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Friday Talking Points [491] -- FART Act, Pruitt Out

[ Posted Friday, July 6th, 2018 – 16:55 PDT ]

We are (of course) not drawing any onomatopoetic comparisons to Scott Pruitt's last name with that title -- perish the thought! -- because it is merely a reference to two political stories which bookended this week. That's all. Ahem.

We begin with a little history. Benjamin Franklin was a funny guy, and was also prone to irreverence. When serving as U.S. Ambassador overseas, Franklin wrote a downright hilarious response to a scientific society's attempt to spur interesting research. This essay goes by many names, including: "A Letter To The Royal Academy On Farting," as well as the simpler: "Fart Proudly." Here's just a sample:

It is universally well known, That in digesting our common Food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great Quantity of Wind.

That the permitting this Air to escape and mix with the Atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid Smell that accompanies it.

That all well-bred People therefore, to avoid giving such Offence, forcibly restrain the Efforts of Nature to discharge that Wind.

Franklin then goes on to propose -- modestly, of course -- that research into what people could consume to make their farts not stink would benefit all of humanity. And this was long before elevators had been invented!

Over 200 years later, the Trump administration -- you cannot make this stuff up, folks -- was reportedly considering a proposed piece of legislation on trade, which would have removed any congressional oversight over tariffs and also given the green light to Trump to ignore all those pesky W.T.O. rules as well. Borrowing a phrase Trump loves to repeat, they called their proposed bill the "United States Fair And Reciprocal Trade Act."

This, obviously, is the biggest acronymical faceplant since George W. Bush decided to call his invasion of Iraq "Operation Iraqi Liberation." Could any Republican really stand (with a straight face) on the floors of Congress to defend the "U.S. FART Act"?

Ben Franklin, obviously, would have been amused.

By week's end, the White House was desperate to clear the air of such a stinkeroo of a news story, so they decided to "accept the resignation" of E.P.A. chief Scott Pruitt. To summarize, we began with the FART Act and ended with "Pruitt out."

What the media interestingly didn't really pick up on with the Pruitt firing (oh, excuse us, "resignation") was the fact that a very interesting story broke a few days beforehand. Now, Pruitt was already having yet another rough week, as some of his aides testified to a closed session of a congressional oversight committee. Reportedly, they confirmed some of the more juicy details of Pruitt's numerous scandals, including the fact that Pruitt retaliated against anyone who dared to suggest that what he was doing was creating ethical problems (to say the very least). So that's what the news media went with -- "Pruitt Fired After Aides Testify."

But this ignores the other big Pruitt story of the week, which was that Pruitt directly asked Trump to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, so that Trump could then replace Sessions with Pruitt. Pruitt would serve in this capacity for a while, and then step down to run for office back in his home state. Trump, obviously, didn't take him up on this scheme.

But we've seen this sort of thing before -- any Trump aide the news reports is trying to manipulate Trump behind the scenes lives on very thin ice. Trump is terrified of the storyline that puppetmasters are pulling his strings, and he's fired people who even dared to suggest such a thing before, so it should have been a fairly logical conclusion that this at least partly led to Pruitt's ouster this particular week (Pruitt's had so many bad weeks and so many different scandals that one wonders why this particular week was any different than all the others, in other words).

But Pruitt's exit isn't really all that much cause for environmentalists to celebrate, since the guy who is replacing him comes directly from the coal industry. So the henhouse will be left in charge of the foxes once again, even if the new fox is less ethically-challenged than the last one.

Of course, some responded to Pruitt's exit with snark. Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty responded: "How much can you get for a slightly used soundproof booth on eBay?" But the best response, though, came from presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who pointed out: "The Pruitts of Southampton was a 1966 ABC sit-com, starring Phyllis Diller, about a family trying to live beyond its means." Now that is a funny coincidence!

Of course, it was the week of July 4th, which is always chock-full of symbolism, and this year was no exception. A woman actually climbed up onto the Statue of Liberty to protest Trump's immigration policy, which is about as symbolic as you can get for an immigration protest, really. Also this week, it was revealed that the Trump administration is busily kicking immigrants out of the United States Army, for no particular reason. To twist the knife, many of the brave soldiers who were unceremoniously shown the door were not given honorable discharges, which would have protected them from possible deportation. Nothing like respecting and honoring the troops for Independence Day, eh?

