Terry Eastland


Terry Eastland is an executive editor of The Weekly Standard. Previously, he served as publisher from 2001 to 2013. During the 1990s he was a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he wrote Energy in the Executive: The Case for a Strong Presidency.  During the Reagan presidency, he served as Director of Public Affairs for the Justice Department. Before that he worked for newspapers, including the San Diego Union and the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.

His books include Counting by Race (1979), Ethics, Politics and the Independent Counsel (1989), Religious Liberty in the Supreme Court (1993), and Freedom of Expression in the Supreme Court (2000). He has written for a variety of publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the American Spectator, the New Criterion, National Review, the New Republic, the Wilson Quarterly, and the Public Interest.

Stories by Terry Eastland


A Careless Executive

Feb 15, 2016

In few cases in its long history has the Supreme Court had occasion to interpret Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution, which provides that the president “shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed." This year it may have another. We'll know by the end of the Court's term in June, just as the presidential race is heating up.

United States v. Texas is the case to watch. At issue is President Obama's executive action on immigration known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). Under DAPA, undocumented immigrants who satisfy certain conditions may live here for three years, a temporary reprieve from deportation, and obtain work permits.

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A New Constitutional Convention?

Greg Abbott's plan to limit federal power.
Feb 08, 2016

As Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott spoke with evident pride about how many times he’d sued the federal government. The total came to 31, and invariably the lawsuits challenged actions that Abbott believed violated federal statutes or the Constitution. Now, as Texas governor, he is no longer in court but has hardly quit objecting to federal overreach. In a speech last month to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Abbott declared it's time for state legislatures to address the problem by amending the Constitution.

Note that Abbott is focused on state legislatures. There is a reason for that.

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The Religion of Trump

Will evangelicals balk at pulling the lever for him?
Jan 25, 2016

The Constitution provides that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." But, as Gary Scott Smith of Grove City College writes in his new book, Religion in the Oval Office, "Throughout American history many citizens have viewed strong faith as an asset, if not a requirement, for politicians, especially presidents."

The biography of faith, such as it is, of the Republican presidential candidate who has led the polls for six months starts with First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens. That is the church Donald Trump's parents attended and in which he was baptized.

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An Unlikely Crusade

Senator Ben Sasse targets the administrative state.
Jan 11, 2016

Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a rookie who ranks 99th in seniority, gave his maiden speech on the Senate floor in November. Normally, senators use such speeches to discuss why this or that legislation is needed. Sasse, a former college president and a historian by training (Yale Ph.D.) who has taught public policy (at the University of Texas), didn’t do that. Instead, he addressed the institutional decline of Congress.

The speech was well received in the Senate, and the news coverage was generally positive. Oddly, however, the media failed to observe that Sasse promised a series of floor speeches on the growth of the administrative state and "executive branch legislating."

The importance of this topic is

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Will the Supremes Finally Rule?

Another housing discrimination case is ripe.
Oct 27, 2014

A few days before the opening of its new term, the Supreme Court accepted for review a case from Texas that could prove one of the Court’s most important this year—provided that the justices actually get to decide it.

The case is Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, and it concerns the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which prohibits racial discrimination in housing, as well as discrimination on other grounds including ethnicity, sex, and religion.

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Prosecuting Speech?

5:29 PM, Dec 09, 2015

The day after the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Attorney General Loretta Lynch attended a dinner in Washington held by the Muslim Advocates, a Muslim-rights organization. Lynch made no direct mention of the attacks but addressed the Justice Department's responsibilities in light of what she called "a very disturbing rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric" in the United States since the terrorist massacre in Paris.

Lynch said (from C-Span's transcript of the event) that the United States is "based on free speech." Yet when speech "edges towards violence, when we see the potential for someone to lift . . . that mantle of anti-Muslim rhetoric . . . we will take action.

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Who Gets In, Who Doesn’t?

