Opinion | Is Clarence Thomas the Supreme Court’s Future? – by Linda Greenhouse – NYT

A month ago, ThinkProgress published an essay by Ian Millhiser with the title “Clarence Thomas Is the Most Important Legal Thinker in America.” I did a double take. How could the estimable Mr. Millhiser sign his name to such an exaggerated claim? But his argument was not that Justice Thomas, who recently turned 70, is winning victories today, but that he is paving the way for victories down the road — and perhaps not all that far down the road. Observing that 20 percent of Trump-appointed appeals court judges are Justice Thomas’s former law clerks, Mr. Millhiser wrote, “Thomas lost the war for the present, but he is the future of legal conservatism.”So no, the court’s future is not already here, not yet. Those of us on the progressive side of the street are unlikely to look back on Justice Kennedy’s final term with nostalgia. But soon enough, we may decide that it was the best we’re going to see for a long time.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTopinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.Linda Greenhouse, the winner of the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, writes on alternate Thursdays about the Supreme Court and the law. She reported on the Supreme Court for The Times from 1978 to 2008, and is the author of several books.

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Opinion | Michael Cohen Takes a Bullet – by Charles Blow – NYT

“Here’s to Michael Cohen. He’s finally getting something right.

First, let’s state forthrightly that Cohen, Trump’s longtime lawyer, the fix-it man, the one who mopped up Trump’s messes, the one who said he would “take a bullet for the president,” is an incredibly unsavory character and a bully.

He thought himself a tough guy, Trump’s muscle collecting the crumbs of Trump’s money.

For instance, in 2015 he threatened a Daily Beast reporter who was writing about the time Trump’s first wife, Ivana, claimed Trump had raped her, only to later say that she didn’t want her use of the word rape “to be interpreted in a literal or criminal sense.”

According to that reporter, Cohen erroneously — and outrageously — claimed, “You cannot rape your spouse,” before launching into this tirade:

“I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we’re in the courthouse. And I will take you for every penny you still don’t have. And I will come after your Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know … So I’m warning you, tread very [expletive] lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be [expletive] disgusting. You understand me?

“You write a story that has Mr. Trump’s name in it, with the word ‘rape,’ and I’m going to mess your life up … for as long as you’re on this frickin’ planet … you’re going to have judgments against you, so much money, you’ll never know how to get out from underneath it.” “

Opinion | What Is the Democratic Story? – by David Brooks – NYT

David Brooks in an intangible national treasure. He starts with:
“There’s a lot of discussion about how far left the Democratic Party should go these days. Is it destroying its electoral chances when its members call for a single-payer health plan or abolishing ICE?

That’s an important question, but the most important question is what story is the Democratic Party telling? As Alasdair MacIntyre argued many years ago, you can’t know what to do unless you know what story you are a part of. Story is more important than policies.”

. . . .    “In brief, Democrats have stayed away from this narrative because the long hoped-for alliance between oppressed racial minorities and the oppressed white working class has never materialized, and it looks very far from materializing now.

Maybe this year is different, but for 100 years, Democrats have tended to win with youthful optimism and not anger and indignation. The Democrats who have won nationally almost all ran on generational change — on tired old America versus the possibilities of new America: F.D.R.’s New Deal, J.F.K.’s New Frontier, Bill Clinton’s bridge to the 21st century and Obama’s hope and change.”

David Lindsay:

Thank you David Brooks for shining more light into the darkness that appears to be growing. The detractors are many, and they are like those annoying children of Kahil Gilbran, They have their own thoughts. You do not pander to any group, but perhaps to those of us who are into self flagellation and searching for deeper truths at the expense often of popularity.

“The story Donald Trump tells is that we good-hearted, decent people of Middle America have been betrayed by stupid elites who screw us andbeen threatened by foreigners who are out to get us. That story resonated with many people. You can get a lot of facts wrong if you get your story right.”

In tennis, if you hit a ball before it lands by the baseline, you will never know for sure if it was going out. We will probably never know how we would have done in the last election if we had chosen Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. While I lie awake at night thinking about such things, I force myself to think about what do to in this next election. I think fondly of David Leonhardt, who pointed out that we have to be disciplined, and focus on the red and blue state voters  who voted for Obama, and then switched to Trump. We also have to somehow force the government, or at least the press, to hold off the Russians and GOP manipulating Facebook and other social media with dark ads, paid for with dark money.