But there was one protest which really stood out this week. Reverend Stephen Carlsen, the rector and dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Indianapolis, decided he had to do something about the cruel Trump immigration policies. So he put the nativity figurines of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus out on the church's front lawn, surrounded by a chain link cage. As he explained, Joseph and Mary were also a migrant family fleeing violence in their home country, after Herod ordered the execution of baby boys in Bethlehem. As he put it: "People forget what that scene means. That was a homeless couple who weren't welcome anywhere, who took refuge in a the barn, and it was to that couple that Christ was born."

He has spent time standing on the sidewalk in front of the display to talk to passersby about it. Some people can connect the dots and agree, but some don't, according to Carlsen. When asked how long the display would remain outside the church, Carlsen responded: "How long is it needed? I would love for it to be outdated and be taken down. That would be my greatest wish."

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

We've got a lot of folks to mention this week, but before we begin, we would like to send some "get well soon" wishes to Steny Hoyer, Democratic House Minority Whip, who was hospitalized this week for pneumonia.

We're handing out three Honorable Mention awards this week, for various reasons. The first goes to Representative Barbara Lee, who wasted no time after Joe Crowley's recent primary defeat to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Because Crowley will be out of office in January, it will leave his leadership position as the chair of the House Democratic Caucus open. Lee becomes the first person to toss her hat into the race to replace Crowley, which would (if successful) represent a double win for Progressives. It'll be interesting to see who else puts their name forward, but for now Lee is the only person who has announced her interest.

Our second Honorable Mention goes to Chuck Schumer, for sheer New York chutzpah. Schumer spoke on the phone briefly with President Trump, and suggested uniting America by nominating Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. No word on how Trump took this suggestion, but for daring to make it Schumer deserves some sort of recognition. It certainly would go a long way towards fairness, but we're not exactly holding our breath in anticipation of Trump following Schumer's advice, if you know what we mean.

And our final Honorable Mention goes to Cori Bush, who is running for a House seat in Missouri. She apparently had been getting some body shaming, and decided to push back on Twitter. Under proud photos of herself in various outfits, Bush posted:

As a candidate I've heard my hips are too big, and not just from trolls. "Wear dark pants." Well, I look like women in my district, who I serve. If elected, ALL OF THIS goes to Congress. Hips can't legislate but maybe they should! NO BODY SHAMING #WomenInPolitics! #thesehips Deal

That's the way to tell them! Nicely done....

As amusing as those last two were, we still had to slightly-retroactively award Bernie Sanders this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week. As we wrote earlier this week, Bernie is well on his way to enacting a fundamental change in the Democratic Party's rules -- specifically, those dealing with the "superdelegates" to the national convention.

On the same day Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee voted 27-1 to change the rules for superdelegates. They will no longer be able to vote in the first round of nomination balloting at the convention, unless one candidate has already wrapped up the nomination by winning the majority of the pledged delegates. Otherwise, the superdelegates will get to vote starting with the second round of voting. This effectively removes the power to throw the nomination to one candidate or another by the sheer weight of the superdelegates' votes. At the same time, it still allows the superdelegates to get an automatic ticket to the convention and it still will allow them to cast their vote (one way or another). As we wrote earlier, this seems a rather elegant compromise between competing interests.

Even so, it's a clear win for Bernie Sanders, who pointed out how undemocratic the superdelegate system was, last time around. His supporters initially called for the abolition of superdelegates, but Bernie is now happy with the compromise they reached.

This isn't a done deal yet, as the proposal now has to be voted on by the full D.N.C., which will happen next month. But the 27-1 vote in the Rules Committee shows that it already has support from those in the Bernie camp as well as the Clintonistas. This bodes well for the proposal's chances of passing and becoming the new rules for 2020.

If it does pass the full D.N.C., then Bernie will have successfully fixed a glaring inequity in the way the Democratic Party nominates their presidential candidates. Even if -- as was the case with Hillary Clinton -- a huge majority of the superdelegates endorse one candidate before the primary voting even begins, it will not have any direct effect on any candidate's chances to win the nomination. These superdelegate votes won't count unless a candidate has already won the nomination, removing the power of the superdelegates to put a rather large thumb on the scale before the voters have any say in the matter.

