Tag Archives: US Constitution

Judges seek permission to violate their oaths of office

Two Texas judges, Brian K. Umphress in Jack County and Diane Hensley in McLennan County, are suing the state because their religious faith compels them to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

Hmm. OK. Let me pose this question: What part of the oath of office you took that says you shall obey all the laws of the state and be faithful to the U.S. Constitution don’t you understand? 

These individuals both swore to uphold the secular laws of the counties they were elected to govern. The oath demands that they are faithful to those laws. It makes no mention of their religious beliefs or gives them any room to say, “Well, I’ll obey only those laws that do not conflict with my faith.”

This is nonsense.

Both of these judges are empowered by the Texas Constitution to perform marriage ceremonies. The Constitution, though, does not require them to perform every single service that shows up on their agenda.

These individuals have sued the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct, which has sanctioned them for refusing to perform the duties to which they swore their oath. The Dallas Morning News reports, by the way, that even though Umphress presides over the Jack County Commissioners Court, he is not a “law judge.”

Justice of the Peace Hensley also is empowered to perform marriages. She has refused for the same reason that Umphress cites. I should tell her the same thing: Such empowerment is not a requirement.

Both of these folks can hand those duties off to other duly empowered county officials if they cannot in good faith perform that duty.

I also need to remind them both — although they know it already — that the U.S. Supreme Court, citing its belief in the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution, has declared gay marriage to be legal in all 50 states. 

If the laws of the land do not comport with these judges’ religious beliefs, then they shouldn’t be serving in their respective public offices.

Media earn a shout out on pandemic coverage

I imagine you’ve heard the gripes, mostly from conservatives, who bitch about the media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.

They complain that the media are covering this matter so intensely for the so political harm to Donald John Trump

Their complaints are without basis. They are dubious in the extreme.

The media have done a spectacular job covering this crisis. And it is a crisis, no matter how many times some of our political leaders — such as The Donald — might seek to understate its impact on the world.

The media coverage arc has tracked like many of these events often do: They report on an incident, give it the attention it deserves; they follow its progression, then report on increases of incidents; then the story explodes when governments start reacting to the increasing instances of illness … and death.

The World Health Organization has weighed in with a declaration that the coronavirus outbreak has reached pandemic status, which quite obviously is a major development. The media have covered the WHO involvement carefully and thoroughly.

What’s more, the media have explored the nuts and bolts, the ins and outs, the zigs and zags of this issue from damn near every angle imaginable. There are quite likely to be even more angles to cover.

As for the political impact, well, let me just declare that the media only have reported the stumbles, bumbles, bungles that have come from the U.S. government’s highest levels. There can be no way for the media to paper it over. Has it harmed Donald Trump? Yes, more than likely. Is it the media’s fault? Hell no! The media are simply the messengers delivering the news.

So it has gone. The media are charged with the responsibility of chronicling what government does for us … and to us. The Constitution protects the rights of a “free press” and the media seek to be true to the document that informs government that it cannot interfere with or manipulate them.

The media will continue to do their job as the pandemic likely worsens. They will report to the world what they see without regard to the political consequences, which are of no concern to journalists who simply are doing their job.

Time to ‘re-defeat’ Donald Trump?

A late friend of mine in Amarillo, William H. “Buddy” Seewald, once told me during the 2004 presidential election season that he was working to “re-defeat” President George W. Bush.

Seewald was appalled at the manner in which Bush was elected in 2000, losing the actual vote by roughly 500,000 ballots but winning the presidency in the Electoral College by a vote of 271-266; and that vote came after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to stop recounting the ballots cast in Florida, giving Bush a 537-vote margin out of more than 5 million ballots cast in that state.

Well, Bush won the 2004 election by a relatively comfortable margin.

Now comes the 2020 election and there well might be a revival of the “re-defeat” mantra, this time against Donald John Trump, the current president.

You see, Trump actually lost the vote to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who collected just short of 3 million more ballots than did the guy who “won” the election. Trump won the Electoral College by a 306-232 count; when the electors cast their ballots in December 2016, the final tally ended up at 304-227, with some electors voting for other candidates rather than the two major-party contestants.

What has gotten lost in all the hubbub surrounding that election is that Clinton actually finished where almost all the public opinion polls said she would. She finished with 48.02 percent of the vote, compared to Trump, who collected 45.93 percent.

All the pre-election polling pegged Clinton ahead by about the margin where she finished ahead of Trump. The difference came when Trump narrowly picked off those three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that Barack Obama had won in 2008 and2012; those stated provide Trump with the Electoral College majority he needed to win the election.

