Tag Archives: litmus test

Litmus test, anyone?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I must have been dreaming it, but I always used to believe that politicians never admitted to requiring judges or judicial nominees to pass a “litmus test” to determine their fitness for a particular judgeship.

I suppose we can toss that truism out the window.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett is being grilled by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee over Donald Trump’s decision to nominate her to a spot on the Supreme Court.

She is known to be an avid anti-abortionist and a strong critic of the Affordable Care Act.

Trump has made it clear that he intended to nominate justices who were of that mind on both issues. He is now anti-choice on abortion after being pro-choice and he just cannot stomach having the ACA on the books because it comes from the president he detests with a passion, Barack Obama.

I am left now to ponder whether Trump asked Barrett — or two previous SCOTUS appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — questions related directly to those issues. I just wish I could have been a fly on the proverbial wall when he met with all three of them.

Trump’s lack of political savvy is well-known and well-chronicled at this point. A significant portion of me believes he likely asked them all directly: Will you rule against Roe v. Wade and against Obamacare? Just say “yes” and I’ll nominate you to the Supreme Court. Got it? Good!

It sickens me to believe this is possible. I fear that we’re now living in an era when the nation’s leading politician doesn’t give a damn about the appearance of litmus tests … other than to insist on applying them when they suit his political agenda.


‘Litmus test’ must not be a four-letter word

I have long wondered why the term “litmus test” has become a sort of plague to politicians running for offices that hold the power of appointment.

The U.S. Supreme Court, for instance, is going to become a key issue in the 2020 presidential campaign. Namely, the issue will revolve a potential appointment of the next justice on the nine-member court.

The expected Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, will insist he would appoint justices with a record of favoring pro-life litigants who would come before his or her court. Indeed, he’s already got two judicial appointments on the SCOTUS and they certainly seem to fit the bill prescribed by what Trump has said.

The large field of Democratic Party candidates will argue to a person that they want judicial candidates who take a more expansive view of a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.

But no one says they will apply a “litmus test” to determine who they intend to nominate the highest court in the nation.

They dance all over and around the issue. Litmus tests exist on all sorts of issues. They involve capital punishment, sentencing guidelines, drug policy, firearm ownership and, yes, abortion.

We know the types of individuals that presidents would nominate. They telegraph that punch before they deliver it. However, we refuse to hold them accountable on whether they are applying litmus tests on the individuals they are considering for these appointments.

U.S. senators who have the right to confirm or deny these appointments often make their decisions on single issues. Yet they won’t ever acknowledge they have applied a litmus test to the nominee, indicating whether they pass or fail the exam.

This is a circuitous way of saying, I suppose, that we apply litmus tests at every turn.

Why not, then, just call them what we know them to be?

U.S. Supreme Court: a victim of collateral damage

Elections have consequences … as the saying goes.

Nowhere are those consequences more significant, arguably, than on our judicial system. Which brings me to the point. The U.S. Supreme Court has suffered what I would call “collateral damage” from the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States.

A nearly perfect jurist, Merrick Garland, waited in the wings for nine months after President Obama nominated him to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Sadly, Garland’s political fate was sealed about an hour after Scalia’s death when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that the Senate would refuse to act on anyone Obama would choose for the nation’s highest court.

It was a shameful, reprehensible display of political gamesmanship and yet McConnell and his fellow Senate Republicans had the temerity to accuse the president of playing politics.

McConnell took a huge gamble — and it paid off with Trump’s election this past month as president. Now the new president, a Republican, will get to nominate someone.

The New York Times editorialized Sunday that whoever joins the court will be sitting in a “stolen seat.” The Times, though, offers a pie-in-the-sky suggestion for Trump: He ought to renominate Garland, a brilliant centrist who Republicans once called a “consensus candidate” when he was being considered for the Supreme Court back in 2010.

That won’t happen.

Trump, though, could pick another centrist when the time comes for him to make his selection, the Times suggested. Frankly, I’m not at all confident he’ll do that, either. Indeed, with Trump one is hard-pressed to be able to gauge the ideology tilt of whomever he’ll select, given the president-elect’s own lack of ideological identity.

Scalia was a conservative icon and a man revered by the far right within the Republican Party. His death has put the conservatives’ slim majority on the court in jeopardy. But, hey, it happens from time to time.

President Obama sought to fulfill his constitutional duty by appointing someone to the nation’s highest court. The Senate — led by McConnell and his fellow Republican obstructionists — failed miserably in fulfilling their own duty by giving a highly qualified court nominee the full hearing he deserved.

Now we will get to see just how consequential the 2016 presidential election is on our nation’s triple-tiered system of government.

Will the new president administer some kind of conservative “litmus test” to whomever he chooses? Or will he look for someone who — like Judge Merrick Garland — has exhibited the kind of judicial temperament needed on the highest court in America?

I fear the worst.

Litmus test for VP hopefuls? You bet


Politicians all sing in unison when the question involves “litmus tests.”

They “never” apply such tests, politicians say. They don’t “believe in litmus tests.”

They all are lying.

I mention litmus tests because both major-party presidential nominees-to-be are about to select their vice-presidential running mates. Should Republican Donald J. Trump and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton require their VP picks to pass these litmus tests?

Sure they should.

In reality, though, there really is just one question that presidential nominees should always ask their VP choices: Are you ready to become president in the event something happens to me?

Trump is now apparently ready to choose between former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Both of those fellows no doubt would answer “yes” to the Big Question. The task for the campaign, though, is to persuade a majority of voters that they would be able to step into the job on a moment’s notice.

Clinton is facing a similar decision. Her field of hopefuls is much deeper than Trump’s. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia? Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts? Hey, how about the guy who’s got the job now, Joe Biden? All of them surely would answer “yes” to the litmus test question.

Another possible Clinton choice has been rumored to be Julian Castro, the current housing secretary and former mayor of San Antonio. He’d answer “yes,” too, but some of us wonder whether he truly would be able to step into the box.

But when presidents are looking for people to fill key positions, you can damn sure bet that they have a set of policies and principles they demand of those they are considering.

Does that constitute a litmus test? Of course it does.

Consider the test that Ronald Reagan put his VP hopefuls through in 1980. Were they pro-life or pro-choice on abortion? That appeared to be a major question the hopefuls needed to answer correctly. Reagan settled on George H.W. Bush who, during his time in Congress, had been nicknamed “Rubbers” because of his strong voting record in support of organizations such as Planned Parenthood. Bush became an ardent pro-life candidate the instant he said “yes” to the Gipper.

Do you think Ronald Reagan had a “litmus test” that Bush had to pass? Absolutely!

So it will be this time around, just as it always has been.

If politicians say they don’t have “litmus tests,” they’re lying.