Should he stay or should he go?
The wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas may have denounced the rumor that the controversial conservative may be planning to leave the bench next year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the rumor is false. If Thomas does decide to call it a career in 2017, it will bring an end to one of the greatest legal tragedies in modern American history.
As Thomas noted in his 2007 memoir, My Grandfather’s Son, there was a time when he was on the left side of the political spectrum, even voting for George McGovern in 1972. The ultimate catalyst for his shift to the far right was when he began to question the logic of federal desegregation programs, which made him a receptive audience for the pseudo-intellectualism of syndicated columnist and wingnut icon Thomas Sowell in the mid-1970s:
I felt like a thirsty man gulping down a class of cool water. Here was a black man who was saying what I thought–and not behind closed doors, either, but in the pages of a book that had just been reviewed in a national newspaper…It was far more common in the seventies to argue that whites, having caused our problems, should be responsible for solving them instantly, but while that approach was good for building political coalitions and soothing guilty white consciences, it hadn’t done much to improve the daily lives of blacks. Sowell’s perspective, by contrast, seemed old-fashioned, outdated, even mundane–but realistic. It reminded me of the mantra of the Black Muslims I had met in college: Do for self, brother.
My Grandfather’s Son is a morbidly fascinating work, one that provides insight into the odd personality that has occupied Thurgood Marshall’s seat on the High Court for over two decades. Indeed, this Friday marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of President George H. W. Bush’s nomination of Thomas to the Court.
In My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas wrote that prior to the announcement of his nomination, Bush promised him, “Judge, if you go on the Court, I will never publicly criticize any of your decisions.” One wonders if Bush privately regrets making such an awful nomination, just as he openly regrets the rise of Donald Trump. Remember when the 41st President referred to Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann as “sick puppies”? Considering the horrible votes he has cast over the past 25 years, that term is far more applicable to Thomas.
One also wonders if Thomas will ever take a hard look at his legacy once he steps down from the bench. Had Thomas never fallen for Sowell’s shtick, perhaps he would have gone on to become one of America’s great champions of civil rights, as opposed to an explicit enemy of equality. Maybe Thomas didn’t deserve some of the harsh race-based insults he received over the years–after all, no one ever accused Antonin Scalia of being a self-hating Italian-American–but he certainly deserves strong criticism for his profoundly bizarre interpretation of the Constitution, most recently on display in Utah v. Strieff. (Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s dissent was seemingly written to challenge Thomas to confront the real-world implications of his disregard for the Fourth Amendment, or to suggest that one day, Thomas will have to face those very implications firsthand.)
It is interesting to note that in My Grandfather’s Son, Thomas actually admitted that the Republican Party he chose to embrace after being seduced by Sowell’s sentences didn’t have much use for African-Americans. Describing his days as head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission during the Reagan administration, Thomas observed:
Too many of [President Reagan’s] political appointees seemed more interested in playing to the conservative bleachers–and I’d come to realize, as I told a reporter, that ‘conservatives don’t exactly break their necks to tell blacks that they’re welcome.’ Was it because they were prejudiced? Perhaps some of them were, but the real reason, I suspected, was that blacks didn’t vote for Republicans, nor would Democrats work with President Reagan on civil-rights issues. As a result there was little interest within the administration in helping a constituency that wouldn’t do anything in return to help the president. My suspicions were confirmed when I offered my assistance to President Reagan’s reelection campaign, only to be met with near-total indifference. One political consultant was honest enough to tell me straight out that since the president’s reelection strategy didn’t include the black vote, there was no role for me.
Clarence Thomas is 68 years old. He knows what his national reputation is. He knows that for many Americans, he is a symbol of extreme ideology and extreme ambition. He knows that the day he gained power, he lost dignity. When he leaves the bench, how will he live with himself?
By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 26, 2016
“Wallowing In Self-Pity”: Can Trump Whine His Way To The White House With Complaints About “Biased” Media Coverage?
That was quite a temper tantrum Donald Trump threw at his press conference this week.
Irked that news reports raised questions about his promised donations to American veterans and their charities, Trump responded by denouncing the political press as “disgusting” and “among the most dishonest people that I’ve ever met.” Trump even dismissed one ABC News reporter as “a sleaze,” and mocked another from CNN as “a real beauty.”
Trash talking the press is hardly new for Trump. During the primary season, he routinely set aside time at rallies to denigrate journalists as “scum” and “disgusting”; attacks his supporters often amplified in person and online.
What made Trump’s meltdown this week so noteworthy, and probably what shocked the Beltway media, was that it came during the general election campaign season, where these kinds of vicious, personal attacks coming directly from the presumptive nominee are unheard of.
“Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, assailed those reporting on his candidacy with a level of venom rarely seen at all, let alone in public, from the standard-bearer of a major political party,” The New York Times reported. (GOP media bashing is most often handled by surrogates and by Republican allies in the press.)
Yes, some previous Republican nominees have chastised the press, sometimes with glee and sometimes with genuine disdain. “Annoy the Media: Re-elect Bush” bumper stickers were a favorite among Republicans during George H.W. Bush’s 1992 re-election run. Sen. John McCain’s campaign denounced The New York Times for an article it published in 2008 detailing McCain’s closeness to a lobbyist. (Many people read the article as an implication of an affair between McCain and the lobbyist, but the paper eventually updated it with a “Note to Readers” saying it “did not intend to conclude” that the lobbyist had “engaged in a romantic affair” with McCain.)
But overall, McCain enjoyed warm relations with reporters during his 2008 run, and those previous press attacks weren’t nearly as ferocious and personal as Trump’s are today. (Can you imagine Bush Sr. calling an ABC reporter a “sleaze” during a 1992 press conference?) Those attacks were never seen as being a pillar of a November campaign, the way Trump is promising his media insults will continue in coming months.
What Trump’s doing is employing a right-wing talk radio dream strategy, where whining about the so-called liberal media is elevated and presented as a pressing issue facing America.
And that’s why Rush Limbaugh was so ecstatic in the wake of Trump’s public tantrum. “That was the kind of press conference Republicans voters have been dying to see for who knows how many years,” the talker gushed. “Trump felt the need to correct the record today and did so in his own inimitable way, which basically attacked the media for dishonesty and corruption.”
Fox News’ Peter Johnson Jr. was equally animated. He cheered Trump for “saying, ‘I have a message, you may not like it, but you’re not going to take me down. I will be heard fair and square. I will either win or lose. But I will not lose because of an unfair media.’”
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with questioning the press and holding journalists accountable. But that’s not what Trump’s doing. He’s wallowing in self-pity without producing any proof of media malfeasance. Trump can’t point to any factual errors in the reporting on his charitable giving; the story that set off his most recent anti-media screed.
Complaining about so-called liberal media bias has been a hallmark of the conservative movement for decades, and has sometimes been featured as a sidebar during presidential campaigns. Trump now wants to move it to the main stage. But hurdles appear on the horizon.
First, he’s already won the Republican primary, which is more likely the season to energize hardcore supporters with allegations of media manipulation. That’s why this same anti-press crusade worked so well last November in the aftermath of the contentious Republican Party primary debate hosted by CNBC. Virtually all the candidates and most of the conservative media joined forces and issued indignant denunciations of CNBC’s allegedly dishonest debate moderators. The swarm served as a unifying ritual of outrage for the conservative movement.
Trump’s now in the general election and needs to expand his base beyond the true believers. To be successful in November, he’s trying to lure voters who have likely voted Democratic in the past and who don’t identify as Fox News fanatics. It’s less likely those types of crossover voters will be motivated by allegations that the press is out get Trump.
Secondly, a sizeable portion of the conservative media infrastructure isn’t supporting Trump. In fact, in a bizarre flip of the script previously documented by Media Matters, during the primary season some key conservative media voices have actually criticized the Beltway press for being too soft on the Republican nominee. So if there are Republican-friendly pundits on the record saying the press needs to be tougher on Trump, that obviously blunts the candidate’s claim that the “biased” media’s being too tough on him.
There’s also the issue of temperament and the fact that most voters think Trump is severely lacking in that area. A Fox News poll last month indicated 65 percent of voters don’t think Trump has the “temperament” to serve as president, and a CNN poll in May found the number was even higher: 70 percent.
Regularly staging campaign press conferences in coming months to pick fights with reporters is unlikely to improve Trump’s standing there.
Already committed to running a completely unorthodox campaign, Trump’s now gambling that press attacks can produce votes in November.
By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, June 3, 3016
As Donald Trump made the transition from Republican presidential frontrunner to presumptive Republican presidential nominee, one of the more common words in GOP circles has been “unity.” As in, “How in the world will the party achieve anything resembling ‘unity’ with this nativist demagogue at the top of the Republican ticket?”
For his part, Trump has said, on multiple occasions, that he can and will bring the party together. Yesterday on ABC, however, the Republican candidate, no doubt aware of the broader circumstances, suggested that unifying the party may be an overrated goal.
“Does [the party] have to be unified? I’m very different than everybody else, perhaps, that’s ever run for office. I actually don’t think so,” Trump told George Stephanopoulos in an interview that will air Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week.” […]
“I think it would be better if it were unified, I think it would be – there would be something good about it. But I don’t think it actually has to be unified in the traditional sense,” Trump said.
