A big bravo for Breyer
It's about time. With the country experiencing looming inflation, a wobbly stock market, congressional gridlock, a relentless Omicron, political infighting, and a world teetering on the brink of war with Russia over Ukraine, we needed a burst of good news. And we finally got it with word that Justice Stephen Breyer will retire from the Supreme Court at the end of this term.
To Breyer, the nation owes a huge, double vote of thanks: for the value of his service on the court, and for the timing of his decision to leave.
Since he joined the court in 1994, Breyer has been a solid, steady voice of reason and a firm believer in the role of government to serve people and solve problems. That uncynical faith in government was instilled in him at Lowell High School in San Francisco in the 1950s, where his father was a school administrator and his mother volunteered with the League of Women Voters. It was solidified at Harvard Law School, and finally flowered when he went to work as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Sen. Edward Kennedy.
A liberal Democrat, like Kennedy, Breyer nonetheless impressed even Republican members of the committee with his commonsense manner of dealing with legislation. His main goal was not to win every battle, but to seek consensus to make the law work in improving the lives of the greatest number of people. That experience paid off in 1994 when he was confirmed to the Supreme Court, 87-9. But, sadly, his ability to apply that same non-doctrinaire, pragmatic approach to the law diminished with every new right-wing appointee, all of whom were less interested in the facts of a case than the politics and none of whom were interested in consensus.
I've had the honor of interviewing Justice Breyer on two occasions. He's a delightful interviewee for three reasons - he loves to talk, he's not a showboat, and he has a great capacity for boiling down the most complex cases before the court into terms everybody can understand.
From those conversations, there are three important lessons I remember distinctly. First, his opposition to expanding the number of justices on the court. Mainly because, Breyer believes, it would politicize the court and undermine its nonpartisan legitimacy. "The last thing we need to do is turn the Supreme Court into just a political football, whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want," he told "60 Minutes" in October 2020.
Breyer also disagreed with his conservative colleagues that the American system of justice is so perfect we never have to consider judicial matters in other countries. Again, it's not doctrinaire, it's just pure pragmatism. "If here I have a human being called a judge in a different country dealing with a similar problem," he told Jeffrey Toobin in the September 12, 2005 issue of The New Yorker, "why don't I read what he says, if it's similar enough? Maybe I'll learn something."
The interview I remember best was on publication of his 2005 book, "Active Liberty," in which Breyer put forth an impassioned response to the "originalist" doctrine of the Constitution preached by Justice Antonin Scalia. Breyer rejects Scalia's locked-in-concrete idea of the Constitution flatly. "As history has made clear," he writes, "the original Constitution was insufficient." Yes, "the original document sowed the original seed," he agrees, but the Constitution has evolved - to protect the rights of African-Americans, women, workers and LGBTQ Americans - and must continue to evolve until all Americans fully enjoy its basic freedoms.
But that will only occur, Breyer insists, with a politically active citizenry. Don't depend on the courts to expand human rights, he advises. Use your citizen power to make it happen. The Constitution is built on the need for "active liberty." Breyer ends his book with an admonition from Pericles: "We do not say that the man who fails to participate in politics is a man who minds his business. We say that he is a man who has no business here."
We salute Justice Breyer for his 27 years of service on the nation's highest court. And we salute him, especially, for his grace on knowing when to step down. He knows the court is heading in the wrong direction under the wrong people, intent on shrinking rights, not expanding them. And he sensed his moral obligation to do what he could to prevent that from happening. Breyer had the courage that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, God love her, did not.
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Biden lays blame where it belongs
One year ago, Joe Biden took the oath of office as the 46th president of the United States. So, it's only fair to ask the question, on Jan. 20, 2022: "How'd that first year work out?" And, indeed, that was the entire focus of Biden's news conference on January 19.
Take your partisan hat off for the moment. Whether you like his politics or not, you have to agree that Biden proved once and for all - despite relentless smears by Donald Trump - that he's more than up for the job. He not only gave the longest news conference in presidential history, but he also proved knowledgeable and up to date on the widest possible range of topics: from Ukraine to Yemen, from COVID-19 to voting rights, from inflation to the supply chain.
