So George W. Bush, reports Politico, is laying low these days, avoiding the spotlight that shone briefly on his father and his brother Jeb recently as they endorsed Mitt Romney’s candidacy. This whole subject of the post-Bush GOP and its relationship to No. 43 is pretty fascinating. Like a crazy, drunk uncle shooting an epileptic dog because he has fleas, the current GOP shuns him for all the wrong reasons. Since the GOP will presumably spend the next few months trying to pretend the man never existed, Democrats ought to remind people that he did. In fact, the Democratic Party should spend the next 20 years talking about Bush, turning him into the new Jimmy Carter and making the memory of those eight squalid years quadrennially fresh to everyone with living memory of them for as long as is humanly possible.
Bush, Politico notes, “is in a self-imposed political exile.” Perhaps predictably, Ari Fleischer pops up to note that that’s a lowdown dirty shame because Bush “kept us safe” through a perilous time and oversaw a booming economy in between two recessions.
These claims aren’t even worth spitting out one’s cornflakes over, let alone rebutting. But merely as a point of information, people should know that the economy didn’t exactly boom from 2002 to 2008, except of course for the 1 percent of the population the policies were designed to aid. Bush’s job-growth record was the worst of any president going back to the Depression. The table you can see here goes back to Truman. Obviously, Roosevelt grew jobs at a fairly significant rate, since unemployment under him went from 24 percent to essentially zero during the height of the war. So you have to go back, I’d suppose, to Herbert Hoover to find someone who did worse than Bush’s .01 percent growth in jobs per.
Yes, Obama’s jobs record is worse—for now. But at least in Obama’s case you have a guy who really did come into office at the start of a major recession, the worst in 80 years. Since the recession eased and ended, nearly 3.3 million jobs have been added—meaning that if he has a second term, he will in all likelihood leave Dubya eating some of that famous Texas dust. In any case, Americans still pin the shattered economy on Bush. A poll released only last week from CNN showed 56 percent blame Bush, while just 29 percent finger Obama.
The fact that we’re still clawing our way out of the darkness that Bush set upon us is the reason he is still relevant. Recently, Romney made him even more so, by insisting to an audience that it was Bush and Hank Paulson who actually saved the country from a depression. Beyond that, Romney’s campaign staff and advisers are so full of Bush people—on political strategy, the economy, foreign policy, and other areas—that one former Bush speechwriter (who is not on the Romney bus) has called it “a restoration of the Bush establishment.”
And yet, even as Romney makes those moves, which only about 2 percent of the population will know about, the party will obviously try to distance itself from Bush publicly. What in the world are they going to do with him at the convention? Ex-presidents are supposed to get nice speaking gigs. Will Bush? To say what? That we must let the free market work, the way it worked on his watch in September 2008? That we must be vigilant against the terrorists, the way he was while Osama bin Laden was living a few heaves of a baseball away from a Pakistani officer-training facility? That we must protect the homeland, as he did in New Orleans? It’s hard to imagine what kind of speech he could deliver. It wouldn’t be shocking if Bush is reduced (if he would accept) to some ceremonial function, some transparent and treacly soft-focus attempt to fool Latinos, since Bush was among that small handful of Republicans known not to actively hate brown people.
Democrats really need to keep Bush in the frame here. And Dick Cheney. I know everyone says “but elections are about the future.” Well, maybe. But the Bush years were so uniquely bad, so plainly and emphatically horrible on so many fronts for such a vast majority of citizens, that to fail to mention the era would just be missing a free whack. It would be the equivalent of someone trying to slag Halle Berry without mentioning Catwoman. Very often, people—especially Democratic people—overthink politics and worry too much about how people are going to react. But this one is simple. Bush really just stank up the joint for eight years. Mention him, and the pundit class might bray about it, but most people will react by thinking: Yeah, that guy really just stank up the joint for eight years.
I often wonder about what Bush himself thinks. Does he know, deep down, what a failure he was? He must. We all tell ourselves stories that try to put a good face on things. And any president or governor can come up with a list of good deeds accomplished, so maybe he leans on those, waiting patiently for the day when, because people’s memories are short and because some rich Texas buddies undoubtedly stand ready to pour millions into a PR-rehabilitation campaign when they sense the time is right, he can reemerge in the public eye, smirk intact, smiting Democrats like in the good old days of 2002. Democrats must make sure that that rehabilitation never, ever happens.
By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 3, 2012
In yet another 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court, the conservatives sitting on the Roberts Court have cut deeply into our protection from unreasonable search and seizure guaranteed to Americans by the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.
As a result of today’s ruling, jailers can now perform bodily strip searches on anyone brought in to a holding cell, no matter how minor the alleged infraction. And when I say ‘minor’, I’m not talking about people arrested and held for violent or even misdemeanor drug related crimes.
I’m talking about individuals arrested for riding a bicycle without an audible bell, driving a car with a noisy muffler or failing to properly use a signal when making a left or right turn.
