Tag Archives: US Constitution

Kavanaugh joins high court with zero political capital

Now that we’ve established — at least in my humble view — that the U.S. Supreme Court has become the third political branch of government, it’s worth examining briefly the cache that the court’s newest member brings to his post.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh has none. Zero, man!

Is that important, given that he is now charged with interpreting the constitutionality of federal law? Yep. It is. Why? Because the new justice takes office by the thinnest of political margins.

The U.S. Senate voted today 50-48 to confirm him. The previous narrowest confirmation belonged to Justice Clarence Thomas, who was approved 52-48 in 1991. Move over, Justice Thomas. There’s a new Bottom Dog in town.

I will acknowledge that at least the confirmation vote for Justice Kavanaugh wasn’t an entirely partisan affair; Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin voted with the majority to confirm Kavanaugh, and no doubt all but sealed his re-election to the Senate from West Virginia, a state that Donald Trump carried by more than 41 percentage points in 2016 over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Kavanaugh has pledged to rule with impartiality and independence. He did so in an op-ed piece written for the Washington Post. It was a remarkable pledge, given his fiery — and highly partisan — rebuttal to the criticism that exploded in the wake of the sexual assault allegation leveled against him by Christine Blasey Ford.

This justice takes his lifetime appointment seat amid continuing question and a good bit of recrimination over the manner in which the Senate shoved his confirmation across the finish line.

I now am going to rely on my limitless optimism that Justice Kavanaugh will deliver on his promise to be independent and impartial as he takes on the huge challenges of constitutional interpretation.

Don’t mess up, Mr. Justice.

A tip of the hat to the ‘enemy of the people’

I want to tip my proverbial hat to the media, the institutions labeled by the president as the “enemy of the American people.”

They continue to do their jobs. The men and women who practice their noble craft do it with honor and distinction.

The New York Times has just published an astonishing — and lengthy in the extreme — article that peels the bark off the disguise under which Donald Trump hid while campaigning for the presidency.

He told Americans he is a “self-made business success.” The Times story tells an entire different tale, that Donald Trump relied heavily on the generosity of his late father, Fred, and that he manipulated the tax system to obtain cushy deals all along the way.

Now, to be sure none of this likely will change the political balance. Anti-Trump Americans — such as me — will use the material to criticize the president; pro-Trump Americans will use it to bash the media. Trump himself will bash the media and the Times specifically. That’s his modus operandi. It stinks.

However, the media continue to step up. They continue to do what their professional journalists are trained to do. They are holding government accountable.

Every one of Donald Trump’s predecessors as president has understood the media’s role in building our representative democracy and their contributions to strengthening it.

Exhaustive and meticulous reporting by media outlets such as The New York Times demonstrate for all the world the power of a free press, the only privately held business expressly protected against government interference/bullying/coercion in the U.S. Constitution.

None of this, of course, will dissuade Donald Trump from demonizing the media. He’ll continue to speak of what he calls “fake news,” even though he is the No. 1 purveyor of outright lies and prevarication.

Many of the rest of us know better. The media are standing tall. I am proud to have been a member of the mainstream media.

Don’t fire deputy AG, Mr. President

Rod Rosenstein’s backside might be in a sling as I write this brief blog post.

The deputy U.S. attorney general who hired Robert Mueller as special counsel to look into Donald Trump’s possible Russia dealings is heading to the White House on Thursday to meet with the president.

Rosenstein reportedly said something about wearing a listening device while in the White House and also reportedly asked around about invoking the 25tha Amendment to the Constitution, the one that allows Cabinet officials and Congress to remove the president from office.

Rosenstein denied the reports … sort of. He called them “inaccurate,” which isn’t exactly a denial that he made those statements. Other reports indicate Rosenstein said those things “in jest,” which is how the White House has tried to explain some of the president’s own bizarre statements.

Rosenstein might face the music

If the president fires Rosenstein, then Mueller’s future is in serious question. Does the next deputy AG then fire Mueller, ending the painstaking probe that Mueller has conducted in the search for the truth behind allegations of “collusion” between the Trump presidential campaign and Russian goons who attacked our electoral system in 2016?

Rosenstein’s selection of Mueller was hailed in the moment as a brilliant move, a stroke of genius. The former FBI director, Mueller, was hailed as a man of impeccable integrity and character. Then he started indicting people close to Trump. Now — suddenly, like magic! — he is called everything but the son of Satan by many within the Trump inner circle. The president has labeled the Mueller investigation “illegal” and a “rigged witch hunt.”

I do not want Trump to fire Rosenstein. He perhaps can chew him out royally, which is within his purview. Then again, so is firing him.

Robert Mueller’s investigation needs to proceed and conclude under its own power. Rod Rosenstein needs to stay on the job until Mueller’s task is complete.

