Category Archives: The Nation

Dylann Roof to face federal hate crime charges

This just in a little while ago:

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Dylann Roof for hate crimes in the June killings of nine African-Americans at a Charleston church, according to sources familiar with a federal-state investigation.

The 33-count indictment charges Roof, 21, a white man from the Columbia area, with 12 counts of committing a federal hate crime (nine counts of murder and three attempted murders), 12 counts of obstructing the exercise of religion and nine counts of the use of a firearm to commit murder.

Hate crimes under federal law are crimes committed against someone because of their race, color, religion, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or disability. South Carolina does not have a hate crimes law, but some 45 states do.

Under federal law, prosecutors may seek the death penalty where violent death has resulted The U.S. Justice Department is exploring whether to seek the death penalty against Roof….

Personally, I’m happy to see “the book” and all the charges it contains thrown at this guy.

But… I should note that I don’t believe “hate crimes” should be in the book to start with. Punish the deed, not the political attitude behind the deed. This is one of those few areas where I agree with libertarians: Allowing the government to punish attitudes is giving government too much power, and an offense against the freedom of conscience enshrined in the 1st Amendment. One is allowed, in this country, to harbor horrible ideas, as long as one does not act upon them.

Which leads me to the possibility of the feds pursuing the death penalty.

Three points on that:

  1. I don’t believe in the death penalty.
  2. If I did believe in the death penalty, the killer of the Emanuel Nine would definitely be a candidate for it.
  3. If I did believe in the death penalty, I certainly wouldn’t want it administered for “hate crimes,” for the aforementioned reason. If you’re going to hang a man, do it for murder, not for his motivation.

What kind of a world is it, when a creep like Trump feels free to fling such trash at honorable men?

Jack Van Loan in 2006.

Jack Van Loan in 2006.

After posting that Open Thread with the item about what Trump said about John McCain, I went to the movies with my son to see “Ant Man.” Pretty good flick.

But while there, I missed a call from my friend Jack Van Loan. When I saw he’d called, I had a pretty good idea why.

And it made me feel sick to know that when Trump attempted to besmirch the honor of McCain, he was also throwing his trash at Jack. Which is beyond disgusting.

Jack left this message, obviously choosing his words carefully:

Brad, this is Jack Van Loan, calling you at 6:25 on Sunday. I’m terribly disappointed in my friend, uh… (long pause) that shot his mouth off about John McCain. John served awfully, awfully well, did a hell of a good job under terrific pressure – torture, etc., etc. — and I’m very disappointed that anybody would pick on him.

I’ve tried to get hold of your editor, and evidently I don’t have the right number. But if you would call me…, I would appreciate you telling him what I really think, OK.

Give me a call; thank you.

I tried to call him back, but missed him. Since he wanted to talk to someone at the paper, I called Executive Editor Mark Lett and left both of the numbers I had for Jack. I hope they have better luck reaching him than I did.

I didn’t reach Jack, but I’ll share with you a column I wrote when someone else attacked his friend John’s record, in January 2008 — the month of the South Carolina primary:

