Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee Will Not Be Mired To Textualism, Will Understand Privacy

And just like that, a new page was turned in Washington. The national narrative took on a new angle.

The news this morning was surprising only that it did not wait to be released at the end of June. The end of this term of the Supreme Court.

Justice Stephen Breyer will retire and in so doing President Joe Biden will have his first opportunity to place a justice on the Court. The ideological balance will not change with this selection, but the placement of a justice who understands the foundation of how the law should be viewed in the larger context is simply vital.

It is strongly assumed that Biden will follow through on his campaign promise to place the first Black woman on the Court. That would be historic, and politically sound. But the larger victory to the nation is the fact that any nominee from the Biden White House will not be a follower of the sterile notion of ‘original intent” or its cousin in intellectual laziness ‘strict constructionist’ thinking.

When we placed a ballot in our hands in the fall of 2020 and cast a vote for president many likely did so with the character of Donald Trump top most in their thoughts. While that was clearly on my mind too, my overriding decision, however, was based on the need for solid fact-based and serious jurists for the federal courts and the Supreme Court. That consideration, along with international affairs drives my voting as it has since my first vote in 1980.

Many in the nation cringe, and correctly so when thinking about ‘original intent” or ‘strict constructionist’ thinking.  The main reason to dismiss this way to view the Constitution is that such concepts are nothing less than a slap to the Framers of that document. There is nothing to suggest they wanted to be the final arbiter on an evolving nation. The second reason to find much dismay with constructionism is the way it undermines the moral authority of the courts.

Republicans and right-wing conservatives talk often about reigning in the courts from ‘liberalism’ and in so doing think that then gives them license to enact harsh rulings about the progress of society regarding a whole raft of issues. Using ‘original intent’ as a partisan weapon places a wedge issue into the judiciary and in so doing undermines one of our republic’s major institutions.

To state, as the ‘originalists’ do, that the words of the Constitution do not evolve with time is a seriously flawed idea.  To pretend that the living America of ideas and events does not necessitate a Constitution that bends and adapts within the framework of guiding principles is one of the most bizarre and dangerous concepts that has ever been suggested.  Those who promote such ideas are the American equivalent of the Taliban, who use the Koran in highly misguided ways.  Pragmatic and logical voters understand past decisions made by the court, along with public needs, and expectations, along with the larger values that were implied in the Constitution, are needed to be used by judges when making rulings.

Trying to do a mind-meld with the Framers about software privacy or looking for guidance in their written texts about transgender rights is simply absurd.

History can be a guide as to the dangers of ‘strict constructionist’ thinking. It can also be a guide as to the wisdom of using guiding principles of the Constitution to expand rights and increase the American Dream. The horrendous Dred Scott decision can be viewed as the work of the former, but most of us better recognize the wisdom of the latter as Chief Justice Earl Warren’s tenure outlawed segregation in public schools.

That is why I firmly believe that when it comes to presidential elections we must always be aware of the need for a working modern judiciary.

One of the central issues in the nation is the right of women to have control over their bodies when it comes to abortion. One of the foundations in the 1973 landmark case Roe v. Wade, is the core constitutional principle of privacy. Conservatives rail against the idea that ‘privacy’ is even protected in the Constitution. 

Now, while it is true that the Constitution does not mention the right of privacy, over time there has been recognition that privacy is an unenumerated right.  The Griswold Case is one that every high school kid learns about; as it was the first time that the Constitution protects that vital right to privacy.  In that case, it was about the right to contraceptives.  In 1973, the issue of privacy was a central argument and focus, as it was in the famed Lawrence v. Texas, where privacy was used to strike down a law against gay sex.

The nation’s attention is now to focus on one way we judge the legacy of a president. The selection of a justice for the Court. We can be most confident that with President Biden the eventual nominee will have a firm understanding that the Constitution is a living document.

That is after all, why we vote for a Democrat to sit in the Oval Office.

And so it goes.

Boris Johnson Has Muslim Racial Problem Added To Mountain Of Self-Created Mess

If the issues inflicting damage were small they could be termed death by a thousand cuts. But when Prime Minister Boris Johnson creates a fiasco he goes all out. Each of the gigantic and seemingly never-ending creations is mounting so to further force the door for his exit from 10 Downing Street.

This weekend a Conservative Cabinet minister called for an investigation into allegations that a Muslim Conservative MP was told she had lost her job because of her faith.

Nusrat Ghani, who was sacked as a transport minister in early 2020, claimed in the Sunday Times that a party whip, appointed by Johnson to organize MPs and keep discipline in parliament, told her that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable.”

