Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'politics'

Messages and Messengers

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu Sep 07, 2017 @ 11:13 am PDT

userpic=divided-nationWith the upcoming publication of Hillary Clinton’s book, the debate has started up again on the role of Bernie Sanders on giving Trump the election. Per CNN: “In it, according to excerpts posted by a group of Clinton supporters, she criticizes her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, for running to be the Democratic nominee while not actually being a Democrat, and for targeting her in a campaign of character assassination, instead of doing a deep dive into policy.” This notion, predictably, has Sanders supporters responding on FB, and has reignited the debate about the election once again. Here are some of my thoughts, so I don’t have to keep posting them again and again … and again:

  • Get Over It! Much as I don’t like the result, the Electoral College voted and gave us Trump. Hillary Clinton lost, and we should just let her fade into the background and focus on the next generation of candidates.
  • …but don’t get full of yourself. However, the election was not a Trump landslide, despite what he said. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote; Trump was more strategic in where he won. Playing to Trump’s base is not what the country voted for.
  • Bernie Sanders could not have won. Sanders had a great very progressive message. Despite the positives in that message, he was doomed from the start. As we saw recently in Virginia, there are loads of people out there that hate both Jews and Blacks. Sanders was an ex-Socialist, New York Jew. This country was not ready for that messenger. They were barely ready for a Black President, and as we saw from the election, really weren’t ready for a woman President. Much as we think we’ve come a long way, the battle for true equality — and universal acceptance of that equality — isn’t over for different religions or women (and certainly not for the newer protected categories, including LGBTQ etc.).
  • Hillary cost Hillary the election. Although Sanders had an impact on Clinton, certainly, it is unclear if he cost her the election. What really lost the election was Hillary’s presumption of winning vs. hard work. She didn’t think strategically and ensure she had the electoral votes. It was the tortoise vs. the hare.
  • Messenger, not Message. What got Trump elected was not his message, it was the messenger (or for some, hatred of the other messenger). He was the “anti-establishment, anti-government, shake things up” candidate — who spoke off the cuff in the language of the people. He excited a segment of the population that hadn’t gotten excited before (Alt-Right), and implicitly gave them permission to enthusiastically go for him — in the strategic states. [ETA: He expressed broad ideas and goals with few specifics, letting people trust in the power of him to get it done.] Clinton was not exciting; she was more of the same. [ETA: That is: Detailed policy wonk positions, playing up experience in the status quo, dull political speech, yada, yada.] Trump (likely aided by Russia and social media) played up those flaws. Clinton didn’t excite voters, and the segment she spoke to weren’t the types that got enthusiastic. Sanders’ supporters were enthusiastic, but they couldn’t get enthusiastic about anyone other than Sanders, so they sat on hands at the general election (or — forfend! — voted for Trump because they hated Hillary so) — essentially, putting their dislike of the messenger over their like of the message (much of which Clinton adopted).
  • Although the Endpoints are Excitable, the Bulk is in the Middle. The endpoints — the alt-right, the arch-conservatives, the Sanders progressives, the semi-Socialists — make the most noise and think they are the most important, but they aren’t the bulk of the electorate. Those in the middle are — those who Bill Clinton, and to a lesser extent, Barack Obama — played to. The problem is: the gerrymandering and the nature of the primaries gives the edges a stronger voice in selecting the candidates these days, leaving the electorate to choose between the extremes. It often isn’t a good choice.