By BRAD WARTHEN
Editorial Page Editor
ON MAY 20, 1967, Air Force pilot Jack Van Loan was shot down over North Vietnam. His parachute carried him to Earth well enough, but he landed all wrong.
“I hit the ground, and I slid, and I hit a tree,” he said. This provided an opportunity for his captors at the prison known as the “Hanoi Hilton.”
“My knee was kind of screwed up and they … any time they found you with some problems, then they would, they would bear down on the problems,” he said. “I mean, they worked on my knee pretty good … and, you know, just torturing me.”
In October of Jack’s first year in Hanoi, a new prisoner came in, a naval aviator named John McCain. He was in really bad shape. He had ejected over Hanoi, and had landed in a lake right in the middle of the city. He suffered two broken arms and a broken leg ejecting. He nearly drowned in the lake before a mob pulled him out, and then set upon him. They spat on him, kicked him and stripped his clothes off. Then they crushed his shoulder with a rifle butt, and bayoneted him in his left foot and his groin.
That gave the enemy something to “bear down on.” Lt. Cmdr. McCain would be strung up tight by his unhealed arms, hog-tied and left that way for the night.
“John was no different than anyone else, except that he was so badly hurt,” said Jack. “He was really badly, badly hurt.”
Jack and I got to talking about all this when he called me Wednesday morning, outraged over a story that had appeared in that morning’s paper, headlined “McCain’s war record attacked.” A flier put out by an anti-McCain group was claiming the candidate had given up military information in return for medical treatment as a POW in Vietnam.
This was the kind of thing the McCain campaign had been watching out for. The Arizona senator came into South Carolina off a New Hampshire win back in 2000, but lost to George W. Bush after voters received anonymous phone calls telling particularly nasty lies about his private life. So the campaign has been on hair-trigger alert in these last days before the 2008 primary on Saturday.
Jack, a retired colonel whom I’ve had the privilege of knowing for more than a decade, believes his old comrade would make the best president “because of all the stressful situations that he’s been under, and the way he’s responded.” But he had called me about something more important than that. It was a matter of honor.
Jack was incredulous: “To say that John would ask for medical treatment in return for military information is just preposterous. He turned down an opportunity to go home early, and that was right in front of all of us.”
“I mean, he was yelling it. I couldn’t repeat the language he used, and I wouldn’t repeat the language he used, but boy, it was really something. I turned to my cellmate … who heard it all also loud and clear; I said, ‘My God, they’re gonna kill him for that.’”
The North Vietnamese by this time had stopped the torture — even taken McCain to the hospital, which almost certainly saved his life — and now they wanted just one thing: They wanted him to agree to go home, ahead of other prisoners. They saw in him an opportunity for a propaganda coup, because of something they’d figured out about him.
“They found out rather quick that John’s father was (Admiral) John Sidney McCain II,” who was soon to be named commander of all U.S. forces in the Pacific, Jack said. “And they came in and said, ‘Your father big man, and blah-blah-blah,’ and John gave ’em name, rank and serial number and date of birth.”
But McCain refused to accept early release, and Jack says he never acknowledged that his Dad was CINCPAC.
Jack tries hard to help people who weren’t there understand what it was like. He gave a speech right after he finally was freed and went home. His father, a community college president in Oregon and “a consummate public speaker,” told him “That was the best talk I’ve ever heard you give.”
But, his father added: “‘They didn’t believe you.’
“It just stopped me cold. ‘What do you mean, they didn’t believe me?’ He said, ‘They didn’t understand what you were talking about; you’ve got to learn to relate to them.’”
“And I’ve worked hard on that,” he told me. “But it’s hard as hell…. You might be talking to an audience of two or three hundred people; there might be one or two guys that spent a night in a drunk tank. Trying to tell ‘em what solitary confinement is all about, most people … they don’t even relate to it.”
Jack went home in the second large group of POWs to be freed in connection with the Paris Peace Talks, on March 4, 1973. “I was in for 70 months. Seven-zero — seventy months.” Doctors told him that if he lived long enough, he’d have trouble with that knee. He eventually got orthoscopic surgery right here in Columbia, where he is an active community leader — the current president of the Columbia Rotary.
John McCain, who to this day is unable to raise his hands above his head — an aide has to comb his hair for him before campaign appearances — was released in the third group. He could have gone home long, long before that, but he wasn’t going to let his country or his comrades down.
The reason Jack called me Wednesday was to make sure I knew that.

Campaigning with McCain in 2007.

Campaigning with McCain in 2007.

Bernstein files bill to try to stop the next Dylann Roof

This just in from the House Democrats:

Rep. Beth Bernstein to Introduce Background Check Completion Act in SC House
 
Legislation will mirror Congressman Jim Clyburn’s bill in US House
 
Columbia, SC – Richland County State Representative Beth Bernstein announced Thursday that she will prefile the “Background Check Completion Act” in December. The same bill was filed earlier this week in the U.S. House of Representatives by South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn.
The bill will require licensed gun dealers in South Carolina to wait until a background check is completed before selling a firearm. Under current law, if the FBI does not approve or deny the background check within three days, the licensed dealer has the discretion to proceed with the sale of the firearm. The alleged shooter in the Charleston massacre used this loophole to purchase the weapon that was used to kill nine people last month. Bernstein’s bill will close that loophole and make sure all background checks are completed before a transaction can be made.
“This is one of the most dangerous loopholes we currently have in our gun laws,” said Representative Beth Bernstein, a mother of two young daughters. “Most law-abiding citizens who purchase firearms have their background checks approved within minutes. But when someone has a criminal record, or pending charge, it may take longer for the FBI to gather all the information to determine if that person is legally authorized to buy a gun. We shouldn’t put an arbitrary three day deadline on something that could result in a deranged individual or criminal purchasing a gun. If we’re going to require a background check, we should require the background check be completed.”
Representative Bernstein stressed that this bill is not a form of gun control.
“As a CWP holder, I’m a strong supporter of gun rights and the second amendment. And I can assure you this bill is not gun control. It simply makes sure that the background checks that are already taking place are completed. If this bill would have been in place earlier this year, the Charleston shooter would not have legally been sold a gun from a licensed dealer. If closing this loophole saves just one life, it is worth it.”

Rep. Bernstein commended Congressman Clyburn for proposing this legislation on a federal level and maintained that she will pre-file the same bill in the South Carolina House of Representatives in December.”

####

The majority isn’t always wrong, but it isn’t always right, either

With Scott Walker in town today, I took a moment to read a letter that some New Hampshire Democrats wrote to him upon his visit to that state. An excerpt:

We wanted to welcome you to the First in the Nation Primary. You are a little late to the game, so we decided to help you out with some information about New Hampshire.

Last night, you said that raising the minimum wage was a “lame idea.” Lame idea? Really? Well, it’s an idea that 76% of Granite Staters support

Which got me to thinking about Henrik Ibsen.

