Edwin Meese

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Edwin Meese
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Edwin Meese III (born December 2, 1931) is an American right-wing political activist and author most known for his role as Attorney General during the second-term of Ronald Reagan.[1] Meese currently serves as a member of the board of trustees for The Heritage Foundation, a research and educational institution whose mission is to build and promote conservative public policies, based in Washington, D.C. Meese is also a member of the national advisory board of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education and a member of the board of directors of the Federalist Society.

His friend Ronnie[edit]

Historian Lou Cannon once called Meese "Reagan's geographer" in reference to his role inside the administration as executive assistant and chief of staff while Reagan was governor of California, saying this primarily due to his ability to turn "the most inarticulate of Reagan's ideas into coherent policy."[2]:328

In his role in the governor's office, Meese also played an important part of in expanding the abilities of the police. One article from 1986 makes extensive note of how Meese first came to Reagan's attention due to his "contribution to the [Free Speech Movement] crackdown" that was occurring at Berkeley, California at the time, with Reagan also campaigning against Berkeley activists during his 1966 run for governor. The article goes on to note:

It was Meese, local historians say, who ordered police to nab the movement’s leaders first, leaving the group without its principal organizers. He also favored early morning arrests, when there were fewer crowds and less media attention. Under his supervision, arresting officers for the first time used Polaroid cameras to take identifying photos on the spot, thus avoiding any later question in a trial about the defendant’s participation and obviating the need for taking large numbers of protesters to the police station for booking.[3]

Meese Report[edit]

While working as President Reagan's Attorney General, one of his more well known actions was what has been called the Meese Report, officially called the Attorney General' Commission on Pornography. Pat Califia, writing a response to the report, sarcastically said it "holds out the hope that by using draconian measures against pornography we can turn America into a rerun of Leave It to Beaver." He went on to note how, although Meese did claim he was going to attempt to be neutral, he stuffed the commission full of people who had a long history in the Religious Right and the anti-pornography movement. ("The attroney general's men did not knock on the door of the sex and civil liberities establishment. They talked, instead to priests, child abuse experts, evangelists, and criminologists."[4]:17) Regarding the legal recommendations of the Commission, he notes that "The Commission's staff was formulating these recommendations from the very first day of hearings, before they heard social-science data about whether or not porn caused harm, before they even defined pornography."[5]

Funnily enough, its explicit nature ended up being controversial among the very same people it was pandering to. Many Christian book stores refused to sell the report on their shelves because of "fear that the vulgar language in it and its graphic descriptions of sexual acts will offend their customers."[6]


During his time as Attorney General, the Justice Department had two scandals specifically related to Meese's actions. The first of these, the Bechtel scandal, basically involved him attempting to help a corporation called Bechtel build a pipeline from Iraq to Jordan. Although it was found that nothing he did was illegal, the ethics of what he did were called into question at the time.[7]

The other scandal, called the Wedtech scandal, where he was accused of engaging in actions that benefitted both him and his longtime friend E. Robert Wallach, who was convicted of fraud and racketeering. This controversy was huge and several top members of the Reagan Justice Department resigned in protest of the actions of their boss,[8] eventually resulting in Meese stepping down from his role as Attorney General in 1988,[9] although he did so while claiming to have a "clear name" in spite of a report critical of his conduct coming out at the same time.[10]

Hungry children understander[edit]

While defending his boss's decision to cut welfare programs for children, Meese infamously said in 1983 that he didn't "know any authoritative figures that there are hungry children. I've heard a lot of anecdotal stuff, but haven't heard any authoritative figures."[11]:167 Of course, Reagan's own government had released statistics on this issue and found the amount of hungry children had increased during his administration.[11]:167-168 Meese also said some people go to soup kitchens not because they're in need but "because the food is free and that that's easier than paying for it."[12] This comment got him wide condemnation from left-wing political leaders at the time.[13]

In response to this, he was compared to Scrooge, so he defended Scrooge, saying in him "Bob Cratchit was paid 10 shillings a week, which was a very good wage a the time . . . Bob, in fact, had good cause to be happy with his situation. He lived in a house, not a tenement. His wife didn't have to work . . . He was able to afford the traditional Christmas dinner of a roast goose and plum pudding."[14]:79 Nina Auerback, a scholar of Victorian literature, responded to his by saying:

Did he really say that? I can't believe he said that . . . Dickens is saying that the poor deserve to live not on the margins, but with comfort and love and with freedom and medical attention. I mean, isn't that the very point of Tiny Tim? . . . He desperately needs a doctor and can't get to one because his family is so poor . . . He's dying because he can't get medical care . . . Boy, I'm really getting angry now. I can't believe these people.[14]:79


Meese is widely credited as one of the driving forces behind the growth of the constitutional philosophy known as Originalism. Erwin Chemerinsky, writing about the history of originalism is his book long critique of it, notes that Meese "took originalism from being a theory of law professors in the pages of law reviews to being the stated position of the attorney general of the United States."[15]:34

Can't defend himself from this one[edit]

Meese is known for being a stern critic of the Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona, where it was ruled "The Fifth Amendment requires that law enforcement officials advise suspects of their right to remain silent and to obtain an attorney during interrogations while in police custody."[16] Senator Ted Cruz once recalled that Meese "famously said that if he could overturn one case and one case only, it would be Miranda v. Arizona."[17]:138

Of course, the Miranda decision is far from uncontroversial, being a 5-4 decision on the court.[16] However, the ways Meese has criticized the ruling are worth noting, as they basically come down to arguing that anybody who is even suspected of a crime is guilty. This is not his opinion being him strawmanned, these are words from his mouth. As he said in an interview from 1985:

You don't have many suspects who are innocent of a crime. That's contradictory. If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not suspect.[11]:170

For the record, this is just wrong. A suspect is merely somebody who is suspected of a crime, meaning they are believed to possibly be the person behind it, but we have no concrete evidence of this.