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“Outraged About Ginsburg’s Comments?”: Supreme Court Justices Have Always Voiced Political Opinions

Donald Trump is freaking out over statements made by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg didn’t hold back during a New York Times interview published Monday. “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” she said.

Trump, naturally, hopped on Twitter to complain.

Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot – resign!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 13, 2016

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Ginsburg’s comments “out of place” during a CNN Town Hall on Tuesday.

But even after a wave of criticism, including from “liberal” outlets, Ginsburg refused to walk back her comments. On Monday, she called Trump a “faker.”

“He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that,” she said in her chambers.

The backlash over Ginsburg’s comments is not surprising, given Trump’s history of trying to de-legitimize the judicial system (especially when it applies to him). But his argument that Ginsburg’s comments disqualifies her from being an unbiased judge is a weak one: The ideological leanings of the justices are well known by not only their decisions (its kind of their job to give opinions), but also their public statements.

Unlike Ginsburg’s comments about Trump, justices have made plenty of statements in the past that relate directly to cases before them in the court.

Antonin Scalia was the poster boy for this behavior – the conservative legal icon frequently toured between law schools, book stores, and other gatherings, debating all comers on a wide range of topics. We knew how he felt about the death penalty, abortion and homosexuality:

“The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.” he said in 2012.

“What minorities deserve protection? What? It’s up to me to identify deserving minorities? What about pederasts? What about child abusers? This is a deserving minority. Nobody loves them.” he said in 2015.

Scalia’s defense of his homophobic remarks could easily be used to defend Ginsburg’s Trump comments — not that Ginsburg would use his argument, despite her storied, decades-long friendship with Scalia.

“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” Scalia said in 2012 after a gay Princeton student asked him why he equated laws banning sodomy with laws that ban man-on-animal sex and murder.

Ginsburg herself has long been known for her frankness. Joan Biskupic, the journalist who reported Ginsburg’s statements on Trump, writes that, having met with her “on a regular basis for more than a decade,” she “found her response classic.”

Biskupic elaborates:

I have witnessed her off-bench bluntness many times through the years.  During 2009 oral arguments in a case involving a 13-year-old Arizona girl who had been strip-searched by school administrators looking for drugs, she was troubled that some male justices played down any harm to the student. “They have never been a 13-year-old girl,” Ginsburg told me. “It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn’t think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood.”

Earlier in 2009, she was being treated for pancreatic cancer yet made sure to attend President Barack Obama’s televised speech to a joint session of Congress, explaining that she wanted people to know the Supreme Court was not all men. “I also wanted them to see I was alive and well, contrary to that senator who said I’d be dead within nine months.” She was referring to Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, who had said she would likely die within nine months from the pancreatic cancer. Bunning later apologized.

As the first Latina to reach the court, Justice Sonya Sotomayor fiercely defends her use of personal political reflection, based in experiences that she believes differ from those of the other justices, in her arguments. The issue of affirmative action is especially important to Sotomayor. In her 2013 memoir, she wrote:

“Much has changed since those early days when it opened doors in my life. But one thing has not changed: to doubt the worth of minority students’ achievement when they succeed is really only to present another face of the prejudice that would deny them a chance even to try.”

Sotomayor has taken this sentiment to the court. In her dissent on Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, she wrote: “Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, ‘No where are you really from?’”

Sotomayor’s opinion in a fourth amendment case on the validity of police stops was an explicitly political appeal. “It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny,” she wrote in her dissent, on a case where a Utah man claimed he was unlawfully stopped by police. “For generations, black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk’ — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them.”

And besides: The Constitution does not prohibit Supreme Court Justices from expressing personal opinions.

Bloomberg‘s Noah Feldman offers Chief Justice John Marshall, who served as John Adams’s secretary of state while he was a chief justice, as proof that America’s founding generation was not “obsessed with the idea that justices have to be outside the reach of politics.”

Marshall, a loyalist of the Federalist Party, was understood to retain his beliefs while serving as chief justice subsequently.

