Following up Taking The Fight To The Federal Courts Now: A Good Or Disasterous Idea?, Chris Mathews interviews Olson & Boies about their legal suit and strategy:
From Mike Madden:
Imagine a world where the nation's first black president has nominated a long-serving, highly educated judge to become the nation's first Latino Supreme Court justice, and only its third female justice. The president is popular with voters in and out of his political party; the opposition party is struggling to come back from two straight losing elections by showing it's got a vision for the future, as well as hoping not to fall completely out of favor with Latinos, the country's largest -- and fastest-growing -- minority group.
You might not think, in that world, that early opposition to the court nominee would involve accusing her of being racist and sexist, and steadily questioning her intelligence in a way that implies she's an affirmative action pick. That might seem, in fact, like a fairly self-destructive strategy, one that even the opposition party's most hardcore base would want to avoid. But welcome to 2009.
"White man racist nominee would be forced to withdraw," wrote Newt Gingrich -- whom conservatives routinely fall over themselves to praise as a driving force of ideas for the Republican Party, and who is also, at least for now, making noises about running for president in 2012 -- on Tuesday on his Twitter feed ...
The GOP establishment has mostly been trying to stay away from a fight many Republicans realize they can't win; with 17 years as a federal judge and a biography that Horatio Alger might have thought too trite to use in his rags-to-riches novels, Sonia Sotomayor is virtually a lock to be confirmed. Though Pat Roberts of Kansas has said he'll vote against her, GOP senators are not rushing to the ramparts. But the base wants a battle, and some conservatives seem unable to resist using Sotomayor's nomination to bring up the resentment-based, racial backlash politics that the country mostly avoided during last year's historic election.
The Sotomayor nomination has, at last, unleashed the pent-up id of a faithful, and fearful, GOP demographic -- the aging white male. Focusing on a New Haven, Conn., affirmative action case Sotomayor helped decide, a few lines from a 2001 lecture and a New Republic article questioning her intelligence that even the author is trying to back away from, the wingnut and pundit case against Sotomayor isn't particularly subtle. Or smart. But it does seem to involve more than a little of what Freud called "projection" ...
Not surprisingly, the idea of trying to block a Latina judge from the Supreme Court by stirring up resentment over affirmative action doesn't strike many observers as the best way to appeal to Latino voters. "If Sonia Sotomayor's name were John Smith, she'd be just as qualified, and no one would be charging affirmative action or reverse racism," said Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who left John McCain's presidential campaign last year because he didn't want to help it go negative against Obama. "To suggest as much is itself racist. And I think most Americans see right through the smoke screen."
The White House -- which wouldn't comment for this story -- isn't exactly trying to avoid reminding people of Sotomayor's Puerto Rican heritage, preferably with a soft-focus lens that plays up the historic nature of her nomination. If conservatives overreach in opposing her, the administration won't complain. "Latino voters are responding with a tremendous sense of pride and appreciation," said Fernand Amandi, executive vice president of Bendixen & Associates, a Democratic polling firm that surveyed Latino voters for Obama's campaign last year.
"The Hispanic community -- especially after the immigration issue -- is very sensitive to dog-whistle attack politics. During the immigration debate, Hispanics were never directly attacked or called out, but the message they received was they were not wanted here." The dog-whistle line may have already been crossed; it's not exactly a hidden message to call someone a race hustler.
Republicans who actually have to win elections don't seem interested in engaging in the backlash politics. "The approach that many of the senators and leadership is taking is, well, you know, let's give her a fair hearing and see what she has to say," said GOP pollster Glen Bolger ... A Republican consultant who advises GOP candidates on winning Latino votes, Lionel Sosa, said he expected most senators to ask plenty of questions about Sotomayor, then support her. "For Republicans to mount a filibuster is foolhardy," he said. "If a Republican doesn't care about getting reelected, and a Republican doesn't care about the image of the Republican Party, they may vote against her, but I think in the end, we'll see who the smart ones are and who the not so smart ones are by how they cast their votes."
But the conservative noise machine has a tendency to bleed into the GOP mainstream; Joe the Plumber went from the accidental hero of wingnut blogs to the centerpiece of the McCain campaign in less than a week last year. The confirmation process could wind up taking up most of the summer, and there's plenty of time for Republicans of all sorts to start calling Sotomayor names by the end of it. Which is probably just how the White House wants it.
I'm wondering if he's going to make this eating out, man-of-the-pepole thing a new thing? (Here's the earlier example: Obama And Biden Make A Burger Run)
From the Politico:
President Obama will visit a mosque following his speech to the Muslim world in Cairo next month administration officials told reports on a Friday evening conference call.
"The speech," said Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, "will outline his personal commitment to engagement, based upon mutual interests and mutual respect," and "will review particular issues of concern, such as violent extremism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "
He added that following the speech, ""there will be a visit to a mosque -- and I don't have any further information on that at this point."
Asked if the speech would focus on "the words 'freedom' and Democracy'," Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Denis McDonough suggested that it would touch on those points, but also focus on Obama's personal experience, replying:
"I think what you can expect is a speech that really addresses the range of issues and interests and concerns that we have across this broad swath of the globe that is the Muslim world. And I think the fact is, is that the President himself experienced Islam on three continents before he was able to -- or before he's been able to visit, really, the heart of the Islamic world -- you know, growing up in Indonesia, having a Muslim father -- obviously Muslim Americans a key part of Illinois and Chicago."
A clever observation from Jonathan Chait:
Reading President Obama's interview with Newsweek, this passage struck me as crucial:
[W]e want to offer Iran an opportunity to align itself with international norms and international rules. I think, ultimately, that will be better for the Iranian people. I think that there is the ability of an Islamic Republic of Iran to maintain its Islamic character while, at the same time, being a member in good standing of the international community and not a threat to its neighbors. And we are going to reach out to them and try to shift off of a pattern over the last 30 years that hasn't produced results in the region.
Now, will it work? We don't know. And I assure you, I'm not naive about the difficulties of a process like this. If it doesn't work, the fact that we have tried will strengthen our position in mobilizing the international community, and Iran will have isolated itself, as opposed to a perception that it seeks to advance that somehow it's being victimized by a U.S. government that doesn't respect Iran's sovereignty.
This is, first of all, a persuasive defense of Obama's diplomatic approach. By negotiating, we demonstrate our goodwill, and if it fails the onus of intrasigence is shifted onto our adversery. Indeed, diplomatic failure can become a kind of success, allowing us to rally neutral countries to our side.
Second, this also perfectly describes Obama's approach to the Republican Party. He repeatedly demonstrates his goodwill and willingness to negotiate, and if and when Republicans refuse, they pay a heavy penalty in the court of public opinion. Obama's approach to international relations turns out to be identical to his approach to domestic politics. I think we've got a unified theory of Obama.
From Michael Scherer:
Perhaps the roll out of Sonia Sotomayor could have gone better for Barack Obama. She could have announced a cure for cancer in her first public address, for instance, or a recently discovered stockpile of cash that will settle out the national debt. Kim Jong Il might have called from North Korea to say that he liked her so much he was giving up his nuclear ambitions.
But considering how the roll out went, the White House has little to complain about. By the end of the week, the Gallup poll showed that Americans by a 14-point margin had a positive response to her nomination, putting her on par with the response that greeted the announcement of John
Roberts. By contrast, the nominations of Samuel Alito and Harriet Myers had immediate positive reactions outweigh negative reactions by a margin 4 and 3 points, respectively.