Opinion | A President With No Shame and a Party With No Guts – Thomas Friedman – NYT

“If your puppy makes a mess on your carpet and you shout “Bad dog,” there is a good chance that that puppy’s ears will droop, his head will bow and he may even whimper. In other words, even a puppy acts ashamed when caught misbehaving. That is not true of Donald Trump. Day in and day out, he proves to us that he has no shame. We’ve never had a president with no shame — and it’s become a huge source of power for him and trouble for us.

And what makes Trump even more powerful and problematic is that this president with no shame is combined with a party with no spine and a major network with no integrity — save for a few real journalists at Fox News like the outstanding Chris Wallace.”

Opinion | A Better Way to Run Schools – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“Twelve years later, Nigel Palmer still remembers the embarrassment of his first days as a fourth grader in Monroe, La. He was a Hurricane Katrina evacuee from New Orleans, living with his family in a La Quinta Inn, 250 miles from home. As soon as the school year began, he could tell that the kids in his new school seemed different from him.

They could divide numbers. He really couldn’t. They knew the 50 states. He didn’t. “I wasn’t up to par,” he quietly told me. It’s a miserable feeling.

Until the storm, Palmer had been attending New Orleans public schools, which were among the country’s worst. The high-school graduation rate was 54 percent, and some students who did graduate had shockingly weak academic skills.”

David Lindsay Jr:
How complicated. David Leonhardt, your piece was exciting, but in the comments, you appear to have run into a buzz saw of questions and doubts. Well Houdini, do you have the data to back up your enthusiasm, and isolated stories? While your at work, please explain why the 37th percentile is better than the 22nd, and why some commenters say your an idiot to think 37th is OK.

David Lindsay Jr. is a huge fan of David Leonhardt. Lindsay is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at TheTaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com

Opinion | Trump- Treasonous Traitor – by Charles Blow and Commenters – NYT

“Put aside whatever suspicions you may have about whether Donald Trump will be directly implicated in the Russia investigation.

Trump is right now, before our eyes and those of the world, committing an unbelievable and unforgivable crime against this country. It is his failure to defend.

The intelligence community long ago concluded that Russia attacked our election in 2016 with the express intention of damaging Hillary Clinton and assisting Trump.

And it was not only the spreading of inflammatory fake news over social media. As a May report from the Republican-run Senate Intelligence Committee pointed out:

“In 2016, cyber actors affiliated with the Russian Government conducted an unprecedented, coordinated cyber campaign against state election infrastructure. Russian actors scanned databases for vulnerabilities, attempted intrusions, and in a small number of cases successfully penetrated a voter registration database. This activity was part of a larger campaign to prepare to undermine confidence in the voting process.” “

Opinion | We Are All Supreme Court Skeptics Now – by Ross Douthat – NYT

“Democracy is in peril. The majority no longer rules; a determined minority has the whip hand. The least accountable branch of government, the Supreme Court, has fallen into the hands of an aggressively counter-majoritarian faction, which intends to traduce self-government for ideological ends. The time has come to consider drastic countermeasures against our robed masters and their nascent tyranny.

These arguments are on the lips of many liberals lately. With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, general Trump-era anxieties have found a focal point in the fear of right-wing judicial activism, of a high court that pushes policy rightward and allows Republicans to lock in anti-democratic advantages.

But any liberal with an ounce of self-awareness should recognize the resemblance between their sudden fear of juristocracy and the longstanding conservative critique of exactly the same thing. Indeed it’s quite striking, and ironically amusing, to have Trump-era liberals striking the same anti-Supreme Court notes as the talk-show populists and religious-conservative intellectuals of my own not-so-distant youth.

Partisanship being what it is, I don’t really expect either side to learn anything from these echoes and convergences. But for liberals newly awakened to the dangers of judicial power, let me offer two suggestions for thinking seriously about democratic accountability in Congress and the courts.

First, it would be wise for liberals to recognize that neither a judiciary out of step with democratic majorities nor an electoral advantage for one political apparatus are new things in American history — because when the Democratic Party dominated American politics both were important aspects of liberalism’s rule.