Post-election, it is clear that not much has changed. Trump’s base loves him no matter what he does. The rest of the Republican party doesn’t like Trump, but has no viable Republican alternative — and they won’t go for a Democrat. Meanwhile, the Democrats have lived up to their reputation of not being an organized political party. Neither Sanders or Clinton is a viable party leader — Sanders because (a) he’ll be too old, and (b) he isn’t really a Democrat, and Clinton because, well, she’s Clinton and folks are tired of dynasties (i.e., Clinton / Bush). The candidates that have been floated all have their flaws. The country is clearly not ready for another racial minority or a woman, and needs a more “status quo” (i.e., sigh, white male) for a cycle or two — which means both Booker or Warren, while great with their messages, are stronger in the Senate. It also excludes folks like Kamala Harris or Antonio Villagrosa. Much as I like Al Franken, he has a Sanders problem — Jewish, as well as being a former actor and comedian. The Democrats need to find a suitable candidate and start grooming and promoting them now — and, alas, by suitable I mean white, male, and Christian. A candidate who will make the country feel safe in the messenger, so the message can be heard. They haven’t done that, and looking at their bench of up and comers, they don’t have a lot of choice.

Actually, they do have one good possibility — Hillary Clinton’s former running mate. If he isn’t too tainted by that association, Tim Kaine of Virginia has the right credentials. Democratic, white, and Catholic. Able to speak to hispanics. Good on policy. A former governor. But surprisingly, I haven’t seen his name come up at all.

 

Share

--- *** ---

Will Rodgers Was Right About DACA

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Sep 05, 2017 @ 11:50 am PDT

While eating my lunch, I’ve been reading the news about DACA and the reactions thereto on Facebook. I’ve also been thinking about my recent trip, and Will Rodger’s famous statement that people’s minds are changed through observation, not argument.

When you look at most of the people supporting DACA, they are people that either know a dreamer directly, or are close to someone who knows one. They know the hard work these people put in; how they strive to make their lives better and the world a better place. They also know, from first hand discussion, what would happen to these people if they are kicked out of the only country they have known.  A similar narrative exists, by the way, for those who work with immigrants and refugees — legal or not. They know how much these people treasure this country, how hard they work to stay here and improve their lives. They know how important it is for their kids to be educated and go to college, and to exceed and do even better than their parents. These kids, with aspirational goals, are the dreamers we talk about with DACA. These are people that must succeed, for there is no significant welfare largess, so significant safety net.

I’ll note that this ethic: the ethic of hard work, of striving to be better, of pushing to move forward, learning, growing, and educating — and using all such opportunities available to you — this ethic is something that is often missing on those born in this country. I think we all personally know citizens that would rather wait for just the right job, are happy being on welfare and government assistance, are willing to work but not to work extra hard. Eliminating DACA will not suddenly employ these folks, will not solve the problems of society.

We just took a road trip through parts of the country that do not support DACA. From my observations, the people in those parts of the country don’t have the same level of interaction with Dreamers or Immigrants. Their view is not shaped by their experience and observations; that vacuum instead sucks up the arguments of bias. Essentially, in the absence of observation and experience, they are willing to believe what they are told about “those people”. They believe they are the ones taking the jobs away from them, sucking money from Washington, and generally abusing public service. The facts of the contributions of these people don’t sway them; in fact, no argument will. They are the people that will, alas, fulfill a different Rodgers adage: “There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”  The problem is that learning their lesson will hurt innocent people just trying to do good. Rodgers has an adage on their view of that as well: “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to somebody else.”

P.S.: For those who believe I’m quoting someone who was consistently liberal, remember it was also Rodgers who said “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

Share

--- *** ---

Pardon Me

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Aug 27, 2017 @ 9:16 am PDT

userpic=trumpAs I read all the discussions around Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, a few articles keep sticking in my head:

