“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you…. You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect and defend it.”–Abraham Lincoln
On January 20, 2009, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of The United States of America. For me, this was the most historic event of my lifetime. I was so thrilled and excited to attend that ceremony with my wife and my daughter. The pride, the sense of progress, the sense that this America, my America, had finally ascended to the pinnacle of the American spirit…the spirit that says no matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter the color of your skin, you too can achieve the American dream.
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Less than 24 hours after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie embarked on a long-shot campaign for the Republican presidential nomination under the banner of “Telling It Like It Is,” Vermont senator and aspiring Democratic nominee Bernie Sanders tweeted, “What this campaign is about is a very radical idea: We’re going to tell the truth.”
Not so radical, actually, in the 2016 race. Practically everybody’s “telling it like it is.” It’s a theme with endless subtextual variations, starting with “Telling It Like I Want It To Be.” “Telling It Like Primary Voters Think It Is.” “Telling It Like A Future Fox News Host.”
Christie’s main claims to this slogan are his blustery persona and call to curb entitlement programs. But that is hardly enough to stand out in a year like this. There are about 20 candidates and many have unfiltered personalities, nothing to lose, or both.
You want blustery? How about Donald Trump? His blithe characterization of Mexican immigrants as rapists, criminals, and drug runners — at his presidential announcement, no less — is the nadir of the telling-it-like-it-is syndrome to date. And it’s costing him what it should financially, as Univision, NBC, and now Macy’s have cut ties with him.
It’s not yet costing him politically; new polls show Trump in second place for the Republican nomination nationally, in Iowa and in New Hampshire. That’s bound to change, but not due to mass condemnation from the GOP. The party’s 2016 candidates for the most part have punted on Trump, perhaps anticipating, hopefully, that he will be ruined without their help. National Review did its part with a report that Trump has skipped the last six presidential primary elections, including 2012, when he urged Florida Republicans via Twitter to get out and vote in theirs.
Few can compete with Trump, but others are going for shock value in their own ways. Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, for instance, played the daring, unconventional card by proposing a switch to the metric system — part of the internationalist direction in which he said he’d lead the country. Another Democrat, former Virginia senator Jim Webb, went in a unique direction after the Charleston church massacre. He said on Facebook that the Civil War had a “complicated” history and the Confederate battle flag had “wrongly been used” for racist purposes.
On the GOP side, John Kasich’s history suggests a strong showing in the tell-it-like-it-is sweepstakes when he announces July 21. Politico reported the Ohio governor would “aim to appear less scripted and guarded than the leading candidates.” In fact, he actually IS less scripted and guarded than most of them. To cite one example: Kasich didn’t just circumvent conservatives to jam through a Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, he suggested that they “better have a good answer” when St. Peter asks them what they did for the poor.
So far, Christie’s strongest rival for the tell-it-like-it-is crown is Mr. Establishment himself, Jeb Bush. He made a week-long mess of a question about Iraq, but the Florida governor has been straightforward — almost defiantly so — in other areas.
Not surprisingly, given Bush’s Mexican-American wife, he has been relatively tough on Trump. Asked in Spanish about Trump’s comments about Mexicans at an event in Las Vegas, Bush replied in Spanish that Trump spends his life fighting with people and doesn’t represent the values of the Republican Party, according to Bloomberg News. In English he said that “I don’t agree with him. I think he’s wrong.”
Bush also gets a straight-talk citation for calling the Confederate flag a “racist” symbol — while in South Carolina, no less. In a Winthrop University poll last year, 61 percent — including nearly three-quarters of whites — said the flag should continue to fly on the statehouse grounds. Views are changing, but there’s still risk given the state’s early and influential presidential primary. In 2012, exit polls showed that 98 percent of voters in the GOP primary were white.
On domestic policy, Bush has stuck with his support for Common Core education standards as many other GOP hopefuls have run from them, and he continues to back legal status for many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country as part of a comprehensive immigration solution.
In a private phone call with Alabama Republicans that was reported by The Washington Post, Bush berated fellow Republicans for abandoning their views and said they should not “bend in the wind.” He says similar things in public. “I’m not backing down from something that is a core belief,” he told the Club for Growth in February. “Are we supposed to just cower because at the moment people are all upset about something? No way, no how.”
The old adage of show, don’t tell applies to the 2016 race in spades. Don’t tell us you’re going to tell it like it is. Just live it. And don’t be surprised to find stiff competition for the title.
By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, July 3, 2015
“Why Scalia Should Resign”: It Must Make Him Wonder If He Wishes To Be Part Of An Institution That Is Corrupting The Republic
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia should resign.