You probably also agree that the big show dragged on far too long and, at times, Biden talked too much, especially when he mused about how the West might respond differently to a "minor" invasion of Ukraine by Russia vs. a "major invasion." When, in fact, the only correct answer is that "any" invasion of Ukraine by Russia is unacceptable and will be dealt with severely.
Not surprisingly, Biden walked into the East Room facing a skeptical, if not hostile, group of reporters. With few exceptions, in the days leading up to Biden's press conference, news outlets had basically already written off his first year as a total disaster. You heard it over and over again: Biden promised to do big things, he promised to deliver on voting rights, he promised to work with Republicans and restore national unity - and he'd failed at all three.
Yet, by the time the news conference ended, in his own plain-spoken, and sometimes plodding style, it was Biden who'd proven the media wrong about all three.
Getting big things done. Did Biden achieve everything he set out to do? Heck, no. What president ever has? In four years, let alone one? But, as Biden was quick to point out, he could, and did, brag about "enormous progress" on several fronts: record economic growth; 6 million new jobs created; unemployment down to 3.9 percent; new business applications up 39 percent; record investment in rebuilding America's ports, bridges, and highways; from 2 million to 210 million Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and from zero to 1 billion home test kits available. Yes, Biden admitted, he faced "a job not yet finished," but he'd still accomplished a great deal in his first 12 months. And he wisely said he's willing to break up his "Build Back Better" bill into smaller pieces to add that to his list of accomplishments. Score One.
Voting rights. Biden admitted that failure to pass voting rights legislation is the biggest disappointment of his first year, but you can't blame him for not trying. He endorsed both bills, lobbied senators for their passage, and even supported ending the filibuster to make it happen. But there are limits to what a president can do. Blame Senate Republicans, 16 of whom, including leaders McConnell, Grassley, and Cornyn - previously voted for the Voting Rights Act, but refused to do so again for fear of alienating Donald Trump. And blame especially two stubborn, blockheaded Democrats, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Score Two.
Unity. The reality is, it takes two to tango. And, in the past, Biden's always found Republican tango partners. No longer. "Did you ever think," he asked, "that one man out of office could intimidate an entire party?" Biden acknowledged that times have changed: "I did not anticipate that there would be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn't get anything done." National unity is impossible when one political party always says no. Score Three.
On this point, Biden was at his best. All-out Republican opposition, he noted, raises the question: "What are you for?" The truth is, we know what Republicans are for. For eight years, they were for nothing but stopping President Obama. For four years, they were for nothing but whatever Donald Trump wanted (which turned out to be nothing). Now they're for nothing but stopping President Biden. For 13 years, they have not put up one new idea. They stand for nothing. They're the party of nothing.
Perhaps unwittingly, Biden has given Democrats a strong argument to take into the midterms, by challenging every Republican opponent: "What are you for?" Other than making Donald Trump happy, they have no answer.
(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of the new book, "Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Trump (And One to Keep Him)." His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)
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Suddenly, it's Joe Biden unchained
It's as predictable as clockwork. Every January, we plan on making New Year's resolutions, and then forget to. Or we make ambitious resolutions - and promptly break them. But not Joe Biden.
President Biden clearly made one bold New Year's resolution for 2022: "No more Mister Nice Guy!" And, on at least two occasions so far, he proved he's sticking to it.
For a whole year, true to his nature as an optimist and his 36-year experience in the Senate, Biden tried it the old-fashioned way: quiet persuasion, speaking softly, lots of phone calls, one-on-one meetings, always positive, not picking fights, never speaking ill of anybody. But he finally realized (what took him so long?) that Mr. Nice Guy doesn't work anymore.
Joe Biden may not have changed, but American politics has. There are no longer two political parties working out their differences in good faith to make America better. Today there's one political party and one religious cult: the Democratic Party - not always with the best ideas, but at least with some ideas, on how to make this a better country for all Americans; and the Trump Party, formerly the Republican Party, whose stated purpose is to do nothing - solve no problems, pass no legislation, accomplish nothing - other than restore Donald Trump to the Oval Office. Remember: they don't even have a party platform anymore. They replaced it with "whatever Donny wants."
