Tag Archives: Founding Fathers

Founders are spinning

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Wherever they are, the men who formed the government that runs our beloved country surely must be so mad they could just spit.

Why? Well, they intended to create a federal judicial system that would be free of political pressure. They revealed that intent by creating judgeships that would last a lifetime. The idea was to free federal judges from political pressure by setting, say, limits on the amount of time they could serve.

It hasn’t worked out quite the way the founders intended.

We have another vacancy on our nation’s highest court and the political pressure is about the blow the roof off the Supreme Court building. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death wasn’t entirely a surprise, although it did sadden many of us … me included.

We now are going to watch a spectacle unfold in which a president with no discernable ideological base is going to nominate an arch conservative jurist to replace the progressive-leaning, trailblazing Ginsburg. The balance of power on the Supreme Court will be set for as long as the rest of the conservative majority remains seated.

Politics, anyone?

The pressure is going to go way beyond merely intense. It will become unbearable. Donald Trump promised to appoint archconservative jurists to the bench. He delivered with the appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, although they haven’t voted entirely the way the Trump administration would have wanted.

Now comes the next choice. It’s going to be a woman, Trump says. I won’t speculate here on who it might be. I’ll wait for the announcement that Trump said is coming Saturday.

Just know that the political hackles are going to be flying.

Dang. I just wish the founders were around to remind us all — in person — what they intended when they wrote that Constitution.

SCOTUS provides wonderful civics lesson

Dear readers of High Plains Blogger, I am happy to report to you that our U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling that sparkles on a number of fronts.

It ruled 7-2 that the president of the United States is not above the law. The ruling said that Donald Trump’s financial records are open to grand jury scrutiny in Manhattan, New York City, which is examining potential criminal conduct from the president.

The ruling demonstrated the value of having an “independent federal judiciary.” Two justices who joined the majority were nominated by Donald Trump. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh sided with Justices Elana Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Chief Justice John Roberts in this seminal ruling

Why is that important? It’s because the federal judiciary has become the target of partisans who worry that the SCOTUS has tilted too far to the right, that it will bend to the will of a president who demands loyalty at all levels … even from members of the federal judiciary.

Federal judges get appointed for life. The founders intended for them to be free of political pressure. Today’s ruling suggests to me that the nation’s highest court is delivering on the founders’ promise.

It’s not clear whether the nation will see Trump’s tax returns prior to the November presidential election. That’s really not the point, as I have thought about the ruling over the past few hours. Trump will bob and weave for as long as he can to keep them out of public view.

The ruling, though, does establish a clear legal concept that presidents of the United States cannot invoke their incumbency as a shield against prosecutors.

I doubt it will prevent Donald Trump from trying every dodge he can find to keep those records out of public view.

Still, I am heartened to see the strength of an independent federal judiciary show itself in front of the nation.

May the flag fly proudly … always!

It’s time to wish us all a happy Flag Day.

We love Old Glory, the Star Spangled Banner, the Stars and Stripes.  By whatever name we call it, we cherish our national symbol.

That is the more important point I want to make with this brief blog post. It is a symbol of the nation our founders created.

Those wise men wrote our Constitution and ratified it in 1787 after winning our independence from the English crown. The flag has come to mean many things to millions upon millions of Americans then and in the two-plus centuries since that time.

What it means to me is simple, but a bit nuanced. The flag flies as a symbol of the liberties we enjoy as citizens of a great nation. Among those liberties is the right — as expressed in the very First Amendment to that Constitution — to register peaceful protest. If we don’t like what our government does for us or to us, we are able to assemble “peaceably” without recrimination.

Yep, that means no tear gas, no clubbing by cops, no handcuffs and, dare I say it, no knees pressed into the back of our necks while the police are detaining us.

We are able to speak our minds.

So, the flag is far more than a piece of cloth stitched together in red, white and blue. It is an ideal by which we live and for which we fight. The ideal is being challenged these days as the nation grapples with injustice, which it always has done.