The hickups that the White House did face--about a Youtube video showing her joking about making policy from the bench, and about her comment that minority women might be "better" at deciding cases than white men--have not proven themselves to be barriers to her nomination. As insurance, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today that she "if she had the speech to do all over again, I think she'd change that word"--better.
Meanwhile, the same comment has caused deep fissures within the Republican Party, which has long had a soft spot for debates over identity politics. Radio personalities and former politicians have been competing for the most controversial way to brand her a racist for those comments--a strategy that is sure to increase skepticism for the GOP from Hispanic voters. (The prizes go to former Rep. Tom Tancredo for calling the Latino civil rights organization a "KKK" without "the hoods or the nooses" and Rush Limbaugh, who accused her of "hating white people" and compared her to David Duke, a former member of the KKK.)
Such comments caused elected Republicans and their allies to lash out at the harsher comments. Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is leading the GOP 2010 effort, said the comments of Rush were "not appropriate," "terrible" and "wrong." RNC Chairman Michael Steele chimed in today to say that Republicans should stop "slamming and ramming" on Sotomayor in favor of a more measured response.
This intraparty sideshow, with all its hot-button pressure points, now threatens to overshadow the actual discussion of Sotomayor's record. And while that may not be the same as a cure for cancer or a nuclear free North Korea, it's certainly a development that the White House welcomes.
From NBC's First Read:
Although the Minnesota Supreme Court won't begin hearing arguments in the never-ending Norm Coleman vs. Al Franken recount until June 1, there are two new developments to report.
First, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has committed $750,000 to help Coleman pay his legal bills. A Republican official insists that this money is to help pay past legal bills -- not future ones that might be incurred if Coleman decides to take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It's worth pointing out that this $750,000 isn't chump change.
Second, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine (D), chairman of the Democratic National Committee, has written a letter to Minnesota GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty, asking him to urge Coleman to concede or sign the election certificate as soon as the Minnesota Supreme Court rules on the recount. Below is the letter ...
May 19, 2009
Dear Governor Pawlenty:
It has now been six months since Minnesota voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in a hard fought election for the United States Senate. No one will deny that the race was incredibly close - but after an official recount, an extensive legal process and a clear and definitive ruling by the three judge panel, it is all but indisputable that Democrat Al Franken won and will be the next Senator from Minnesota.
The voters of Minnesota elected Al Franken, and during every step in the legal process that judgment has been confirmed. By continuing to fight this losing battle - despite the fact that two-thirds of Minnesotans believe its time for him to concede - Norm Coleman is putting his own political ambition ahead of the voters choice and Minnesotas right to full representation in the Senate.
Last month, there was another hard fought race in New Yorks 20th Congressional district. But once Republican Jim Tedisco realized the numbers were not going his way, he appropriately conceded. He congratulated his opponent Scott Murphy and moved on. Now that the outcome of the election in Minnesota is abundantly clear: its time for Norm Coleman to follow Jim Tediscos example. I urge you to use your influence to bring this process to an end by asking Norm Coleman to allow his neighbors and yours, their full representation in Congress.
However, if Mr. Coleman refuses to concede and this case is heard and decided by the Minnesota State Supreme Court, I urge you to commit to signing an election certificate for the rightful winner as soon as the Court issues a ruling in this case. To allow this to process to continue into the federal courts for no other reason than to deny for as long as possible the seating of another Democratic Senator would make what has been a bad situation for Minnesotans even worse. I urge you to do everything within your power and influence to bring this process to an end.
Chairman Democratic National Committee
From the Wash Post:
Four months into his presidency, Obama has elevated energy and climate issues to near the top of his agenda; he's made them pop by packaging them as ways to create "green" jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on imports of foreign oil. Favoring pragmatism over moral suasion, the president is attempting to make a sharp shift in national policy on an issue that many voters have yet to embrace as a priority, advisers and lawmakers say.
His efforts, combined with those of congressional Democrats, have already pushed forward groundbreaking initiatives. February's stimulus act lavished money on projects for renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy research. This month, the White House announced that it had negotiated corporate, state and environmentalist support for higher fuel-efficiency and tailpipe-emissions standards that would clamp the first nationwide limits on greenhouse gases.
Finally, the House Energy and Commerce Committee on May 21 approved a bill that would take a cap-and-trade approach to curtailing greenhouse gas emissions, inching closer to a domestic legislative compromise that has eluded climate activists for the dozen years since the adoption of the international Kyoto accords.
"Whether or not you think that is a good idea or not depends on your perspective, but no one can deny that the fight going forward and its political implications will reshape how we look at energy issues," said Frank Maisano, an energy industry lobbyist at Bracewell & Giuliani.
Making climate a key issue was not an obvious decision for Obama. The political benefits are debatable. Energy and climate issues usually register low on lists of voters' concerns; climate legislation is rooted in the idea of limits; Republicans have sought to portray Obama's backing of cap-and-trade legislation as support for a giant new tax; and if legislation is adopted, it will be impossible for decades to point to specific climate trends and claim success.
... <A historical review of Obama's evolving thinking> ...
Many environmentalists and corporate executives have praised the White House for taking a pragmatic approach to negotiations over the cap-and-trade bill. Duke Energy chief executive James E. Rogers, who promoted free allowances for local electricity firms, said Obama understands the need to protect key industries, states and consumers, and he praised energy and climate czar Carol M. Browner for marshalling congressional support without dictating terms.
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) said that the president "is trusting us to work these things out internally, and he's not putting down markers."
"This is in keeping with how we have worked with Congress on a number of key issues," a senior administration official said, citing the stimulus and budget bills. "If the president draws a bright line and says, 'I have to have this,' the proposal is dead on arrival."
On May 5, as House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) was trying to cement support for the cap-and-trade bill, Obama invited 35 lawmakers to the White House. He said that it was a difficult issue but that dealing with difficult issues was the reason they were there. As the lawmakers were getting ready to leave, Obama said, "We have to do something more than symbolic here."
"It was a personal appeal," said Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.), who attended the meeting. "He's demonstrated . . . he's willing to put it on the line to get a bill done. You don't do heavy lifting like this without having a president who's willing to put it on the line."
"The President discusses the breadth and depth of experience held by his nominee for the Supreme Court. In the course of a life that began in a housing project in the South Bronx and brought her to the pinnacle of her profession, Judge Sonia Sotomayor accumulated more experience on the federal bench than any incoming Supreme Court Justice in the past 100 years, touching nearly every aspect of our legal system."
From the NY Times:
Speaking to reporters at the White House after talks with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Obama said that the absence of peace between Israelis and Palestinians was clogging up other critical issues in the Middle East.
“Time is of the essence,” Mr. Obama said. “We can’t continue with the drift and the increased fear on both sides, the sense of hopelessness that we’ve seen for too many years now. We need to get this thing back on track.”
Mr. Obama reiterated his call for a halt to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and said he expected a response soon from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
Mr. Obama’s words echoed — albeit less bluntly — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s brusque call on Wednesday for a complete freeze of construction in settlements on the West Bank. In expansive language that left no wiggle room, Mrs. Clinton said that Mr. Obama “wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions.”
Her comments took Israeli officials by surprise.
From Paul Krugman:
Suddenly it seems as if everyone is talking about inflation. Stern opinion pieces warn that hyperinflation is just around the corner. And markets may be heeding these warnings: Interest rates on long-term government bonds are up, with fear of future inflation one possible reason for the interest-rate spike ...
