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“A Supreme Sham”: They Call’m As They Prefer To See ‘Em

We can’t know yet how the Supreme Court will rule on same-sex marriage in June, but we already do know this: The decision won’t be based on a dispassionate reading of the Constitution. The 5-4 (or perhaps 6-3) ruling will be a reflection of the political orientation, values, and visceral feelings of each justice; as their “questions” (actually pronouncements) showed this week, every justice except perhaps Anthony Kennedy came into this case with his or her mind made up.

Each side will present elaborate rationales to justify its views, but legal merit will not determine which side prevails. The ruling will simply represent the results of a mini-election on a court as nakedly partisan and polarized as the country itself — a court with four “blue” justices, four “red” ones, and one swing vote. “It becomes increasingly difficult to contend with a straight face that constitutional law is not simply politics by other means,” says University of Chicago law professor Justin Driver, “and that justices are not merely politicians clad in fine robes.”

It was not always thus. Until recent decades, the court’s landmark decisions often came in one-sided rulings (Brown v. Board was 9-0). Presidents sometimes nominated distinguished jurists with indistinct ideologies, such as Byron White and David Souter, whose philosophies evolved over time. That hasn’t happened since Ronald Reagan appointed Kennedy, and it isn’t likely to happen again. So let’s drop any remaining pretense that the justices are impartial arbiters calling “balls and strikes” on the issues that divide us: gay marriage, ObamaCare, voter ID, campaign finance, religious freedom, et al. They call ’em as they prefer to see ’em.

 

By: William Falk, The Week, May 1, 2015

May 4, 2015 Posted by | Partisanship, Politics, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fracturing Democracies”: The Dominant Tendency Now Is toward ‘Disaggregation’

The world’s democracies, perhaps especially our own, face a peculiar set of contradictions that are undermining faith in public endeavor and unraveling old loyalties.

There is a decline of trust in traditional political parties but also a rise in partisanship. A broad desire for governments to reduce the levels of economic insecurity and expand opportunity is constrained by a loss of confidence in the capacity of government to succeed. Intense demands for change are accompanied by fears that much of the change that is occurring will make life worse for individuals and families.

These crosscurrents are undercutting political leaders and decimating political parties with long histories. In Europe, movements on the far right and left (along with new regional parties) gain traction with disaffected citizens. Concerns about immigration reflect uneasiness among some over the social and cultural tremors in their nations. At the same time, discontent about the economic decline that afflicts regions not sharing in the global economy’s bounty calls forth protest against the privileged and the well-connected. In both cases, anger is the dominant emotion.

The convergence of these forces is especially powerful in Britain, which holds a national election on May 7 and where neither of the long-dominant Conservative and Labour Parties is likely to win a parliamentary majority. In 1951, the two parties together secured 96.8 percent of all the votes cast. This year, they are struggling to reach a combined 70 percent.

In Scotland, long a Labour stronghold, the pro-independence Scottish National Party could take as many as 50 of the region’s 59 seats, which would block British Labour leader Ed Miliband from securing a majority. But Miliband, who has run a better campaign than his foes expected, could still end up in power, partly because Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives are hemorrhaging votes to the UK Independence Party, which is critical of both immigration and the European Union.

In Greece, the traditional social democratic Pasok party was nearly destroyed after the country’s economic collapse. The left-wing Syriza party took power this year because of deep frustration with economic austerity and anger over the terms being set by the European Union for a financial rescue. Far-right parties have gained ground in France and even in usually moderate Scandinavia.

In the United States, partisan splits have rarely been so deep and acrimony across party lines so intense. But these feelings don’t come from wildly positive views about the parties voters embrace. In a widely discussed paper released earlier this month, Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster, Emory University political scientists, noted that “one of the most important trends in American politics over the past several decades has been the rise of negative partisanship in the electorate.”

It occurs, they write, when “supporters of each party perceive supporters of the opposing party as very different from themselves in terms of their social characteristics and fundamental values.” Yes, our current form of partisanship leads us to dislike not only the other side’s politicians but even each other.

And the frustrations voters feel provide each camp with ideological rocks to throw at their adversaries. In a PRRI/Brookings survey I was involved with in 2013, two findings locked horns: 63 percent of Americans said government should be doing more to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, but 59 percent also believed government had grown bigger because it had become involved in things people should do for themselves. We want government to do more about injustice, but we also seem to want it smaller.

Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, argues in the current issue of The American Prospect that this tension is partly explained by a widespread view that “special interests” have too much of a hold on government. He argues that voters “are ready for government to help — if the stables are cleaned.”

This makes good sense, but in the United States, as elsewhere, little of what’s happening in politics is reweaving frayed social bonds. The title of Princeton University historian Daniel T. Rodgers’ revelatory 2011 book, Age of Fracture, captured what’s happening to us. In our era, he wrote, “Identities become fluid and elective,” and if the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were a time of political and social “consolidation,” the dominant tendency now is toward “disaggregation.”