Everything that once worked so well for Biden simply doesn't work anymore. Bipartisanship is dead. Reaching out across the aisle is out. Compromise is impossible. Because one party won't even come to the table. So Biden had no choice but to hang up his Mr. Nice Guy clothes and put on his Spider Man suit.
The new Biden showed up first at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6: in Statutory Hall where, exactly one year earlier, an armed mob of Trump supporters had stormed the Capitol, desecrated the sacred chamber, destroyed property, and assaulted Capitol police officers. Biden's very presence at that location sent a powerful message: The Insurrection failed. Democracy survived.
After a year of holding his fire, hoping Trump's plaintive whining about losing the election would just go away, Biden went nuclear. He became the first president to openly attack his predecessor, repeatedly accusing Trump, without mentioning him by name - he didn't have to! - of lying to the American people and "holding a dagger to the throat of democracy." And, in the cruelest blow of all, Biden hit Trump where it hurt the most, reminding Trump and the American people of his deflated status: "He's not just a former president. He's a defeated former president." Ouch!
Then, with nine immortal words, Biden crushed Trump's insane argument that those who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, are actually "patriots" who love their country. "You can't love your country only when you win," Biden declared. Nobody ever uttered a more succinct summation of what democracy's all about.
Veteran reporters I talked to said they'd never seen a Biden so on fire. But the whole world saw it again five days later, on January 11, when Biden went to Atlanta to talk voting rights. Just as there's nothing more essential to our democracy than the right of every American to cast their vote and have that vote counted, there's no legislation more important today than voting rights - not even the Build Better Act. The original Voting Rights Act passed the Senate in 1965, 77-19, with 30 Republicans voting for it. In 1965! It's disgraceful that today not one Senate Republican supports the voting rights bill. Neither, unfortunately, do two Senate Democrats.
On this issue, too, Joe Biden has had it. "I've been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months," Biden told the crowd of voting rights activists in Atlanta. "I'm tired of being quiet!" he roared, as he pounded the podium. Calm persuasion, he insisted, was no longer an option. Standing at the grave of the great civil rights leader, Biden bluntly challenged every Member of Congress: How do you want to be remembered? Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?"
Funny. All last year, Biden was criticized for being too timid. Now, some are slamming him for being too tough. I strongly disagree. This is Biden at his best: taking the gloves off, not taking any crap, telling the truth. He may not win the battle on voting rights, but it's worth fighting for.
(C)2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
No way it could ever happen here
As you may have noticed, over the holidays many publications abandoned their usual fare of in-depth articles to make room for crossword puzzles, anagrams, or trivia quizzes. In that spirit, I dedicate this first column of 2022 to a brain-teaser of my own.
Here's how it works. I'll describe recent events in some unidentified country - and you guess which country I'm talking about. Ready? Let's go. Here's what actually happened in "Country X."
November 3, 2020. The nation's president lost his bid for re-election by more than 7 million votes yet refused to accept defeat. He declared the election was stolen. He claimed massive voter fraud. He challenged vote counts in several states. Even after losing over 60 lawsuits for lack of evidence of fraud, he still refused to concede.
Over the next two months, the defeated president tried everything - putting pressure on local election officials, filing dozens of lawsuits, demanding recounts, even recruiting the help of the military - to overturn the election. Finally, in desperation, he urged his supporters to come to the capitol and prevent lawmakers from certifying the election results.
January 6, 2021. His supporters showed up in force. The president whipped them into a frenzy at a rally near the executive mansion and then directed them to storm the capitol building in order to block the final vote tally. And, over 10,000 strong, storm the capitol they did: plowing through barricades, scaling the walls, breaking doors and windows, assaulting and killing police officers, trashing legislative chambers, and forcing federal elected officials, including the country's vice president, to flee the building and seek protection in a secure location.