That letter — a good example of the kind of letters that partisans send, not meant to communicate with the purported recipient privately, but to taunt him publicly (or in this case, to tell the 76 percent what an awful person Scott Walker is) — got me to thinking of some of my favorite Ibsen quotes back when I was 17, from “An Enemy of the People:”

“The majority is never right. Never, I tell you! That’s one of these lies in society that no free and intelligent man can help rebelling against. Who are the people that make up the biggest proportion of the population — the intelligent ones or the fools?”…

“Oh, yes — you can shout me down, I know! But you cannot answer me. The majority has
might on its side–unfortunately; but right it has not.”…

“What sort of truths are they that the majority usually supports? They are truths that are of such advanced age that they are beginning to break up. And if a truth is as old as that, it is also in a fair way to become a lie, gentlemen.”…

I fear that I’m giving you a rather ugly picture of myself when I was 17. Well, I had my share of youthful arrogance and alienation, a bit of a Raskolnikov complex, which is common enough. Some of us outgrow it. Others among us end up like Edward Snowden, convinced that we know better than everyone else, especially established institutions.

I outgrew it, thank God. Which is to say that I’ve come to disagree with almost everything Ibsen seemed to be on about.

All that remains of it, with me, is a belief that the majority is not always right. It can be right, and I think it probably is considerably more often than the proverbial stopped clock. I think there’s really something to the notion of “the wisdom of crowds.” Or as Stephen Maturin said in The Mauritius Command, “whoever heard of the long-matured judgment of a village being wrong?”

Yes, and no. It is very often right, but it can be wrong, I fear.

In any case, it seems unreliable as an indicator of whether an increase in the minimum wage is a good idea, or a “lame” one.

I’ve heard the arguments for and against, and I just don’t know. If anything, I may lean toward the against — the assertions that a mandatory increase in wages could lead to fewer jobs, particularly for the poor, seems to make some sense.

But I don’t know, regardless of what 76 percent of Granite Staters may say…

Does ANYONE have informed thoughts on the deal with Iran?

The issue is, do you trust the judgment of these people? "President Barack Obama talks with national security staff in the Oval Office after being notified of the nuclear agreement with Iran. From left, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Jeffrey Prescott, NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf States; National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice; Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, July 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)"

The issue is, do you trust the judgment of these people? “President Barack Obama talks with national security staff in the Oval Office after being notified of the nuclear agreement with Iran. From left, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Jeffrey Prescott, NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf States; National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice; Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, July 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)”

This is rightly the dominant news story of the day, but it’s one that I hesitate to comment on:

A historic agreement Tuesday to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief will ensure Iran has no possibility to achieve rapid nuclear weapons “breakout” capabilities for at least the next decade, U.S. leaders said.

“We have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region,” said President Obama as he listed some of the pillars of the deal including international inspections, reductions in Iran’s centrifuges used to make nuclear fuel and a sharp cut in Iran’s stockpile of nuclear material.

“We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic solution, and that is what we have done. . . . This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it,” said Obama, noting a potentially tough review ahead in Congress.

I hesitate because I don’t know enough to be able to judge the agreement.

Will it really limit, hinder or at least delay a nuclear Iran? How can I tell? Even if I had carefully studied the agreement, which I haven’t, I would not have the expertise to know whether the agreement will succeed on those critical points.

And neither does anyone else. The outcries from various Republicans criticizing the agreement are based on a simple variable — their lack of trust of the Obama administration.

If I’m going to listen to any objections, it would be the ones coming from Israel and Saudi Arabia — they at least have a life-and-death motivation to know what they are talking about.

It gets down to whom do you trust? And while I see the administration’s motives as pure, I worry that Iran always had an advantage in the negotiations, arising from the fact that POTUS really, really wanted an agreement.

As I say, that worries me. But do I know enough to judge this agreement? No, I do not. And that’s unsettling, because the question of whether Iran is more or less likely to develop and deploy nuclear weapons is one of the most important issues on this planet.

It’s disturbing, and embarrassing, that I have better-informed opinions on the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” than I do about this.

Take it easy, y’all — Atticus is still Atticus

Atticus

Over the weekend, there was a national (and international) cry of pain as folks heard that, in the long-lost Harper Lee novel Go Set A Watchman, Atticus Finch turned out to be a cranky old segregationist.

Don’t worry. Atticus is still Atticus.

I’m an editor, and as an editor — although not a book editor, I’ll allow — I understand why a book, or a column, or a news story, doesn’t get published: Because it wasn’t good enough.

Here’s what happened: A wannabe novelist submitted a manuscript, and an editor took a look at it, and said, essentially, This is not the novel you want to publish. The novel you want to publish is in these flashback passages. Dig into those, make those into your novel, and then you’ll have something.

He saw the truth in those passages, when Scout was just a girl. So, the editor did what I did when a piece just needed way more change than I had time to give it in the editing process — he kicked it back, gave her the chance to redeem herself as a writer, to write the great book that the editor saw in her.