These are but a few of the offenses that were committed by people who found themselves being strip-searched and subject to the long arm of the law when that long arm intruded into personal spaces where no arm was intended to go. These were also the offenses represented in a class action brought against two New Jersey jails by Albert Florence, a New Jersey resident who was also subjected to the humiliation of a strip search—twice— for what the police believed was an outstanding warrant for failing to pay a court fine.
Florence’s ordeal began on a day in 2005 while he and his family were on his way to his mother-in-law’s home to celebrate the purchase of a new residence for the Florence family. Mrs. Florence was at the wheel of the family BMW when she was pulled over for speeding. When the police officer ran a check on Mr. Florence as the owner of the car (despite the fact that he wasn’t driving), they discovered that he had an outstanding warrant for failing to pay a fine to the Court.
Never mind that Mr. Florence, a financial executive with an automobile dealership, had, in fact, paid the fine and actually had proof of having done so in the glove box of his automobile because he feared that local police were suspicious of black men who drive nice cars. And never mind that even if the warrant had been an outstanding bench order, not paying a court fine in New Jersey is not a crime.
Florence was arrested and handcuffed as his pregnant wife and young son watched in distress.
When Mr. Florence arrived at the local jail where he was to be held pending a hearing on the warrant, he was subjected to a strip-search. And when he was transferred to a different county jail he was treated to a search of his body once again, despite the fact that, at no time since his first strip-search, was he outside the custody of the police.
During his first strip-search, Florence was forced to disrobe in front of an officer and told to lift his genitals. Upon arriving at the second jail, he was made to squat and cough in front of a number of viewers for the purpose of expelling anything that might be hidden in a body cavity.
Setting aside my curiosity as to what the cops expected to find hiding beneath his genitals, I will simply report that the local Magistrate finally ordered Mr. Florence released when he determined that Florence had, indeed, paid the fine some years before.
Still, the Supreme Court came to the conclusion that the body searches Mr. Florence was subjected to—not once but twice and despite the fact that he had been in police custody the entire time between the first and second search—were “reasonable” within the meaning of what constitutes a reasonable search and seizure for 4th Amendment purposes.
So deeply concerned was the five Justice majority for the need to keep contraband—including weapons and drugs—out of the jail system, they were prepared to relieve authorities throughout the nation of their responsibility to afford American citizens their privacy rights—even when they are hauled in for having a broken bell on a bicycle.
Writing the minority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that this behavior is not constitutionally appropriate for an individual arrested for a minor offense that does not involve drugs or violence.
“A strip search that involves a stranger peering without consent at a naked individual, and in particular at the most private portions of that person’s body, is a serious invasion of privacy,” Breyer wrote. The “invasion of personal rights” at issue in this case, the dissenters argued, “is very serious and lacks need or justification — at least as to the category of minor offenses at issue.
The Court’s decision greatly expands upon what authorities can do when searching those they detain for alleged crimes, no matter how miniscule the charge may be.
In 1979, the Supreme Court upheld the policy of body cavity searches for prisoners after they had met with visitors. The theory was that the possibility of a guest from the outside having slipped an item of contraband to a prisoner posed a significant threat to the remainder of the prison population and jail officials. For that reason, the search was deemed reasonable.
However, since that decision, the principle has been widely limited so as not to to be applied to newly arriving prisoners where there was no reason for authorities to suspect that the incoming prisoner might have some item of contraband on his or her person requiring confiscation. In other words, the ‘reasonable’ standard was applied.
That limitation is no longer the law of the land.
In what is becoming a habit of some members of the conservative side of the Court who don’t appear to want to be held responsible for the bad precedents they set, Justices Roberts and Alito when out of their way to say that this practice should be limited to the case at hand and that it should not be assumed that this principle is to be applied to all searches—particularly when someone is only to be held for a short time and placed in a cell separated from the general population.
The hope is that this limiting opinion will be applied at jails throughout the country so that people held only until bond is posted will not be subjected to intrusive and humiliating strip -searches.
Just last year, the Roberts Court put another serious dent into the 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure when it upheld the constitutionality of police in Kentucky entering a suspect’s home without a search warrant.
By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, The Policy Page, Forbes, April 2, 2012
Mitt Romney is not doing well with women voters. A new USA TODAY/Gallup poll shows that President Obama is faring much better than Mitt Romney in the swing states that will likely decide the next President of the United States – and women are part of the reason why. Of women under 50 years old, only 30 percent support Romney, while over 60 percent back the President.
The lack of support is mutual. Romney’s record on women’s health is hardly strong, and women voters, especially the young voters who tend to be pro-choice and pro-contraception, are likely responding to Romney’s affront on these issues. But it hasn’t always been this way. Over the course of his 2008 and 2012 campaigns for the presidency, Romney has moved significantly to the right on almost all women’s health issues. He calls it “evolving,” but, to many women, the “etch a sketch” candidate is just leaving them behind.
