“Escalation Of Tactics”: Supreme Court Leaks To Conservative Pundits May Have Started More Than A Month Ago
CBS News’ Jan Crawford confirms widespread rumors that Chief Justice John Roberts initially voted to strike down the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, but decided midway through the opinion drafting process that he could not support this constitutionally unjustifiable result. In what may be the biggest revelation of her piece, Crawford also reports that pseudo-moderateJustice Anthony Kennedy led the internal lobbying effort to bring Roberts back into the right-wing fold:
Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy – believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law – led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold.
“He was relentless,” one source said of Kennedy’s efforts. “He was very engaged in this.”
But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, “You’re on your own.”
The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed, such as his analysis imposing limits on Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, the sources said.
Instead, the four joined forces and crafted a highly unusual, unsigned joint dissent. They deliberately ignored Roberts’ decision, the sources said, as if they were no longer even willing to engage with him in debate.
Crawford cites two unnamed sources, and there are a very limited universe of people who could have revealed this information to her. Only the justices and their personal staff would have access to this knowledge, and it is highly unlikely that a clerk or secretary would be willing to risk their entire career by revealing the Court’s confidential deliberations to the press. Crawford, moreover, is a very well connected conservative reporter who has, at times, worked closely with the Federalist Society to drive conservative legal narratives. Nothing is certain, but it is likely that one or both of Crawford’s sources is a conservative justice.
Moreover, as Linda Greenhouse points out, it is possible that the Court started springing leaks more than a month before Roberts handed down his opinion:
Around Memorial Day, a number of conservative columnists and bloggers suddenly began accusing the “liberal media” of putting “the squeeze to Justice Roberts,” as George Will expressed the thought in his Washington Post column. “They are waging an embarrassingly obvious campaign, hoping he will buckle beneath the pressure of their disapproval and declare Obamacare constitutional,” Mr. Will wrote. Although the court has been famously leakproof, Mr. Will and some of the others are well connected at the court, and I wondered at the time whether they had picked up signals that the chief justice, thought reliable after the oral argument two months earlier, was now wavering, and whether their message was really intended for him.
To be clear, at this point only two facts are confirmed: 1) According to Crawford, Roberts flipped his vote midstream; and 2) someone within the Court must have leaked her this information. It is perfectly appropriate for Justice Kennedy, or any other justice, for that matter, to internally lobby Roberts to try to obtain his vote in an important case. If a member of the Court has turned to conservative columnists like Will or reporters like Crawford in order to pressure and then embarrass Roberts, however, that would be a significant and unusual escalation from the justices’ regular tactics.
By: Ian Millhiser, Think Progress, July 1, 2012
“Bringing The Sideshow Into The Circus”: Why The Media Is Giving Romney A Pass On Trump’s Birtherism
So what’s up with the free pass Mitt Romney is getting on prominent supporter Donald Trump’s loud-and-proud birtherism? I have a theory.
Romney will collect big bucks today at a Donald Trump-hosted fundraiser in (where else?) Las Vegas. The Romney campaign is even using Trump’s celebrity status for low dollar fundraising, raffling off a chance to dine with both Romney and the Donald. Unfortunately for Team Romney, Trump’s favorite topic (well, after Donald Trump) is his belief that President Obama was born in Kenya and is therefore ineligible for the office he currently holds. This theory is so hoary and eye-roll inducing as to not merit serious comment, but its simple demolition by Hot Air’s Allahpundit on Friday night is still worth a read.
The media loves them some Trump birtherism, and this is a political problem inasmuch as, as Allahpundit notes, if the news cycle is devoted to the president’s birthplace, it isn’t focused on the soft economy. And that has been the tenor of coverage (including in this space) regarding Romney and Trump: analysis of the political implications of Donald the distraction. Conservative commentator George Will had a memorable turn of phrase discussing the issue on ABC’s This Week on Sunday, calling Trump a “bloviating ignoramus.” But the politics of Trump is an indirect problem for Romney.
It isn’t a direct problem, yet, which is the mystery. Trump is repeatedly suggesting that the president is not only engaged in a monstrous conspiracy which includes both lying to the American public and suborning the government of Hawaii to pass off forged documents as official ones, but also has illegally seized control of the highest office in the land. So why isn’t Romney quizzed more about whether he approves of Trump’s birtherism?
As Greg Sargent and Steve Benen noted on Friday, when Hilary Rosen questioned Ann Romney’s work experience, it was the focus of an extended media feeding frenzy despite the fact that Rosen had no formal role with the Obama campaign and that the campaign immediately and loudly denounced her comments. The difference, I think, is that the media takes Hilary Rosen (serious commentator, veteran political figure, longtime Washington mover and shaker) more seriously than it takes Donald Trump (serious self-promoter, veteran reality TV show host, longtime clown).
On the one hand it’s understandable why the media doesn’t take Trump the pol seriously. It’s not clear, for example, whether Trump is actually a birther or has just seized, again, on a topic that keeps him in the public eye (all publicity being good publicity). Beyond that no one thinks that, whatever words might pass from Romney’s mouth in praise of Trump, the candidate or his team take the reality TV star seriously in terms of policy. Trump is a sideshow and the media treats him as such.
But inasmuch as Team Romney is benefiting from his celebrity in terms of both primary campaigning as well as fundraising (and, perhaps, benefiting from his fringe, conspiracy cred with winger voters) it is bringing that sideshow into the circus. Romney ought to be forced to be clear about his views on Trump’s birtherism.
