Tag Archives: Bush v. Gore

Trump ignites a new era of nastiness

Donald J. Trump won’t leave a warm and fuzzy presidential legacy.

I feel confident in saying so. He’ll leave office no doubt proclaiming all kinds of economic and foreign policy success.

He won’t, though, be able to declare victory in his stated pledge to “unify” the country after the contentious and bitter campaign that elected him president of the United States.

We are more divided than we’ve been in the past 50 years. More divided than Bush v. Gore and the Florida recount — and a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision — that decided the 2000 election; more than the impeachment in 1998 of President Clinton; more than the fight over the Affordable Care Act in 2010; more divided, even, than during the Vietnam War, when millions of Americans marched in protest against that conflict.

Trump took office and declared at his inaugural that the “American carnage” would end “right here and right now.” It hasn’t.

He has dragged public discourse into the gutter. He has ignited his Democratic Party foes to follow him there. Man, I regret that trend. We hear Democrats using Trump’s own words and behavior as justification for their attempts to out-shout the president and the Republicans.

Trump’s declaration that the media are the “enemy of the American people” has energized his base, which is totally fine with him.

Donald Trump is not the president of the entire nation; he speaks only to his base and speaks only in language that his base understands. They comprise something around 38 percent of all Americans. That’s enough to suit the president.

Does any of this portend a legacy that makes us proud?

Nope. Not as far as I’m concerned. I’m pretty sure a lot of other Americans feel the same way.

Let’s stop the ‘consequences’ talk


How about settling down just a bit, Republican members of Congress?

They’re all up in arms over remarks Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made about presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, about how she cannot imagine a country with Trump as president.

Rep. Randy Weber of Texas said Ginsburg ought to resign. Trump said the same thing. As the Hill reported: “The recent comments of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg on Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump are the antithesis of Lady Justice and in direct violation for what the highest court in the land stands,” he said. “Justice Ginsburg’s actions must be met with consequences. I agree with Donald Trump that she should resign.”


While I agree that Ginsburg crossed a line, violated an unwritten rule about justices getting too politically partisan, let’s take heed of what the framers did when they wrote the U.S. Constitution.

They created an independent branch of government called the “judicial branch.” Judges get lifetime appointments to their posts. The idea was to enable them to be free of political pressure brought by the executive or legislative branches of government.

The founders got it right.

Ginsburg didn’t need to pop off as she did about Trump. But she isn’t the first justice to get involved in politics. In the earliest years of the Republic, justices ran for political office while sitting on the Supreme Court.

That kind of overt politicking, of course, hasn’t occurred in many years.

I don’t expect the Supreme Court to hear cases involving Trump while Ginsburg is sitting on that bench. However, I don’t doubt the justice’s ability to judge any case involving Trump fairly.

Although the framers had the right idea when they created an independent judiciary, they could not possibly remove politics from its actions.

I bring you Bush v. Gore in 2000, in which five Republican-appointed justices stopped the ballot-counting in Florida with GOP candidate George W. Bush leading Democratic opponent Al Gore by 537 votes out of more than 5 million cast in that state. Bush won Florida’s electoral votes and became president by the narrowest of margins.

Do you think politics played any role in that decision?

Well, that’s how the system worked.

As for the present-day dustup over Justice Ginsburg’s remarks, she made them, but let’s quell the talk about “consequences.”

Ginsburg was entitled to say what she said.

Change the federal judicial system? Please, no

What is it with some American politicians?

A court ruling or two doesn’t go their way and they want to toss aside one of the basic tenets of our federal government? They want to elect federal judges, make them stand for “retention” if they make a decision that upsets some of us?

That’s the view of a leading so-called “conservative” U.S. senator who’s also running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Take it away, Ted Cruz of Texas.


Cruz jousted this week with MSBNC’s Chris Matthews over the setup of the federal judiciary. Cruz doesn’t like the two recent Supreme Court rulings that (a) upheld the Affordable Care Act and (b) legalized gay marriage in the United States.