And the president of the United States needs to shut his trap and let this investigation reach its end. If there’s nothing there, as Trump insists, Robert Mueller will tell us. Correct?

Will the president heed the advice, or act … impulsively?

Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein might have just wiggled his way into the proverbial doghouse occupied by his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Many of us out here are wondering whether the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is going to fire Rosenstein because he allegedly threatened to wear a “wire” to record conversations with Trump — and then recommend that the Cabinet invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove Trump from his office.

Rosenstein has sort of denied The New York Times report that the deputy AG had said all that. However, his denial seems to fall short of a categorical, unequivocal denial.

Still, reports now are surfacing that Trump’s inner circle is telling him: Don’t fire Rosenstein!

Trump facing new dilemma

Indeed, such an impulsive act could turn out to be the Republicans’ worst nightmare, just as would a presidential dismissal of AG Jeff Sessions, who has gotten himself into trouble with Trump because of his decision to recuse himself from the investigation into the Russian attack on our electoral system.

I keep circling back to a question that I cannot yet answer: Has there ever been such an out-front discussion about whether a president was “fit” to serve in the office to which he was elected?

Weird, man. Simply weird.

Federal judiciary: more political than ever?

I have long supported the principle of an “independent” federal judiciary, whose members are given jobs for life if they choose to stay at their post for as long as they draw breath.

The nation’s founders established it all at the beginning, giving the president the power to select these individuals and the U.S. Senate to confirm them.

My thoughts — naive though they were — believed that such independence would insulate judges from political pressure.

Oh, man! I was as wrong as I could be.

Brett Kavanaugh has provided us just yet another example of how mistaken I have been. Donald J. Trump selected him to succeed Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. The president has made his judicial preferences clear: He intends to nominate judges who will toss out Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized abortion.

Thus, the political wind has swirled all over Judge Kavanaugh. He has said something about Roe being “settled law,” which gave pro-choice advocates some hope that he would leave the ruling alone were he to have to decide a case down the road.

Others aren’t so sure.

Presidential elections surely have consequences. Trump won the 2016 election and already has won the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the nation’s highest court. Kavanaugh is set to join the court.

Is he free of political pressure? No. He isn’t. Not by a long shot. Indeed, all federal judges — from trial bench judges, to all level of appellate court judges — face political pressure. It doesn’t let up after they take their seats on the bench. Yes, it gathers incredible steam as they seek confirmation.

I won’t back down from my strong belief in presidential appointment of federal judges. Their lifetime jobs give them some semblance of independence from run-of-the-mill political pressure.

Sadly, it doesn’t eliminate it.

When have we ever discussed presidential fitness?

I’ve been walking along this Earth for a lot of years. I’ve been watching politics for most of my life. For the life of me I cannot remember a national discussion that comes close to mirroring what we’re hearing at this time about the fitness of the man who serves as president of the United States.

We didn’t hear it at this level when President Nixon was mired in the Watergate scandal. We didn’t hear it in 1984 when President Reagan stumbled in his first debate with Walter Mondale, only to say at the second debate that he wouldn’t “exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

These days, the discussion has turned to Donald J. Trump’s actual fitness for the job. There’s open discussion about invoking a constitutional amendment that would strip the president of his powers. There is talk among White House aides about the president’s “impulses” and whether this man has the capacity to understand the myriad complexities of his high office.

Am I missing something? I just don’t recall ever having this discussion at any time, at any level with our previous presidents.

And yet, here we are.

The White House is pushing back. Trump allies say the president is fully capable. They say he’s engaged in the nuance of policy. They’re condemning the “gutless coward” who wrote that anonymous op-ed published in The New York Times, the essay that talks about the theft of memos from Trump’s desk and the effort to protect the nation against the president’s more dangerous instincts.

Yes, Trump promised he would be an “unconventional president.”

Boy, howdy! The man has delivered on that promise.

Bigly!

‘Treason’ gets misused yet again

Donald J. Trump has this fetish involving the word “treason.”

He tosses it out there, accusing others of committing such acts without understanding how the U.S. Constitution actually defines the term. It’s quite specific and has not a damn thing to do with newspapers publishing anonymous op-ed essays submitted by someone at the inner circle of the Trump administration.

Article III Section 3 says this about treason: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

“Levying war … or adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

How is the president misusing the term? He tweeted a message “TREASON” immediately after word came that The New York Times had published the anonymous op-ed essay. Trump is wrong. I would say “deliberately” wrong, except that he likely hasn’t ever read the constitutional definition of “treason.” The essay speaks to a “resistance” movement within the White House that seeks to protect the nation from the president’s more troublesome instincts.