No one has said this, but I strongly suspect that the editor had had his fill of novels by young folks who had come to New York, donned a mantle of self-conscious sophistication, gone home to visit their small-town homes, and then thought they were being terribly original by coming back to Manhattan and writing about how small, provincial, narrow and stultifying their home towns were. When really, they were being painfully trite.

He wanted Nelle to dig into the true story that she had in her, the one before all that, when she and Scout were unspoiled by the world, and yes, her Daddy was a hero.

And of course, being the editor, he was right. What he directed her to write was perhaps the best-loved American novel, one that was true, that spoke to people, that hit them where they lived, that said something about the American experience and its central conflict that needed to be said, and needed to be said in precisely that voice. (Interesting, isn’t it, that the two great, profound American novels that examine the narrative of race in this country — this and Huck Finn — are both told from the perspective of a child…)

I plan to read Go Set A Watchman, and I expect I’ll enjoy parts of it, here and there — it will be nice to hear that voice again. But I’m not going to get upset thinking something happened to Atticus. I know the real Atticus. This isn’t some sequel revealing some new, shocking side to him; this is just an imperfect, throwaway, first draft of him. And I know how little first drafts may be worth, before an editor gets ahold of them.

MaryBadhamScoutGregoryPeckAtticusFinch_tx728_fsharpen

We have ONE flag to deal with, and in SC, we know which one it is

flags cropped Sowell

This morning, The Washington Post ran a story headlined, “Did Republicans jump the gun on the Confederate flag?

It was prompted by a national poll that showed the public evenly split on whether the flag is a racist symbol. The premise of the story was that golly, did Nikki Haley and the rest get ahead of public opinion by moving to take down the flag?

This engendered a couple of strong reactions in me. The first was, a NATIONAL poll? Really? In what way is that relevant? I appreciate that, in this era of all local stories being nationalized, the rest of the country feels like it’s a part of our problem, but no matter what sort of vicarious interest they may have in this drama, it is ours to deal with. Our obligation, our duty, our task.

The second was, please don’t anybody do a South Carolina poll, not for another week or so, please. And my reason for saying that leads to my third reaction, which I put in a Tweet:


I realize that to folks in Washington, a town full of political consultants, the idea of getting out ahead of public opinion is… well… unprofessional.

Of course, it’s an awfully rare thing here in South Carolina. In fact, the last time I saw leadership on the flag by a public official in our state was Joe Riley’s march from Charleston to Columbia in 2000.

But that’s what we’re seeing right now. That’s the miracle, or one of them. Our governor and two-thirds majorities in both chambers are ready to act, and they’re not waiting around for polls or political advice from anyone. And I, who have castigated pretty much all of them on one occasion or another (and with a lot of them, a lot more than that), am as proud of them as I can be.

Anyway, my Tweet ended up on Facebook as all of them do, and someone commented (and seems to have thought better of it and taken it down now) something to the effect that she was fine with taking this one flag and putting it in a museum, but she felt like people across the country going on about other Confederate symbols and such were going overboard.

My response to that:

None of that concerns me, or I should think any of us in South Carolina. We have this one flag to deal with. We’ve known that for ages. So we need to get it done.

There’s this one flag, that is qualitatively different, in terms of what it means, from any other flag, symbol, statue, institution name, monument or what have you anywhere in the world.

It, in one form or another and in one place or another, has flown at the State House since 1962, and we all know why. It is a way white South Carolinians have had of saying that, despite Appomattox and the civil rights movement, We can do this. We can fly this flag no matter how it affects you or how you feel about it. We don’t care about you or how you think or feel about it; you can go to hell if you don’t like it. In your face.

This message is delivered, of course, primarily to black South Carolinians, and secondarily to anyone else who wanted the flag down, including — putting in a word for people like me — quite a few of us white South Carolinians.

It’s a message that could only be delivered by a flag flown at our seat of government, this message about a highly exclusive, restricted definition of whose state this is. You can’t send that message anywhere else with any symbol. By flying rather than being a cold monument, it says this definition of South Carolina is alive; it’s now; it’s not just history.

That’s why this one flag has to come down.

I’m tired of folks, some of them quite nice folks, talking slippery slopes: Oh, but what about all those other flags, symbols, etc.? I dismiss such questions with increasing impatience. We are dealing with this specific flag for specific reasons that are particular to it — in fact, unique. Those reasons don’t exist for any other object you can name.

Let the rest of the country talk about what it wants to. Since they don’t have this flag to deal with, let them obsess over whatever lesser symbols they have in their desire to be a part of what we’re dealing with. That desire may be laudable, but right now it’s a distraction, if we let it be.

We know what we have to do here in South Carolina. And finally, we’re about to do it.

The way Lindsey Graham dealt with a racist blowhard

I liked reading this at Buzzfeed:

TAMA, Iowa — Lindsey Graham was in the full swing of his pitch to a group of potential voters gathered at a VFW hall in this small town an hour outside Des Moines on Saturday when, while he was talking about his relatively liberal stance on immigration, there came an unwelcome interruption.

“Towel heads,” grumbled a man sitting at the bar, sporting a denim shirt with the arms cut off. “Sand n*****s.”