It’s important to realize that there’s no hint of inflationary pressures in the economy right now. Consumer prices are lower now than they were a year ago, and wage increases have stalled in the face of high unemployment. Deflation, not inflation, is the clear and present danger.
So if prices aren’t rising, why the inflation worries? Some claim that the Federal Reserve is printing lots of money, which must be inflationary, while others claim that budget deficits will eventually force the U.S. government to inflate away its debt.
The first story is just wrong. The second could be right, but isn’t.
Now, it’s true that the Fed has taken unprecedented actions lately. More specifically, it has been buying lots of debt both from the government and from the private sector, and paying for these purchases by crediting banks with extra reserves. And in ordinary times, this would be highly inflationary: banks, flush with reserves, would increase loans, which would drive up demand, which would push up prices.
But these aren’t ordinary times. Banks aren’t lending out their extra reserves. They’re just sitting on them — in effect, they’re sending the money right back to the Fed. So the Fed isn’t really printing money after all.
Still, don’t such actions have to be inflationary sooner or later? No. The Bank of Japan, faced with economic difficulties not too different from those we face today, purchased debt on a huge scale between 1997 and 2003. What happened to consumer prices? They fell.
All in all, much of the current inflation discussion calls to mind what happened during the early years of the Great Depression when many influential people were warning about inflation even as prices plunged. As the British economist Ralph Hawtrey wrote, “Fantastic fears of inflation were expressed. That was to cry, Fire, Fire in Noah’s Flood.” And he went on, “It is after depression and unemployment have subsided that inflation becomes dangerous.”
Is there a risk that we’ll have inflation after the economy recovers? That’s the claim of those who look at projections that federal debt may rise to more than 100 percent of G.D.P. and say that America will eventually have to inflate away that debt — that is, drive up prices so that the real value of the debt is reduced.
Such things have happened in the past. For example, France ultimately inflated away much of the debt it incurred while fighting World War I.
But more modern examples are lacking. Over the past two decades, Belgium, Canada and, of course, Japan have all gone through episodes when debt exceeded 100 percent of G.D.P. And the United States itself emerged from World War II with debt exceeding 120 percent of G.D.P. In none of these cases did governments resort to inflation to resolve their problems.
So is there any reason to think that inflation is coming? Some economists have argued for moderate inflation as a deliberate policy, as a way to encourage lending and reduce private debt burdens. I’m sympathetic to these arguments and made a similar case for Japan in the 1990s. But the case for inflation never made headway with Japanese policy makers then, and there’s no sign it’s getting traction with U.S. policy makers now.
All of this raises the question: If inflation isn’t a real risk, why all the claims that it is?
Well, as you may have noticed, economists sometimes disagree. And big disagreements are especially likely in weird times like the present, when many of the normal rules no longer apply.
But it’s hard to escape the sense that the current inflation fear-mongering is partly political, coming largely from economists who had no problem with deficits caused by tax cuts but suddenly became fiscal scolds when the government started spending money to rescue the economy. And their goal seems to be to bully the Obama administration into abandoning those rescue efforts.
Needless to say, the president should not let himself be bullied. The economy is still in deep trouble and needs continuing help.Yes, we have a long-run budget problem, and we need to start laying the groundwork for a long-run solution. But when it comes to inflation, the only thing we have to fear is inflation fear itself.
What do you think about this story from the Wash Post?
As more states take up the debate on same-sex marriage, some advocates of legalization are taking a very specific lesson from California, where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dominated both fundraising and door-knocking to pass a ballot initiative that barred such unions.
With the battle moving east, some advocates are shouting that fact in the streets, calculating that on an issue that eventually comes down to comfort levels, more people harbor apprehensions about Mormons than about homosexuality.
"The Mormons are coming! The Mormons are coming!" warned ads placed on newspaper Web sites in three Eastern states last month. The ad was rejected by sites in three other states, including Maine, where the Kennebec Journal informed Californians Against Hate that the copy "borders on insulting and denigrating a whole set of people based on their religion."
"I'm not intending it to harm the religion. I think they do wonderful things. Nicest people," said Fred Karger, a former Republican campaign consultant who established Californians Against Hate. "My single goal is to get them out of the same-sex marriage business and back to helping hurricane victims."
The strategy carries risks for a movement grounded in the concept of tolerance. But the demographics tempt proponents of same-sex marriage: Mormons account for just 2 percent of the U.S. population, and they are scarce outside the West. Nearly eight in 10 Americans personally know or work with a gay person, according to a recent Newsweek survey. Only 48 percent, meanwhile, know a Mormon, according to a Pew Research Center poll ...
In California, Mormons may well have made the difference on Proposition 8, which nullified a decision by the state Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage. A torrent of last-minute contributions from church members across the country financed well-framed TV ads in the final weekend of the campaign. Opponents' analysis of campaign-contribution reports indicated that Mormons contributed more than half of the campaign's $40 million war chest.
Rick Jacobs, director of the Courage Campaign, an advocacy group that produced a TV ad drawing attention to the Mormons' role in the campaign, said, "We have zero interest in demonizing anybody who believes in any religion."
In the spot, a pair of Mormon missionaries knock on the door of a lesbian couple, rifle their drawers and shred their marriage certificate in front of them.
Mormons "exist and flourish in this country because of the concept of equal protection," Jacob said, noting the persecution that drove members of the church to Utah in the 19th century. "I find it just an irreconcilable hypocrisy that a group that rightly thrives within the essence of the American system would seek to repress and deny rights to another. And it's even a little worse, because I certainly didn't choose to be gay. People make choices to be Mormons, or any other religion" ...
Suspicions that the church may be working behind the scenes in other states are encouraged by documents showing efforts by the church to cloak its participation in a late-1990s campaign that led to a ban on same-sex marriage in Hawaii.
"We have organized things so the Church contribution was used in an area of coalition activity that does not have to be reported," a senior Mormon official wrote in one document Karger posted on his Web site, and the church has not disputed ...
That works for Karger, whose specialty at his consulting group was opposition research. "People will vote for someone because they like so and so, or because they don't like the other guy," said Karger, who entered gay activism to preserve the Boom Boom Room, a gay bar in Newport Beach, Calif.
And favorability ratings declined for Mormons over the last year, Lawrence said, from 42 percent to 37.
"Is it fruitful to use the Mormon bogey?" said Mark Silk, a professor of religion and public life at Trinity College in Connecticut. "My sense is that there aren't great risks to it. Once a religious institution is going to inject itself into a public fight, which the LDS did in a straight-up way, then I think people are prepared to say, 'Well, okay, you're on that side and we're against you.' "
From the NY Times:
Government spending related to smoking and the abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs reached $468 billion in 2005, accounting for more than one-tenth of combined federal, state and local expenditures for all purposes, according to a new study.
Most abuse-related spending went toward direct health care costs for lung disease, cirrhosis and overdoses, for example, or for law enforcement expenses including incarceration, according to the report released Thursday by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, a private group at Columbia University. Just over 2 percent of the total went to prevention, treatment and addiction research. The study is the first to calculate abuse-related spending by all three levels of government.
“This is such a stunning misallocation of resources,” said Joseph A. Califano Jr., chairman of the center, referring to the lack of preventive measures. “It’s a commentary on the stigma attached to addictions and the failure of governments to make investments in the short run that would pay enormous dividends to taxpayers over time.”
Beyond resulting in poor health and crime, addictions and substance abuse — especially alcohol — are major underlying factors in other costly social problems like homelessness, domestic violence and child abuse.