Unrigging this system is in fact one of the most impressive outcomes of the bitter rivalry from 2016. Not only did Bernie Sanders see his complaints addressed with real change, but at the end of the day almost everyone was happy with the outcome. That is impressive indeed, and it's why Bernie Sanders gets a slightly-belated Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

Maybe it was because of the holiday this week, but no Democrat seriously disappointed us all week long, so the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award will have to stay on the shelf until next week. That is, unless anyone's got a suggestion for someone disappointing that we missed, this week, down in the comments?

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 491 (7/6/18)

This week's talking points range from Trump Baby to J. K. Rowling rolling on the floor laughing, so it's an interesting collection this time around. With no further ado, let's just get right to it, shall we?

 

1
   Trump Baby will fly!

Now there's a fun headline!

"When Donald Trump visits the United Kingdom later this summer, he will be greeted by a 'Trump Baby' blimp hovering over Parliament in protest. The blimp depicts Trump holding a cell phone (oh, excuse me, a "mobile" to Brits) in his tiny little hands while wearing a diaper (whoops... I mean a "nappy," of course). How appropriate! The mayor of London just granted permission for the Trump Baby protest, the TrumpBabyUK Twitter account noted. That's right -- Trump Baby will be flying high to greet the president's arrival."

 

2
   Seriously, though, baby jails are not who we are

On the more serious side of babies, Democrats need to start using this term as many times as possible, because it truly sums up the awfulness of the Trump administration's heartless policy.

"I'm sorry, but when I consider what it is to be an American and how our country should do things in our name, jailing babies shouldn't even be on the list. The very concept of baby jails should be abhorrent to any American citizen, no matter what you believe should be done on immigration. We are jailing babies, and that is just wrong, period. A church in Indiana this week put their nativity figurines of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph out on their front lawn with a chain-link cage around them. But it's even worse than that because they really should have just put the Baby Jesus in the cage, alone. Because under Trump, Mary and Joseph would be kept in separate jails. This is where Trump has led our nation, and it is high time every decent citizen speak with one voice, saying loudly: 'No more baby jails! Not in our name!'"

 

3
   Keystone Kops all over again

This is the inevitable result of determining policy on the fly, folks.

"Just like they did with the travel ban, the Trump White House proved once again that absolutely no thought whatsoever was put into what their new 'zero tolerance' policy would actually mean to the human beings who would be directly affected. No guidance was given, no systems were put in place, they just thought they'd wing it and everything would turn out fine. What happened instead was more reminiscent of the Keystone Kops, flailing and failing badly. Recently, the Trump administration admitted it didn't even know the precise number of children who have been ripped from their parents' arms to be confined in horrific conditions. They're estimating that it is 'under 3,000' but they really have no concrete idea. They called it 'difficult and time-consuming' to even attempt to keep track of which children belong to which parents. They're now attempting DNA testing to fix the disaster of what should have been routine recordkeeping. If all that weren't bad enough, the New York Times reported that even the woefully inadequate procedures that were attempted didn't work, because 'Customs agents deleted the initial records in which parents and children were listed together as a family with a family identification number.' This led to the situation where 'parents and children appeared in federal computers to have no connection to one another.' The stunning levels of incompetence the White House displayed during the travel ban fiasco were chalked up to a new administration that had only been in power a very short time. Except that excuse doesn't work anymore, a year and a half in. This entire human rights disaster has to be laid squarely at the door of Donald Trump and the gang of incompetents he surrounds himself with."

 

4
   Dutch prime minister refuses to enable Trump's fantasy world

This wasn't widely reported, at least not here in America.

"Donald Trump infamously lives in a fantasy world inside his own head, where everything he does is wonderful and nothing bad ever happens. On the trade wars he has started, according to Trump, it's all good. He was trying to explain this in a joint appearance with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte this week, but Rutte wasn't having any of it. When Trump said that if America and Europe 'do work it out, that'll be positive, and if we don't work it out, that'll be positive also,' Rutte injected a bit of reality into Trump's fantasyland, saying bluntly: 'No. It's not positive.' Trump responded: 'It'll be... it'll be positive.' So I'd like to thank Mark Rutte for so refreshingly pouring cold water on Trump's delusions in such a public way. Trade wars are not positive no matter what the outcome, which is a fact that Trump still has yet to face."