  • The Power to Pardon. First, to set the context, listen to this excellent TrumpConLaw podcast on the Pardon Power. In short, the President can pardon whomever he wants, but only for Federal crimes, only after the crime has been committed, and it can’t be a pardon from impeachment. Most Presidents (and Trump isn’t “most Presidents”) pardon on the recommendation of the Justice Department, only after some jail time has been served, and for the controversial ones, as their last action as President before they leave so they don’t have to suffer the political ramifications. But, as I noted, Trump isn’t “most Presidents”. He’ll get to deal with the fall out.
  • Why He Did It? (Take One). Vox has an interesting explanation of why he did it: To send a message that the enforcement of law and order takes priority over the actual laws. Arpaio was convicted of violating civil rights in order to enforce his interpretation of law and order, which is congruent with Trump’s interpretation. Or, as Vox put it, “Joe Arpaio recognized the fundamental truth of Trump’s worldview even before Trump did: that promising “law and order,” and protection from social disorder in the form of unauthorized immigration and street crime, didn’t require you to actually adhere to the rule of law.” This sends message #1 from Trump: “If you are doing what I like, I’ll protect you from the law.”
  • Why He Did It? (Take Two). The LA Times presents a different take on the subject: the Federal Government expects local help on dealing with immigration issues, to the extent they will shield those who violate civil rights to take actions against immigrants. It sent the message that using racial profiling was acceptable in Trump’s book.
  • Why He Did It? (Take Three). The Atlantic captures yet a third message in Trump’s pardon: Contempt for judges and the rule of law. As the Atlantic writes: “The Arpaio case was the very integrity of the federal judiciary. He was not convicted of an ordinary crime, but of deliberately disobeying a federal court order and lying about that; but beyond that, during the litigation that led to his conviction for criminal contempt, he hired a private detective to investigate the wife of a federal judge hearing a case against his office. Any judge can understand the threat posed by law enforcement personnel who seek to strike back at judges and their families, perhaps for purposes of blackmail or revenge—and the deep arrogance of a president who regards such behavior as praiseworthy. In fact, since even before the election, Trump has brandished his hostility to judges almost as aggressively as his disregard of racial decency. When federal district Judge Gonzalo Curiel was assigned the Trump University civil fraud case, Trump attacked the Indiana-born Curiel in front of a campaign rally as “Mexican” and “a total disgrace.” When Judge James Robart (a George W. Bush appointee) of the District of Washington enjoined the first version of Trump’s “travel ban,” Trump on Twitter dismissed Robart as a “so-called judge” and told his supporters “If something happens blame him and court system.”  When another District Judge enjoined his “sanctuary cities” defunding order, Trump publicly threatened to break up the Ninth Circuit. When a terror cell carried out a car attack in Barcelona earlier this month, Trump immediately zeroed in on the “travel ban” case, now pending before the Supreme Court: “The courts must give us back our protective rights,” he tweeted. Every indication is that Trump will respond to an adverse Supreme Court ruling on any important issue with a full-throated assault on the court and on the very idea of judicial independence. That the court’s majority is conservative and Republican won’t matter.”

In short, the simple takeaway is this: As President, Trump has the authority to pardon whomever he wants for a Federal crime. Once pardoned, one cannot un-pardon. However, the President has to deal with the fallout of his actions, and this will add to Trump’s shedding of any discretionary supporters. All that will be left is the hard-core (“rabid”?) base of those that place ideology and hatred of “the other” over the laws of this country. Trump never had any progressive support, and those who were supporting him for fiscal conservatism are coming to realize that there are better ways to achieve their goals, and better politicians to back to do so.

Share

--- *** ---

The Last Battlefield

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Aug 15, 2017 @ 8:15 am PDT

We saw history happen last weekend in Charlottesville. History as significant as the shots fired at Fort Sumter. Just as with the Civil War, this is the beginning of a significant battle brought to the surface by, you guessed it, the election of Donald J. Trump. It is a battle that might leave our country in disarray, weakened for another power to come in, if we aren’t careful. And remember, there is one big difference between now and Civil War days: Russia is awake.

This musing was prompted by a piece in the LA Times that indicated how, after Charlottesville, cities were rushing to take down any Civil War statues before White Supremacists could rally around them. These Supremacists, awakened by the election of Barack Obama, called out of the dank recesses by the dog whistles of the Trump campaign, and emboldened by the subsequent non-discouragement of said administration, feel empowered in a way that hasn’t been seen for almost 80 years. As the LA Times has written:

To the white supremacists who gathered from across the country, the havoc in the Virginia college town and the international attention it earned them marked a win. To the counter-protesters, widespread acknowledgment of the threat posed by racism — evident in television images of Nazi symbols and other blatant bigotry — was proof they had prevailed.

