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“Good Old Conservative Days Fading?”: Regardless of Republican Obstruction, The Supreme Court Is Already Changing

If Republicans have their way, it might be a long time before another Supreme Court Justice joins the bench. But Dahlia Lithwick documents all the ways the Court is already changing in the short time since Antonin Scalia’s death in an article titled: The Conservative Era is Over.

* As she wrote previously, the women took over during oral arguments on an abortion case.

* A unanimous order affirming the right of same-sex partners to adopt children and the tossing of a death penalty conviction in Louisiana.

* “Friday’s unsigned order allowing several abortion clinics in Louisiana to reopen their doors, following an emergency decision from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that would have shuttered all but one clinic in that state.”

* Embattled Justices Thomas and Alito have formed an alliance of two as a bulwark against “the path set out by their six colleagues.”

* There’s also “a growing sense among conservative interest groups and litigation shops that the good times and rich bounty of the old Roberts court are no longer on offer and that it may be better to cut and run than stick around and lose.” That includes a recent settlement by Dow Chemical in their major anti-trust appeal and the fact that a key gun rights group opted to drop its challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act.

Lithwick draws this conclusion from what she’s seen so far:

Expect a lot more weirdness and subtle signaling from the court as the term rolls on. An institution that never wished to be an election issue has become one. What might have once been routine orders have now turned into a complex game of reputation management. Whether it’s the chief justice trying to appear apolitical, the conservative justices trying to fly the flag of ideology, or the liberals making hay while the sun briefly shines, nothing at the court these days is exactly what it appears to be, and it appears it will be that way for a while.

As public pressure on Republican Senators ramps up against their obstruction strategy and the prospect of Donald Trump as the party’s presidential nominee portends the potential loss of their Senate majority, it will be increasingly difficult for Republicans to justify their position. If the trends Lithwick identified continue, you can add to that the specter of an increasingly liberalized Supreme Court.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 9, 2016

March 10, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP Obstructionism, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Consequences Of Republican Obstruction”: We Need To Be Clear About Why Our Politics Is Broken Right Now

One of my favorite writers – Leonard Pitts – has weighed in on the topic du jour these days for pundits: what led to the rise of Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary. He starts off with a quote from former Republican Senator George Voinovich: “If he was for it, we had to be against it.” That was the beginning of the Republican strategy against the newly elected President back in 2009.

The popular storyline goes that voters are seeking political outsiders this year in their frustration over a government where the legislative gears are frozen and nothing gets done. What that storyline forgets is that this gridlock was by design, that GOP leaders held a meeting on the very evening of the president’s first inauguration and explicitly decided upon a policy of non-cooperation to deny him anything approaching a bipartisan triumph…

Republicans and their media accomplices buttressed that strategy with a campaign of insult and disrespect designed to delegitimize Obama. With their endless birther stupidity, their death panels idiocy, their constant budget brinksmanship and their cries of, “I want my country back!” they stoked in the public nothing less than hatred for the interloper in the White House who’d had the nerve to be elected president.

And the strategy worked, hobbling and frustrating Obama. But as a bullet doesn’t care who it hits and a fire doesn’t care who it burns, the forces of ignorance and unreason, grievance and fear the Republicans calculatedly unleashed have not only wounded the president. No, it becomes more apparent every day that those forces have gravely wounded politics itself, meaning the idea that we can — or even should — reason together, compromise, form consensus.

Of course I agree with Pitts because I wrote basically the same thing recently. Just as it is critical for a doctor to accurately diagnose a disease in order to effectively treat it, we need to be clear about why our politics is broken right now in order to craft effective solutions.