Shifting money from hospitals and prisons to addiction treatment and research has never been politically easy, and it is all the harder now because the federal government and most states face large budget deficits and are cutting many key services. But Mr. Califano said that many preventive measures had rapid payoffs in medical and other expenses ...
Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a national group advocating legal reforms, said it was misleading for the report to lump together direct costs of tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse, like ill health, with expenses relating to enforcement of marijuana laws and prison. Many of the criminal justice costs, Mr. Nadelmann said, are not an inherent result of drug use but rather of policy choices to criminalize it.
“Still, the punch line of their report, that society should invest far more in prevention and treatment, makes total sense,” Mr. Nadelmann said.
The new report cites the antismoking campaigns of the last several decades as a promising model: education, higher taxes and restrictions on smoking zones have cut the incidence of smoking by close to half, saving billions in costs. It called for similar efforts to curb under-age drinking and excess alcohol consumption by adults, using higher taxes on beer, for example ...
Federal studies show that the best drug treatment programs pay for themselves 12 times over, the report said, because patients who succeed have quick improvements in health and behavior.
The Columbia center called for legislation to require broader coverage of substance abuse treatment by health insurers. Mr. Califano said that as the new Obama administration tried to rein in spiraling health costs, deepening such coverage would be vital.
From the NY Times:
Eight and a half years after their epic partisan battle over the fate of the 2000 presidential election, the lawyers David Boies and Theodore B. Olson appeared on the same team on Wednesday as co-counsel in a federal lawsuit that has nothing to do with hanging chads, butterfly ballots or Electoral College votes.
Their mutual goal: overturning Proposition 8, California’s freshly affirmed ban on same-sex marriage. It is a fight that jolted many gay rights advocates — and irritated more than a few — but that Mr. Boies and Mr. Olson said was important enough to, temporarily at least, set aside their political differences ...
The duo’s complaint, filed last week in Federal District Court in San Francisco on behalf of two gay couples and formally announced Wednesday at a news conference in Los Angeles, argues against Proposition 8 on the basis of federal constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process.
In the end, the two lawyers suggested, the case might take them, again, to the United States Supreme Court. While neither man claimed any special connection to the gay community — they are working “partially pro-bono,” Mr. Olson said — both said they had been touched by the stories of the same-sex couples unable to marry in California ...
Not everyone in the gay rights movement, however, was thrilled by the sudden intervention of the two limelight-grabbing but otherwise untested players in the bruising battle over Proposition 8. Some expressed confusion at the men’s motives and outright annoyance at the possibility that a loss before the Supreme Court could spoil the chances of future lawsuits on behalf of same-sex marriage.
“It’s not something that didn’t occur to us,” Matt Coles, the director of the LGBT project at the American Civil Liberties Union, said of filing a federal lawsuit. “Federal court? Wow. Never thought of that.”
But Mr. Olson said that their lawsuit — which also seeks an injunction blocking the marriage ban until the matter can be resolved — fell squarely in the tradition of landmark cases like Brown v. Board of Education.
“Creating a second class of citizens is discrimination, plain and simple,” said Mr. Olson, who served as solicitor general under Mr. Bush. “The Constitution of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Abraham Lincoln does not permit it”...
While five states now allow same-sex marriage, the federal government does not, and federal recognition has long been considered the Holy Grail in gay rights circles.
On Wednesday, veterans of the legal battles over same-sex marriage questioned the suit’s timing, particularly when a conservative majority holds sway in the Supreme Court ...
Laurence H. Tribe, an expert on constitutional law at Harvard, called the suit “a bold measure,” adding that “the fact that it’s being advanced by people at both ends of the ideological spectrum gives it a certain profile.”
Mr. Tribe said the question of timing could be argued from both sides.
“There’s a national trend which is obvious, with Vermont, Maine and Iowa,” he said, citing states that have recently legalized same-sex marriage. “But pushing it right now in front of a conservative court is not necessarily the wisest thing to do”...
But Mr. Olson seemed confident that the makeup of the Supreme Court was right because of the presence of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, pointing to two cases in which gay rights groups prevailed — a sodomy case in Texas and a constitutional ban on local antidiscrimination laws in Colorado — in which Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion. “We studied this very, very carefully,” he said, adding that it was difficult to tell clients, “‘Why don’t you go back and wait another five years?’”
From Ben Pershing:
She is a known quantity. Sotomayor has been seen as a potential court pick for months, giving friends and foes alike ample time to pore over her record. The proliferation of blogs and the wealth of information available online, including all of her legal opinions, mean that on some level Sotomayor has already been vetted (though her body of work includes "no major decisions concerning abortion, the death penalty, gay rights or national security.") Critics have seized on a few of her past remarks, but if there is a true smoking gun anywhere in her professional record, it hasn't been found. Her personal life is a different story, but we can only assume that Team Obama knows for sure that she has paid all her taxes. Can't we?
• The fact that Sotomayor -- or, as Mike Huckabee called her, "Maria" -- is Latinaspecial set of problems. Republicans can certainly criticize her record and judicial philosophy, but may be hesitant to adopt the kind of scorched-Earth tactics that have been deployed in some past Supreme Court fights. Doing so could represent a "suicide mission" for the party. presents the GOP with a
• Mathematically, Democrats have a near-stranglehold on the Senate. With 59 seats -- 60 if and when Al Franken is seated -- the majority barely needs to reach across the aisle in order to accrue the support necessary to put Sotomayor on the court. Centrist Democrats have so far given no indication that they would oppose her nomination, and some key Republicans, particularly Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, are already sounding positive notes about Sotomayor.
With Sotomayor's confirmation very likely, The Fix suggests that the real aim for the GOP will be to use the pick as a way to paint Obama as a liberal partisan. Will that tactic work? Sotomayor is being described this morning as the most controversial of Obama's four finalists for the seat, and yet in the broader scheme of things she probably isn't the boldest or most liberal choice Obama could have made. Stephen Carter calls her "a thoughtful moderate, with liberal leanings, to be sure, but hardly a firebrand on a mission."
So, barring a bombshell, Sotomayor looks to be on a glide path to the highest court. What, then, is the value for either side to elevate this into a more dramatic fight than it really is? Think of this as a dress rehearsal. What if the next justice to leave is a conservative, and Obama actually has the fundamental chance to alter the court's ideological makeup? Or what if Obama's next nominee really is a "firebrand on a mission"? It's useful, for both the Right and Left, to stretch their muscles and learn how this Senate and this president handle a Supreme Court nomination. Because the next battle might be a real one.
An interesting analysis from the Politico that argues that while Sotomayor's pick is broadly helpful to the Dems (and hurts the GOP) there are specific places where it might hurt their electoral chances (and help the GOP):
President Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court was the latest and most powerful blow in the president’s relentless courtship of Hispanic Americans, whose flight to the Democratic Party was central to his election.
Hispanic leaders across the country, many of whom attended the White House announcement, praised the appointment swiftly and in the strongest terms, and Republican leaders signaled an awareness of the political sensitivities by avoiding any suggestion of disrespect for the first Latina nominee to the nation’s highest court.
“The picture of an African-American president standing next to a Hispanic woman as his first choice for the Supreme Court — that picture is the worst nightmare for the Republican Party,” said Fernand Amandi, a Florida pollster whose firm, Bendixen Associates, surveyed Hispanic voters for Obama’s presidential campaign.
“The numbers, the symbolism and now the acts of the Democratic Party and this Democratic president underline and underscore the very bleak outlook for Republicans, where the…fastest growing demographics in the county are leaving them,” he said, noting that surveys earlier this decade suggested broad hunger among Hispanic voters for a court pick.