As for the “aid and comfort” clause in Article III, perhaps the president ought to be a whole lot more circumspect if he is going to toss the t-word out at his foes. The closest thing I’ve seen to providing aid and comfort to hostile powers has been Trump’s shameful refusal to condemn specifically the Russian attack on our 2016 presidential election.

A president who knows better is likely to avoid playing fast and loose with a term that defines the worst crime one can commit against the United States.

What’s more, the punishment for such a crime is, um, death. Is that what Donald Trump is suggesting should happen to whoever is responsible for an anonymously written essay?

I mean, seriously?

Memo to POTUS: Leave the NY Times alone

Donald Trump continues to demonstrate his breathtaking ignorance of what the U.S. Constitution guarantees in the treatment of media in this country, which is that government mustn’t interfere with the practice of a “free press.”

However, he’s at it again, saying that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions “should” investigate the New York Times over its decision to publish an anonymous op-ed essay from someone inside the Trump administration. The mystery writer has alleged that the president is out of control and that a “resistance movement” within the administration is pushing back against the president, seeking to curb his more, um, impulsive instincts.

Trump is enraged over the anonymity aspect. He is trying to find out who did it. Hmm, does the term “witch hunt” apply?

Moreover, he wants the Department of Justice to pursue the New York Times over what he calls a “national security” concern.

It’s a reach, Mr. President.

The First Amendment specifically and explicitly protects a “free press” from government interference, intimidation, bullying or coercion. It’s in there. Honest. I’ve read it. So have you.

Trump also has said he is considering some sort of punitive action against the Times. “I’m looking at that right now. It only happened yesterday,” he said.

C’mon, Mr. President! You can’t expect to succeed in bullying a major American newspaper into doing your bidding. I get that he’s angry that someone possibly within his inner circle has spilled the beans on the goings-on in the White House. I expect him to learn the identity of the whistleblower.

However, the notion of punishing the New York Times for giving someone — even someone close to the levers of power — a forum to express their grievance against the federal government goes way beyond what’s acceptable.

Read the Constitution, Mr. President. Start with the First Amendment. You’ll see what it says.

Op-ed writer has committed ‘treason’? Good grief!

Let me see if I have this right.

Someone within the Donald J. Trump administration writes a commentary, submits it to the New York Times, which the newspaper publishes anonymously. It speaks to chaos and panic within the White House and to an administration “resistance” movement to shield the nation from the president’s more impulsive instincts.

The president gets so angry he demands that the NYT release the writer’s name so that he or she can be turned over “to the government.”

For what? To be prosecuted for, um, an unspecified “crime”? The president is off his rocker. He’s gone ’round the bend. He’s off the rails.

The writer — whoever he or she is — has every right to speak his or her mind. The U.S. Constitution guarantees it. They committed not a single act of “treason,” which the president alluded to in a Twitter message.

Many of Trump’s senior advisers are running away from the op-ed, saying they didn’t write it. Not all of them have offered the denial.

What is so remarkable and, frankly, disgraceful is that Trump is categorizing this act as “treasonous.” One can question the ethics of publishing an anonymous essay; one also can question the courage of the author who refused to put a name on the submission. Those are legitimate debating points.

However, treason is way off the mark. It is beyond the pale. For the president to imply a threat that the op-ed author should be arrested and detained speaking his or her mind reveals — yet again — total ignorance of what is contained in the U.S. Constitution.

Identity of op-ed author will be known … then what?

I am trying to put myself in the shoes of the president of the United States.

Someone in his inner circle of executive authority has blown the whistle. Someone has written an anonymously published op-ed column that contends that Donald John Trump — the president himself — is a danger to the nation he was elected to govern.

Trump is outraged. He is looking high and low for the identity of who wrote it. I have this feeling in my gut that he well might know as I write this brief blog post.

The op-ed speaks to “whispers” about invoking the 25th Amendment to relieve the president — temporarily, of course — of his duties as commander in chief. It talks about how White House aides are alarmed at Trump’s impulsive behavior, his lack of knowledge or his desire to learn about the complex issues of the day.

Trump will find out who it is.

Does he fire the individual? Does he then release that individual to tell the world everything he or she knows? What kind of damage can be done at that point if Trump lets his rage command how he responds to this matter?

The New York Times took a highly unusual step in allowing this essay into print without the author’s name attached to it. The Times’s editors did so knowing who the individual is and what he or she does for the Trump administration.

Yes, there’s been some push back on the granting of anonymity. Some critics say the author should have the courage to stand by his words. Others have criticized the NYT for granting anonymity in the first place.

I stand with the publication as it was delivered to the nation.

I also believe we’re going to know in due course — probably quite soon — who this “senior White House official” really is.

Yes, all hell will break loose — and it well might validate precisely the points that the essayist made in writing it.

Read the essay here. It’s worth your time. Honest.