However, the flag will continue to fly and it will continue to represent the ideals we hold dear as proud citizens of this most exceptional nation.

Kneeling is a legitimate form of peaceful, civil protest

OK, here it comes again: the discussion over whether “taking a knee” while they play the National Anthem dishonors Old Glory.

I didn’t want to re-enter this discussion, but I am going to do so anyway. I’ll just need to prepare for some blowback.

Americans are protesting today against the treatment of African-Americans by some police departments and officers. It’s been a longstanding problem that the nation has so far failed to face on a national level. The George Floyd tragedy brought it to our attention in graphic, tragic and reprehensible fashion.

You saw the former cop kneeling on Floyd’s neck, snuffing the life out of him. Now we have re-ignited the discussion of whether professional athletes have dishonored Old Glory when they take a bended knee while they play the National Anthem.

No. The flag is not dishonored.

What does the kneeling represent? It represents a form of civil protest against certain practices and policies enacted by law enforcement agencies. The demonstration against those policies is, at its very essence, the basis for the founding of this great nation and the flag that flies over government buildings.

The nation was built by men who protested religious oppression. They created a governing document that laid out certain civil liberties in the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The first of those amendments addresses several key provisions: Congress shall make no law that establishes a state religion or interferes with a free press or prohibits the right of citizens to speak freely and to seek “redress” of grievances against the government.

Is that clear enough? It is to me.

Kneeling during the playing of the Anthem speaks against policies that many of us find objectionable. It is in no way a statement of disrespect to the flag, to the nation, to the men and women who fight to preserve our freedoms, or to those who serve the public.

Yet this form of civil protest has been perverted into something unrecognizable to the men who sought to make a hallmark of the government they created.

It all started when a pro football player took a knee to protest. Donald Trump called him and other pro athletes “sons of bitches.” He said they should be tossed aside, ignored, punished for their alleged disrespect of the flag. That is as shallow and idiotic a response as I can imagine.

Here’s my request: If we disagree with the method some folks use to protest a public policy, then focus the disagreement on the act itself … and stay far away from suggesting it disrespects or dishonors the principles on which the founders created this country.

Good heavens! Taking a knee in peaceful protest is the embodiment of what the founders intended!

GOP chatter … then silence

I keep hearing snippets of encouraging news from inside the Republican caucus in both chambers of Congress … which is that GOP members are finally beginning to get fed up with Donald John Trump’s behavior as president of the United States.

The latest bit of chatter involves U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a longtime champion of government accountability and of the watchdog program set up to help sniff out corruption in government.

He’s angry, reportedly, that Trump has let so many inspectors go. He wants the IGs on the job rooting out wrongdoing.

But then … what does he do to hold Trump even more accountable? What does he do to ensure that Trump doesn’t continue his frontal assault on government accountability and transparency?

Nothing, man!

The nation’s founders established co-equal branches of government. They intended to limit executive authority, along with limiting congressional and judicial authority. Donald Trump is running roughshod over the founders’ intent. Meanwhile, those congressional Republicans who should be fighting fiercely to protect their constitutional authority become subservient to the Imbecile in Chief.

I probably shouldn’t worry too much about what the GOP political leadership is going to do about Donald Trump. His future likely rests in the hands of voters who will decide this November whether to keep him on the job for another four years. Oh, how I hope voters have the good sense to turn away from the bad sense they exhibited four years earlier by electing this clown in the first place.

If only that Republican leadership that occasionally bristles at Trump’s power grabs, his ignorance and his arrogance would act on what they see right along with the rest of us.

It is that the president of the United States is a danger to the nation he swore an oath to protect.

I believe the learned professor is wrong about abuse of power

At the risk of wading into an argument over an issue that ought to be way above my skill level, I want to take issue with a learned law professor’s assertion that “abuse of power” is not an impeachable offense.

With all due respect to the great Alan Dershowitz, it is my considered opinion that presidents of the United States can be impeached over abusing the awesome power of their exalted office.