Yet that same evening, after the building was finally secured, and despite having to run for their lives in the first armed assault on the capitol since the British invasion of 1814, 147 members of the president's party ignored the violent mob he'd unleashed against them and voted, unsuccessfully, to overturn the election.
Spring and summer, 2021. Even after the duly elected new president took office, the former president continued to promulgate the "Big Lie" that the election was stolen from him. And his supporters in state legislatures passed new laws giving them the power to overturn future elections if they did not agree with the vote of the people.
Meanwhile, the president's allies in Congress downplayed the violence of January 6. Republicans blocked creation of a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection. Twenty-one House Republicans voted against awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to capitol police officers wounded in the attack. The former president said members of the armed mob were actually "hugging and kissing" police officers. Some Republicans blamed the FBI for planning and executing the attack on the capitol to make the former president look bad. Others defended members of the mob as "patriots." And one member of Congress insisted that the violence that rocked the capitol on January 6 was nothing more than a "normal tourist visit."
January 6, 2022. One year later, the assault on democracy continues. The former president still insists he won the last election. The "real insurrection," he claims was not on January 6, 2021, but on November 3, 2020, when the election was stolen from him - a claim supported by 66 percent of the members of his own party and almost every Republican running for re-election.
His dismissal of the violence on January 6 has clearly taken its toll among the nation's electorate. Breaking news! A new poll released on January 6 by Hill Research finds that 33 percent of all voters still believe the 2020 election was stolen - 13 percent of whom say they would fight to restore the former president to office "by all means possible, including armed revolt." And, to this date, not one top official who inspired, promoted, planned, or financed the insurrection has been charged with a crime.
There you go. Those are the facts, which no one can dispute. There's no doubt what happened. We've seen the video. Now you tell me what country I'm talking about. And while you ponder that...
The one thing we can be grateful for is that such a direct attack on democracy could never happen here. Surely, we'd never fall for an autocrat. We'd never look the other way while our democracy's under assault. We'd never accept the fallacy that "freedom" includes the freedom to launch an armed attack on our own government. After all, we're the greatest democracy on earth. Or used to be.
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January 6 was just a dress rehearsal
If you were appalled by the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, don't lull yourself to sleep thinking of it as "one and done." The latest issue of the Atlantic warns that January 6 was just a warm-up for what's to come.
In its mind-blowing lead article - "Trump's next coup is already underway"-- political writer Barton Gellman details how Trump and his supporters are at work "to ensure that whether or not Trump wins at the polls, state-by-state, he will be named president-elect."
They're doing so at several levels: banning or limiting vote-by-mail; reducing the number of polling places; cutting back on early voting; drawing new political boundaries making it impossible for a Democrat to win; and, most ominously, empowering state legislatures to overturn the popular vote and send their own slate of electors to Congress.
As Gellman sums it up: "What's happening is that Trump and his people are going around the country searching for every obstacle that prevented him from overturning the last election-- and pulling that obstacle up from the roots."
The word "coup," of course, is a loaded military and political word. In an interview for my podcast (the Bill Press Pod), Gellman denied he was exaggerating by using the word "coup" to make a point. "I think there's ample evidence that Trump tried to overthrow the lawful election of 2020," Gellman insisted. And not only that. "I think I'm writing very precisely about what's happening now. There is a candidate and a party in this country that is not prepared to lose an election."
Will the next attempted coup, like the last, include violence? Perhaps not, Gellman observes. For now, attempts to fix the next election depend more on subversion. But, he hastens to add, Trump supporters don't necessarily rule out violence.
Gellman notes a recent University of Chicago survey in which 21 million Americans agreed with two statements: one, the 2020 election was stolen; two, violence is justified to restore Trump to the White House. Leading Gellman to conclude: "Trump has created the first mass political movement in favor of violence that we've had for 100 years in this country. The last one was in the 1920's, when the second KKK arose."
I was glad to hear Gellman reference the KKK because, even though few talk about it, there's no doubt that Trump's movement is fueled by racism, the same racism that sent white supremacists into the streets of Charlottesville chanting "the Jews shall not replace us."