Graham did what every candidate must in the age of smartphones and opposition trackers following a candidate anywhere he or she goes.

“I totally dissociate myself from this guy,” Graham said. “What I would say is that what he said is not who I am. I’m not running to be president to please this guy.” He then moved on and continued on taking questions from the other attendees.

At this early stage, running for president can be a weird thing — especially in these tiny, intimate gatherings where people are able to to speak their minds. In an earlier era, maybe before a woman once notoriously insisted to John McCain that Barack Obama was an Arab, Graham could probably have gotten away with ignoring the man; today, he had to act.

But Graham is also a long-shot candidate without much to lose, and his response ended up being different from the kind of tight-lipped, efficient shutdown one could imagine coming from someone for whom the stakes are higher. A few minutes after the exchange, Graham concluded his spiel to the 15 or so people assembled in the dark, low-ceilinged room by drawing a comparison between his own hardscrabble upbringing in a bar in small town South Carolina and people like the man who had issued the slurs.

“I’m tired of telling people things they want to hear that I don’t believe. I changed a long time ago as a politician. I was scared to death of going into a room to be disagreed with. I don’t feel that way anymore. I feel free. I feel able to tell you exactly what I believe and why I believe it,” Graham said….

I hope Buzzfeed doesn’t mind that long quote. I wanted you to have full context. But I urge you to go on and read the whole thing. It has a nice ending.

The event had been billed as “Politics and Pool,” and before leaving, Lindsey wanted to shoot pool with somebody. The only person willing to play was the blowhard. So our senior senator played him, and beat him.

Quoth Graham: “I wanted to beat him. I was going to beat him if it’s the last thing I did in Iowa.”

Mrs. Christie having an AWESOME time at announcement

I don’t have time to watch all of this right now, but maybe you will.

I’ve watched the beginning, and didn’t hear much because I was having fun watching his wife. She, and at least one of her daughters, kept doing that thing that some ladies do — I mean that thing where they apparently see a friend in the crowd, and they throw their mouths WAY open and their eyes pop really big, with the brows way up, displaying the very essence of almost maniacally delighted surprise, sending the pantomime message that it’s SO awesome to see you, but I can’t talk right now

She must have had a lot of friends in the crowd…

As for my observation that “some ladies” do this — I guess some guys, particularly politicians, do something like that, but the smile isn’t as big. They’re more like, well, the son in the picture below, sort of smiling at someone out there but not about to act like he’s thrilled by any of this.

Anyway, I enjoyed her.

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I'm missing...

Here you have wife and daughter doing that thing simultaneously, in opposite directions, while Chris soldiers on with his speech, saying something I’m missing…

On the Supreme Court and ideology

Or, if you prefer, the good and the bad. Because as one who loves the American system of government and respects the court, while at the same time decrying what ideological partisans are doing to the political branches (and trying their best to do to the judiciary as well), I’m all like “Yay, Supreme Court” and “Boo, ideology.”

But you knew that. Or at least you knew about me and ideology.

The burning question is, to what extent have the ideologues succeeded in their quest to make the Supreme Court as messed up and ineffective as, say, the Congress?

Others just take it for granted that the Court now consists of partisan hacks on both ends of the spectrum, with one or two swing votes. I see the things they’re seeing, but in the end I don’t reach that conclusion.

Anyway, Doug Ross started a conversation over on Facebook about the court, and with his permission I’m dragging it over here in keeping with my firm belief that all interesting conversations should take place on the blog.

Doug started the ball rolling this way:

We assume judges are going to be impartial when deciding on cases before them yet our highest court consists of at least seven of nine judges who can pretty much be guaranteed to vote a certain way on a case. If a Republican had been in office when Sotomeyer or Kagan were appointed, is there any doubt that recent cases would have had different outcomes?

I responded that there’s SOME doubt — look, for instance, at the critical moments when Roberts has helped out Obama, who voted against his confirmation — and in that doubt lies the hope for our country…

I just don’t assume anything with these people. For instance, I had been thinking that I very often agree with Roberts — and then he voted the other way on the Arizona reapportionment case that I wrote about earlier. That said, when I saw what Roberts and the other dissenters said in that case, I respected their reasoning. It doesn’t matter that I liked the outcome from the majority’s ruling — it’s not about outcomes. As I’ve said before, it should not BE about outcomes, if we respect the rule of law…

Doug said,

I put Roberts and Kennedy into the wild card group. The other seven march in lockstep with their partisan base. There’s an affirmative action case coming up. You want to lay bets on it being 5-4 or 6-3? It would seem like with “the law” that we should see more 9-0, 8-1 decisions if they only dealt with facts and precedents. We just shouldn’t pretend that the judges are impartial. They are biased.