Two of his most revered opinions, Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland, are historically incomprehensible except through the lens of partisan politics. In the first, he went to great lengths to embarrass the Jefferson administration by insisting that Marbury had a right to a justice-of-the-peace commission granted by Adams, before tacking back and holding that the law that would have allowed the court to force the delivery of the commission was unconstitutional.

In the second, he upheld the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States, originally such a fundamental partisan issue that it helped drive the creation of his Federalist and Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican parties.

Maybe conservatives shouldn’t argue about the integrity of the Court while in their fourth month of refusing to give it a ninth justice.

 

By: Germania Rodriguez, The National Memo, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Can’t Convict Someone With Maybe”: They Were Never Close To Indicting Hillary — 20 Years Ago Or Yesterday

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear: specifically to September 1992, when Attorney General William Barr, top-ranking FBI officials, and — believe it or not — a Treasury Department functionary who actually sold “Presidential Bitch” T-shirts with Hillary Clinton’s likeness from her government office, pressured the U.S. Attorney in Little Rock to open an investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Whitewater investment.

The Arkansas prosecutor was Charles “Chuck” Banks, a Republican appointed by President Reagan, and recently nominated to a Federal judgeship by President George H.W. Bush.  It was definitely in Banks’s interest to see Bush re-elected.

The problem was that Banks knew all about Madison Guaranty S&L and its screwball proprietor Jim McDougal. His office had unsuccessfully prosecuted the Clintons’ Whitewater partner for bank fraud. He knew perfectly well that McDougal had deceived them about their investment, just as he’d fooled everybody in a frantic fiscal juggling act trying to save his doomed thrift.

Banks and local FBI agents were unimpressed with the “Presidential Bitch” woman’s analysis. She showed shaky grasp of banking law, and obvious bias — listing virtually every prominent Democrat in Arkansas as a suspect. When FBI headquarters in Washington ordered its Little Rock office to proceed on L. Jean Lewis’s criminal referral, Banks decided he had to act.

He wrote a stinging letter to his superiors in the DOJ refusing to be a party to a trumped-up probe clearly intended to affect the presidential election. “Even media questions about such an investigation,” he wrote, “all too often publicly purport to ‘legitimize what can’t be proven.’”

Keep that phrase in mind.

Banks also promised to refer reporters to the Attorney General. And that was the end of the Bush administration’s “Hail Mary” attempt to win the 1992 election with a fake scandal. Also the end of Chuck Banks’ political career.

The prevailing themes of the Clinton Legends, however, were set: imaginary corruption, and a “Presidential Bitch.” Eight years and $70 million later, Kenneth Starr’s Whitewater prosecutors folded their cards, proving the Little Rock prosecutor had been right all along.

Shamefully, several of Starr’s assistants recently showed up in the Washington Post reminiscing about how they almost indicted Hillary Clinton. Except that they never did, and for the same reason FBI director James Comey wouldn’t dare take his largely adverbial case (“extremely,” “carelessly,” etc.) into a courtroom against her.

Because when the accused can afford competent defense counsel, a bogus case endangers the prosecutor more than the defendant. Indict the former Secretary of State and lose? Goodbye career.

If the Post had a sense of humor, they’d have illustrated the article with a photo of “Judge Starr,” as he liked to be called, dressed in his cheerleader costume leading Baylor University’s felonious football team onto the field.

But back to Comey’s successful grandstand play — successful at protecting Comey’s own career while wounding the Democratic presidential nominee, that is. See, no way could the former Secretary of State be prosecuted for mishandling classified information without convincing evidence that a bad guy got his hands on it. The best Comey could do was to say that “it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal email account.”

Clinton herself noted that Comey was simply speculating. “But if you go by the evidence,” she said “there is no evidence that the system was breached or hacked successfully.” (Although the State Department’s was.) Pundits can sneer, but you can’t convict somebody with maybe.

What secrets are we talking about? Slate’s Fred Kaplan explains: “Seven of [Clinton’s] eight email chains dealt with CIA drone strikes, which are classified top secret/special access program—unlike Defense Department drone strikes, which are unclassified. The difference is that CIA drones hit targets in countries, like Pakistan and Yemen, where we are not officially at war; they are part of covert operations… But these operations are covert mainly to provide cover for the Pakistani and Yemeni governments, so they don’t have to admit they’re cooperating with America.”