Police reports show that a large percentage of the January 6 armed mob came from counties in which the white percentage of the population was declining. Loss of power, Barton concludes, "seems to have driven many of them to Washington." Unlikely angry, young, unemployed people of color we usually associate with armed protests, those who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were of median age 42, white, middle-class, employed, white collar, prosperous and well-educated.
This is no false alarm. As a nation, we are, in fact, facing a clear and present danger: a direct assault on our democracy, led by a former president, with the acquiescence of Republicans in Congress and the state legislatures and likely support in the Supreme Court. As President Biden described it last week at a DNC holiday celebration, "it's a sinister combination of voter suppression and election subversion. It's un-American, it's un-democratic, it's unpatriotic and, sadly, it is not unprecedented."
As scary as that is, according to Gellman, the scariest part is that most Americans don't realize what's going on and those who do, starting with Biden and Democrats in Congress, are either looking at it in disbelief or not doing enough about it.
At the local level, Gellman urges, people should pay more attention to elections for election supervisor, state representatives, state senators, and secretary of state because "Republicans are putting a tremendous amount of effort into infiltrating and taking over these institutions."
On the national level, Gellman argues, Democrats in Congress must end or modify the filibuster to ensure passage of the Voting Rights Bill to set national standards for extended voting rights and nullify Republican efforts to gut them.
Gellman's warning reminded me of the famous story of Ben Franklin. Asked by a bystander what form of government the constitutional convention had decided on, Franklin famously observed: "a republic, if you can keep it." More than ever before, it's now up to us to prove we can.
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Throw the Book at Mark Meadows
Now that the House has voted to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt for refusing to appear before the January 6 Select Committee, Washington insiders are gripped in a typical, inside-the-Beltway dilemma: Whether or not the Justice Department should file criminal charges against him. After all, unlike Steve Bannon, Meadows was a member of the Executive branch and can therefore claim "executive privilege."
Are you kidding? Of course, the DOJ should file criminal charges against Meadows, just like they did against Bannon. It doesn't matter where Meadows worked. White House aides aren't above the law. Refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena is a crime. Interfering with an election is a crime. Attempting to overthrow the government is a crime. And there's substantial evidence that Meadows is guilty of all three.
The more we learn about his involvement in the events between November 3, 2020, and January 6, 2021, the clearer it is that Meadows was more than Trump's chief of staff. He was Trump's enabler-in-chief. After Donald Trump himself, Mark Meadows was most responsible for the greatest assault on our democracy since the Civil War.
Any doubts that Meadows played a central role in the January 6 insurrection vanished when Rep. Liz Cheney, co-chair of the Select Committee, read aloud frantic texts sent to Meadows while the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was underway: texts from members of the president's family, Members of Congress, and anchors on Fox News - pleading for Meadows to persuade Trump to call off the armed mob. And what did Meadows do? Nothing.
Actually, Meadows's role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election started long before that. It was Meadows who initiated and joined in the January 2 phone call to Georgia's Brad Raffensperger in which Trump demanded that the secretary of state "find 11,780 votes." And, as has been duly reported, rather than serve as a watchdog, dismissing a pile of nutty conspiracy theories flooding the White House, Meadows took every one of them seriously, convinced Trump to take them seriously, and pressured administration officials to investigate them and take action.
In his book "Betrayal," for example, ABC's Jonathan Karl reveals a particularly wacky theory - which became known as #ItalyGate - that military satellites in Italy were being deployed by two Italian prisoners to rig voting machines in the United States. As Karl reports, it was "a crazy QAnon conspiracy theory" which should have been laughed at, yet COS Meadows asked both Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller to investigate the nonsense.
Karl was also the first to report Meadows's role in pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College count on January 6. In what is now an infamous memo, Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis argued that because there had been (baseless) challenges to election results in six states - Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Wisconsin - Pence could rule that electoral votes from those states not be counted, thereby throwing the election to Trump. Again, rather than doing his job and dismissing the memo as blatantly unconstitutional, Meadows sent it to Pence with the implied message: This is what the president wants you to do.