It remains unclear what will happen to the racist movement that has been energized by the election of President Trump and was laid out for all to see in Charlottesville. But one thing seems certain: The fighting is not over. Both sides are gearing up for more.

White nationalists and pro-Confederate groups quickly announced rallies and speaking events in Virginia, Texas and beyond, gaining throngs of online supporters while the people who live in those places are already taking to the streets to warn them to stay away.

When Trump had his surprise victory, I felt that this was the final rally of the “White Privilege” folk — a final exercise in protest of the coming shift in America — a shift where the overall non-white or non-Christian population becomes the majority in this country, a shift heralded by the election of Barack Obama to a leadership that looks a lot more like our diverse nation than does the homogeneous complex we see these days. And Mr. Trump has been true to form: selecting individuals as leaders that reflect the White Christian view set, that work to undo advances that helped the minorities, to quick-cement in place privilege and power to those that have long held it — the upper white class.

Charlottesville has brought this to the fore. What could have been a simple exercise of free speech like the marches in Skokie turned — as the organizers likely intended — into violence. When the President did not immediately and swiftly condemn the specific cause of that violence, they were further empowered. His specific condemnation yesterday, read from a teleprompter, was “too little, too late”, especially when he followed it quickly with tweets complaining about how the media had blown this situation all out of proportion. Those who oppose the White Supremacists saw it as an insincere message written by the staff and not really felt by the President; the Supremacists saw it as a further insult by the leadership of the nation and wanted to fight more.

And so we have it now: The battle for the future of this nation. Does it move, as the President and Stephen Bannon’s factions want, to a more White and more Christian nation — a nation much like the United States of the period from 1860 to 1950? Or does it move to a Nation of the 1990s and 2000s: a nation that celebrates both the strength that comes from its diversity and the strength that comes from the unity of that diversity. Does it move to a nation that truly stands for the words in the Pledge of Allegiance: not specifically “under God”, but “with liberty and justice for all”? Does the influence of God in this great nation present itself in enforcement of the punitive restrictions of the Bible — hatred of gays, hatred of other nations, women as a distinct and hidden second class, punishment for abortion, or does God’s influence present itself in the compassionate aspects of the Bible: remembering that it is we too who were slaves and foreigners, that it is our job to help the captive, heal the sick, pick up the downfallen, aid the poor and show mercy (just as, as this non-Christian understands it, Christ showed mercy to Mary Magdelaine)? I know who I want to win.

Share

--- *** ---

Mottos Matter

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jul 05, 2017 @ 7:34 pm PDT

userpic=divided-nationI was getting all ready to do a post about NPR tweeting the Declaration of Independence and the kerfuffle over the CNN video and its source, but then I realized there was something deeper to say about the implication of mottos.

Since 1956 — the height of “godless communism” — the motto of the USA was “In God We Trust” and “Under God” was added to the pledge. Before that, the unofficial motto — since the founding of the nation — was E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One).  The change was made — ostensibly — to distinguish us from the godless Commies. I think our decline into partisanship began then.

Think about the two sayings. When you say, “In God We Trust”, the first question is: Whose God? Is it the God of the Christians, the Jews, the Muslims, the Hindu, the Buddhists, the… And what about those who do not believe in God, or who question God? “In God We Trust”, ultimately, is a motto that divides us. It also explicitly gives a religious basis to what makes us strong. If “In God We Trust”, then it is God that makes us strong. Actually, it is my God that makes us strong, and your God that makes us weak, so you better do what my God says.