She said she was told “there were concerns ‘that I wasn’t loyal to the party as I didn’t do enough to defend the party against Islamophobia allegations.’ 

“It was very clear to me that the whips and No. 10 (Downing St.) were holding me to a higher threshold of loyalty than others because of my background and faith,” Ghani said.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi called for the allegations to be “investigated properly” and “racism routed [sic] out”. He wrote on Twitter with a hashtag #standwithNus, “there is no place for Islamophobia or any form of racism in our Conservatives party”.

Oh, but there is and long has been a stain of racism with Britain’s Conservative Party. One can not just hashtag their way from their own story. The gravity of this latest episode, timed as it is with the drinking party during the pandemic at the PM’s residence, does now make it a political necessity for Conservatives to act. And act publically.

It was less than a year ago Johnson was roundly condemned, and correctly so, for his refusal to speak out concerning the crowds who booed England’s national soccer team for kneeling to protest racial injustice. Then when several of the teams Black players were targets of racist language following a team defeat Johnson could not find his tongue. Nor could he find that allusive barber and comb. Some of the Conservative MPs also provided racist remarks at that time, also not worthy of Johnson’s rebuke.

Johnson has long been aligned with racism. As has the Conservative Party.

Let us not forget Winston Churchill stated his support for the slogan “Keep England White” with regard to immigration from the West Indies.

Writing in the Telegraph in 2002, Johnson referred to a visit to Africa by the then prime minister Tony Blair.

“What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies,” he wrote, referring to African people as having “watermelon smiles.”

The issue now for the Conservative Party is how to pull away from Johnson and not have his toxic mess further damage their national aims.

The door at 10 Downing is going to open and Boris Johnson will leave permanently. Days or weeks?

But the hour is nearing.

And so it goes.

Staff Member For Wisconsin Republican Representative Timothy Ramthun Should Have Acted Honestly

My eye always hits the upper fold of any newspaper to see what lands in the best location for the edition. Friday my scan of the Wisconsin State Journal met with concern about a staffer at the state assembly who appears to be in the middle of a political fight.

Even lost the job over the matter.

And yet the staffer is part of the reason for the mess.

So should we feel any sense of concern about the staffer losing a job when discipline was handed down to the lawmaker?

The episode has at its genesis yet another conservative Republican who has ginned up lies and conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos on Thursday disciplined a lawmaker who falsely claimed that former President Donald Trump won the battleground state and that he wanted to award the state’s electoral votes to him, even though that is not possible.

Vos, R-Rochester, removed the lone staff member assigned to Rep. Timothy Ramthun, R-Campbellsport, but it appears the reason was not his comments about who won the election. The move was first reported by and confirmed Thursday by Vos’ office.

The move to discipline Ramthun, who has vocally advocated election conspiracy theories, came after he falsely accused Vos of signing a deal with attorneys for former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to authorize absentee ballot drop boxes, Vos’ office said.

The reason I weigh into this issue is that when I was an Administrative Assistant to Representative Lary Swoboda the exact opposite happened in our office. I know that political turf wars between a speaker and a legislator can be spirited and if both want to play tough it can have rugged outcomes as Ramthun and this staffer now fully grasp.

Swoboda, however, was having a problem with an issue that then-Speaker Tom Loftus wanted to be resolved. So Loftus asked the Luxemburg Democrat what he wanted and it was then our office staff expanded from two employees to three. And we still had a floater secretary who often was found in our offices, too.

The power of the Speaker can be immense. But the spiny nature of a legislator can also be persuasive.

But with the desk and phone within the confines of a legislator’s office, a staffer also must carry the responsibilities of acting in concert with the standards the citizenry expects. Having worked for a decade in the statehouse I fully know the obligations that come with the paycheck.

The news story, therefore, is troubling as it relates to how Ramthun’s staffer misused the position to lie and fabricate and spin and twist and undermine the election results from 20220.

The entire Republican Assembly leadership team issued a statement backing the decision to discipline Ramthun, saying he and his staffer were spreading lies. Their statement said Ramthun falsely alleged that Vos was working with Clinton’s attorney and that Republicans could award the state’s electoral college votes to Trump.

No matter how much Rep. Ramthun and his staffer believe what they are saying is true, it does not make it so,” the GOP leaders said. “Sending out communications full of lies is doing disservice to all voters.”

Let me conclude this post by demonstrating how sincerely held an upright stance is needed when being a legislative staffer.