And I responded that I don’t write justices off as “liberals” or “conservatives,” because I respect them. Yes, a certain justice may more often render judgments that the world regards as “liberal” or “conservative,” but it’s not like they’re stacking the deck. Their reasoning just happens to lead them that way, and I respect that. They don’t just come in and say, “I’m going to issue a liberal opinion on this, no matter what the facts or the law.” They work it out honestly, and that just tends to be where they end up. I don’t see any of them as hacks. I leave those insults to the partisans and ideologues, who tend to insult and dismiss justices who tend not to support their prejudices…

Back to Doug:

Pick a case, any case, that is contentious and show me where Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor disagreed or Scalia and Thomas disagreed. Take the gay marriage case… was there ANY doubt how those five would vote? Not for a second. They “work it out” according to a pre-disposed bias.

And Doug, being Doug, resorts to numbers and charts:

This chart basically shows exactly what I stated…there was a time when the views of the court were balanced across the liberal/conservative spectrum but now we basically have three groups of justices, each on the same track

Here’s the chart.

Well, I can’t refute that because I don’t have a year or two to go back and study every case this court has decided and then assign quantifiable values to each judge’s position (an act from which my conscience would recoil) and come up with a chart of my own.

Because for me, it’s not about these three decisions versus those five decisions or anything like that. Here’s how I arrive at my more optimistic view of the court: I see that the court has taken this or that position on an issue before it. I think, “How on Earth could they have come to a boneheaded conclusion like that?” And then I read the arguments. And while I still might disagree, I respect the reasoning. I respect the effort to arrive at an intellectually honest conclusion. (I did this with the dissent in the Arizona case. And in fact, I sort of think the dissent may have the stronger argument, even though I liked the outcome.)

Not every time. But often enough that I still respect the justices, and the job they do. There could come a day, and I hope it doesn’t, when I write off the Court as too far gone. I’m happy to say I’m not there yet.

The end of gerrymandering? Depends how bad you want it…

You may have thought the Supreme Court did some big stuff last week.

Pshaw.

The ACA ruling? It maintained the status quo. Nothing changed, nothing to see. Move along.

The same-sex marriage ruling? Aw, who was really surprised by that?

Today, in the midst of several other rulings — the Court seemed to be tossing them out like Mardi Gras revelers throwing beads to the kids — the justices did something significant, something that could potentially solve most of the things that are wrong with politics in America:

A divided Supreme Court on Monday said voters concerned that partisan gerrymandering is creating unfair elections are entitled to take reapportionment away from state legislatures.

The court ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution does not give legislatures exclusive control over congressional redistricting and said voters may vest the power in independent commissions by ballot initiative, where this option exists.

“The animating principle of our Constitution [is] that the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority….

If you don’t know what this means, I’ll tell you: No more districts drawn to serve political parties rather than the nation. No more parties getting more and more extreme because all incumbents have to fear is a primary opponent who is more extreme than they are, since general elections don’t matter. Maybe, maybe even no more creating one majority-minority district by drawing all the ones around it super-white (there are other barriers to changing that, though — I think).

Competitive elections between sensible centrists! How wonderful!

But wait! How does one take this power away from partisan legislatures? Oh… with a ballot initiative.

Dang.

So… you’re saying we have to kill representative democracy to improve it? Because that’s what government by ballot initiative amounts to. No, thanks. Dang.

Hey! Maybe, with enough pressure, lawmakers could be persuaded to give up the power themselves. Impossible, you say? Yes, well, I would normally say the same. But I just saw the political leadership of South Carolina decide to take down the Confederate flag, so pretty much anything is looking possible to me right now.

At least let me dream…

Justices find right to marry, extend it to same-sex couples

Here’s the main news:

The Supreme Court on Friday delivered a historic victory for gay rights, ruling 5 to 4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live and that states may no longer reserve the right only for heterosexual couples.

The court’s action marks the culmination of an unprecedented upheaval in public opinion and the nation’s jurisprudence. Advocates called it the most pressing civil rights issue of modern times, while critics said the courts had sent the country into uncharted territory by changing the traditional definition of marriage.

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. He was joined in the ruling by the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

All four of the court’s most conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented and each wrote a separate opinion, saying the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people….

In his first-ever dissent, Justice Roberts asked, “Who do we think we are?” He argued that same-sex marriage was rapidly gaining acceptance across the country legally, and that the court, “in a government of laws and not of men,” had no business pre-empting that democratic process.

Here’s the text of the opinion.

Supreme Court keeps Obamacare alive

I really haven’t had much time to pay attention to this today, but I thought I’d better put up a post for those of you who would like to comment on this major piece of good news (good news for the whole country, including the GOP, although they won’t admit it):

Affordable Care Act survives Supreme Court challenge

The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a key provision of the Affordable Care Act and in a broadly written opinion agreed with the Obama administration that government subsidies that make health insurance affordable for millions of Americans should be available to all who qualify.

By a 6-to-3 vote, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. reaffirmed the foundation of President Obama’s landmark domestic achievement and seemed to take the starch out of legal efforts to undermine the basic structure of the law. The ruling endorsed the administration’s view that subsidies should be available for all low- and moderate-income Americans wherever they live, not just in states that have set up their own health insurance exchanges.