It’s an unexpected posture, borne of conditions outside of Trump’s control. Less than a week after wrapping up the nomination, the Republican candidate has stopped looking for ways to bring the party together and started looking for ways to justify intra-party strife as a tolerable inconvenience – not because Trump wants to, but because so many in the party are repulsed by his candidacy.
The New York Times added over the weekend, “Since a landslide victory in Indiana made him the presumptive Republican nominee, Mr. Trump has faced a shunning from party leaders that is unprecedented in modern politics. Mr. Trump has struggled to make peace with senior lawmakers and political donors whom he denounced during the Republican primaries, and upon whose largess he must now rely.”
In a fitting twist, Republicans are divided over the nature of their divisions. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, became one of the most notable GOP Trump endorsers Friday, despite Trump’s condemnation of the Bush/Cheney administration’s handling of 9/11 and the war in Iraq.
Cheney probably wasn’t thrilled about extending his support, but he’s a Republican, Trump’s the presumptive Republican nominee, and apparently that’s the end of the discussion. For the former vice president, partisan considerations are, for all intents and purposes, the only consideration. (The fact that Trump is a cheerleader for torture probably helped tilt the scales for Cheney.)
But the former vice president’s announcement was striking in part because so many other national Republican leaders are moving in the exact opposite direction.
Former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have both said they will stay out of the 2016 race and withhold their official support from their party’s nominee. Jeb Bush, a former Trump rival, signed a pledge last year promising to support the GOP’s 2016 candidate, but he’s since decided to break that promise and oppose Trump.
I haven’t yet seen a comprehensive list of every notable Republican officeholder who has vowed to withhold support for Trump, but as best as I can tell, the list would include at least three sitting governors (Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker, Illinois’ Bruce Rauner, and Maryland’s Larry Hogan), three sitting U.S. senators (South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, Nevada’s Dean Heller), and 10 or so U.S. House members. If we include former officials, the list grows much longer.
And then, of course, there’s 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, who’s vowed to oppose Trump, and his former running mate, current House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who said Thursday he’s not yet ready to decide either way. Many more in the GOP have offered grudging support along the lines of, “I’ll back my party’s nominee, but let’s not call it an ‘endorsement,’ and for the love of God, please don’t make me say his name out loud.”
It’s tempting to look for some kind of modern parallel for a dynamic like this, but there really isn’t one. The only thing that comes close was when far-right Southern “Dixiecrats,” outraged by Democratic support for civil rights, broke off in 1948 and 1968, en route to becoming Republicans.
Those examples probably don’t offer much of a parallel here – or at least GOP officials have to hope not.
The more immediate question, of course, is whether a party divided against itself can stand. According to Trump, unity is an unnecessary luxury, though if you’re thinking this sounds like wishful thinking, you’re not alone. Given the presumptive Republican nominee’s unpopularity, Trump has very little margin for error, and having a sizable chunk of his party express contempt for his campaign poses an existential electoral risk. Winning primaries in a divided party is vastly easier than what Trump will face in November.
There’s a school of thought, of course, that says all of this strife will eventually pass. Emotions are still raw – the last contested primary was less than a week ago – and the argument goes that wayward Republicans will “come home” by the fall.
In a typical election cycle, this model would certainly apply, but this isn’t a normal year; Trump isn’t a normal candidate; and the scope and scale of the fissures in Republican politics are without modern precedent.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 9, 2016
“Farewell, Grand Old Party”: GOP Dug Its Own Grave And Dropped One Foot In When McCain Selected Sarah Palin
It wasn’t precisely an act of moral courage, but House Speaker Paul D. Ryan’s (Wis.) comment that he’s not ready to support presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump was at least . . . something.
Whether it’s a start or a finish remains to be revealed, but it would seem that we’re witnessing the beginning of the end. To wit: A Republican friend, who has abandoned her behind-the-scenes work of getting conservatives elected, called me recently to express her condolences. “I feel sorry for you,” she said, “because you (given your job) can’t ignore the collapse of Western civilization.”
Now a renegade from the nominating process, she is like so many others disillusioned by the Trump movement who’ve slipped the noose of politics in search of meaning beyond the Beltway. But Trump’s triumph, though most insiders thought it impossible, should have surprised no one. He was inevitable not because he was The One but because he’s a shrewd dealmaker with deep pockets and unencumbered by a moral compass. Both his platform and style were crafted to fit the findings of extensive polling he commissioned before announcing his run.
In other words, Trump didn’t write a book you loved; he wrote the book you said you’d love. If people were outraged about immigration, why then he’d build a wall. If they were upset about manufacturing jobs lost overseas, well fine, he’d kill the trade agreements.
Trump was never about principle but about winning, the latter of which he kept no secret. What this means, of course, is that his supporters have no idea whom they nominated. He simply paid to read their minds and then invented a drug that would light up the circuit boards corresponding to pleasure and reward.
