Men of judiciary, John Adams once wrote, should be "men of experience on the laws, of exemplary morals, invincible patience, unruffled calmness, and indefatigable application". His opinion counts because, as the author of the constitution of Massachusetts, oldest functioning in the world, he initiated many of the codes regarding judiciary that were later incorporated into the United States constitution. Prominent among these were appointment of judges by the executive (as opposed to election) and life-term appointments.
There is no reason to suppose that the present judges on the high court fall short of the demands of Adams. Their ideological differences and narrow decisions on crucial issues notwithstanding. This is really the riddle of Supreme Court.
In a significant decision last week, in Boumedience V Bush (pdf), the Supreme Court opined that foreign nationals held on terrorism charges have constitutional right to challenge their detention in US courts. This is a rebuke to the philosophy of the Bush administration and some recent decisions of the Congress granting the administration rights to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely with minimal scope for any legal recourse.
The 5-4 decision neatly broke along the ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the decisive vote for the majority. The reaction too was largely on the ideological lines with the Bush administration and the Republican party disapproving and the Democrats praising it.
Barack Obama welcomed the decision. John McCain criticized the decision, ridiculously calling it one of the worst decision ever by the Supreme Court. He also made the dubious assertion that the constitutional rights do not apply to foreigners held by US.
It seems unlikely that there will be a resolution of these weighty matters anytime soon. The law of the land, as set forth by the interpretation of constitution by the Supreme Court, will swing one way or the other as the political power in this country changes hands. Issues will continue to be determined essentially through the rough and tumble of the democratic process.