 

5
   Does anyone remember the Cold War?

Seriously, this should be jaw-dropping, but in today's GOP it is merely par for the course, somehow.

"If someone told you, during Ronald Reagan's last year in office, that 30 years from then eight Republican members of Congress would spend their Fourth of July in Moscow kissing up to the Russian government -- even though it had been proven that the Russians interfered in the most recent U.S. election -- you would have thought it an insane prediction. And yet, here we are. The leader of this delegation, Senator Richard Shelby, openly admitted that the Republicans were visiting to 'strive for a better relationship' with Moscow, and would not 'accuse Russia of this or that or so forth,' which is an absolutely astonishing statement for anyone who lived through even a piece of the Cold War. Meddling in our presidential election is 'this or that or so forth'? Really? Wow. Russian state television openly mocked the Republican delegation for appearing so weak. It was pointed out that all the tough talk the Republicans had promised back home 'changed a bit' by the time they got to Moscow. Folks, that sound you are now hearing is Ronald Reagan spinning wildly in his grave."

 

6
   How does he get a pass on this stuff?

This is a talking point that truly should be deployed by pretty much any Democrat on television, as many times as possible.

"Donald Trump has started a trade war, and he is incensed that Harley-Davidson responded by announcing they'd be moving production overseas as a direct result. Trump seemingly wants all immigration halted because he cannot stand foreigners coming to America at all. Both of those would seem to be bedrock beliefs not only of the president, but also of all his followers. However, there's a few glaring contradictions between these political stances and how Trump and his family run their various businesses. Because Trump really only gets irate at companies who manufacture things abroad that aren't named for Trump or his family. Ivanka uses Chinese factories to make all her branded clothing, and Trump used to have all his Trump ties made in China as well. This is somehow perfectly fine with the Trumps, while Harley-Davidson announcing it will be doing the exact same thing is somehow a gigantic betrayal of the president. Likewise, Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort just applied to hire dozens of foreign workers as cooks and waiters. Trump's business empire actually prefers giving jobs to foreign workers, whether in their own countries or right here in America. So where is the outrage? Trump creates jobs for foreigners, not Americans, and that's somehow supposed to be OK while no other American company should do the same? That's a pretty glaring bit of hypocrisy, and yet somehow his followers don't seem to mind, for some bizarre reason."

 

7
   Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

Finally, just for fun, we have the most brilliant response to Trump from anyone this week. Technically, this isn't really a talking point, but it was close enough for us. You'll see why.

Donald Trump, obviously peeved over people who point out that he capitalizes words in his tweets in much the same fashion as was trendy in Ben Franklin's time (see that excerpt, above), decided to fight back on Twitter this week. He tweeted:

After having written many best selling books, and somewhat priding myself on my ability to write, it should be noted that the Fake News constantly likes to pour over my tweets looking for a mistake. I capitalize certain words only for emphasis, not b/c they should be capitalized!

J. K. Rowling was amused by this tweet, since Trump in claiming to be smart proved once again that he just isn't. Here are Rowling's two tweets, reproduced in their entirety:

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha *draws breath* hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1014257237945176071 …

 

'pour' hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Others also pointed out Trump's homonymic mistake, and soon enough the tweet was taken down and reposted with "pour" corrected to "pore." This led to another round of laughter from Rowling:

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahaha someone told him how to spell 'pore' hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha hahahahahahahahahaha

-- Chris Weigant

 

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Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground

 

Everybody Agrees We Have The Freedom To Disagree

[ Posted Wednesday, July 4th, 2018 – 15:44 PDT ]

First, I'd like to wish everyone a happy Independence Day!

In these tribalistic political times, it can be very hard to see it but there are still things we all largely agree upon. For instance: blowing up a bunch of fireworks is really cool, and we should all get together to enjoy the spectacle at least once a year. Who could be against such a deeply-rooted American tradition, after all?

There are plenty of other things we can all agree upon which are also centered around this particular date in history. Let the record plainly state: Fourth of July cookouts and barbeques are fun. So are pool parties and going to the beach. Little kids love sparklers. John Philip Sousa really knew how to write a damn fine patriotic march. Our flag is both colorful and beautiful, and on this particular day should be seen everywhere. Politicians should be seen slowly riding in the backs of beautifully-preserved classic convertibles, because Detroit was indeed once the envy of the world (and for good reason... just look at that chrome sparkle!).