Top Secret, maybe. But regularly featured in the New York Times. The eighth email chain was about the President of Malawi.

Seriously.

Even Comey’s press conference assertion that Clinton handled emails marked classified failed to survive a congressional hearing. Shown the actual documents, Comey conceded that they weren’t properly marked. Indeed, it was a “reasonable inference” they weren’t classified at all. Both concerned trivial diplomatic issues in Third World countries. Really.

Michael Cohen in the Boston Globe: “Whatever one thinks of Clinton’s actions, Comey’s depiction of Clinton’s actions as ‘extremely careless’ was prejudicial and inappropriate. The only reason for delivering such a lacerating attack on Clinton was to inoculate Comey and the FBI from accusations that he was not recommending charges be filed due to political pressure. But that’s an excuse, not an explanation, and a weak one at that.”

The very definition, indeed, of legitimizing “what can’t be proven.”

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Bill and Hillary Clinton, Conspiracy Theories, James Comey | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Locals Very Anxious About The Bad Vibes”: Republican Insiders Are Dreading Their Own Convention

Cleveland is one of those cities that has invested a whole lot in rehabilitating a once-dismal image, with some success. Now it’s probably better known as a vibrant music center (home of a fine symphony orchestra and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) than as another decaying Rust Belt graveyard full of industrial ghosts. There’s a major NASA facility there. Cleveland has its share of foodies and hipsters. The sports scene once probably best defined by the Ten Cent Beer Night riot that canceled an Indians’ game in 1974 now has produced an NBA championship.

But as is the case in a lot of cities fighting a bad rep, there’s a certain strained boosterism to Cleveland’s self-promotion, perhaps best characterized by the frenetic “Cleveland Rocks!” assertions that festooned comedian Drew Carey’s long-running ABC sitcom. So you have to figure the locals are very anxious about the bad vibes surrounding next week’s Republican National Convention. Will the event be remembered as another (to borrow the term of derision once commonly applied to the huge, frigid Cleveland Stadium until its demolition in 1996) Mistake by the Lake?

Of course, the widespread “dread” of the convention among GOP insiders that Politico‘s Alex Isenstadt wrote about today has less to do with the convention’s locale than with the Trump nomination it will formalize. An unprecedented number of elected officials are finding somewhere else to be next week. Political operatives who would normally no more miss a convention than a child would forget her or his own birthday are planning hit-and-run visits to conduct essential business only. Several big corporations are canceling what would normally be routine sponsorships (Isenstadt reports ominously that some local caterers are laying off staff because of the reduced number of corporate events).

There will not be a shortage, however, of media observers, many of whom are coming to Cleveland in hopes of seeing some sort of garish and horrific spectacle, whether it’s a fight over the convention rules, violence in the streets, or just an exceptionally cheesy Trump-driven agenda of C-class celebrities and washed-up athletes.

Totally aside from the hostility to Trump many Republican Establishment types feel, there’s a sense this convention could rank down there with Barry Goldwater’s Cow Palace convention in 1964 as the kickoff to a general-election fiasco.

But perhaps an even greater source of “dread” is the potential contrast between chaos outside the convention arena and tedium inside.

At a time when the nation is reeling from a series of mass shootings, there is widespread concern about safety in Cleveland. Increasing the worry is the nature of Trump’s campaign events, which have at times resulted in racially charged violence between his supporters and critics. The convention is expected to draw scores of protesters, ranging from Black Lives Matter to white-supremacist groups.

Thanks to Ohio’s robust “concealed carry” law, Cleveland police are being reduced to begging protesters not to bring along their shooting irons. Fortunately, the more respectable Trump supporters are ahead of the curve:

Tim Selaty, director of operations at Citizens for Trump, said his group was paying for private security to bolster the police presence. While Mr. Selaty said people should be allowed to carry guns, his group is banning long weapons from a rally in a park it is hosting on Monday.