Now consider “E Pluribus Unum“. This is a strength that comes not from the Divine, but from the people. It says that it is our diversity that makes us strong — our different ideas. It is all of us working together that makes this nation great, setting aside religious, cultural, and political differences to find compromises that move us forward.

Our National leaders — starting from the era of Eisenhower and “In God We Trust” (for this is when both Nixon and Reagan got their starts) — have increasingly emphasized the divides in our nation. Religion. Class. Color. Gender. They have played those divides to accumulate power and wealth. We see the results in Washington DC today. People work for party over the nation, believing what is good for their party must be good for the nation, unquestioningly. We have seen a populace that unquestioningly hates the other side, considered them to be sub-human. We have seen the hatred grow, and the unity disappear.

For America to survive, we must remember that we were founded for E Pluribus Unum, not In God We Trust. We must come together to celebrate our diversity, find the strength within, and work together for all people. We must elect leaders who feel the same. We must remind our currently elected leaders that if they do not work for all the people, then they may soon be looking for a new job.

Share

--- *** ---

Be Careful What You Wish For….

Written By: cahwyguy - Mon Jul 03, 2017 @ 11:20 am PDT

Today’s lunchtime news chum brings two stories where getting what you wanted didn’t quite work out as planned:

  • We Elected A Business Man to run our Government. What Could Go Wrong?

No, I’m not talking about President Trump. Politico Magazine has a detailed analysis of Colorado Springs’ jump into Libertarianism. From the election of a politically-inexperienced Mayor who promised to run the city like a business, to the consequence of the financial crisis. From some initial successes, it was downhill. But the Springs are booming again? Why. A political conservative new Mayor was elected — but this time, one who understood what government is and how it functions.

  • We Wanted a Cheap, Reliable, Air Transportation System Between Domestic Cities. What Could Go Wrong?

The answer is, of course, corporate greed. This is what has led to the Boeing 737 being stretched longer and longer, with more efficient and powerful engines, going longer and longer distances. But there hasn’t been a change in fuselog width or underlying control systems. So we’re just packing more and more in, and squishing everyone closer together.  But don’t panic. The real Boeing 797 may be around the corner. It will be built of new composite materials, but doesn’t look to be a wide-body. Sounds like a 737 with new electronics and a lighter airframe, permitting even more speed and even more distance. How far can you throw a tin can?

 

Share

--- *** ---

Parallel Divides

Written By: cahwyguy - Sun Jul 02, 2017 @ 3:18 pm PDT

userpic=divided-nationReading through my Facebook feed today, an article from Haaretz caught my eye: ‘Religion-hating Gangsters’: Israeli Orthodox Vitriol Toward Reform Jews Escalates Amid Kotel Crisis.  As the article is a premium article (meaning if you don’t come in right, it is behind a paywall), I’ll quote from it a bit more than I normally would:

“Inappropriate and insolent.” That’s how Rabbi Abraham Gordimer, a member of the Rabbinical Council of America and the New York Bar, dubbed Reform Jewish protests against the government’s decision to freeze plans for a pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall.

Rabbi Gordimer’s comments, published on the right-leaning Arutz Sheva website in English, were mild compared to the wave of bile heaped upon the followers of Reform Judaism in Israel’s right-wing Hebrew press. Readers would have been forgiven for forgetting that the government itself had approved the plan last year after four years of negotiations brokered by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.

Far-right lawmaker Betzalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) accused the Reform movement of “dragging Diaspora Jews into a fight.” He said responsibility for the crisis lay with “a small fringe group of a few dozen activists in the Israeli Reform movement. They don’t care about the right of an individual to pray according to his beliefs.”

A profile of Reform leader Rick Jacobs in Israel’s Maariv daily newspaper and the NRG website portrayed him as an “extreme left,” pro-BDS “gangster” as one of the many Israelis who circulated the story on social media described him. A commentary on Channel 20 accused him of being a “selective Zionist” and creating a platform for anti-Semitic propaganda.