The decision was broad enough that Obama claimed in a Rose Garden speech: “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”…

Oh, please spare us the ‘fighting’ words, Hillary…

I mentioned favorably the fact that on her visit to Columbia recently, I did not hear Hillary Clinton use the “fight” language she has resorted to in the past. I wrote about how nuts that makes me back in 2008.

Actually, she did promise to “fight” for us once (“You’re not gonna see me turn white in the White House, and you’re also not gonna see me shrink from a fight”), but it slipped by me. Apparently, that was a harbinger.

The last few days, I’ve been hearing the “fight” hyperbole invoked again and again by her campaign. For instance, there’s this video that came out three days ago, titled “Fighter.”

Oh, please, spare us. Use tempered, sensible words to appeal to our minds rather than our emotions. It would be so refreshing.

Interestingly, this surge of “fight” talk coincides with her almost complete turn away from the world and to domestic issues. Which is downright weird, considering that she’s not more foreign policy experience than any of the Republicans who are going on and on about national security.

But Democrats, like Republicans in the 1930s, like to pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist, and obsess inward. They want to talk about something they call “kitchen-table” issues. And THAT is where they like to use “fight” language, ironically. Apparently, the only enemies that need to be “fought” are right here at home.

Which, of course, leads in turn to more political polarization, which means actual progress on the issues they care about becomes less and less likely.

Representative democracy works when we deliberate with our fellow citizens, not when we see them as our enemies. So the more I hear that “fight” stuff, the more I despair for the country…

There’s a good REASON why she’s not with you on trade, Bernie

Bernie Sanders is frustrated, or at least he’s letting on to be frustrated, that Hillary Clinton won’t join him and House Democrats in opposing free trade:

WASHINGTON — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders called on Democratic presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday to say exactly where she stands on President Barack Obama’s trade agenda now that Congress is considering it.

“I think our trade policies have been disastrous,” Sanders said during a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor. “Secretary Clinton, if she’s against this, we need her to speak out right now. Right now. And I don’t understand how any candidate, Democrat or Republican, is not speaking out on this issue right now.”…

See, there’s a reason Hillary is fudging on the issue, Bernie — she actually has a realistic chance of becoming president, and no president would want to be hobbled with positions such as yours.

And yet, since a lot of people in her party are opposed to free trade, she’s not crazy about taking a bold stance that would make her as nonviable as you are.

Wanting to be president, and seeing the real possibility in front of you, can be a constricting thing…

Noticing the way Graham stands out from the crowd

This is less of a revelation to SC media -- or should be.

This is less of a revelation to SC media — or should be.

Some national writers are taking greater notice of some of the reasons why I’ve always been happy to endorse him.

In a piece headlined “The most interesting presidential candidate you’re not paying any attention to,” Chris Cillizza of The Fix noted that Graham stands out in ways other than the fact that he’s never been married (which has also been getting him some ink).

After noting all the usual horse-race stuff that has Graham well out of the running, Cillizza shares a reason why he should be a contender:

Okay, fine.  But if you stop and actually listen to some of what Graham is saying — particularly on the subject of bipartisanship — you realize that he’s one of the most interesting candidates in the field and one of the few who can genuinely sell himself as a change agent.

Here’s Graham answering a question from “Meet The Press” host Chuck Todd about how he would address political polarization in Washington:

I think there’s a market for a better way. When I talked to that young guy there, I said, you’re going to have to work a little longer, pal. If I’m president, I’m going to ask you to work a little bit longer. What do people do between 65 and 67, they work two years longer. Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil showed us what to do. I’m making a bet here. I’m making a bet that you can talk about problem-solving in a Republican primary and still get the nomination. I’m making a bet that you can openly embrace working with Democrats and still get the nomination. I’m making a bet that with a war-weary public, you can rally them to go over there and keep the fight over there before it comes here. Now, if I lose those bets it doesn’t mean America is lost, it just means I fell short. To a young person in politics, listen to what I’m doing here and see if it makes sense to you. There is a growing desire by the public at large to stop the B.S. I feel it, I sense it, and I’m running on the idea that if you elect me, I’ll do whatever is necessary to defend the nation. I’m running not as a candidate for a single party but for a great nation.

If you believe the American people when they say they want leaders who are willing to work with one another and take positions because they believe in them not because the policies are popular, it’s hard for me to imagine a better message than that paragraph from Graham above…

Yep. We know that about him. And some of us like that about him, and count ourselves lucky to have him representing us in Washington.

After pausing to recite yet again how slim our senior senator’s chances are, the piece concludes:

To me, though, Graham’s candidacy is a sort of campaign thought experiment: What if politics produced a candidate that had lots and lots of what the public said it wanted but in a somewhat unlikely package (a Southern-drawling lifetime politician) and without the buzz and fanfare that surrounds the so-called “top tier”?

Could a candidate like that possibly hope to break through?

It would be nice to think so.