One way to test the diagnosis Pitts has articulated is to think about what happened prior to the 2010 midterm elections – when Democrats had control of both houses of Congress – and afterwards. In the first 2 years of the Obama presidency, he and the Democrats managed to pass:

1. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
2. The Affordable Care Act
3. The Dodd-Frank Act
4. Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
5. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act
6. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
7. The Fair Sentencing Act
8. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act
9. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act
10. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act

That’s a pretty impressive list for just two years, isn’t it? When you compare it to how little has been accomplished in the last 5 1/2 years, the contrast is astounding. The comparison is even more stark when you look at what the two Parties have been doing over those years. While the Republicans have spent most of their time trying to repeal Obamacare and threatening to blow up the economy if they don’t get their way, President Obama and the Democrats have put forward a list of policy proposals that have been either ignored or actively obstructed by the Republicans.

1. Comprehensive immigration reform
2. The American Jobs Act
3. Universal pre-K
4. Raise the minimum wage
5. Paid family/sick leave
6. Free community college
7. Gun background checks
8. Criminal justice reform
9. Restoration of the Voting Rights Act

As a thought experiment, it’s interesting to contemplate what might have happened over these last few years if either the Democrats had maintained their majorities in Congress and/or if the Republicans had taken the advice of people like David Frum and actually attempted to negotiate solutions.

There are voices out there who diagnose our political situation differently than the analysis above from Leonard Pitts. Some in the media are particularly fond of the “both sides do it” mythology. As we’ve seen, Bernie Sanders comes close to embracing that idea with his analysis that the entire political process is rigged by big money – both Republicans and Democrats. While money in politics plays a role, it is clear that Democrats have an agenda to address the challenges we face and Republicans have cast their lot with fanning the flames of fear/anger in order to obstruct progress. The consequences of that decision by the GOP are that: progress has been halted, the stage was set for a Donald Trump candidacy and our political system has been gravely wounded.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 8, 2916

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Obstructionism, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Senate Republicans Swat Away Obama’s Outstretched Hand”: A Blockade Unlike Anything Seen In The American Tradition

If we were to pretend American politics operated by traditional rules, we’d have some basic expectations about what policymakers would do in the event of a Supreme Court vacancy. A sitting president would reach out to Senate leaders, some names would be floated as part of a conversation, and a nominee would be put forward and considered.

With this in mind, President Obama hosted an entirely predictable gathering in the Oval Office earlier today. Vice President Biden was there, along with the top Senate leaders from each party, and the top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee from each party.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today, “The president … gave everyone in the room, Democrats and Republicans, the opportunity to put forward their own suggestions for potential Supreme Court nominees. The president didn’t guarantee that he would choose that person, but the president did indicate that he would take seriously any recommendations that either Democrats or Republicans had to put forward.”

It all sounds quite routine – or what would be routine under normal American circumstances. But as it turns out, this Oval Office meeting was actually a reminder about just how abnormal the times really are. The New York Times, quoting one of the gathering’s participants, said today’s discussion was “very short.”

Leaving the meeting, [Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid] suggested that the Republicans appear to be waiting for Donald Trump to be in the White House. “There wasn’t much said at the meeting,” Mr. Reid said.

The Hill also quoted Reid saying in reference to the GOP senators, “They were adamant. They said, ‘No, we’re not going to do this at all.’” Referring to Democrats, Reid added, “All we want them to do is to fulfill their constitutional duty, and at this stage, they are deciding not to do that.”

It wasn’t that Democrats were cool to the GOP’s ideas for possible nominees. Rather, Republicans simply said there should be no nominee – and if one exists, he or she will be ignored, regardless of qualifications or merit.

That this was the expected outcome of the meeting doesn’t make it any less scandalous. The political world’s collective assumptions about how this is likely to play out shouldn’t obscure the fact that Senate Republicans are orchestrating a Supreme Court blockade unlike anything seen in the American tradition.

They are doing so without a defense or a coherent explanation, ignoring the Constitution and traditional norms in the process.

For his part, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said this morning that he and his party will “observe the ‘Biden Rule,’” in reference to a 1992 speech then-Sen. Joe Biden delivered about hypothetical high-court vacancies.