The Washington Post's Carol Leonnig and Phil Rucker, in their book "I Alone Can Fix It," also document Meadows' willingness to feed Trump bogus theories of election fraud. On one occasion, he told Trump he'd learned that tens of thousands of "illegal aliens" had voted in Arizona. Trump blew up and ordered a full investigation - which turned up nothing. The so-called "illegal aliens" were actually U.S. citizens living overseas who had cast legal ballots.
Every step of the way, in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election - from filing 65 frivolous lawsuits, to spreading false election theories, to putting the squeeze on state election officials, to pressuring Mike Pence, to inviting his supporters to Washington, to stirring up the mob on the morning of January 6, to standing by and doing nothing while they were attacking the Capitol - Meadows was by Trump's side, encouraging him and enabling him.
Charge Mark Meadows with a crime? For Attorney General Merrick Garland, this should be a no-brainer. It's not enough to go after the foot soldiers who assaulted the Capitol on January 6. It's important to hold responsible those who planned and inspired the attack, starting with Donald Trump and Mark Meadows. It's a disgrace that Garland hasn't already filed criminal charges against both.
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Bob Dole: The last of his kind
In the 20 years or so that I've been writing a weekly column, I have studiously avoided obituaries. Because everybody else does them. Because they make me sad. Or just because. But I'm making an exception this week for Sen. Robert Dole, who died on December 5, at the age of 98.
Why? Because Bob Dole's passing represented more than just the loss of a great patriot, who almost lost his life on the battlefield and then gave the rest of his life to public service. It also marked the loss of one of the last survivors of the art of governing that benefited all Americans and the kind of politics we could all be proud of.
Don't get me wrong. Bob Dole wasn't perfect. Who is? I certainly didn't agree with him on everything. And he had a mean streak that occasionally flashed out. An honored, wounded veteran himself, he dishonored fellow veterans by dismissing World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War as "Democrat wars." He belittled Jimmy Carter as "Southern-friend McGovern." After losing the 1988 New Hampshire primary to George W. Bush, NBC's Tom Brokaw asked Dole if he had anything to say to Bush. "Yeah, stop lying about my record," snapped Dole. And even though he complained that the Republican Party had lost its way, he still supported Donald Trump for president in 2016.
Yet, in so many ways, the great Bob Dole far outweighed the sometimes not so good. As co-host of CNN's "Crossfire," I had the privilege of interviewing many leading Republicans of the day, including John McCain - who could also be counted on to say something outrageous - and Mitch McConnell - who had all the personality of a prune, except a prune was livelier. One of our favorites was Bob Dole, because he had such a great wit and, unlike most of today's politicians, and all of today's Republicans, was willing to poke fun at himself.
Asked about his "Democrat wars" comment, Dole wryly explained: "I was told to go for the jugular. And I did - mine." The day after losing that primary to Bush, Dole told reporters he "slept like a baby. Every two hours I woke up and cried." Reflecting back on multiple surgeries to recover from his war wounds, Dole told a 2009 event on health care: "I've probably had more health care than anybody in this room. And apparently, it's been successful, except for the mental part."
But Bob Dole will be best remembered for his extraordinary skills as Senate leader. He was a solid Republican. But he never let his party get in the way of his country. He knew that to serve America best, leaders of both parties had to be willing to compromise and work together. And that's just what he did. Republican Bob Dole supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He worked with George McGovern on food stamps. He worked with Daniel Patrick Moynihan to save Social Security. He worked with Tom Harkin on the Americans with Disabilities Act. He opposed Newt Gingrich's attempts to shut down the government in 1995.
Some of the most successful moments of his career, Dole told friend and former Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle, were "when he reached across the aisle with Democratic senators and other leaders." When they were both party leaders in the Senate, Dole and Daschle met frequently, sometimes daily, to plot legislative strategy.