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An Elegant Solution To The Superdelegate Problem

[ Posted Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018 – 17:07 PDT ]

With all the bombs bursting in air and rockets' red glare emanating continuously from the White House, other important political news sometimes gets buried. Which is my way of apologizing for not noticing a very important change which is likely to come soon to the Democratic National Committee. On the same day Anthony Kennedy announced he would be stepping down from the Supreme Court, the D.N.C.'s Rules and Bylaws Committee held a very important vote. They voted (almost unanimously, with only one holdout) to adopt a modified version of a proposal to dramatically reduce the importance of superdelegates in selecting a presidential nominee at the party's quadrennial convention. But the way they chose to do so was actually pretty elegant, because while it does reduce their power, it will also guarantee that the superdelegates get to take part in the process, one way or another. Senator Bernie Sanders is happy with the way things worked out, which is important since he and his followers were the ones pushing to make changes in the first place. Sanders released a statement right after the committee voted, in which he said: "This decision will ensure that delegates elected by voters in primaries and caucuses will have the primary role in selecting the Democratic Party's nominee at the 2020 convention. This is a major step forward in making the Democratic Party more open and transparent, and I applaud their action."

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White House Rips Out A Real Stinker Of A Proposal

[ Posted Monday, July 2nd, 2018 – 16:31 PDT ]

In the midst of the opening salvos in Trump's worldwide trade war, Axios just uncovered a very interesting story. Apparently, President Trump is now considering backing out of the World Trade Organization, one way or another. He feels constrained by its restrictions, he (of course) feels it is unfair to America, and he would much prefer realigning all of America's trade into bilateral agreements that he will personally negotiate with each country on the planet. But what was most amusing was one of the ways the White House is considering achieving this. They've drafted a piece of legislation that would give Trump full control over tariffs (removing Congress completely from the equation) and also allow Trump to essentially ignore the W.T.O. and all their pesky rules. Pretty much par for the "I alone can fix this country" course, really. But whichever Trump policy flunky put this legislation together needs a quick refresher course on creative acronyms, because the proposed bill is currently named the "United States Fair and Reciprocal Trade Act." Yep, that's right, the "U.S. FART Act" (or, if you want to be pedantic, the "U.S. FaRT Act"). Either way, it's a ripe and fetid stinker of a proposal.

The Trump White House is certainly already known for its noxious emissions of gaseous offensiveness. So it was perhaps inevitable that sooner or later they would just start bragging about it. Even so, it's notable that almost a year and a half into Trump's presidency, they are still so clueless about the basics of political branding. The rule of thumb is to start with an acronym you like, and then work backwards to torture a phrase into fitting your chosen acronym (see: the USA PATRIOT Act, for example, or perhaps the DREAM Act). Working it the other way around means occasionally falling flat on your face (as when George W. Bush announced the military campaign to invade Iraq would be called "Operation Iraqi Liberation," which then had to be quickly renamed). But no White House has, to the best of my knowledge, ever come up with anything quite as laughable as the U.S. FART Act. Indeed, if the bill had any chance of passing Congress, Democrats might be tempted to have some fun by introducing competing legislation called something along the lines of the "HE WHO SMELT IT DEALT IT Act."

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Friday Talking Points [490] -- Full Court Press

[ Posted Friday, June 29th, 2018 – 17:04 PDT ]

Liberals had a very bad week at the Supreme Court last week. There's no denying it. Almost all of the final decisions of the year went against them, and that was before the news of Justice Anthony Kennedy's impending retirement hit Washington like a bombshell. Fears that President Donald Trump will pick an ultra-conservative to replace him mean that bedrock decisions such as Roe v. Wade are now hanging in the balance. Democrats are vowing to fight hard against the next justice's confirmation, but this is quite likely a fight they are going to lose.

Mitch McConnell's naked hypocrisy is on full display in the middle of this fight. McConnell once swore fealty to the notion that the voters should weigh in on such an important manner (when Obama was in the Oval Office), but now he's singing a different tune, swearing he will act so hastily that the voters will not be able to weigh in on the matter. And since he abolished the filibuster for Supreme Court justices, the Republicans could indeed confirm someone before November -- or, at the very least, before January (even if the Democrats pull off a miracle and take back control of the Senate, the new Congress won't be seated until after the first of the year, leaving the lame duck Senate two final months to act).