This is a big problem for self-government, since aggregating sustainable majorities is the first task of politicians in democratic countries. They are not doing a very good job, and the unfolding 2016 campaign doesn’t inspire much confidence that they’ll do better.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 26, 2015

April 28, 2015 Posted by | Democracy, Partisanship, Politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“It Doesn’t Make Any Sense”: Two Suicides Rock Missouri Politics

Last Thursday, on the one-month anniversary of the suicide of his boss, Missouri’s Republican auditor and a candidate for governor, Spence Jackson took the day off.

Tom Schweich’s suicide came amidst what had become a brutal campaign for governor and shocked the state’s Republican Party.

The circumstances surrounding his death, including nasty, anti-Semitic rumors, pitted donors and party elites like former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth against Missouri Republicans like former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and former U.S. Sen. Kit Bond who were calling for party unity.

Jackson, Schweich’s spokesman, was in the middle of that fight.

And last week, Jackson took his own life.

Police say it was the fear of losing a job, not political whispers, that may have haunted him the most in his final days.

Until about three weeks ago, Jackson, like a loyal soldier without a commander, continued to carry the torch in Schweich’s memory.

Only moments after Schweich’s funeral, Jackson was one of the first to call for the resignation of John Hancock, the chairman of the Missouri Republican Party who Schweich believed had orchestrated an anti-Semitic “whisper campaign” against him (Schweich was Episcopalian, but had Jewish heritage).

Jackson pushed the late auditor’s side to reporters and influencers in the state party as he and others tried to shame Hancock out of the office.

But, Hancock—who has vehemently denied the allegation that he was pushing an anti-Semitic message against Schweich—has not stepped down, and on Friday, Catherine Hanaway, who Schweich was challenging in what had already become a brutal Republican primary for governor, reemerged on the campaign trail.

On Friday, Jackson was back in the auditor’s suite in an office building across the street from the state Capitol for part of the day.

But after lunch, Jackson did not return to work, police here said.

Those who knew him said when Jackson left the office, he turned out the light and closed his door.

But on Friday afternoon, he left his lights on, the door open and his things as they were.

At some point later in the day, Jackson returned to his apartment only a couple miles away from his workplace.

There, he penned a note and left it in his living room before disappearing into his bedroom where police say he fatally shoot himself with a .357 Magnum revolver, which was found with him in his bed.

It was not until Sunday night, when Jackson’s mother was in Jefferson City to meet with him in advance of a scheduled doctor’s appointment on Monday, that Jackson was found dead in his apartment by police responding to a “check well-being call.”

Jackson, who had worked as a Republican communicator for nearly two decades, had served in former Gov. Matt Blunt’s administration as a personal spokesman for the governor and then for the Missouri Department of Economic Development. When Blunt decided to not seek reelection and Democrat Jay Nixon was elected to take his place, Jackson was let go and left without a job.

“I am so sorry. I just can’t take being unemployed again,” Jackson apparently wrote, according to Captain Doug Shoemaker of the Jefferson City Police Department.

David Luther, a spokesman for John Watson, Nixon’s temporary appointee as auditor as he seeks a full time replacement to fill out Schweich’s term though 2018, told reporters on Tuesday that senior staff had been told last week that, “if there was a change in the interim auditor, that might impact them.”

But, Luther said, nothing was specific, and nobody had been told they would soon be out of a job.

“Everybody was going to continue to be under employment, but in the political landscape, those things can change,” Luther said. “No one had been told their job was in jeopardy, but knowing that there would probably be a change down the road, I’m sure they were all understanding of that.”

Jeff Layman, a fraternity brother of Jackson who attended Missouri State University with him 25 years ago, said he was “heartbroken over the loss.”

“Spence was kind, caring and loyal; but most importantly, he was like a brother to me. Spence was a savvy political communicator who was passionate and intense about his politics. I will miss his huge smile, infectious laugh and larger than life personality,” Layman said on Monday.

Jackson’s coworkers and other Schweich staff members would not speak on the record for this article. But, speaking privately, one Republican who knew both Schweich and Jackson said the two had “emotional highs and lows” and “wore their emotions on their sleeves.”

Still, the fear of losing a job, at least immediately, should have been unfounded, the Republican said: “Nothing was going to happen immediately. He had a job and people were looking out for him to find something next. It doesn’t make any sense.”