[…]

Non-Orthodox Jews were depicted as outsiders with no legitimate say in what should or shouldn’t happen at the Western Wall or in Israel at large.

[…]

Anti-Reform sentiment runs deep among Israel’s Orthodox leadership. At the Haaretz conference earlier this month, lawmaker Moshe Gafni of United Torah Judaism explained why he could not align with left-wing parties even though he found them “more intelligent” than their counterparts on the right. “Why don’t I go with the left? Because you sit with the Reform,” he said.

Last month, Rabbi Meir Mazuz, head of Yeshivat Kashei Rachamim, compared Reform Jews to pigs in his weekly sermon. “They are not Jews,” he said.

Rabbi Michael Marmur, provost of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem, said there has long been among some streams of the Orthodox movement “a long history of looking at the Reform movement as a boogey man and a tendency to blame Reform for all the heinous things in the world.”

“As we make more inroads into the conversation about what Israel should look like, there is an inflationary spiral in the rhetoric,” he said. “The vitriol you see expressed is in direct proportion to us trying to make a stand. We are wheeled out as the enemy, as traitors. The article about Rick Jacobs is a classic example. If Reform Jews and the Reform movement he represents are understood as a dagger in the back, as a fifth column, then the problem is neutralized.”

As I read through this, I was struck by the parallels in the rhetoric that I have seen — and continue to see — from what I would characterize as many in the far right — the ardent Trump supporters. Further, given the very un-Presidential tweet of an animation showing our President* beating up and bloodying the mainstream media, personified by CNN, I dare to say that this is rhetoric I’ve seen from our President himself.

From my very Conservative friends on my Facebook feed, I have seen posts making the same claims about Liberals that the Orthodox make about Reform. Read the quote above and replace the sentiment with Liberals, and it will sound familiar. “They are not Americans”.  There is “a long history of looking at the Liberal movement as a boogey man and a tendency to blame Liberals for all the heinous things in the world.” “Liberals are wheeled out as the enemy, as traitors. The article about [insert your Democratic candidate] is a classic example. If the Democratic Party and the Liberal/Progressive movement he represents are understood as a dagger in the back, as a fifth column, then the problem is neutralized.” As to why moderate Republicans might not work with the Democrats? Lawmaker [insert name here] of the Republican Party explained why he could not align with left-wing parties even though he found them “more intelligent” than their counterparts on the right. “Why don’t I go with the left? Because you sit with the Liberals/Progressives,”

It sounds far too familiar. Yet from Reform Jews towards Orthodoxy, just as from Liberals towards Conservatives, I don’t see the same level of hatred or divide. There is the willingness to accept the diversity of opinion, to recognize that we can agree to disagree. Reform Jews don’t characterize Orthodox as the source of all problems in Judaism, just as Liberals do not  characterize all Conservatives as the source of all problems in America. (Well, most don’t).

If this country is to move forward and not split apart, we must learn to see people as people and not the abstract enemy that we hate. Separation and hatred plays to activist bases, but doesn’t solve problems. Unfortunately, we may never get past this if the leadership of the parties do not set the example. If our leaders cannot work together, how can the people ever have a hope of doing the same. My voice is insignificant — I’m represented by congresscritters and senators that already feel as I feel. I’d urge those supporting the President to urge him to act Presidential, to remember that he is the President of the entire country, not just the minority of the voters that voted for him. But, alas, even as congressional leadership urges that, he is ignoring it.

Almost 27 years ago I started the Liberal Judaism Mailing List to provide a place where people from different Jewish movements could discussion issues in an environment where we respected each others as Jews and didn’t let movemental affiliation impact that respect.  Fundamental to that discussion was the notion that saying lies or propagating myths about the other side is essentially Lashon Horah, propagation of gossip and lies. Through hard moderation, we were able to keep a positive dialog going for a long time. Why can’t, as Americans, we do the same?

