’s one thing to be a doctor in your field, and it’s another thing to be a bureaucrat. Especially one who isn’t trained in knowing her sphere of authority.
So I would agree with that. Unfortunately, we are being ruled as a people by a lot of specialists who don’t necessarily understand the foundations of our country. So they don’t understand their limits.
Leahy: Here is your conclusion, and I’d like to get your reaction and elaborate on this a little bit more. I’m going to read it. I think it’s quite good. It’s consistent with many of the things that we’ve been talking about here on this program, Professor Sugrue:
‘The real culprit in this saga is not CDC director Dr. Walensky, nor is it her predecessor, Dr. Redfield. The culprits are our elected officials, especially in Congress, who encourage the CDC to go rogue.
Members of Congress who claim to care so much about the possible eviction of tenants and the thousands of migrants huddled at the border could have foregone their summer recess. But they didn’t.
They could have done the hard work of brokering a legislative compromise to address these issues. But they didn’t. That is what our constitutional system expects. The problem isn’t primarily the rogue CDC. It is our members of Congress who aren’t doing their jobs.’
Sugrue: That’s right. We are supposed to be governed by them. And the idea behind creating law is that it shouldn’t be easy and that we have a system of checks and balances. And we expect the people who we voted for to get together and do the hard work, oftentimes of brokering a compromise.
But it’s so much easier to have a protest and sit outside of the steps of the capitol or something like that than actually do your job. And your job is to work with other members of Congress to pass laws, especially in the current situation that we are in, where we have people who disagree on this issue. I think that they were trying to do an end-run around the Constitution here.
Leahy: Many have argued, and I think you’re probably familiar with Professor Philip Hamburger at Columbia University Law School,
Sugrue: I’m a big fan.
Leahy: He’s been on our program. And he really is making the case that as you are expanding here, that the legislative branch has, in essence, abrogated its responsibilities.
Has given them up, evaded the exercise of their responsibility to provide clarity and direction to the administrative branch. What is the possibility of this changing in the future?
Sugrue: I think that the new members of the Supreme Court are going to start forcing Congress to do their jobs. They’re already signaling that enough is enough, and you can’t keep delegating your authority to others.
And I think that Justice Gorsuch in particular is leading the charge here. So if they’re not going to rein themselves in and giving away their power in a system of checks and balances, I think they are going to be told by the Supreme Court, you can’t do this. Stop.
Leahy: Let me just push back on that a little bit and get your thoughts on this. I’ll lay this out for you. Think about it over the break. I have looked at some of the decisions of the three Trump appointees: Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett, whom you probably know since she was a professor at Notre Dame, and also Gorsuch.
To me, their decisions have been quite disappointing. In fact, Amy Coney Barrett had a decision to turn down a challenge of mandated vaccines just last night.
So if you can stick through the break, I’d like to get your analysis of how those three justices are going to be ruling on these very issues in the future.
Listen to the full first hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Seana Sugrue” by Ave Maria University. Background Photo “CDC Main Entrance” by Daniel Mayer. CC BY-SA 3.0.