But the same reason that makes the nomination so politically powerful — the new president’s strengthened connection with Hispanics and women — also makes it risky in some parts of the country and for some Democrats facing tough elections in 2010. The unmistakable element of raw identity politics is one that Obama explicitly and implicitly disavowed during his campaign for president, and it runs counter to the approach the party has employed in building its House and Senate majorities.
“In the campaign, Barack Obama was very careful to avoid identity politics, and that’s one reason he won. Now President Obama is playing hardball identity politics,” said Alex Castellanos, a Republican political consultant. “The old Democratic Party is making a big comeback — that’s the party of huge reckless irresponsible spending and identity politics.”
“You’re going to have a lot of voters in the Midwest and the heartland wanting to tap the brake pedal — whether it’s Colorado or Arkansas or Ohio or North Carolina — you’ve got big races in all those states — and I don’t think the Democrats want identity politics and reckless spending to be the top two issues,” he said.
Democrats and Hispanic media outlets are sure to leap on and amplify any suggestion of disrespect from Republican politicians or — more likely — their talk radio allies, and to deepen the alliance of the nation’s fastest growing minority with its governing party.
“Hispanics are going to be watching this especially closely,” said Janet Murguía, the president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza. “Anyone who would position themselves into opposition to Sonia Sotomayor would have a difficult time in making that case to the Latino community” ...
While the pick burnishes Obama’s own national standing, the picture across the country is more mixed, with Republicans in heavily Hispanic states wrestling with tough choices in how to react and Democrats in more conservative and whiter precincts facing the need to handle the pick gingerly ...
The electoral impact of Sotomayor will depend ultimately on the course of her confirmation hearings and the degree to which she’s seen as a logical choice for the seat. Her supporters from the White House on down were aware of the risks of overplaying the question of identity politics.
Sotomayor’s status as the first Latina justice is “something that we’ve applauded and now we’re done applauding,” said Estuardo Rodriguez, a spokesman for Hispanics for a Fair Judiciary, which has organized support for the choice. “The focus is beyond her ethnicity and race and is now on her qualification and that she’s the most qualified judge in the last 50 years as regards her federal court experience.”
How U.S. Appeals Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor of New York has ruled on a handful of controversial subjects according to the Wash Post:
"The Supreme Court has made clear that the government is free to favor the anti-abortion position over the pro-choice position." Center for Reproductive Law and Policy v. Bush (2002)
Sotomayor denied a claim brought by an abortion rights group challenging the "Mexico City Policy" prohibiting foreign organizations receiving U.S. funds from performing or supporting abortions. | Read the opinion
"Although the city acted out of concern that certifying the exam results would have an adverse impact on minority candidates — and although, as the panel noted in its decision, the result was understandably frustrating for applicants who passed the test — the city's response, to decline to certify any of the exams, was facially race-neutral." Ricci v. DeStefano (2008)
Sotomayor and the other two judges upheld the decision by a lower court to dismiss a lawsuit by New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci and others that claimed the city's decision to scrap a promotions test for firefighters after the results showed no African Americans qualified for advancement violated federal law and their constitutional rights. | Read the opinion
"I find the speech in this case patently offensive, hateful, and insulting. The Court should not, however, gloss over three decades of jurisprudence and the centrality of First Amendment freedoms in our lives because it is confronted with speech it does not like and because a government employer fears a potential public response that it alone precipitated." Pappas v. Giuliani (2002)
Sotomayor dissented from a majority ruling in a case over whether the New York City Police Department could fire an employee who responded to requests for charitable contributions with mailings of racist and bigoted material. The majority ruled that the NYPD could terminate the employee without violating his First Amendment rights. | Read the opinion and Sotomayor's dissent
"It is settled law . . . that the Second Amendment applies only to limitations the federal government seeks to impose on this right." Maloney v. Cuomo (2009)
Sotomayor was a member of a panel that affirmed a lower court's ruling that a New York state law prohibiting possession of a device used in martial arts consisting of two sticks joined by a rope or chain did not violate a New York lawyer's Second Amendment right on the ground that the Second Amendment does not apply to states. | Read the opinion
"While a legislature may juggle many policy considerations in deciding whether to condemn private property, judicial review of the final legislative decision to exercise the power of eminent domain focuses exclusively on whether or not the taking is for a public use. In addition to the narrow scope of judicial review, a long line of Supreme Court cases have 'defined [the concept of public use] broadly, reflecting [the Court's] longstanding policy of deference to legislative judgments in this field.' The combination of those factors — the narrow scope of issues and the broad deference to the legislature — suggests that the role of the courts in enforcing the constitutional limitations on eminent domain is one of patrolling the borders. That which falls within the boundaries of acceptability is not subject to review." Brody v. Village of Port Chester (2005)
Sotomayor ruled with the majority that the Village of Port Chester violated a property owner's due process rights by failing to give adequate notice of his right to challenge the determination that his land should be used for a redevelopment project. Nevertheless, the panel supported the right of the government to take property for public use. | Read the opinion
Calif Senator Barbara Boxer:
The 18,000 same sex marriages performed in California are still valid. For my part, I will leave the fine legal analysis to those trained in these matters (and link to them). Politically, this seems to me the perfect decision. It would have been dreadful if voters were retroactively told their valid vote was somehow null and void - it would have felt like a bait and switch and provoked a horrible backlash.
It would have been equally dreadful if those couples lawfully wed were subsequently forced into divorce by the court. And these married couples and their families and children will now become the focus of the debate in California, as they should be. They are the evidence that we are right: that extending the blessings and responsibilities of full family life to gay men and lesbians is a good and conservative and integrating thing. We need now to put these families forward as our core argument. Their lives are our best case. Like mixed-race married couples in another era, they will show that there is nothing to fear here and much to celebrate.
Legal analysis from Emma Ruby-Sachs:
The overarching conclusion of the California Supreme Court today is that Proposition 8 was no big deal. After all, same-sex couples still have all the rights included in the “marriage bag” and so the actual effect of reserving the term marriage to heterosexual couples is not significant enough to warrant a more extensive constitutional approval process.
The main focus of the majority’s decision was on the distinction between a constitutional amendment and a constitutional revision. Amendments are small changes requiring only a majority vote and revisions are larger changes, changes to the basic governmental plan or framework, that require a debate and approval process in the California State House as well as amongst the electorate.
As the Court writes: “Proposition 8 does not by any means “repeal” or “strip” gay individuals or same-sex couples of the very significant substantive protections afforded by the state equal protection clause either with regard to the fundamental rights of privacy and due process or in any other area, again with the sole exception of access to the designation of “marriage” to describe their relationship.”
Because the effect of Proposition 8 is so “minor” we don’t need to classify it as a revision and it can stand, as is, after a simple majority vote.But the California Court offers no real analysis for its conclusion that simple nomenclature is really a minor matter. This, despite the fact that the offhanded treatment of the term marriage forms the basis of their decision to uphold Proposition 8.
Political analysis from the Wash Post:
The ruling Tuesday by California's Supreme Court upholding a ban on same-sex marriages shows that, despite a year of successes for gay activists, the road toward full marriage rights remains difficult -- particularly when voters are given a direct say.
The decisions in three states this year to legalize same-sex marriage, and the possibility that three others will soon follow suit, created a sense that the issue was gaining irreversible momentum and widespread acceptance, with many advocates making comparisons to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. But the California ruling served as a reminder that same-sex marriage remains deeply polarizing, and the movement is likely to see more reversals and setbacks as it tries to expand beyond the favorable terrain of the Northeast.