I don’t dispute that Trump was elected according to the U.S. Constitution. Nor do I dispute the notion to which I subscribe that he needs to be “re-defeated” in 2020.

Wherever he is, I am certain my friend Buddy Seewald would agree.

Trump allies want impeachment wiped off the books?

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that Donald John Trump would be impeached “forever,” that he would take the House’s impeachment with him to his grave.

Not so fast, say some of the current president’s allies in Congress.

Some of Trump’s GOP allies are considering whether to introduce a resolution to have the impeachment expunged from the record. That’s it. They want the congressional record to no longer reflect what is now inscribed permanently into history.

I am baffled as to how that is supposed to work.

Trump stands impeached on grounds that he abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress. The House impeached him for those counts and then sent them to the Senate, which this week acquitted him after a slam-bam trial that was devoid of witnesses.

So, does that mean the impeachment shouldn’t stand? Of course not. It means only that the Senate, led by Trump’s Republican allies, decided they would not convict him of the charges that the Democrat-led House filed against him.

An acquittal by one body does not negate the action of another body. The Constitution says the House has “sole authority” to impeach a federal official; it says the Senate has sole authority to put that official on trial.

Besides, expunging the record does not mean that (a) those of us who are alive to witness the event will forget about it or (b) historians won’t acknowledge that the impeachment occurred in the first place.

Don’t you see? Speaker Pelosi was right. Donald Trump will be “forever” remembered as an impeached president.

Having an O.J. moment

This might sound weird in the extreme, but I am beginning to have an O.J. moment while awaiting the virtually assured verdict of the 100 U.S. senators who have conducted what is supposed to pass as a trial regarding Donald John Trump.

Senators heard what I believe is convincing evidence that Trump abused the power of his office and obstructed Congress; both offenses have earned him an early exit from the presidency.

Flash back to 1995. A Los Angeles Superior Court jury sat in judgment in an interminable trial involving Orenthal James Simpson, the former pro football great who was accused of killing his former wife and her friend.

From my faraway perch I knew Simpson was guilty. I believed the mountain of evidence the cops had compiled. The trial went on for months. The jury had been sequestered. Twelve citizens sat there and heard every word, watched every demonstration by lawyers on both sides. They endured a miserable experience.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours and then acquitted Simpson of the crime. Was I shocked? Yes. However, I do not question the validity of what the jurors decided. They had been filled with enough “reasonable doubt” to set Simpson free.

It is with that same sense of anticipation that I am awaiting what we all know what the Senate will decide. The number of senators who will vote to convict Trump will fall far short of the two-thirds majority prescribed by the Constitution.

I believe what the House managers presented. However, I am not facing re-election from constituents. Senators are enduring enormous political pressure. What do they do? What should they decide?

It’s easy for little ol’ me sitting out here in the heart of Trump Country to make judgments about what I believe the president did. I am not in any of the hot seats occupied by the 100 men and women sitting in the U.S. Senate.

They will make their decision. I won’t like it any more than I liked he verdict that the O.J. jury delivered in 1995. However, I will not challenge its validity. Why? Because I am too far from the pressure being applied on those who must make the call.

And yes, by all means, the U.S. Constitution will have worked. It didn’t produce the result I desired. I will continue to honor the sometimes-rickety system of government that our brilliant founders crafted for us.

Do your job, Mr. Texas AG

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sworn an oath to defend, among other things, the U.S. Constitution, which Texans still must obey under the law.

The Constitution, as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, has an equal-protection clause that says all Americans are entitled to be treated equally. That means gay couples, men and women, who choose to marry some of the same gender.

So, when a justice of the peace refuses to follow the law, gets sanctioned by the Texas Commission on Judicial  Conduct, and then gets sued by the JP for allegedly violating her religious liberty, then the AG is bound by law to defend the TCJC. That’s how I read it.

Paxton ain’t doing it.

Oh, no. He is siding with the justice of the peace, Dianne Hensley, for refusing to preside over same-sex marriages, citing her religious convictions, which endorse only marriages between one man and one woman.

But wait! The SCOTUS has determined that gay marriage is legal in this country. That includes Texas, doesn’t it? Aren’t we part of the United States of America, the nation governed by a secular Constitution?

I am all in favor of religious liberty. This is just my interpretation, though, but I always have considered religious liberty to have boundaries. People are free to worship as they please, or not worship a deity. Religious liberty grants them that right. However, public officials who take an oath to follow the laws of the land have responsibilities to adhere strictly to that oath.

The JP is wrong to deny marrying individuals on the basis of their gender. The AG is wrong to refuse a legally constituted state agency that has ruled appropriately against the JP.