“Believe me,” he crooned to the roaring crowed.
“I’m not there right now,” said the speaker, blessing himself in the sign of the cross.
Poor Ryan — a man of conscience in an unconscionable time. He wants to support the Republican nominee, but, at the end of the day, he has to answer to a higher authority. Trump, the party’s standard bearer, isn’t bearing the standard, Ryan said.
But what Ryan expressed as the basis for a desired meeting of the minds isn’t about those standards, except the hope that Trump will behave better in the future. You know, act presidential and all that. Otherwise, Ryan is standing by the phone to hear that Trump will unify the party. How, pray tell? What would satisfy the Ryans of the party? For Trump to say, Hey, I was just kidding?
The problem, as with all relationships, is that certain words, once expressed, can’t be taken back. No amount of backtracking can erase memories of what Trump really thought and said in a particular moment. It isn’t only that his wildly conceived and frequently revised positions are at odds with those of leveler heads, but also Trump has embarrassed those who can still be embarrassed.
Among those with either the gumption or nothing to lose by expressing no-support for Trump are both George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush. Neither will endorse the Republican nominee. Laura Bush, a consistent voice of sanity, recently hinted at a “Women in the World” conference that she’d rather see Hillary Clinton as president than Trump.
This is utterly treasonous to most Republicans. Not only is Clinton a Clinton, notwithstanding her Rodham-ness, but also the next president likely will select up to four Supreme Court justices. Republicans magically think that at least Trump would pick good justices.
But upon what shred of fact or fiction do they base this assumption?
Still other Republicans are expressing disapproval by vowing not to attend the party convention in July. These include the last two GOP presidential nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain, though McCain is on record saying he’ll support Trump, which can be viewed as loyal or merely sad.
The “sads” have it.
McCain seemingly has forgiven Trump’s remark that he was a war hero only because he was captured. “I like people that weren’t captured,” said the anti-hero who managed to avoid service and once compared his navigation of the sexually risky 1960s to “sort of like the Vietnam era.”
This is the man who would become commander in chief.
Meanwhile, we’re told, the party that adopted Trump without really knowing him is suffering an identity crisis and facing a moment of truth.
Phooey. The GOP began digging its own grave years ago and dropped one foot in when McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. With Trump’s almost-certain nomination, the other foot has followed.
By: Kathleen Parker, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, May 6, 2016
Dick Cheney’s presidential pick is a man he once suggested was a 9/11 truther.
Cheney reportedly told CNN on Friday he intends to support the GOP nominee in 2016, just as he has every prior cycle.
Shortly after the first presidential debate, Cheney told Fox News’ Bret Baier that the real estate mogul’s assertions regarding the September 11 attacks—including that George W. Bush willingly let them happen—were “way off base.”
“He clearly doesn’t understand or has not spent any time learning about the facts of that period,” Cheney said.
“It’s, um, misleading for him to campaign on that basis,” he added.
It’s a little curious that Cheney has decided to board the Trump Train. It’s also a break from the rest of Bush World, as representatives for George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush say neither former president will back the mogul’s presidential bid.
But, in fairness, Trump may not be too thrilled with Cheney’s endorsement either.
In 2011, Trump made a YouTube video for his “From The Desk of Donald Trump” series, (a series I cannot recommend highly enough), in which the presumptive nominee trashed the former VP and his then-newly released memoir.
“He’s very, very angry and nasty,” the mogul said. “I didn’t like Cheney when he was a vice president. I don’t like him now. And I don’t like people that rat out everybody like he’s doing in the book. I’m sure it’ll be a best-seller, but isn’t it a shame? Here’s a guy that did a rotten job as vice president. Nobody liked him. Tremendous divisiveness. And he’s gonna be making a lot of money on the book. I won’t be reading it.”
“It just seemed like she was going to really look to impeach Bush and get him out of office, which, personally, I think would have been a wonderful thing,” he said, discussing Nancy Pelosi with Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room.
In the same interview, Trump asserted that Bush deliberately lied to persuade Americans to support the Iraq War—a view that Cheney et al (unsurprisingly) find deeply problematic.
“He got us into the war with lies,” he continued. “And, I mean, look at the trouble Bill Clinton got into with something that was totally unimportant. And they tried to impeach him, which was nonsense. And, yet, Bush got us into this horrible war with lies, by lying, by saying they had weapons of mass destruction, by saying all sorts of things that turned out not to be true.”
Speaking of national security, Cheney told radio host Hugh Hewitt in December that Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration “goes against everything we stand for and believe in.”
“Religious freedom’s been a very important part of our history and where we came from,” he added—but if Cheney has anything to do with it, then Trump’s America is where we’re going.
By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, May 6, 2016