 

By: Eli Yokley, The Daily Beast, March 31, 2015

April 1, 2015 Posted by | Missouri, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pretty Much How Things Go”: Every Clinton Scandal Is Exactly The Same

We don’t yet know whether there will actually turn out to be something nefarious in the emails that Hillary Clinton somewhat belatedly passed on to the State Department, but I feel confident in predicting that this Clinton scandal will likely play out just like every other Clinton scandal. For those of you who don’t remember the 1990s, here’s how it works:

  1. Bill and/or Hillary Clinton does something that on first glance looks a little sketchy.
  2. The news media explode with the story, usually including insinuations that something illegal or corrupt took place.
  3. Republicans quiver with joy, believing that this scandal will finally be the one to reveal the true depths of the Clintons’ villainy.
  4. Clintonworld adopts a bunker mentality, insisting that they did nothing wrong yet trying to limit the amount of information that gets out, thereby antagonizing reporters.
  5. As the eight zillion journalists assigned to the story learn more information, the story grows increasingly complex, yet no actual illegality or corruption is found.
  6. The story drags on for months or even years, with Republicans never wavering in their certainty that the only reason we haven’t learned the awful truth is the Clintons’ stonewalling.
  7. The more committed conservatives begin to lose their minds, eventually coming to believe spectacularly outlandish theories about what actually happened.
  8. The whole thing peters out, and reasonable people conclude that while Bill and/or Hillary might have shown better judgment, they didn’t actually break the law, violate their oaths, betray their country, or anything else their opponents imagined.

There are variations, of course, but that’s pretty much how things go. And even though it’s possible there’s an email somewhere in which Clinton instructs her paramour Ayman al-Zawahiri to launch the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, it’s probably how things are going to go with this one, too.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 6, 2015

March 8, 2015 Posted by | Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rudy Giuliani’s Raging Bull”: Another New Yorker Who Held Onto The Spotlight For Too Long

So here we are at the start of a week after the country witnessed Rudy Giuliani doing a backstroke through the gutter of American politics. Apparently desperate for attention, the former mayor of New York jumped out of his seat at a gathering of wealthy Republicans who had assembled at the 21 Club in Manhattan in order to do a loud, please notice me, clown act.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say,” Giuliani began his wrecking ball speech, “but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up, through love of this country.”

(Let’s pause right here in this off-the-cliff assault by the former mayor to remind everyone of something Obama’s loudest critics always insist is the case: This is not about race because it’s never about race when it comes to nut-boys attacking the President of the United States. Sure!)

“Going after patriotism is one thing,” Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary, was saying, “but the really, really bad stuff is, ‘He wasn’t raised the way you and I were.’ There’s only one connotation for that kind of stuff and that’s directly out of what some people were saying in the Alabama of the 1960s.”

From mid-morning September 11, 2001, and for many days to follow Giuliani was an admirable figure. He provided his city and his country with a wall of courage, resolve and determination to stand straight and move forward through the shock, the death and the ashes of what terror had done to America’s most visible city.

He behaved nobly. Attended hundreds of funerals for the fallen. Stood like a sentry, a permanent reminder in those awful days of that awful Fall that America would not–could not–be defeated by a cult of religious zealots who prayed for the death and demise of the United States.

Now, all these years later, he has evolved into a pathetic, political version of Jake La Motta.

La Motta, another New Yorker out of an earlier time, was “The Raging Bull” who fought his way to the world middleweight championship. He lost his middleweight title to Sugar Ray Robinson in 1951 after one of the great prize fights of all time.

So La Motta decided to jump up one division in the hope of greater success. He joined the light heavyweight ranks. He was out of his league, out of his class and, soon, out of the ring completely.

But he loved the lights, the publicity, the attention, the fleeting fame that still surrounded him in New York. With some of the money he made with his fists, he bought a couple bars and ended up entertaining friends at bar-side and acting as both owner and bouncer too.

Punch drunk and clinging to a sad celebrity, he tried to be a stand-up comic but his act was sad, stale, and simply not funny. He was married seven times. He was a grifter, his best days all in history’s rear-view mirror.

Now, in this corner, wearing completely contemptible trunks, from the village of his own mind and memory, we have Rudy Giuliani wallowing in a bucket of resentment. He too is out of his league, punching way above his class.

In the other corner, we have the President of the United States, who emerged in the big ring on the evening of July 27, 2004. Then, Obama had been chosen to give the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention held in Boston.

“Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, “ Obama told the crowd, “America, that’s shown as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before him.”

“…My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or ‘blessed,’ believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success.”

“…I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me and that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”

Four years later he won the presidency and four years after that he was re-elected President of the United States. His judge will be history. The verdict of his daily fight against constant opponents named global terror, fear, economic inequality, global warming, inequitable tax codes, inadequate health care, an incompetent Congress and a claque of politicians determined to destroy rather than simply defeat him will be rendered on some day down the road.

The clock on Rudy Giuliani’s end of days began ticking as soon as he walked out of City Hall. He ran for president once, his candidacy going up in flames nearly the moment he first opened his mouth. Now he’s opened it again and all that emerges is bitterness and a contempt that borders on hate. What a brutal end; a self-inflicted TKO.

 

By: Mike Barnicle, The Daily Beast, February 22, 2015

February 25, 2015 Posted by | Politics, President Obama, Rudy Giuliani | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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