In a 6 to 1 ruling, the California court said voters spoke clearly, through last fall's ballot initiative known as Proposition 8, in wanting to limit marriage to a man and a woman. At the same time, the court said that the marriages of the approximately 18,000 couples who wed before the ban was passed remain valid and that same-sex partners can still enjoy equal legal benefits through recognized civil unions.
Protests against the decision began almost immediately, and gay advocacy groups said they plan to put the issue on the California ballot again, perhaps as early as 2010.
The ruling leaves five states that allow same-sex marriages -- Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, Vermont and Iowa -- and four of those are in New England. The other states on the verge of approving gay marriage or debating it -- New Hampshire, New York and New Jersey -- are all in the Northeast, making same-sex marriage appear increasingly to be a regional phenomenon rather than a national trend. The exception is Iowa, a heartland state with a long progressive tradition, where a state Supreme Court decision cleared the way for marriage rights.
The rest of the map looks far less hospitable to gay activists. About 30 states have constitutional amendments that define marriage as between a man and a woman. The South appears solidly against same-sex marriage. The Mountain West and the Plains states seem largely opposed, with New Mexico as a possible exception. In the Midwest, gay advocates have hopes in Illinois and Minnesota, but nowhere else. And on the West Coast, Washington shows a measure of promise.
"The classic pattern of civil rights advance in the United States is patchwork," said Evan Wolfson, executive director of the gay rights group Freedom to Marry. "The gay civil rights movement is going to follow the classic pattern"...
Definitely worth watching:
From the NY Times:
President Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court has put the Republican Party in a bind, as it weighs the cost of aggressively opposing Mr. Obama’s attempt to put the first Hispanic on the high court at a time when the party has struggled with sharp setbacks in its effort to appeal to Hispanic voters.
The Republican Party has been embroiled in a public argument over whether to tend to the ideological interests of its conservative base or to expand its appeal to a wider variety of voters in order to regain its strength following the defeats of 2008. Many conservatives came out fiercely against Ms. Sotomayor as soon her name was announced, denouncing her as liberal and promising Mr. Obama a tough nomination fight.
“The G.O. P. has to make a stand,” said Scott Reed, manager of the 1996 presidential campaign of Bob Dole. “This is what the base and social conservatives really care about, and we need to brand her a liberal with some out-of-the-mainstream positions. Forget about cosmetics and ethnic heritage, and focus on her record.”
But some Republicans warned that the image of Republicans throwing a roadblock before an historic nomination could prove politically devastating. Republicans saw a dip in Hispanic support in 2008, after eight years in which former President George W. Bush and his political aides had made a concerted effort to increase the Republican appeal to Hispanics, the nation’s fastest-growing group of voters.
“If Republicans make a big deal of opposing Sotomayor, we will be hurling ourselves off a cliff,” said Mark McKinnon, a senior adviser to Mr. Bush and a long-time advocate of expanding the party’s appeal. “Death will not be assured. But major injury will be.”
Matthew Dowd, another one-time adviser to Mr. Bush, said that in 2000, he calculated that Republicans needed to win 35 percent of Hispanics to beat Democrats. He said that given the steady increase in the number of Hispanic voters, he now believed Republicans needed to win a minimum of 40 percent to be competitive with Democrats.
As a result, he said, barring any revelation about Ms. Sotomayor’s background, Republicans could doom themselves to long-term minority status if they are perceived as preventing Ms. Sotomayor from becoming a judge. He argued that the party could not even be seen as threatening a filibuster.
“Because you’ll have a bunch of white males who lead the Judiciary Committee leading the charge taking on an Hispanic women and everybody from this day forward is going to know she’s totally qualified,” he said. “It’s a bad visual. It’s bad symbolism for the Republicans.”
“Republicans have to tread very lightly,” he said. “They can’t look they are going after her in any kind of personal or mean way. There’s no way they can even threaten a filibuster; I think a threat of that sort would be a problem, even if they didn’t do it.”
The conflicting pressures became clear throughout the day as conservative groups came out against Ms. Sotomayor. From the start, conservative leaders have made clear that they viewed the prospect of an ideologically charged nomination fight as a way to revive a movement that is lagging in spirits and funds.
“Judge Sotomayor is a liberal activist of the first order who thinks her own personal political agenda is more important than the law as written,” said Wendy E. Long, counsel to the Judicial Confirmation Network, a conservative group that has been preparing for this battle.
Whatever their differences with the nominee herself, Republicans throughout the day offered support, albeit grudging support, to Mr. Obama’s political instincts displayed with the nomination. “Obama has demonstrated a deft political touch with this pick” said Phil Musser, a Republican consultant. “Republicans who pick a fight with an up-from-the-bootstraps Hispanic woman do so at their own peril, and should only do so for a very, very good reason.”
Mr. Bush, who is from Texas, pushed hard from the moment he ran for president in 2000 to appeal to Hispanic voters, and with considerable success. His aides argued that given the increasing size of that segment of the electorate, building support among Hispanics was a crucial part of trying to achieve dominance over Democrats. But the Republican effort suffered a sharp setback when Republicans, over the objections of Mr. Bush, pressed to severely restrict immigration ...
Mr. Dowd said the party’s first risk would be in national elections. But he said it could trickle down into the states as well – particularly in places like Texas, which has a big Hispanic vote. If Hispanics begin turning toward Democrats, he said, Texas – now a reliably Republican state – could quickly turn into a swing state ...
Socially conservative Hispanic Christians, a pivotal group that Republicans have tried with mixed success to woo, warned that the party’s effort could be set back if conservatives attacked her.
You're going to be hearing a lot from the right about Sotomayor saying the "court of appeals is where policy is made" so the actual context is important to know; especially when Fox News embellishes things by making stuff up. From Media Matters:
During the May 7 edition of Fox News' Happening Now, host Jane* Skinner asserted that 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sonia Sotomayor, reportedly a potential candidate to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, "is coming under some fire for making some comments that were recorded on tape a while back, saying that it's her job, really, to make policy from the bench. Does she have a problem?"
In fact, in the tape Skinner was apparently referring to, from a February 25, 2005, Duke University School of Law forum, Sotomayor did not say "it's her job" to "make policy from the bench." Rather, responding to a student who asked the panel to contrast the experiences of a district court clerkship and a circuit court clerkship, Sotomayor said:
The saw is that if you're going into academia, you're going to teach, or as Judge Lucero just said, public interest law, all of the legal defense funds out there, they're looking for people with court of appeals experience, because it is -- court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know -- and I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don't make law, I know. OK, I know. I'm not promoting it, and I'm not advocating it, I'm -- you know. OK. Having said that, the court of appeals is where, before the Supreme Court makes the final decision, the law is percolating -- its interpretation, its application. And Judge Lucero is right. I often explain to people, when you're on the district court, you're looking to do justice in the individual case. So you are looking much more to the facts of the case than you are to the application of the law because the application of the law is non-precedential, so the facts control. On the court of appeals, you are looking to how the law is developing, so that it will then be applied to a broad class of cases. And so you're always thinking about the ramifications of this ruling on the next step in the development of the law. You can make a choice and say, "I don't care about the next step," and sometimes we do. Or sometimes we say, "We'll worry about that when we get to it" -- look at what the Supreme Court just did. But the point is that that's the differences -- the practical differences in the two experiences are the district court is controlled chaos and not so controlled most of the time.