As we approach this July 4th, we must remember that the original motto of this country was not “In God We Trust”, and there wasn’t an emphasis on pushing Christianity on the people (the only reference to religion in the Constitution was the fact that there shouldn’t be a religious test for office holders). Rather, the original motto was, E Pluribus Unum, “From Many, One”. It is the many voices that came together to make this nation strong, not one voice stomping out all the others.

*: Yes, our President. Whether you voted for him or not, he is President of this  country. The fact that he doesn’t act very Presidential, as someone people can respect and model behavior after, is a different issue.

Share

--- *** ---

Don’t Sound Conservative To Me (A Lunchtime Rant)

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Jun 21, 2017 @ 11:40 am PDT

userpic=trump[NEVERMIND — It turned out the source that triggered this was from a satire site. This is not the post you are looking for. Move along.]

Recently, I commented upon a tweet of President Trump’s that was internally contradictory. Today, I was reading another article where a statement from Press Secretary Sean Spicer just blew my mind. Here’s the statement (from this article) — take note of the phrase I have emboldened:

Asked by several reporters to clarify the full extent of the president’s power, or in other words, its limitations – if they exist – Spicer argued that the Constitution “clearly states” what the President of the United States can and cannot do. “However,” he added, “one must also recognize the fact that our Constitution was written quite a while ago and, as such, isn’t ideal when it comes to facing the issues that plague the American society nowadays. One of those issues is also the limit of the president’s power. Just like our language and many other things that are typically American, our Constitution is also a living thing that changes and evolves as time goes by. And if it doesn’t do so on its own, then it has us, the people of America, to help it. However, seeing how the people already have more than enough on their plate these days, the president has decided not to bother you folks with such boring decisions.

One of the major complaints of the Republican Party has been activist judges interpreting the Constitution in the way that the founders never intended. This has been a primary argument of those desiring particular Supreme Court judges. In fact, one of the reasons that Trump’s nominee was such a concern to Democrats is that he was a strict interpreter. Trump, during his campaign, endorsed strict interpretation. Yet look at the statement again: “our Constitution is also a living thing that changes and evolves as time goes by.” That seems to be the argument that the Democrats have been making — so why aren’t the Republicans up in arms about this statement.”

As for the issue of limiting Presidential power: the desire for that limitation shouldn’t be based on the individual that occupies the office.  It seems that the Republicans wanted all sorts of limitations on Presidential power when Obama was in office. One would think they would want such limitations under Trump, because eventually Trump will be replaced by a Democrat.

Then again, there is this statement by Spicer:

“For example, President Trump not only has the power to fire Robert Mueller; he also has the legal ability and right to cancel and disband the Supreme Court of the United States as well, should he feel the need for it. And no one could argue with such a decision.”

Say that again? The Supreme Court is defined in the Constitution. He cannot disband it and fire all the members — that would be a clear violation of the constitution. There is also a long standing precedent about judicial legitimacy (see Episode 1 here) going back to the days of Marbury v Madison, which established the authority of the Supreme Court to declare Congressional and Presidential actions and laws unconstitutional. Given the length that this precedent has been standing, Trump’s legal team would need a very strong basis to overturn it — and arguing a flexible Constitution isn’t it.

In short: Yes, the President can fire Executive Department members, as the head of the Executive Branch. However, if those actions can be shown to be attempts to impede investigations, there can be charges of obstruction of justice (and yes, Mr. Gingrich, the President can be guilty of obstruction — look at Nixon and Clinton). The President cannot fire members of Congress or their staff. He cannot fire the Supreme Court; they are hired by Congress and serve for life or until they retire.

This is why it is vitally important that Congress — not the FBI — appoint an independent investigator to look into all charges related to Russia and its interference with American politics, into conflicts of interest that impact government decisions, and to use of elected and appointed offices for personal gain. That will insulate the investigator from Presidential interference. As with President Obama, I’m sure that if the investigator concludes there is nothing to see, everyone will believe it.

 

Share

--- *** ---