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Program Notes

[ Posted Thursday, June 28th, 2018 – 15:55 PDT ]

There will be no new column today, sorry. I'm taking the day off and will instead devote my writing time to answering some recent comments, on which I have admittedly fallen woefully behind, of late.

Also, there will be no new column next Thursday, as I have to drive a friend to a medical appointment far from home. However, next Wednesday is Independence Day, so hopefully I'll be able to post a new column for the Fourth, in part to make up for the lack of Thursday columns.

If I had written today, it would have basically been a message to those of a religious bent to pray for the continued health of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and to likewise pray that at least one Republican senator (Susan Collins? Lisa Murkowski? With John McCain being incapable of traveling to Washington to cast a vote, it would only take one defection...) gets worried enough about the future of Roe v. Wade to block confirmation through both the midterms and the lame-duck period. Those of the Catholic persuasion might want to direct their prayers to St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. Sigh.

So anyway, since we're getting all religious, I'll end by saying mea culpa for there being no new column today, and mea culpa maxima for not attending to the comments before now.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

Progressives Have A Good Primary Night

[ Posted Wednesday, June 27th, 2018 – 16:31 PDT ]

I realize there is bigger news from the Supreme Court today, but since I wrote about them yesterday I'm not going to address Anthony Kennedy's retirement yet. Instead, I'd like to focus today on the latest round of primary election results, specifically from New York, Maryland, and Colorado. Because some big news was made within the Democratic Party last night.

New York's 14th congressional district generated the biggest news, as a 28-year-old newcomer beat a longtime Democratic Party bigwig in a stunning primary upset. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was outspent by incumbent Joe Crowley something like 17-to-1, but she still beat him by a comfortable margin. The district is majority-minority, so perhaps it was merely a matter of time before a person of color replaced an older white male, but nobody really expected it to happen this time around, least of all Crowley. He was fourth in line in the House Democratic leadership, and was even being talked about as a possible replacement for Nancy Pelosi, should she fail to get enough support to become speaker again.

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Democrats Need To Campaign More On Judicial Picks

[ Posted Tuesday, June 26th, 2018 – 17:21 PDT ]

Gerald R. Ford once famously pointed out that the practical definition of what constituted grounds for impeaching a president (since it is only vaguely defined in the Constitution itself) consisted of whatever a majority of the House of Representatives decided were valid grounds for impeachment (Ford, on the House floor, before he became Nixon's vice president: "The only honest answer is that an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House of Representatives considers it to be at a given moment in history"). Likewise, it almost appears self-evident that defining what is constitutional and what is not can be similarly reduced to whatever a majority of the Supreme Court decides is constitutional, at the present time. Dred Scott was constitutional -- right up until it wasn't -- because a Supreme Court had determined it was. It took a shift of opinion on the highest court to reverse this. Again, this should all be pretty obvious to even the most causal observer of American history. Which is why, in fact, the conservative movement has focused so intently on the judicial branch for the past three decades and more. This began at the height of the anti-abortion movement during Ronald Reagan's time in office, and it continues today on the right side of the spectrum. But for some unfathomable reason, liberals have never matched this level of political fervor about judicial appointments. But now the stakes are higher than ever.

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"Zero Tolerance" Legal And Political Fallout Will Continue

[ Posted Monday, June 25th, 2018 – 17:15 PDT ]

President Trump probably thought that a decisive move from him would end all the fuss over his "zero tolerance" policy on immigration. He signed an executive order, therefore the problem would thus go away. But this isn't how things work in the real world, where the fallout is going to continue for the foreseeable future. There will be two major arenas where this is going to play out: in the courtroom, and on the political stage.

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Friday Talking Points [489] -- Ranting About Trump's Cruelty

[ Posted Friday, June 22nd, 2018 – 18:20 PDT ]

For a change, we're not going to have much to say in this introduction. The reason is that the talking points section is taken up by a lengthy rant this week, because it seemed timely to offer one up. It is a rare week of the Trump presidency where there is really only one overriding issue in the political world to comment on, but this was indeed that kind of week.

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