Under the circumstances, it seems quite likely that McConnell knows he’s brazenly lying. There is no such thing as the “Biden Rule,” and if there were, it wouldn’t justify the current obstructionism. On the contrary, in his 1992 remarks, Biden, describing the possibility of a Supreme Court vacancy that did not exist at the time, explicitly said that if the then-Republican president “consults and cooperates with the Senate, or moderates his selections absent consultation, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justices Kennedy and Souter.”

If McConnell wants to believe this established a “rule” that must be honored, then today’s Senate Republicans will have to meet, consider, and vote on President Obama’s nominee – steps McConnell has vowed not to take.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 1, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , | 3 Comments

“The GOP Cannot Be Saved, But The Country Still Can Be”: A Rare Convergence From Two Sides Of The Political Spectrum

This morning I read two articles that probably each deserve a post of their own…they’re both that good. But I’m going to write about them together because, in an interesting way, they come from opposite ends of the political spectrum but converge on the same place.

The first one comes from someone who now calls himself a “former Republican.” Robert Kagan says that Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein Monster. He outlines much the same process I wrote about recently in: Post-Policy Republicans Gave us Donald Trump. Kagan describes the three things Republicans did to create this monster.

1. Obstruction

Was it not the party’s wild obstructionism — the repeated threats to shut down the government over policy and legislative disagreements; the persistent call for nullification of Supreme Court decisions; the insistence that compromise was betrayal; the internal coups against party leaders who refused to join the general demolition — that taught Republican voters that government, institutions, political traditions, party leadership and even parties themselves were things to be overthrown, evaded, ignored, insulted, laughed at?

2. Bigotry

No, the majority of Republicans are not bigots. But they have certainly been enablers. Who began the attack on immigrants — legal and illegal — long before Trump arrived on the scene and made it his premier issue? Who was it who frightened Mitt Romney into selling his soul in 2012, talking of “self-deportation” to get himself right with the party’s anti-immigrant forces?

3. Obama hatred

Then there was the Obama hatred, a racially tinged derangement syndrome that made any charge plausible and any opposition justified…

Thus Obama is not only wrong but also anti-American, un-American, non-American, and his policies — though barely distinguishable from those of previous liberal Democrats such as Michael Dukakis or Mario Cuomo — are somehow representative of something subversive.

Kagan’s conclusion to the prospect of Trump being the GOP nominee is something I’ve heard from a few other Republicans.

So what to do now? The Republicans’ creation will soon be let loose on the land, leaving to others the job the party failed to carry out. For this former Republican, and perhaps for others, the only choice will be to vote for Hillary Clinton. The party cannot be saved, but the country still can be.

The other article I’d like to highlight comes from the other end of the political spectrum, so it might not be as surprising or monumental. But as President Obama’s former speechwriter (including during the 2008 primary), Jon Farveau admits that he was not always a fan of Hillary Clinton. He writes about how his view changed while he worked with her in the White House.

The most famous woman in the world would walk through the White House with no entourage, casually chatting up junior staffers along the way. She was by far the most prepared, impressive person at every Cabinet meeting. She worked harder and logged more miles than anyone in the administration, including the president. And she’d spend large amounts of time and energy on things that offered no discernible benefit to her political future—saving elephants from ivory poachers, listening to the plight of female coffee farmers in Timor-Leste, defending LGBT rights in places like Uganda.

He then walks us through the different side of this candidate that was brought to us by Ruby Cramer in her article titled: Hillary Clinton wants to talk with you about love and kindness. Favreau’s conclusion is that it is even more important to elect Hillary Clinton this year than it was to elect Barack Obama in 2008. That is a huge statement coming from someone like him. Here’s the kicker:

Every election is a competition between two stories about America. And Trump already knows his by heart: he is a celebrity strongman who will single-handedly save the country from an establishment that is too weak, stupid, corrupt, and politically correct to let us blame the real source of our problems—Muslims and Mexicans and Black Lives Matter protestors; the media, business, and political elites from both parties.