The former Massachusetts governor was in fact asked about Trump’s views on Monday, and he pointedly refused to repudiate them. “You know, I don’t agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don’t all agree with everything I believe in,” he told reporters. I’m not of the opinion that political candidates are responsible for every unhinged comment some random supporter makes. But this isn’t a throw-away comment from a stray supporter. When the candidate is busy embracing that supporter closely enough to make gobs of money off of him, and when the supporter’s fringe views are his favorite topic of conversation, it’s a legitimate line of inquiry, and one for which he should be forced to come up with a better answer.
Exit question: Four years ago if Senator Obama had enlisted and fundraised with a celebrity who told anyone who would listen that George W. Bush only won re-election in 2004 because he had secretly reprogrammed Deibold voting machines to steal Kerry votes, would he have gotten the same treatment from the media?
By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, May 29, 2012
Years ago, I remember an interview in which former Speaker Newt Gingrich said he read at least one book a week. The trick to doing so for such a busy man?
Always carry what you’re reading, he recommended, even when you’re not traveling; read in doctors’ waiting rooms, in checkout lines—any place where you’d otherwise just be wasting time.
Some time after that—he was out of office by this point—I saw Gingrich in the Tysons Corner (Virginia) mall. He was in the corridor, slowly pacing in a circle … his nose buried in a book.
Impressive, I thought; he reads even while (presumably) his wife shops.
The downside to this kind of bibliophilia, for certain personalities, is that it can lead to faddishness. I’m sure you have a friend who fits the bill: Whatever he’s reading at a given moment is all he can talk about. And then he moves on.
Brimming with ideas is perhaps a superior condition when compared to, say, the calcified simplicity of George F. Will (“Romney’s economic platform has 59 planks—56 more than necessary if you have low taxes, free trade and fewer regulatory burdens.”) The latter is a time-honored trope for too many conservative pundits: Get government out of the way of the market, ponder no further, and then pat yourself on the back for appreciating “society’s complexities.”
But an overheated motor of idea generation in high office is a recipe for disaster, or at least folly. As Charles Krauthammer observes, Gingrich as president would be “in constant search of the out-of-box experience.”
Then again, Gingrich seems to me to be full of lots of ideas that are not as imaginative as he thinks or, alternatively, just plain dumb. Gingrich wants to be able to fire federal judges, partially privatize Social Security and Medicare, and create a flat-tax alternative to the current code. This is comfortably in line with the positions of his GOP rivals.
Then there’s Gingrich’s now-infamous “child janitor” idea. Kids in the inner-city lack productive role-models, he says; they don’t see what it’s like for an adult to get up in the morning and go to work. This is itself a debatable proposition, but what bothers me most about it is that it’s a solution in search of the wrong problem.
When I think of Gingrich’s hypothetical poor inner-city kid, I see a bunch of problems, short- and long-term. He’s going to a lousy school—and even if he does well there, he faces long odds of a) finishing college and b) doing better than nonpoor kids who didn’t finish college. Set aside the schooling question, there’s the fact of stratospherically high unemployment rates in the inner city, and the broader, abysmal lack of opportunity for low-skilled men.
All of this is to say that cleaning bathrooms as a teenager is probably not going to change outcomes for this kid.
“Paycheck President“ Gingrich really has nothing interesting to say about declining social mobility in America, about how to mitigate the ways in which the global economy and low-skilled immigrants are squeezing working- and middle-class Americans from the top and bottom.
All that time reading in malls and doctors’ offices, and he’s still well inside-the-box on the most important questions.
By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, December 5, 2011
In retrospect, the emergence of a suicide-bomber wing of the Republican Party should’ve seemed obvious.
Why use such an inflammatory term? What I mean by it is this: They would blow up the economy to fulfill a mission of otherworldly righteousness.
Their first attempt to blow up the economy arrived with the defeat TARP. It was a reckless subversion of the leadership of both parties and, at least for a day, brought equity markets to their knees.
With ideological bravado to match their breathtaking economic illiteracy, they positively relished the impact they could have on our national life.
Since then, they’ve become still more emboldened, knocking off an incumbent senator in Utah and propping up a bad joke of a senate candidate in Delaware.
Last year’s wave election infested the party with additional scores of suicide bombers.
In a repeat of the TARP fiasco, the bomber boys and (and, lest we forget bomber-in-chief Michele Bachmann, girls) have, once again, made it impossible for congressional leaders to do the right thing. A grand bargain was in sight—but the itch for destruction overmatched the desire for reasonable compromise.
We may yet stumble toward some cobbled-together agreement that staves off a catastrophe. But the bombers will be emboldened again.
And why wouldn’t they be? They’ve got a cheering section among Washington pundits.
The normally thoughtful Yuval Levin calls this suboptimal state of affairs, in which Republicans will secure far less in deficit reduction than they could have, a “stunning victory.” New York Post columnist Michael Walsh compares the debt ceiling showdown to the Union’s victory at Gettysburg. Most depressing of all is my former hero George Will, who calls the Tea Party “the most welcome political development since the Goldwater insurgency.”
Will is dead wrong: Ronald Reagan’s election—or rather his administration—did not simply bring the “Goldwater impulse” to “fruition.” It signaled that the Goldwater impulse had matured into a governing philosophy—a governing philosophy that could accept compromise, could acknowledge reality.
The Tea Party’s triumph has reversed that process of maturation; a governing philosophy has degraded back into mere impulse.
Enjoy your ascendancy while it lasts, Tea Partyers.
But know this: You are not legislators. You are vandals.
By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, July 26, 2011