Dershowitz is going to argue next week in the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump that the Constitution shouldn’t be subjected to this action on the basis of what the House of Representatives has decided. The House impeached Trump on two counts: obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

The abuse occurred, according to the articles of impeachment, when Trump asked Ukraine for a political favor; he wanted the Ukrainians to investigate Joe Biden and Hunter Biden and, in effect, interfere in the 2020 election because Joe Biden is a possible opponent of Trump. He then withheld military aid to Ukraine, which the Government Accounting Office has said is in violation of the law.

My goodness. If that isn’t an abuse of power, then the term has no meaning.

My reading of the Constitution, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately, tells me the founders were deliberately vague on what constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Dershowitz seems to suggest that because abuse of power does not fall into a category of a criminal offense, that it doesn’t quality as an impeachable offense. Other scholars have argued that the founders hadn’t yet established any statutes when they wrote the impeachment clause into the Constitution. Therefore, those offenses could be interpreted broadly.

I’ll go with them and not with Dershowitz.

I am not going to say the Harvard law professor emeritus is a dummy. Far from it. I just believe he has concocted a standard that I don’t think exists in the U.S. Constitution.

Of course, this is an academic exercise anyhow, given the Senate’s likely disposition to avoid convicting Trump of what I believe is a “high crime and misdemeanor.” The GOP-led Senate is more prone to protect the president than the document they all took an oath to “protect and defend.”

Acquittal doesn’t necessarily mean exoneration

Given what most of us out here in Flyover Country expect will happen — that the U.S. Senate won’t kick Donald Trump out of office — I want to offer a word of warning to fellow news junkies as to what we’re likely to hear from the president of the United States.

He will shout, scream and holler that the Senate has “exonerated!” him. He will declare that the Senate’s failure to clear the very high — justifiably so — bar set by the nation’s founders means that his impeachment was based on nothing at all.

That’s not how many of us see it.

The House of Representatives impeached Trump on allegations that he abused the power of his office and that he obstructed Congress. They made the case in convincing fashion; their evidence is enough to warrant his removal from office … in my view.

Trump sought political help from a foreign government and withheld military aid to that government until it provided a “favor, though” to him and his re-election team. He has instructed his staff to ignore congressional subpoenas. Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress? Done deal, man. Again, that’s my view.

The Senate won’t find 67 votes to convict Trump. So, he’s likely to say the Senate has “exonerated” him. No. It won’t. His expected acquittal only will signify that an insufficient number of senators saw fit to convict Trump of what I believe are impeachable offenses.

We need to hear from witnesses in this Senate trial. Yes, even if they are provide evidence that clears Trump of wrongdoing. Trump is fighting that idea, which tells me he is hiding something. Someone deserving of “exoneration” doesn’t go to Trump’s lengths to keep witnesses from testifying. Am I right?

The trial begins next week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has named the “managers” who will prosecute this matter on behalf of the House. Senators will sit quietly in the chamber and listen to what everyone has to say.

Then they will vote. Trump will escape with a narrowly defined acquittal. He’ll holler he was “exonerated!”

The irony? That false claim will be yet another Donald Trump lie.

Oh, the irony of Gov. Abbott’s refugee rejection

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, along with other governors, had the opportunity to “opt in” on an executive order issued by Donald Trump to allow refugees into our state.

He chose to opt out. Gov. Abbott has slammed the door on individuals and families who, by definition, are seeking refuge in Texas as they flee repression, violence, crime, corruption and physical harm in their home country.

I am trying to wrap my noodle around this decision. I am left only to ponder the profound irony of Abbott’s decision, making Texas the first state to opt out of Trump’s executive order.

The irony? Oh, well, we have this historical fact: Our nation came into being in the 18th century because men who had fled religious oppression in Europe had come across a vast ocean to form a republic that would become known as “the land of the free,” the “land of opportunity” and “a beacon of liberty” for the rest of the world.