NY Times editorial:
President Obama seems to have made an inspired choice in picking Judge Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. She has an impressive judicial record, a stellar academic background and a compelling life story. Judge Sotomayor would also be a trailblazing figure in the mold of Thurgood Marshall, becoming the first member of the nation’s large and growing but still under-represented Hispanic population to serve on the court.
Like the president who picked her, Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court manages to be both historic and conventional. By choosing an up-from-poverty Latina to serve on the high court, President Barack Obama has again swept away historic barriers of race and ethnicity ... Yet in picking the candidate whose name surfaced within hours of first leak about Justice David Souter’s retirement, Obama is also demonstrating the same profile in caution that has colored previous big decisions, such as who to name as his running mate ... It’s hard to be breathtaking and boring, but Obama somehow finds a way.
Obama, with his usual combination of professorial coolness and political calculation, has stayed within the judiciary’s 40-yard lines while also squeezing the opposition in a manner that would make a Chicago ward heeler smile.
Predictably, she will inspire the right's ire. We all know the attacks: "She's too liberal" and "she's a judicial activist." Lack of substance will lead these arguments to fade fast, and she will be confirmed for many reasons, two of which stand out.
First, Sotomayor's record defies ideological caricature. Her credentials, temperament and legal experience are unassailable. One may disagree with her conclusions but not the power, rigor and depth of her intellect. Further, the right must remember that she was first appointed to the federal bench by President George H.W. Bush.
Second, she humanizes the court. The millions of Americans who haven't grown up with much can relate to someone who started out in a Bronx public housing community. And her roots will help her identify with people across the spectrum. In short, she brings an informed empathy.
Jack Balkin (Yale Law professor):
Sotomayor was carefully positioned as not the most liberal candidate -- other candidates were seen as farther to the left. This makes her easier to confirm and also burnishes Obama's desired reputation as a non-doctrinaire pragmatist.
Yet Sotomayor is likely to be part of the court's liberal coalition. Most justices do not disappoint the presidents who nominate them on the key issues that the presidents care about, especially when the nominees have fairly long track records, as Sotomayor has.
Not sure if this helps or hurts her but it is interesting that ethnicity seems to trump party:
If there was ever a single poll that showed how out of touch with the country the GOP is, this is it. From CNN:
As Colin Powell fires back against Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh in the latest skirmish in the battle over the future of the Republican Party, a new national poll indicates that Americans have a much more favorable opinion of Powell than Cheney or LimbaughThe CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey, released Monday, suggests that 70 percent have a favorable opinion of Powell, who was Secretary of State during President George W. Bush's first term, and who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Persian Gulf War.
Only 30 percent of those polled have a favorable view of Limbaugh, the popular conservative radio talk show host, with 53 percent saying they hold an unfavorable opinion.
In poll numbers released Thursday, 37 percent say they have a favorable opinion of Dick Cheney, with 55 percent indicating they hold an unfavorable view of the former vice president.
Among Republicans, it's a different story. The poll suggests that 66 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of Cheney, 64 percent give Powell a thumbs up, and 62 view Limbaugh in a favorable way.
This montage presents one Fox News quote a day from the first 100 days, revealing Fox's early and abiding interest in tarring the new President as a socialist sell-out presiding over an "Obama bear market" with a big dose of a "blame America vibe." (H/t to Ari Melber)
At a minimum, Obama seemed alive to the moral and legal ambiguities implied by the issue. Not so the former Vice-President, who chose to speak in a chilling code, in which methods of torture such as waterboarding became “enhanced interrogation,” in the way that death might be called “enhanced sleep.”
Cheney delivered his indictment of the current Administration in the same tone of certainty that he once used to inform the nation of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; of the connections between the government of Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers; and of the prospects for quick victory in Iraq. In light of this, it’s hard to take seriously the claims that Cheney asked us to accept: to name just two, that the information obtained by torture saved lives; and that the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was solely the work of “a few sadistic prison guards,” and not the result of interrogation practices approved by Cheney himself.
Even worse than Cheney’s distortions was the political agenda behind them. The speech was, as politicians say, a marker—a warning to the new Administration. “Just remember: it is a serious step to begin unravelling some of the very policies that have kept our people safe since 9/11,” Cheney said. “Seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed.”
Cheney’s all but explicit message was that the blame for any new attack against American people or interests would be laid not on the terrorists, or on the worldwide climate of anti-Americanism created by the Bush-Cheney Administration, but on Barack Obama. For many months after the 9/11 attacks, Democrats refrained from engaging in the blame game with the Bush Administration. Cheney’s speech makes it clear that, should terrorists strike again, Republicans may not respond in kind.
Cheney’s political acumen is not to be underestimated, notwithstanding his image problems. Last week’s lopsided Senate vote suggests that Republican mastery of the politics of national security (if not of national security itself) remains intact. During the campaign, the majority of voters came to support Obama’s contention that a tradeoff between our values and our security is a false choice. (And John McCain largely agreed.) But the quick flight of most congressional Democrats from their President suggests just how difficult a political assignment Obama has given himself. Cheney, in proclaiming that another attack will prove that his policies were correct, is trying to undermine confidence in the new team in the White House. The President gave a persuasive speech last week, but it proved only that he has a lot more persuading to do.
Could the GOP really be so astoundingly dumb? Luckily, the answer, for the time being, seems to be yes.
Funny how many Obama stories in the Wall St Journal now contain the phrase industrial policy (which they presumably mean as a pejorative but is just smart policy to me):
The Obama administration has set off a gold rush to power new environmentally friendly cars. In one of the government's biggest efforts at shaping industrial policy, the Energy Department has been soliciting applications for $2.4 billion in funding aimed at turning the U.S. into a battery-manufacturing powerhouse. At the deadline last week, the department said it had received 165 applications.
Companies vying for the federal money include General Motors Corp., Dow Chemical Co., Johnson Controls Inc. and A123 Systems, a closely held battery maker backed by General Electric Co. and others. States including Michigan, Kentucky and Massachusetts are also weighing in with applications, usually in alliance with their favored battery makers.
When the winners are decided, as soon as the end of July, the Energy Department may anoint Livonia, Mich., or Indianapolis or Glendale, Ky., as the future U.S. hub of car batteries. A 2008 study by researchers at Alliance Bernstein forecast the current $9 billion-a-year auto-battery market, based on lead-acid batteries, could reach more than $150 billion by 2030.
The companies and state governments are proposing sites for plants that will make lithium-ion batteries, the technology that has emerged as the leading choice to power future electric cars.
The world-wide market for these types of power cells is now dominated by four big Japanese and Korean companies -- including Sony Corp. and Panasonic Corp. -- but their batteries are chiefly small ones used in laptops and cellphones.
Just four months in office, President Barack Obama and his White House are taking steps to shore up Democratic Congressional majorities in next year's midterm elections.
This month, the president tried -- but failed -- to recruit a high-profile candidate for a Senate contest in North Carolina. He stepped in to head off a primary battle for the New York Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. He promised to back Sen. Arlen Specter, the Republican-turned Democrat, if a Democratic challenger emerged. And this week he will go to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to raise cash for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic National Committee.
Since Ronald Reagan, every president has had a political office and has intervened in midterm elections. Obama aides say that with such a full legislative plate, politics is hardly a focus. "We've got our hands full with a thousand other things," senior White House adviser David Axelrod said Monday.