Need proof? Here are Mitt Romney’s top five attacks on women’s health:
1. He’s going to ‘get rid of’ Planned Parenthood. In his most blatant attack on basic women’s services, Romney made this claim: “Planned Parenthood, we’re going to get rid of that.” Of course, as a Presidential candidate Romney surely knows that Planned Parenthood provides essential medical services, primarily to low-income women, including mammograms and pap smears, as well as important family planning services. Romney has pledged to defund Title X, a program that provides family planning services.
2. Romney supports the Blunt Amendment which would allow employers to deny health insurance coverage on the basis of moral objections — a rule aimed at allowing employers to opt out of providing benefits that undermined their consciences, including contraceptive coverage. But as governor of Massachusetts, Romney required all health care providers– including Catholic hospitals — to offer emergency contraception to rape victims.
3. Romney is fighting a covert battle against contraception, even if he is doing his best not to call it that. While Romney used to be firmly pro-choice and pro-contraceptives, he has positioned himself in the campaign to be a fighter of morality, saying that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) imposes a “secular vision on America” by requiring employers to provide contraceptives in their insurance coverage. He is also misleading the public on what the ACA will do for women.
4. Romney failed to condemn Rush Limbaugh’s characterization of Sandra Fluke as a “slut.” Romney said “it’s not the language I would have used,” but refused to go any further in condemning Limbaugh’s attacks on the Georgetown Law student who testified in support of the ACA’s contraceptive rule. In not standing up for basic women’s rights, Romney’s complacency is as good as consent.
5. Romney supports restricting access to abortions. He has called Roe v. Wade “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history.” He’s even said that he’d support state constitutional amendments to define life at conception, which would effectively outlaw abortions under any circumstance.
By: Annie-Rose Strasser, Think Progress, April 2, 2012
“Unacceptably Apart From The Rest”: In Healthcare Debate, The Supreme Court Is Risking Its Legitimacy
April first has not rinsed the Supreme Court out of my hair.
Disturbing my peace of mind: the arrogance of Antonin “Nino” Scalia and his four fellow “conservatives” (almost too good a name for what they are if they dismantle President Obama’s healthcare law). Piquing my patience: the journalistic myopia leading up to this moment.
If five unelected men dare to do that, that would be a radical affront to the constitutional authority of the president and the Congress, who both represent the voices of the people. They call the three branches of government a balance of power. Very nice. But in practice, considering the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts, all bets are off.
Hearing their voices last week during the case’s oral arguments awakened me—and many of us—from a slumber of apathy about the high court. In general, the justices are a given, a group of nine who rule from a beautiful marble building. We the people can’t do anything about the Republican majority of five—even if we believe Clarence Thomas is a scoundrel who has no place in deciding other people’s fates. They are removed in their black robes, resistant to cameras capturing their proceedings, and altogether mysterious to the public. You can’t even walk up the famous front steps anymore. The cloistered “brethren” like things that way, literally above it all.
Now it’s clear as an April morning: They are unacceptably apart from the rest of us. A nation of 300 million cannot tolerate five men (appointed by George W. Bush, his father, and Ronald Reagan) making a huge medical decision involving life and death for the population. The political class and the press should start letting it be known the court had better not rule against a complex legislative achievement on its second try since Bill Clinton’s presidency. Doctors, nurses, citizen groups, write letters and go stage a demonstration. Let the court hear your voices in their marble manor, just as we’ve heard theirs, insolently comparing health insurance to broccoli—thanks for that, Nino.
In other words, my fellow Americans, don’t just wait for a decision to be handed down from on high. Healthcare reform is surely at stake with this momentous decision, but so is the popular legitimacy of this court.
Far from being fair-minded and deliberative, we are faced with a court characterized by five partisans—and I include Anthony Kennedy, seen as the swing vote. He has enjoyed glowing treatment from the Supreme Court cadre of journalists who have used him as a plot point for years. A Washington institution, he’s not the man in the middle now anymore than he was when he voted for George W. Bush in the Bush v. Gore debacle in 2000, giving new meaning to democracy’s “one man, one vote. ” That wasn’t even 12 years ago, people!
In the scene-setters for the case, I read too many articles in The New York Times and Slate—and heard one too many NPR stories—asserting Kennedy would be a “reasonable” or “moderate” key player in upholding the healthcare reform mandate for his legacy. In fact, one law correspondent said, “everybody” in the legal journalism community thought upholding “Obamacare” was a done deal—until the actual arguments started.
In covering a rarefied realm, journalists jointly create a narrative for a cast of characters—and perhaps get too close to their sources, as those sources aren’t going anywhere for a long time. In Congress across First Street, fresh faces and new blood are circulating every two years. The press galleries there resemble public school, while the press room in the court feels like a posh private school.
As the poet said, April is the cruelest month—at least until June crashes in.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, April 2, 2012