It looks that in Texas at least, the door has been shut to those seeking freedom and opportunity and that the beacon has been turned off.

Abbott’s decision, quite naturally, has drawn plenty of criticism. As it should. To be honest, the governor’s refusal to opt in to the federal order is disappointing in the extreme. He has sought to say that the state should allow those who already are here to remain as refugees. But what about those who continue to suffer human rights abuses in nations south of us?

This is a very distressing decision by Gov. Abbott.

I cannot prove this, of course, but my hunch is that our nation’s founders would be unhappy beyond measure.

Waiting for the next ‘trial of the century’ … to date

It now appears that Americans won’t have too much longer to wait for the next trial of the century.

Pass the popcorn and the Pepto.

Donald Trump is about to stand trial in the U.S. Senate on grounds that he abused the power of the presidency and obstructed Congress. The House of Representatives impeached him on those grounds. The vote was largely partisan. The vote at the end of the Senate trial figures to be equally partisan. Trump will not be tossed out of office.

Dang it, anyhow! That’s how the system works.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today she will send the articles of impeachment to the Senate next week. She has instructed House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler to prepare for the selection of House “managers” who will prosecute the case against Trump.

OK, it appears that Trump’s escape from conviction is a done deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is going to violate the oath he and his colleagues will take to be “impartial” in their deliberation, has declared his intention work hand in glove with the White House. He’s taking his cue from Trump’s legal team.

There might be witnesses called. I say “might,” because it’s not assured. It damn sure should be required.

Trump sought a political favor from a foreign government, Ukraine. He wanted that government to announce an investigation into Joe Biden, a potential 2020 presidential campaign foe. If it did as he asked, Trump said he would send military hardware to Ukraine to assist in its fight against Russia-backed rebels.

Abuse of power, anyone?

Trump also has instructed his key aides to refuse to answer congressional subpoenas to testify before House committees during their “impeachment inquiry.” He has usurped Congress’s constitutional authority to conduct oversight of the executive branch.

Obstruction of Congress? Anyone? Hmm?

I believe he has committed both acts. They are impeachable. They have earned him an early exit from the Oval Office. Except the nation’s founders set the bar quite high for that to occur: Two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Senate needs to agree with yours truly; the Senate will fall short of that high standard.

But … at least the trial will be over. Then our attention can turn to the election. It will be a barn-burner.

I am ready to rumble.

Might POTUS be acquitted … on a technicality?

Let’s play out this impeachment saga for a brief moment.

The U.S. House of Representatives appears nearly certain to impeach Donald Trump along partisan lines; there might be one Democrat who’ll vote “no” to impeach the president. A former GOP House member will vote “yes” on the issue.

Then it goes to the Senate, which will conduct a trial. The Senate needs 67 out of 100 votes to convict the president. Republicans currently occupy 53 seats; Democrats have 45 seats, but two independents caucus with the Democrats.

So, what do you suppose might occur if, say, a lame-duck GOP senator or three or four decides to convict the president? Donald Trump would still be acquitted of any high crime and misdemeanor brought to the Senate.

Think of it, though, as an acquittal based on a “technicality.” There is an outside chance that most of the Senate could vote to convict Trump. The technicality occurs because there won’t be enough of them to result in the president’s ouster from office. The closest President Clinton came to such an event was a tie vote on one of the counts brought against him in his 1999 Senate trial; the other count ended up with a 55-45 vote to acquit.

I know it’s a long shot. Those of us who think Trump has committed impeachable offenses are wondering if there are enough Republican senators with stones who will toss aside any threat the president might level against them. Those individuals who have decided against running for re-election next year, thus, might decide to vote their conscience.

I mean, there’s nothing Trump can do to punish them. They’re on the way out the door.

Hardline conservatives generally detest verdicts based on “a technicality.” How might they respond if the president of the United States benefits from the technicality the nation’s founders created when they set the high bar for removal of a president?