But with a chief of staff like Rahm Emanuel and a political operator like Mr. Axelrod in the West Wing, Democrats expect the help ... "There's a confluence of expertise in politics, policy and making things happen," said Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
No one anticipates the Democrats losing control of Congress. Indeed, in the Senate, the Republicans are the ones on the defense, with endangered seats in Missouri, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio. Only one Democratic seat, Sen. Christopher Dodd's in Connecticut, currently is considered a toss-up.
Democrats in the Senate have a shot at solidifying their ability to overcome filibusters or delaying tactics with 60 or more Senators voting with them. But with unemployment near 9% and Republicans gaining traction on national-security issues, the winds could shift quickly. Appointed senators in Colorado, Illinois, New York and Delaware have yet to prove their appeal. And the president's aggressive agenda -- including a health-care overhaul and a national energy strategy -- could fracture the Democrats' left flank from its nervous center.
From John Harwood:
A comprehensive health care overhaul in the United States, which has eluded Democratic presidents since Harry S. Truman, also poses immense challenges. Yet energy presents a harder challenge for two reasons.
First, the domestic constituency for action on energy independence and climate change remains smaller and less intense. While mounting health care costs touch everyone, interest in major change on energy and the environment fluctuates with gasoline prices and attention from the news media.
Second, Democratic leaders in Congress have opted not to pursue energy legislation under filibuster-proof “reconciliation” procedures. That means Mr. Obama must attract 60 votes in the Senate to win; health changes can pass with just 50.
That leads to the first challenge Mr. Obama faces: pressing for the House to hold a floor vote. Some reluctant Democrats, chiefly moderates from energy-intensive states, want to dodge the political hazard of what Republicans call “cap and tax” without an assurance that the Senate also intends to move.
Even if the Senate cannot, Mr. Obama has strong incentive to seek House passage to convince other nations that the United States intends to lead ...
Some Obama allies argue that prospects for Senate action remain bright. Cap-and-trade skeptics “will write its obituary many times before Obama signs it,” said Dan Weiss of the Center for American Progress.
But final passage will require a second tough call: how hard Mr. Obama plans to press liberal backers to accept concessions needed to gain 60 votes, including on contentious issues like increased domestic drilling and more nuclear power ...
If Congress fails, Mr. Obama can act unilaterally, using powers the Environmental Protection Agency has asserted to regulate carbon emissions as a public danger. That would pit the president, acting alone, against all the economic interests threatened by his policy. Former Senator Timothy E. Wirth of Colorado, who leads the United Nations Foundation, said the “nexus of negative interests” — including the oil, coal, utility and railroad industries — made other business lobbies “look like kindergarten play.”
Mr. Obama has always drawn high marks for brains and charisma. But aides insist that the president who shoved through a historic economic stimulus plan, steered Chrysler into bankruptcy and replaced his wartime commander in Afghanistan deserves more credit for being a strong leader who does what it takes to accomplish his big goals.
“People always miss that toughness, that steel in him,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.
Mr. Emanuel called Mr. Obama’s moves to reshape the auto industry an indicator of his determination to get results and a signal of what opponents will face on energy and environmental legislation. “It would be a warning to all those other interests not to underestimate this president,” he said. “That would be a mistake” ...
“Will they all pull in the same direction and take on the biggest of all economic coalitions?” Mr. Wirth said. “The jury’s out.”
I'm not too hopeful about today's California Supreme Court decision on whether the state can resume discriminating against gay citizens. As posted on 20 Nov 2008 in Calif Supreme Court Rejoins Prop. 8 Battle:
Kennard is the court's longest-serving justice, having been appointed in 1989, and has been one of its foremost supporters of same-sex couples' rights. Without her vote, the May 15 ruling would have gone the other way. But she wrote Wednesday that she would favor hearing arguments only about whether Prop. 8 would invalidate the pre-election marriages, an issue that would arise only if the initiative were upheld.
"It's always hard to read tea leaves, but I think Justice Kennard is saying that she thinks the constitutionality of Prop. 8 is so clear that it doesn't warrant review," said Stephen Barnett, a retired UC Berkeley law professor and longtime observer of the court.
For those seeking to overturn Prop. 8, "I would not think it would be encouraging," said Dennis Maio, a San Francisco lawyer and former staff attorney at the court
Because of analysis like this, the CW assumes they'll keep Prop 8 but not annul the 18,000 marriages that took place prior to Prop 8's approval. I hope the Court does the thing courts are supposed to do--protect the rights of minorities from the majorities tyranny--but I'm afraid they wont.
From Wednesday's NewsHour:
Nate Silver offers this chart to show that American's position on abortion is remarkably stable and to refute the new notion that support is declining:
EJ Dione writing in The New Republic:
Bill Clinton tried to create a Third Way. President Obama is doing it. This is exciting, but also disconcerting.
Over the last week, the true nature of Obama's political project has come into much clearer view. He is out to build a new and enduring political establishment, located slightly to the left of center but including everyone except the far right. That's certainly a bracing idea, since Washington has not seen a liberal establishment since the mid-1960s.
"Liberal establishment," of course, sounds terrible to many ears, and Obama would never use the term. But those who led it in its heyday accomplished a great deal, from Medicare to food stamps to Head Start to federal aid for schools. Its proudest achievements were civil rights laws that paved the way for the election of our first African-American president.
But the liberal establishment was also resolutely tough-minded in its approach to foreign policy and national security. Not for nothing was the phrase "cold war liberalism" coined.
And it is no accident that the Vietnam War was that philosophy's undoing. Fearful that a communist victory in Vietnam would revive the far right's critique of alleged liberal weakness, Lyndon B. Johnson -- whose aspiration was to be a great domestic social reformer -- went into Southeast Asia with guns blazing. We know the result.
The disturbing aspect of Obama's effort to create his new political alignment is that building it requires him to send rather different messages to its component parts. Playing to several audiences at once can lead to awkward moments.
Last Thursday afternoon, for example, the White House invited in journalists, mostly opinion writers, to sell them on the substance of the president's big speech on Guantanamo and the treatment of detainees.
Unbeknownst to the writers until afterward, they had been divided into two groups, one more centrist with a sprinkling of moderate conservatives, the other more liberal. (I was in the liberal group.) The president made an unscheduled appearance at each briefing. As is his way, he charmed both groups.
The idea, as far as I can determine, was to sell the liberal group on those aspects of Obama's plan that are a break from George W. Bush's policies, and to sell the centrist group on the toughness of the president's approach and the fact that it squares with Bush's more moderate moves later in his second term ...
And in the next phase of his security efforts, Obama hopes to bring civil libertarians and moderate conservatives to the same table to work out rules on detainees. These would be more protective of their rights than Bush's were, but tougher than the ACLU might have in mind.
Obama's center-left two-step is also on display in the domestic sphere. He is pushing hard for programs progressives have sought for years--and, in the case of health care, for decades. But on the economic crisis, he has resolutely tacked to the center, pushing aside calls for nationalizing the banks and working closely with the financial establishment to revive the economy.
And there's subtlety within his subtlety: Obama wants a more regulated financial market, but he would not disrupt the basic arrangements of American capitalism. If Obama has his way, investment bankers will make a bit less money and pay more in taxes, but they'll continue to be rich.
The establishment Obama is trying to build would make the country better -- more equal, more just and more conscious of the government's constitutional obligations. The far right is being isolated, and Republicans are simply lost.
But establishments have a habit of becoming too confident in their ability to manipulate people and events, and too certain of their own moral righteousness. Obama's political and substantive gifts are undeniable. What he needs to realize are the limits of his own mastery.