Dec 07, 2015

Next month the Supreme Court will hear arguments in Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, one of the most important cases this term. In 2008 Fisher, a white high school senior in Texas, applied for admission to the university and was turned down.

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Reading Carson

The candidate’s commentaries on the Constitution.
Nov 09, 2015

Ben Carson remains in the presidential race notwithstanding the conventional wisdom that the retired neurosurgeon and first-time-candidate-for-any-office wouldn’t last this long. Indeed, the most recent polls show Carson leading Donald Trump in Iowa, which kicks off the presidential primary season with its caucuses on February 1.

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Coercive Federalism

Oct 26, 2015

Some 45 municipalities and communities make up Westchester County, the prosperous, heavily Democratic jurisdiction just north of New York City whose most famous residents are Bill and Hillary Clinton. Like many localities across the country, Westchester has long been a recipient of federal housing grants. But for more than six years now the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Westchester County have been at loggerheads over whether the county may receive such grants.

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Obama's Executive Authority Questioned at Democratic Debate

3:01 PM, Oct 14, 2015

During the debate in Las Vegas, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Jim Webb how, if were he elected, “he would not be a third term for Obama.” Webb said that “there would be a major difference between my administration and the Obama administration,” and it would concern “the use of executive authority.”

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Swearing by the Constitution

Ted Cruz’s lodestone.
Oct 12, 2015

Consider that in Republican Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, we have a presidential candidate who during his high school years in Houston was among several students who met twice a week to read the Constitution and the Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers and the even more obscure debates on ratification. All of that while also memorizing the entire Constitution in shortened mnemonic form.

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The Kim Davis Matter

Sep 21, 2015

In his powerful dissent from Obergefell v. Hodges, the case in which the Supreme Court redefined marriage to include same-sex marriage, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of their faith” and that if they “exercise their religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right,” then “hard questions” may arise.

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The Constant Gardener

Terry Eastland, gardener au Courant
Sep 14, 2015

Most summers I’ve had a fruit and vegetable garden, but rarely has my summer reading included much about gardening other than nursery catalogues and seed packets and basic how-to articles. This year has been different. My Summer in a Garden by Charles Dudley Warner, first published in 1870, has had my attention, and it’s a book I’ve found hard to put down. 

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‘Diversity’ vs. the Law

Aug 24, 2015

Wikipedia defines “startup accelerators” as “fixed-term, cohort-based programs that include mentorship and educational components and culminate” in a “demo day” on which hopeful entrepreneurs make pitches to prospective funders. On August 4, President Obama hosted his own demo day, recasting it to serve a policy goal—that of advancing “inclusive” entrepreneurship and employment. In the East Room he met “a diverse group of entrepreneurs .  .  .

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Fixing the Court

Priority number one for the next president?
Aug 10, 2015

Ted Cruz, who in 1996 clerked for then-chief justice William Rehnquist and is now a first-term senator and GOP presidential candidate, has assumed the leadership of conservatives aiming to rein in a Supreme Court they fault for imposing on the country rights not found in the Constitution. This is hardly a new issue for conservatives; in a past now faraway, it was also an issue for some liberals.

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'Unspeakable Behavior'

10:34 AM, Jul 20, 2015

Terry Eastland reviews Barton Swaim's The Speechwriter for the Wall Street Journal:

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It Could Have Been Worse

Jul 06, 2015

Ye who are disappointed in the Supreme Court this term, take heart: Its plainly wrong decision in the housing case from Texas, handed down last week, was not as bad as it might have been.

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A Chip Off the Old Block?

The distinguished career of Carly Fiorina’s father.
Jun 22, 2015

A largely unnoticed story about Carly Fiorina is that she is the daughter of a man who was one of the finest lawyers of his generation. His influence on her, she says, is “huge.” Asked in an interview whether he would be surprised by her bid for the Oval Office, Fiorina said he “probably would be,” adding, “I hope he would be proud. I think he would be proud.”