That’s the thought I had while reading his acid dissents in the two headline-grabbing Supreme Court cases last week, one affirming the IRS’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act, and the other discovering a right to same-sex marriage in the 14th Amendment.
Scalia’s considered view is that the court has usurped power from Congress in the health care law, and from the American people themselves in the marriage case.
Ultimately, on the health care case, John Roberts agreed with most of the claims of the plaintiffs, but decided to rewrite the disputed clause because, as he writes, “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” Scalia retorted that the court’s job is to pronounce the laws, not re-shape them to better fit what the court imagines the intent of the legislators to have been. Scalia writes, “the court forgets that ours is a government of laws and not of men. That means we are governed by the terms of our laws, not by the unenacted will of our lawmaker.”
The court’s decision reflects the philosophy that judges should endure whatever interpretive distortions it takes in order to correct a supposed flaw in the statutory machinery. That philosophy ignores the American people’s decision to give Congress “[a]ll legislative Powers”enumerated in the Constitution. Art. I, §1. They made Congress, not this court, responsible for both making laws and mending them. This court holds only the judicial power — the power to pronounce the law as Congress has enacted it. We lack the prerogative to repair laws that do not work out in practice, just as the people lack the ability to throw us out of office if they dislike the solutions we concoct. We must always remember, therefore, that “[o]ur task is to apply the text, not to improve upon it. [King v. Burwell]
So the court has thus transgressed the balance of powers, becoming a kind of reserve super-legislature. But his dissent on Friday against Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion legalizing same-sex marriage takes the charge much further. According to Scalia, the court has given into nonsense, and now transgresses the right of the American people themselves. “The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie,” he jeers.
Scalia’s baseline assumption is that the meaning of the 14th Amendment did not change since 1868. And further that it is the prerogative of the American people, through their legislators or through constitutional amendment, to redefine marriage as an institution that includes two people regardless of their sex, a process that was well on its way. And so the Kennedy decision becomes for Scalia a “judicial putsch,” where five judges “have discovered in the 14th Amendment a ‘fundamental right’ overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.” Instead of law, Scalia says, the court has given “pop philosophy” and “showy profundities” that are “profoundly incoherent.”
Scalia has often denounced majority holdings in extraordinarily memorable language. But what he offers in his two dissents at the end of this term are much graver charges. The ruling in King further infantilizes Congress, releasing it from its responsibility to craft laws with any precision, thus weakening the ability of the people to govern themselves through the legislature. And the marriage ruling more directly asserts a judicial supremacy over the people themselves. What Scalia is saying is that the court has corrupted the American form of government and staged a coup.
If these are anything more than rhetorical flashes, then it must make him wonder if he wishes to be a part of an institution that is this corrupted and corrupting of the republic. He may steel himself, as someone who will dutifully carry out his appointed role. But waiting for a Republican president to replace him is a guarantee of nothing. The two opinions that amount to a putsch were written by justices appointed by the two most conservative Republican presidents in living memory.
Progressives would be so giddy at his departure. So what? If the court is captured by politics, what better rebuke than to demonstrate that one justice is not so captured. Leaving the court would not relieve its members of the duty of upholding the Constitution. Let the burden and the obloquy of the putsch be on others.
By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week, June 29, 2015
“Very Little Blowback From His Own Party”: Trump Has GOP Defenders Despite Racially Charged Rhetoric
In his presidential announcement speech, Donald Trump wasted no time in creating controversy. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” the Republican candidate said. “They’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Offered a variety of opportunities to walk the comments back, Trump has, at least for now, refused. This week, he insisted his remarks were “totally accurate.”
As Rachel noted on the show last night, this has led a variety of businesses, including NBC/Universal, to end their relationships with the controversial candidate. But what remains striking is the degree to which Trump is facing very little blowback from his own party.
Last night, Politico published a piece by National Review editor Rich Lowry on the candidate. The headline read, “Sorry, Donald Trump Has A Point.”
As for his instantly notorious Mexico comments, they did more to insult than to illuminate, yet there was a kernel in them that hit on an important truth that typical politicians either don’t know or simply fear to speak. “When Mexico sends its people,” Trump said, “they’re not sending their best.”
This is obviously correct. We aren’t raiding the top 1 percent of Mexicans and importing them to this country. Instead, we are getting representative Mexicans, who – through no fault of their own, of course – come from a poorly educated country at a time when education is essential to success in an advanced economy.
As for Trump’s assumptions about these immigrants being drug-running rapists, Lowry didn’t dwell on these details while praising the candidate’s broader immigration argument.