538: Lindsey Graham may have already ‘won’

Graham announce

As Lindsey Graham was announcing his candidacy for the presidency this morning in his hometown of Central, I was reading this piece from FiveThirtyEightPolitics, which suggests that our senior senator may already have achieved his goal in running:

In presidential politics, there are two main ways a candidate can succeed: He or she can win the nomination. Or, he or she can highlight a specific policy or set of policies that otherwise might get ignored or marginalized.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who’s expected to officially announce he’s running for president Monday, is unlikely to join the first group, as I’ve explained previously. But he appears to fit nicely into the second category, as an advocate for an interventionist foreign policy and prioritizing national security.

But here’s the thing: A couple of years ago, it looked like the 2016 Republican field might need just such an advocate — the field was looking like it might be less hawkish than it had been in a long time. Now, even without Graham, the GOP field has plenty of hawks.

You might remember that the relatively dovish Sen. Rand Paul was leadingprimary polls in 2013. Part of that advantage was due to an isolationist shift among Republican rank and file….

But then:

Republican voters (and the majority of candidates) returned in 2014 to their hawkish roots. This shift coincided with the rise of the terrorist group Islamic State, which took control of a quarter of Iraq and a third of Syria last year and released widely circulated videos of beheadings, with victims including U.S. citizens. Republican lawmakers criticized President Obama for, among other things, referring to Islamic State as the “JV team” and not responding more forcefully to the threat.

And so Republican attitudes have flipped since 2013….

Actually the headline on the piece is misleading. It’s thesis is not so much that Graham has triumphed in bringing the GOP back to the hawkish fold. It actually reads more like, As Graham announces, the raison for his campaign has flown.

But it was still interesting, if only for the way it documents the way the GOP field has shifted away from Paulist isolationism.

Yep, Paul is still out there making headlines doing his thing, but it’s not exactly enchanting the GOP electorate

Do YOU hear Hillary using a Southern accent?

Ever since yesterday, I’ve been scoffing at reports from national press that Hillary Clinton slipped into a Southern drawl while in Columbia yesterday — supposedly an acquired skill from her time in Arkansas.

Watch some of the clip above, which was the end of her speech over at the Marriott, and tell me: Do you hear a Southern accent? I do not.

Of course, since I myself have picked up a mild accent over the years (having lived in either Tennessee or South Carolina since 1971, except for two years in Kansas in the mid-80s), maybe my ear isn’t as sensitive as it should be.

Anyway, since I can slip in or out of that accent if I stop and think about it, I wouldn’t be shocked if she could. I’m just not hearing it.

Except… I can just barely here it in this loop that someone posted on The Vine. I’ll give them that

And I’ll also say that at least it’s reasonably natural-sounding, as opposed to a bogus Hollywood Southern accent.

Speaking of which, this Tweet really did crack me up (not the first part; the last part):

Maybe Obama should try LISTENING to one of his Defense secretaries sometime…

… instead of his staff scrambling to “clarify” what the SecDef said.

This is in the WashPost today:

President Obama has not had an easy time with his secretaries of defense.

Two of his defense secretaries wrote books critical of his administration after they left office, and his third was essentially fired. On Tuesday, the White House scrambled to clarify remarks by Obama’s fourth defense secretary, Ashton B. Carter, who said over the weekend that Iraqi forces who collapsed in their defense of Ramadi lacked the “will to fight” Islamic State militants.

Carter’s pronouncement, unusual for its bluntness, angered senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad and seemed to suggest that the president’s strategy, built around supporting Iraqi forces with training and airstrikes, was failing. “Airstrikes are effective, but neither they nor really anything we do can substitute for the Iraqi forces’ will to fight,” Carter said in an interview with CNN. He added that the Iraqi government force, which “vastly outnumbered” the Islamic State attackers, simply refused to fight in Ramadi.

Asked about Carter’s remarks, White House press secretary Josh Earnest pointed to some of the successes Iraqi forces had earlier this year in retaking the cities of Tikrit and Baghdadi from the Islamic State. In both battles, a multi-sectarian force of Iraqi fighters backed by U.S. air power and under the central command of the Iraqi government won relatively quick victories. And he praised the leadership of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

“It’s very clear what our strategy is, and it’s clear that strategy is one that has succeeded in the past,” Earnest said….

Yeah… right… (imagine me saying that as Dr. Evil would). What seems “very clear” is that the facts of the situation fit the Defense secretary’s version, rather than Mr. Earnest’s…

You’ve Got Mail: ‘Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi!’

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Well, some of her emails have been released:

The State Department on Friday released nearly 900 pages of e-mails on Libya and the Benghazi attacks from the private account Hillary Rodham Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

The messages have been turned over to a select House committee investigating the Sept. 11-12, 2012, attacks on U.S. compounds in Benghazi, in which the ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed.

Few of the e-mails deal directly with events leading up to the attacks or their aftermath, according to those who have seen them. Many contain administrative details, press accounts, speech drafts and other information exchanged between Clinton and her senior aides.

But the messages, some of which were published this week by the New York Times, capture the concerns of Clinton and other officials about the political chaos that engulfed Libya during and following the 2011 NATO air attacks that facilitated the overthrow and death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi later that year….

If you want to read them instead of just read about them, click here.