“We’re going to insist that they leave any long arms out for sure because we believe that will make sure our people are safer,” he said. “In other words, no AR-15s, no shotguns or sniper rifles — all of the things that you would think somebody would bring in to hurt a lot of people in a very short time.”

Gee, that’s a relief: at least some people in the protest zone will have nothing more troublesome at hand than their hand cannons.

In a terrible affront to both the Second Amendment and the constitutional doctrine of federalism, the Obama Secret Service has banned firearms inside the convention perimeter itself. But the biggest worry Republicans have about what goes on inside Quicken Loans Arena involves Team Trump’s apparent disorganization in planning the convention. Six days out, and more than a week after Trump himself boasted the speaking schedule was full-to-overflowing, there’s still no convention schedule available. A relative handful of isolated announcements have been made about this or that elected official agreeing to speak at the convention, in a sharp departure from the usual assumption that all of them would be there and most of them above the rank of dogcatcher would be offered three minutes during a sleepy afternoon session. We’re all beginning to wonder if there will be a schedule in place when the convention officially opens on Monday.

All in all, it’s not looking good for Republicans or for Cleveland. If the convention is a mess or if violence erupts outside it, you can be sure that media types will reach for long-buried symbols of Cleveland disasters like the occasions in the 1960s and 1970s when the heavily polluted Cuyahoga River caught on fire. Thanks to a generation of environmental efforts nationally and locally, that doesn’t happen anymore. But it could be an apt metaphor if RNC ’16 goes up in flames.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 12, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Cleveland OH, Donald Trump, Republican National Convention | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Feeling A Revolutionary Spirit”: Moved By Donald Trump, David Duke Plots A Comeback

I see that David Duke hasn’t moderated his views since he was an active politician in the early 1990’s. That’s unfortunate. Some people mature with time.

Instead, he’s feeling “a revolutionary spirit,” and is seriously considering making a challenge to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Duke has until June 22nd to qualify for the November ballot. Remember, Louisiana has those funky elections where the November election can serve as a primary of sorts if no one reaches 50% of the vote. In those cases, there is a subsequent runoff election.

I don’t remember if Duke is/was a Grand Wizard or an Exalted Cyclops or what exact honorific he used in the Ku Klux Klan.

“There are millions of people across the country who would like to have me in the Congress. I’d be the only person in Congress openly defending the rights and the heritage of European Americans,” he said. “We are on the offensive today. There’s no more defenses.”

He actually thinks he’d make a good running mate for Trump.

Duke compared himself to Donald Trump, who he endorsed for president.

“I’ve said everything that Donald Trump is saying and more,” he said. “I think Trump is riding a wave of anti-establishment feeling that I’ve been nurturing for 25 years.”

Yet, Duke is realistic enough to know that Trump is unlikely to put him on the ticket.

Trump won’t reach out to him because the candidate fears “offending the oligarchs,” a term Duke uses for the political establishment he said is controlled by Jewish, Hispanic and African American interests.

Aware of his checkered history, Duke said he welcomed the backlash that would come if he runs.

In most cases, it’s a cheap shot to highlight a candidate’s most unsavory supporters, particularly if that support is unsolicited and unrequited. But it’s noteworthy to see Duke feeling this energized by Trump’s success. He’s moved by the spirit to stop playing defense and run for office because he sees in Trump the fruition of a quarter century of race hatred that he’s been “nurturing.”

Maybe Duke is just misinterpreting Trump or the political moment or basic reality, but there’s little doubt about what Duke thinks he can accomplish under Trump’s leadership.

Should Duke make it to the House, he said one of his first goals would be to repeal the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, which liberalized immigration laws by eliminating race-based quotas.

Obviously, Duke thinks Trump is a fellow traveler, and he might have been bolstered in that impression back in February when Trump had tremendous difficulty finding one bad thing to say about the KKK.

When asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday about David Duke and the KKK supporting his candidacy, Donald Trump passed on refuting them. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” he said. “So I don’t know. I don’t know — did [David Duke] endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.” When Tapper said he was specifically talking about the KKK, Trump continued saying, “I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about.” He then declared, “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. You may have groups in there that are totally fine — it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.”