Trump’s eventual opponent will need to tell a story about America that offers a powerful rebuke to the demagogue’s dark vision for the future. I like Bernie Sanders. I like a lot of what he has to say, I love his idealism, and I believe deeply in his emphasis on grassroots change. My problem is not that his message is unrealistic—it’s that a campaign which is largely about Main St. vs. Wall St. economics is too narrow and divisive for the story we need to tell right now.

In her campaign against Sanders, Hillary has begun to tell that broader, more inclusive story about the future.

What we see is Kagan looking for a way to “save American” from the Frankenstein monster created by the GOP and Favreau suggesting that, in order to combat the monstrous story of America being sold by Trump in this election, we need an alternative to that “demagogue’s dark vision for the future.” Both of them see the answer to that in Hillary Clinton. It’s a rare convergence of two sides that is worth paying attention to.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 26, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Bigotry, Donald Trump, GOP Obstructionism, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Malign Contempt Since Day 1”: GOP’s Unrelenting Campaign Of Obstructionism And Insult

This was three days before Antonin Scalia died.

President Obama had just spoken before the Illinois General Assembly. Now, he and some old friends, all retired from that body, were being interviewed by the Los Angeles Times. Obama was talking about the legislative gridlock that has marked his terms and how he might have avoided it.

“Maybe I could have done that a little better,” he said.

One of his friends wasn’t having it. “They were afraid of you for a couple of reasons,” said Denny Jacobs. “Number one, you were black.”

Obama parried the suggestion, saying what he always says when asked about race and his presidency. “I have no doubt there are people who voted against me because of race … or didn’t approve of my agenda because of race. I also suspect there are a bunch of people who are excited or voted for me because of the notion of the first African-American president. … Those things cut both ways,” he said.

Jacobs, who is white, was unpersuaded. “That’s what they were afraid of, Mr. President,” he insisted.

Some might say his point was proven after the sudden death of the Supreme Court justice. The body was not yet cold when Republicans threw down the gauntlet. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the president should not even nominate a replacement and should leave it instead to his successor. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley seconded this, saying his panel would not open confirmation hearings, although Politico reported Tuesday that Grassley told Radio Iowa he would not rule them out.

Understand: It’s not uncommon for the opposition party to warn that a nominee better be to its liking. However, to declare before the fact that no person put forth by the president will receive even a hearing is not politics as usual, but rather, a stinging and personal insult without apparent precedent. It is simply impossible to imagine another president being treated with such malign contempt.

But then, GOP contempt for Obama and his authority have been manifest since before Day One. McConnell’s refusal to do his job is just the latest example. On Twitter, a person who tweets as @bravee1 put it like this: “Mitch McConnell just needs to admit that he thinks President Obama was elected to three-fifths of a term.”

It’s a great line, but what is happening here is more subtle than just racism. To be, as McConnell is, a straight, 73-year-old white male in America is to have come of age in a world where people like you and only people like you set the national agenda. One suspects, then, that people like him see in Obama their looming loss of demographic and ideological primacy in a nation that grows more multi-hued and, on many vital social issues, less conservative every day.

Some people can handle that. Others would rather cripple the country, leaving it without a functioning Supreme Court for almost a year, and never mind the will of the people as twice expressed in elections: Barack Obama is our president. He has the right and duty to nominate a new justice.

It’s grating to hear Obama act as if the GOP’s unrelenting campaign of obstructionism and insult were the moral equivalent of some African-American grandmother or young white progressive who were proud to cast their ballots for the first black president. Moreover, his attempt to shoulder blame for the hyper-partisanship of the last seven years suggests a fundamental misreading of the change he represents and the fear it kindles in some of those whose prerogatives that change will upend.

It’s well and good to be even-handed and reflective, but there is a point where that becomes willful obtuseness. Obama is there. “They were afraid of you for a couple of reasons,” said his friend. “Number one, you were black.”

It’s interesting that a white man in his 70s can see this, yet a 54-year-old black man cannot.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The New Republic, February 17, 2016

February 18, 2016 Posted by | African Americans, Congress, GOP Obstructionism, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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