I had my own experience with Dole's willingness to rise above partisan politics. In the late '90s, I was one of a group of advisers that met monthly with Washington Mayor Tony Williams. Concerned that Williams might be challenged for re-election, we decided to shore up Tony with a major fundraiser. President Clinton immediately signed up, and Bob Dole agreed to co-sponsor the event. Both showed up. Both spoke. And nobody filed against Williams. Can you imagine Mitch McConnell having the guts to do something like that?
Bob Dole understood what most Republicans, blindly loyal to Donald Trump, just don't get: that his duty as a leader was to serve his country, not his political party. "I cannot pretend that I have not been a loyal champion for my party," Dole wrote in an op-ed published posthumously in the Washington Post, "but I always served my country best when I did so first and foremost as an American." We need more Bob Doles in Congress.
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Political hacks out to destroy Supreme Court
As was widely reported, on Wednesday, December 1, the Supreme Court held oral arguments on the most direct threat to Roe v. Wade since the case was decided in 1973 by a vote of 7-2. At issue, a Mississippi anti-abortion law which would ban abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
That, by itself, is hugely important. The vast majority of American women have grown up believing that, under the Constitution, they have the right to control their own bodies. For that right to be suddenly ripped away after 48 years is not only morally wrong, it would classify all women as second-class citizens: not eligible for all the rights guaranteed under the Constitution, but only those rights men allow them to have.
But there's another issue at stake, not so widely reported. And that's the future of the Supreme Court itself. At Wednesday's hearing, only Justice Sonia Sotomayor dared raise that issue, by asking a powerful question in her opening statement that got to the heart of the real matter before the court: "Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?"
With all due respect to the good justice, she was too kind. I wish she'd taken the gloves off and said: "Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that members of the Supreme Court are just political hacks?" Because, no doubt about it, that's exactly what she meant and what's going on.
Why did Texas suddenly pass a law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant? Why did Mississippi follow with a law banning abortion after 15 weeks? Why have 12 states already adopted laws automatically making abortion illegal once the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade? And why is the Mississippi law even before the Supreme Court?
All for the same reason. Because, as anti-abortion zealots readily admit, "We're doing this because we have new justices on the Supreme Court." In other words, it's all about politics. As their comments during oral arguments indicate, there are now six justices who agree. They don't care about the Constitution, the law, or the credibility of the court. They're there to carry out the Republican Party agenda.
Clearly, Chief Justice John Roberts, together with holdovers Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, and Trump newcomers Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett care only about the political math. They finally have the numbers necessary to do what the Republican Party's been trying to do for the last 50 years and they're determined to do it, even if it undermines the independence of the nation's highest court.
This is, in fact, the final act in Donald Trump's relentless campaign to destroy our basic democratic institutions. He succeeded in undermining the Justice Department, the Congress, the Defense Department, the State Department, and the federal pardon process. Now his toadies are out to destroy the Supreme Court, ignoring the challenge posed by Justice Sotomayor: "If people believe it's all political, how will we survive? How will the court survive?"
Once again, Brett Kavanaugh proved he's the dumbest of the bunch, grandstanding on grounds that he didn't want to overturn Roe v. Wade, he just wanted to leave it up to states. "Why should the court be involved in this issue?" he asked. Why? Because that's the court's job, to make sure that basic constitutional rights are guaranteed to all citizens, and not subject to a patchwork of states. Without understanding that, Kavanaugh doesn't belong on the court.
If oral arguments are any indication, this court will overturn Roe v. Wade, or at least fatally gut it. And that's when the trouble starts. According to the latest CBS poll, 62 percent of Americans - 60 percent of all men; 65 percent of all women - believe the court should leave Roe v. Wade just the way it is. The last thing Americans want or need right now is a war over abortion. But that's just what Republicans have made inevitable. That's just what they've chosen as their number one issue for the 2022 mid-terms. And, like the dog that catches the car, they will rue the day.
Final note. There's really only one issue in any presidential campaign, yet it's the one least talked about. And that is: Who sits on the Supreme Court. If you ever needed a reminder of that truth, here it is.
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