But who, really, knows nothing about the Ku Klux Klan?

Trump did disavow the Klan’s support, but so tepidly that Duke was obviously encouraged.

So encouraged, in fact, that he’s ready to take on the House Majority Whip. And, in case you’d forgotten or just didn’t know, Steve Scalise has in the past spoken to one of David Duke’s little hate groups (the European-American Unity and Rights Organization) and once campaigned as “David Duke without the baggage.”

If Duke does run, the people of Louisiana’s First District will get to decide if they want their David Duke with or without the baggage.

In the meantime, Oklahoma’s Republican governor, Mary Fallin, is telling people that Donald Trump is a racial healer.

I’m just not seeing that.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | David Duke, Donald Trump, Ku Klux Klan | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Every Time He Opens His Mouth”: Trump Veep Contender General Michael Flynn Can’t Stop Pissing Off Conservatives

Before he disappears from sight as a national political figure when Donald Trump names someone else as his vice-presidential choice, let us pause for a moment of awe at the utterances of former general Michael Flynn, who somehow manages to dig himself into a deeper hole every time he opens his mouth.

First and most famously, Flynn eliminated himself from serious consideration for a spot on the national ticket by going on a Sunday show and, via an incoherent ramble, appearing to endorse a woman’s right to have an abortion.

The next day, Flynn tried to recover by labeling himself a “pro-life Democrat” whose mother was an anti-abortion activist, but then wandered back into a swamp by suggesting the Supreme Court had for the time being resolved the issue. Then he made matters infinitely worse by saying that people who viewed the abortion issue as the most important priority for America should just stay home and let others decide the election.

And then, for his encore, Flynn allowed as how he was fine with same-sex marriage, deploying his signature clean and concise talking style:

“On the gay issue, hey, you know what, if people love each other, Jesus, I mean, come on,” Flynn told San Diego KOGO radio’s Morning News. “I’m not afraid of it. That’s my point. And I’m not afraid to tell you what I believe in.”

This statement was made at roughly the same time the Republican convention Platform Committee was beginning to approve a notably homophobic expression of GOP principles.

Flynn also commented about his position on abortion, saying it doesn’t matter that he has previously said women have a right to choose whether to have an abortion.

“I mentioned it yesterday, I’m one of these people that I don’t like, on the abortion issue, it’s not something that—I’m very uncomfortable talking about it. I’m not gonna kid you. It’s a very uncomfortable thing. I think, that, it’s a legal issue. Definitely a legal issue. It’s been decided upon by our Supreme Court.”

In case anyone out there is in doubt about this, let me be plain: Anyone joining a Republican national ticket has to be solidly and unambiguously in favor of outlawing virtually all abortions. Yes, some wiggle room is allowed over the tiny number of abortions performed in cases where pregnancy is caused by rape or incest, but that’s absolutely it. And nothing offends social conservatives much more than suggestions that their issue should be subordinated to others. Indeed, their primary grievance with the GOP is that its leaders do exactly that far too often.

To be clear, these are people who believe, or at least claim to believe, that legalized abortion is an ongoing American Holocaust and that same-sex marriage is an attack on the fundamental wellsprings of Western civilization. So no, these are not “legal issues” to them, or “divisive” topics to be put on the back burner.

Now, it’s fashionable this year, as in most years, to contend that the Christian right is a spent force in American politics, and maybe this time, unlike all of the other times, the prophecy is correct. But, for the moment, the people who say abortion is genocide or that gay people defy all of the laws of God and nature absolutely have the power to blow up Donald Trump’s convention and wreck his slim chances of becoming president. I’m guessing Trump was never serious about Michael Flynn as a running mate or he would have dispatched someone to make sure the man knew what to say on very basic ideological litmus tests like abortion policy. Once the actual veep is announced, poor Flynn can stop digging and go back to being a national-security adviser to Trump, if he hasn’t made himself so toxic that even that kind of role becomes impossible.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, GOP Vice President Candidate | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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