After work one evening my car was struck in the front end by another driver. Regaling the story the next day in the office Swoboda pulled me aside and wanted to know if I had been drinking before the accident. While I had been out with friends shooting darts and enjoying snacks at a bar I had not consumed alcohol.

But Lary pressed the point, and rightly so, that any such actions even when outside the office, do impact the image of the office. I absolutely agreed. Then and now. It does matter ‘back home’ where constituents desire certain standards of behavior from the ones they elect to serve in office.

That would have been true with drunk driving and is also certainly true when attempting to spin lies about stolen elections.

That all applies equally to a legislator, too.

Right, Timothy?

And so it goes.

Fat Lady About To Sing For Boris Johnson?

If you only pay attention to the network evening news when it comes to your information you are probably all too aware that it does snow in winter. But for the rest of the news, you need to read a newspaper while listening to NPR and the BBC.

Here then, it is what one did not find on the networks in the United States Wednesday evening.

Can Republican Party Continue To Be A Governing Party?

Because it is true that our nation requires two highly functioning and rational political parties, it is, therefore, incumbent capable and adroit people gather with other like-minded people and consider how to salvage the Republican Party.

There are times to wrestle with policy differences and while there are significant numbers of them between the two major players in American politics, they are not the reason for this post. Rather it is necessary to grasp the fact there is a crisis eating at the very foundation of our democracy and the political institutions that have guided this nation from the start.

Charlie Sykes, who is known in Wisconsin as a true conservative–one of those reliable ones without an ever-changing lodestar–wrote a pithy snapshot article of where the modern-day GOP now finds itself. With Donald Trump holding a rally this past weekend Sykes had plenty of material to use for his message.

You could see the GOP future in the whole show: a rally that featured all the misfit toys embraced by the Once and Future God King. The My Pillow Guy, Mike Lindell, was there, and treated like a rock star rather than a mental patient off his meds. Indeed, Trump’s rally featured the whole pantheon of deplorability; Rep. Andy Biggs and Rep. Paul Gosar were there, along with the state’s batty party chair, Kelli Ward.”

“Even as he lashed out at Arizona Governor Doug Ducey — a ‘terrible representative of your state’ — Trump embraced State Senator Wendy Rogers, one of the wooliest conspiracy theorists extant in American politics. And that’s really saying something.”

“And, of course there was the Trump-backed candidate for governor, Kari Lake, who seems to have a fetish for jailing people she doesn’t like.”

We have seen over and over a trend line that can not be escaped. Almost every Republican in Congress has remained tightly loyal to Trump, despite ongoing controversies that have produced, and correctly so, significant criticism. But turn into the Op-Ed pages and you will find many former Republican lawmakers along with high-profile conservatives (like Sykes and Joe Scarborough) making strident cases why Trump is unfit to lead the party, and the future of sound governing requires a national party course correction.

The base of the Republican Party has been so indoctrinated with falsehoods and conspiracy theories that current elected members seem unable to take a different path, in fear of alienating that base and losing their seat. But unless the echo chamber is muted, and a dialogue of facts and reason can be again planted in the party the dangers to the nation continues.

Over the decades of my life, the Republican Party knew the value of international alliances, free trade, and a foreign policy that was shaped by our interests and not personalities. Today one has to ask, in light of Trump and his supplanting personal needs over the whole of the party exactly what now defines the GOP? What precisely are their beliefs in 2022 and going forward to another presidential season?

I recall when the GOP was about ideas. Today the anger and resentments of many in the base present more of the reason to be a member of the party rather than the work required of actually governing. Such as when former Congressman Jack Kemp wanted to empower inner-city neighborhoods with jobs. Or Senator Dick Lugar who worked on foreign policy with long-term considerations at where our nation needed to be a quarter of a century away.

Governing is tough work in the best of times, but what is always best for the nation as a whole, is to have two political parties pulling legislation up the hill together. There will be changes in the load being carried and differences in the pace taken, but citizens respond to such combined efforts at doing the nation’s work. The absolute dysfunction of one major party, however, with conspiracy theories being sold, is not something a governing democracy can endure.

And so it goes.

Pithy Take On Boris Johnson

This is written so deliciously it would be a shame not to post it. Kudoes to Terry Barnes! His Morning Double Shot can be found each morning in your email when you sign up for his newsletter.