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Remembering the Constitution

Senator Mike Lee thinks we’ve forgotten some important parts.
Jun 15, 2015

In his new book on the Constitution, Senator Mike Lee, the first-term Utah Republican, recalls his decision to run for the upper chamber in 2010. “It bothered me that even in the Republican Party, far too many elected officials have been reluctant to engage the public in a meaningful constitutional discourse .  .  . one that attempts to identify limits on federal power and extends beyond a facile assessment of how likely the courts might be to invalidate a particular law.”

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They Can’t Deny It

Same-sex marriage and the threat to colleges’ tax-exempt status.
May 18, 2015

The most notable exchange during the argument last month in the same-sex marriage case before the Supreme Court, Obergefell v. Hodges, likely occurred between Justice Samuel Alito and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. 

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Deciding Who Gets to Vote

May 11, 2015

Senator Rand Paul has entered the presidential sweepstakes as a Tea Party favorite and limited-government constitutionalist—i.e., one who believes Congress should not pass legislation unless it has the constitutional authority to do so.

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Amtrak Is Ruled a Public Entity

A 9-0 Court takes on the administrative state.
Apr 06, 2015

America’s freight railroads get to continue their argument with Amtrak, America’s passenger rail service.

That is the practical outcome of the Supreme Court’s recent 9-0 decision in Department of Transportation v. Association of American Railroads. Yet if the case returns to the Supreme Court, there is reason to think the justices will engage fundamental questions about the structure and limits of government. 

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The President’s Authority

Mar 16, 2015

President Obama wants explicit legislative authorization to use military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The administration has sent a draft of an AUMF to Congress, which has begun hearings that could last a while.

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Rule by Judges

Feb 23, 2015

In case you haven’t noticed, the Constitution is being amended​—​though not according to the process our supreme law actually provides for. Which is, first, that two-thirds of both houses propose the amendment and, second, that the amendment then be ratified by the legislatures of three-quarters of the states. None of that has happened with the amendment we speak of: Neither house has even considered it, much less voted overwhelmingly to send it to the states for ratification.

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Florida Key

A clear-eyed view of Jeb Bush as governor
Feb 09, 2015

Our first national government—the one established by the Articles of Confederation—was notoriously weak. Congress wasn’t much good at administering the laws it passed or at conducting foreign affairs. The government lacked what the Framers of the Constitution said it sorely needed: energy.

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A High Impact Case

Feb 09, 2015

In one of the biggest Supreme Court cases of the year, Justice Antonin Scalia seems destined to cast the critical vote. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, argued late last month, concerns the Fair Housing Act of 1968, specifically its prohibition of discrimination in housing.

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Waiting for the ‘Termination Point’

Is the end in sight for race-conscious college admissions?
Dec 29, 2014

In Grutter v. Bollinger, decided in 2003, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor upheld race preferences in higher education but also declared they must have “a termination point.” So when a lawsuit against preferences in admissions is brought, there is a presumption that they could be terminated, perhaps even in a ruling applicable to schools across the country.

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No Justification

Dec 15, 2014

With his aggressive executive action on immigration, President Obama has struck a constitutional nerve in the body politic. The first lawsuit challenging the president’s action was filed last week by a coalition of 18 states led by Texas. Oklahoma is about to file, and other states may do so as well.

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American Blueprint

The United States and its Constitution, one and inseparable
Dec 08, 2014

This, the “concise edition” of Liberty and Union, is an abridgment of a larger, two-volume work. It contains a glossary of legal terms (“writ,” for example, is a court order), tables of cases, a list of the 118 (so far) justices of the Supreme Court, and the texts of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution.

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Let the People Decide

Nov 24, 2014

Let us now praise famous men, or at least one good federal judge, as some recent work of his demonstrates. Jeffrey Sutton is this judge, and he sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which includes the states of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Earlier this month he announced an opinion for his court in DeBoer v.

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