The politics of the 1940s and ’50s and ’60s would have still been generally liberal without judicial activism; Democrats would have still held congressional majorities, mostly, without the baked-in advantages that gave them more House seats than their share of the popular vote.

But the countermajoritarian sweep of liberal jurisprudence in that era was still dramatic, extending beyond race and segregation to encompass the entirety of the culture war, where majorities were consistently overriden, legislative debates consistently short-circuited, and longstanding features of American life — ecumenical school prayer, Christian-influenced morals legislation — overruled or uprooted by fiat.”

David Lindsay:  Well done Ross Douthat, for awhile you had me confused. This is an attractive set of arguments. Here are the two top comments, which I endorsed, which help put the analysis above into some perspective.

Martin
New York

May I mention, as an example, that Roe v Wade, the decision most often cited by Republicans as demonstrating judicial liberal overreach, was a decision in which 5 Republican judges joined 2 Democrats in the majority, with the 2 dissenters came 1 from each party? It seemed to many of us that the positions of the post war era that we now call “liberal” became dominant not by gerrymandering, voter suppression & partisan propaganda, but by reasoned argument. And it has always struck me that the “conservative” reaction against those positions over the last 40 years has used identity politics, partisan media, and political power not to engage a debate on the issues, but to obtain a pre-determined result by exercising economic & political power.

Barking Doggerel commented July 14

Barking Doggerel
Barking Doggerel
America

Although not alone in doing so, Douthat takes false equivalence to historic highs.

Equating the surges of liberalism and conservatism over time is either cluelessness or disingenuousness on steroids.

Liberals actual press to advance the values and promises of democracy.

Equality under the law for women, people of color and LGBTQ citizens is not “activism.” it is justice – albeit delayed and incomplete.

Fighting for voting rights is not a partisan game. It is fighting for the rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Attempting to protect the rights to reproductive health autonomy against an onslaught of religious objections is not a “liberal” position. It is an effort to honor the founding of our pluralistic republic by keeping the hands of theology off the bodies of women.

It is dangerous to see this nomination or the broader issues as just equally valid points of view.

Opinion | ‘Evil Has Won’ – By Michelle Goldberg – NYT

President Trump met with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“BERLIN — Klaus Scharioth, who served as Germany’s ambassador to the United States during both George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s administrations, was born in 1946, the year after Germany’s surrender in World War II. His earliest impressions of America were of a magnanimous, generous country.

“It was never forgotten that the United States included Germany in the Marshall Plan, which you would not have expected,” he told me, speaking of American aid to rebuild Europe after the war. He remembers getting packages of food from the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe, or CARE: “The victor sends the one who is defeated, and who began the war, CARE packages! Imagine that. It doesn’t happen too often.”

In the world he grew up in, America was seen as the guarantor of the liberal democratic order, an order in which Germany, abandoning its aggressive history, would come to thrive. And so for many Germans, it’s a profound shock that the president of the United States now attacks that order, while appearing to fawn over Russia.

“Germans have grown accustomed to the fact that the United States would always be their friends,” Scharioth said. “And it’s like when a very good friend leaves you. It hurts. I would say of all European countries, the Germans psychologically are the ones who are wounded most.” “

Opinion | $111 Billion in Tax Cuts for the Top 1 Percent – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“More inequality? Yes, please. Federal tax policy in the 21st century has been like a tug of war. Thanks to President Trump, the rich are winning it once again.

The top-earning 1 percent of households — those earning more than $607,000 a year — will pay a combined $111 billion less this year in federal taxes than they would have if the laws had remained unchanged since 2000. That’s an enormous windfall. It’s more, in total dollars, than the tax cut received over the same period by the entire bottom 60 percent of earners, according to an analysis being published today.”

Opinion | We May Be Able to Get Kevin Cooper Off Death Row – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“The horror began with a nighttime home invasion and the stabbings of a white family, and was compounded when sheriff’s deputies arrested and framed a black man for murder.

That’s my view, and now after 35 years the wheels of justice in California may finally be creaking into motion. I last wrote about the case two months ago, and there’s a hopeful development: Gov. Jerry Brown seems to be moving toward allowing advanced DNA testing that may correct a gross injustice abetted by the police, prosecutors, judges, politicians and journalists.”