Boris Johnson was an excellent editor of our UK parent, but as a PM he’s proved disappointing in the extreme.  ‘Partygate’ keeps escalating, and yesterday Johnson was interviewed by his own appointed investigator, senior Whitehall type Susan Gray. Now photos have been published of Carrie Symonds, his now child bride and, some would say, his Lady Macbeth, hypocritically hugging friends when hugging was banned back in 2020. Have a look at Tom Bower’s take in today’s World selection – my London sources says pretty well the same thing about Boris’s impending fall: his infatuation with the now Mrs Johnson started the rot. If only he could tell Cliff Richard that Carrie doesn’t live here anymore…

Low-Brow Moments From Democratic Women Make For This Week’s Cheapest Political Stunts

There are many ways to create a headline and push a message if you are in the political arena.  Most of the first-ranked names on both sides of the aisle have a team of media consultants who drive a theme, craft a message, and then sell it. Only the pols who have some over-driving need to roll over anything in their way take matters onto the unseemly paths.

That happened twice this week.  President Biden was the recipient of both occurrences. It looked bad because it was bad.  Both for the leader of our nation, but also for two politicos that need strong support if they are to prevail in their next elections.

In a publicity stunt of the most rank kind, ‘Democratic’ Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, took to the chamber’s floor before President Biden had the opportunity to address the caucus.  She wanted to make a fast headline of her strong desire to be a major roadblock to the national work required to address voting reforms.

It was truly ‘in your face’ politics. Sinema’s stand was not a surprise, as we knew she was very much opposed to ending the filibuster. But she delivered her ‘nothing new here but this stick in the president’s eye’ less than 45 minutes before Biden arrived at the Democratic luncheon. He wanted to prod all 50 members to support changing Senate rules, allowing for a carve-out to allow voting rights legislation to pass.

Earlier in the week many thought it most low-brow when Stacey Abrams created headlines by being a no-show when Biden traveled to Georgia for a voting-rights speech.  It was an odd spectacle of its own kind since she needs to have all hands-on deck if she is to marshal forward with a race for the statehouse.  She lost her first attempt by about 55,000 votes in 2018.

Needless to say, Abrams has a huge national base of support, a truly first-rate fundraising operation, and a message that is pointed to the needs of Georgia’s residents.  In other words, she has room for being courteous and polite when the president flies in on Air Force One.

Not for the first time do I comment on a politician asking voters to have faith in their leadership abilities but then show weakness by making a less-than-artful political move.   I admonished Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial Mary Burke for skipping the chance to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with President Obama.  I took Senator Russ Feingold to task for not standing alongside Obama at a Labor Day rally in our state. I believe that not being on stage with your president should dismay all about the state of our politics.

I am perplexed with Democrats who cannot stand up and take credit for the good things that have been done or refuse to stand alongside those who brought them to the dance.   One of the main problems for Democrats as the mid-term elections approach is the lack of spine and verve in strutting their accomplishments.  While Democrats limp along without cheering for what was gained, Republicans will be more than happy in the midterms to spin the past two years into a frightful liberal nightmare. 

Such behavior, from Abrams to Sinema, is just not a very classy thing to witness.  Regardless of politics, you should always stand with your friends.  There comes a time when you say, whatever the impact, I will not turn my back on the leader of the free world.   The president is coming to my state, and by God, I will be there with him.  Or the president is coming to my legislative chamber and I will offer all due respect.

That may seem corny and outdated in this era of slash and burn politics, but it is a standard I still think has merit.  It is a value I think many of my fellow citizens share, even in this jaded time in which we live.

What a Difference Between British and American Conservatives

Notice the stark difference between Tories owning up to Boris Johnson and the GOP still fawning over Donald Trump?

It was refreshing to hear the news throughout the day from the BBC as it reported on the much-anticipated downfall of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. What is making this more interesting from this side of ‘the pond’ is how remarkably different conservatives operate in the two nations.

In May 2020, the British folks were tightly drawn into their homes and ordered to conduct themselves in such a way as to minimize the spread of COVID 19. The pandemic was striking hard and causing death and economic casualties alike.

But at the same time, Downing Street officials were holding a drinking and jolly ole get-together in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s walled garden. The messed-haired leader attended for 25 minutes.

The Tories are rightly upset and some are now calling for the ouster of Johnson. His hold on power is slipping and no one will be surprised if he falls sooner than later.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump staged an insurrection and worked to undermine a smooth transition to the newly duly elected president and the Republican Party can not stoop any lower when licking the autocrat’s shoes.

Conservatives in the United States have proven they will go to great lengths to deny the undermining of democracy caused by Trump. They further erode confidence in our national institutions with their continued refusal to do anything that will not curry favor with the most outlandish and most base members of their party.

It is time for the Republican Party to turn its attention to their brethren in Britain for lessons on how to act in the face of a national crisis of confidence.

And so it goes.