This is not a wise strategy.
Even if we put aside the fact that Trump’s argument is factually wrong, and he most certainly does not “have a point,” the truth remains that the Republican Party has alienated immigrant communities in recent years, and the latest Trump fiasco offers the GOP an opportunity to distance itself from offensive, racially charged rhetoric.
But for many Republicans, it’s an opportunity better left ignored.
In fairness, Trump has not enjoyed universal praise among conservatives. Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee’s Chief Strategist & Communications Director, conceded two weeks ago that Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric is “probably something that is not helpful to the cause.”
Look, I’m not suggesting the onus is on Reince Priebus to pick up one of the Trump pinatas that have become popular in some circles, and destroy it on camera, but I am suggesting leading Republican voices show some courage and denounce offensive rhetoric from one of their own.
Trump, obviously, is pushing Latino voters away. But the more voices on the right defend Trump, and the more Republican voters express their support for his candidacy, the broader the damage will be to the party.
Indeed, as msnbc’s Amanda Sakuma noted yesterday, Trump’s antics raise “uncomfortable but genuine questions over how Republicans expect to make inroads with Latino voters in light of the harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 2, 2015
In our faltering efforts to deal with race in this country, a great deal of time is devoted to responding to symptoms rather than root causes. That may help explain why racism keeps repeating itself.
Exhibit One is the recurring cases of racism at colleges.
In February 2013, Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity was suspended by Washington University in St. Louis after the fraternity’s pledges were accused of singing racial slurs to African American students.
Last November, the University of Connecticut suspended Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity after a confrontation with members of the historically black Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority in which AKAs were called racially and sexually charged epithets.
This year in March, a University of Maryland student resigned from Kappa Sigma fraternity after being suspended for sending an e-mail containing racially and sexually suggestive language about African American, Indian and Asian women.
Also this year, disciplinary action was taken against members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the University of Oklahoma who participated in a racist chant, caught on video, about lynching African Americans.
We have not seen the end of racist fraternity and sorority actions on college campuses.
That’s because the actions taken in response to these incidents by well-meaning universities were directed at symptoms. Epithets, chants and derogatory language about African Americans are indicators of an underlying problem within the offending white students, namely an antagonism against blacks based upon feelings of white superiority. With suspensions and expulsions, the college community rids itself of a particular manifestation but not the underlying problem, which is racial prejudice.
The United States has been treating evidence of racism, and not the causes, since the Civil War.
Slavery; “separate but equal”; segregated pools, buses, trains and water fountains; workplace and housing discrimination; and other forms of bias and animus have served as painful barometers of the nation’s racial health. They have been, however, treated like the pain that accompanies a broken leg. The effort was to treat or reduce the agonizing symptoms of the break rather than fix it.
The 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution extended civil and legal protections to former slaves. They eased the pain, but the leg was still broken.
Anti-lynching laws scattered the lynch mobs. But the pain flared up again with beatings, bombings and assassinations.
Our nation responded to racial anguish with a variety of measures: the 1954 Brown school desegregation decision, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and numerous rules and regulations to address those things that caused generations of African Americans — when the shades were drawn — to groan, weep, grit their teeth and swear that their children would not experience the demeaning, disrespectful and immoral treatment that they had to endure.
However, these legal remedies, while addressing the excruciating racial pain, didn’t deal with the enduring problem: the racism itself that caused the South to secede from the Union; that led state legislatures and governors to birth Jim Crow laws; that sparked the KKK’s reign of terror; and that encouraged school districts and town zoning officials to institutionalize barriers against black citizens in housing, education and employment. And racism is still at it in the 21st century. All you have to do is look at those frat boys cited above to see that it’s going strong.
Witness, too, the enactment of laws passed since President Obama’s 2008 election to make it harder for African Americans to vote.
And then there is Dylann Roof, the alleged Charleston, S.C., assassin who takes his place among storied anti-black murderers such as James Earl Ray, who killed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.; the Klansmen who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., killing four little black girls; and Samuel H. Bowers Jr., the imperial wizard of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, who with his KKK brethren murdered three civil rights workers.
Oh, yes, Roof has plenty of company; not necessarily in his homicidal rage but in his ideology. The manifesto that he purportedly wrote is replete with bigoted remarks common to right-wing talk radio and posted on Web sites.
Dylann Roof is this week’s manifestation of our racial sickness. But Roof and his ideological forbear President Jefferson Davis of the Confederate States of America and those Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers are symptoms of the same problem. Until we get at the root cause, the problem lives on.
By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 26, 2015