The junior senator from Texas now thinks Supreme Court justices should stand for retention to enable voters a chance to decide if they want them to keep their jobs.

Matthews, not surprisingly, went semi-ballistic — which is part of his shtick. He brought up the Bush v. Gore decision that settled the 2000 presidential election. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 to stop the Florida recount. Texas Gov. George W. Bush was leading by 537 votes at that moment over Vice President Al Gore. Gov. Bush was awarded Florida’s electoral votes, which were enough to elect him president of the United States by a single electoral vote.

The five Republican-appointed justices’ overruled the four dissents cast by the Democratic-appointed justices. Politics? Gosh, do you think?

Conservatives hailed that decision. And why not? It was all done according to precisely the manner allowed by the U.S. Constitution. Some of us might not have liked the outcome, but that’s how it goes. The justices made the call.

Cruz didn’t object then, Matthews reminded him.

The nation’s founders set up a system in which the federal judiciary is intended to be free of political pressure. The president appoints judges and Supreme Court justices, who then are subject to approval by the Senate. They get lifetime jobs and, therefore, are able to rule according to how they interpret the Constitution.

This idea that we should now subject justices to the political will of the people is simply not in keeping with what the founders intended when they wrote the Constitution.

Political conservatives, such as Sen. Cruz, keep harping on “original intent.” Well, the founders’ “original intent” was to separate the judicial branch of government from the political tug-of-war that exists in the legislative and executive branches.

Cruz said he is “reluctant to call for elections,” and said it “makes him sad.” He added that he has made that call because “a majority of the justices are not honoring their judicial oaths.”

Yes they are, senator.

Let’s leave the judicial system alone.

Presidential election change at hand?

The passage of time tends to make me reflect on some long-held positions, reconsider them and possibly look for avenues of change.

That seems to be happening with my long-standing support of the Electoral College system of electing presidents. Momentum for a change seems to be building, according to The Hill newspaper.


The Hill reports that 11 states have enacted legislation ending the winner-take-all provision for doling out electoral votes.

Proponents of the change say that the 2020 presidential election might be the first to pick a president that relies on the popular vote rather than the current method.

This is a huge deal. I’m still officially undecided on whether I want it to change, but I am ready to keep an open mind on it.

The Hill reports: “Criticism of the current Electoral College system stems from its ‘winner-take-all’ approach, which awards all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate that wins the popular vote in that particular state. Winner-take-all systems generally mean presidential candidates ignore the states they know will go red or blue and focus their campaign efforts on battleground states instead.”

If a candidate wins a state, he or she wins all of that state’s electoral votes. Texas boasts 38 such votes. It’s a big prize. However, given that the state is so reliably Republican, candidates in recent years rarely have ventured here to compete for our state’s electoral votes. They concentrate instead — almost exclusively — on the “swing states,” such as Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. As The Hill reports: “In the 2012 presidential election, for example, two-thirds of campaign funding went to four states: Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Virginia. Aside from other events in handful of states, the majority of the country was ignored.”

I can recall a trip my wife and I made to Greece in November 2000. I was attending a series of meetings sponsored by the Greek press ministry. That year’s U.S. presidential election was not yet decided. Vice President Al Gore won more votes than Texas Gov. George W. Bush and the candidates were fighting over a recount of ballots in Florida. The winner of that battle would win the presidency.

The question kept coming at me from my Greek hosts, who are quite sophisticated about these matters, given that their country gave birth to democratic government as we’ve come to know it: How is it that someone can get more votes than the other guy and still lose an election? I had difficulty explaining how the Electoral College system works. Frankly, the more I tried to explain it, the less I began to believe in it.

Well, Bush won the battle with a razor-thin Supreme Court decision over Florida’s ballots and became president despite losing the popular vote.

Now the tide to fundamentally reform the presidential election process may be turning in favor of those who want to change it.

Something tells me this discussion is just now picking up steam.