Just do your job, Mr. Attorney General.

Worst fears of POTUS have come true

I sought repeatedly during the 2016 presidential campaign and thereafter to drive home a fundamental point about Donald John Trump.

It is that the current president of the United States had contributed not a single moment of his adult life to public service, that his entire mission in life was focused solely on self-enrichment, self-aggrandizement, self-promotion.

I am saddened to declare that I believe many millions of Americans’ worst fears about this president have come true.

A new book, “Very Stable Genius,” appears to confirm what this blog has sought to put forth. Donald Trump’s presidency is built on one premise: to do whatever is necessary to boost the fortunes of the president of the United States.

I’ve read a few excerpts of the book, written by Washington Post reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker. I plan to purchase it when it goes on sale this week.

The book reportedly bristles with reporting about examples of the president dismissing the advice and counsel of his key advisers. He ignores and disparages the military commanders who surround him. He handles his own communications operation. He listens to no one. Trump relies only on his own instincts.

The president’s attention span is reportedly comparable to that of a gnat. He doesn’t read. He doesn’t study. He doesn’t learn. Donald Trump doesn’t ask probing questions.

As I have sought to lay out there from this platform, the man elected three years ago to the only public office he has ever sought has not grown into the office. Trump hasn’t learned anything about governance.

Leonnig and Rucker reportedly have revealed what many of us have believed all along. I am not going to say “I told you so,” but by golly, the temptation to do so surely exists.

Oh well. I guess I just did.

Impeachment is quite ‘constitutional,’ Mr. President

So, here we go.

Donald John Trump’s legal team has declared that the impeachment articles that will be serve as the basis for a U.S. Senate trial to determine whether Trump keeps his job as the current president of the United States are “unconstitutional.”

What? They can’t be serious!

The impeachment articles alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are as “constitutional” as they can possibly be. How do I know that? Because I have read the Constitution and the process that unfolded in the House of Representatives to produce the impeachment articles followed the Constitution to the letter.

The nation’s governing framework lays out in black and white that the House shall have “sole power” to impeach a president. That’s what it did. The House didn’t break any rules, didn’t violate any law, it didn’t skip any pre-ordained process laid out. The House followed the process to the letter.

Donald Trump solicited the president of Ukraine for a political favor. He wanted Ukraine to launch an investigation into a possible political foe. He then sought to withhold military aid to Ukraine, which is fighting rebels backed by Russia. Right there is your abuse of power, Mr. President.

The second article of impeachment? It involves obstruction of Congress. Trump blocked congressional subpoenas, ordering aides to refuse to answer them. Congress cannot do its oversight duties without being able to summon witnesses to answer questions from House members. So, there is your obstruction of Congress.

It was all done according to the process laid out in the Constitution.

For the Trump legal defense team to offer up a lame “unconstitutional” rationale is ridiculous on its face.

Sanctuary cities for unborn? Oh, my … get ready for the fight

Three Texas communities — Big Spring, Colorado City and Rusk — have thumbed their collective noses at a legal activity that I acknowledge fully has its sworn enemies.

The cities all have created what they are calling “Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn.” They have declared that abortion is illegal in their cities and I will presume women who obtain them are subject to criminal prosecution.

Abortion-rights activists are furious, as they should be. Why? Well, it’s a simple notion, truth be told. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1973 that a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy was legally protected under federal law. Subsequent high court rulings have upheld the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Thus, the activity remains legal. Does it produce a desirable outcome? Of course not. However, I am in no position — nor is anyone else, for that matter — to dictate to a woman how she must make such a gut-wrenching decision. That is her call in consultation with her partner, her physician … and her conscience.

The Texas Tribune reports: The American Civil Liberties Union has said it is seeking to strike them down. Three towns — Mineral Wells, Omaha and Jacksboro — have voted down similar ordinances or walked them back under advice from city attorneys.

Big Spring, Colorado City and Rusk haven’t yet made their decisions final.

I am all for local control. I dislike states telling cities and towns that they cannot, for example, install electronic devices to help police enforce traffic laws. However, the U.S. Constitution remains the law of the land and in the case of abortion, the Supreme Court already has stood behind the Constitution as the final arbiter on the inflammatory issue of whether a woman can choose to terminate a pregnancy.

Texas already has told cities they cannot create sanctuaries to shield undocumented immigrants from deportation. Yes, I am aware of the intense political differences between illegal immigration and abortion.

But the Texas cities that are seeking to create “sanctuaries for the unborn” need to prepare for a fight that they should not win.

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.”