Supreme Court

Mitch McConnell is back at it.  The Senate Majority Leader who once vowed to do what was necessary to make Obama a one term President is once again putting politics ahead of the Country.  He has said Obama—whom he calls a “lame duck”– would be wasting his time to nominate a replacement for Antonin Scalia.  Never mind that Scalia himself was a strict constructionist and the Constitution clearly states that the President shall nominate federal judges.  Never mind that Obama won’t be a “lame duck” until after the November election.  Forget that the President was elected. Get over the fact that several key issues are before the Court this year.

Has McConnell ever heard the expression, “The “devil” you know is better than the devil you don’t know?”  Obama’s Supreme Court appointees have been pretty solid.  Would a Trump, Sanders or Clinton nominee necessarily be as friendly to McConnell’s political sensitivities?

After briefly changing their modus operandi once Paul Ryan became Speaker, the republican leadership is back to playing politics.  They already forgot that 2016 is an election year for the entire House and a third of the Senate. Obstruction has reared its head after a fleeting absence. A President whose annual budgets have added 60% less to the national debt in the last few years is being called someone who doesn’t care about the national debt!

If I were advising the President I would argue that he should appoint someone such as Utah Senator Orrin Hatch to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.  Filling the seat with someone such as Hatch, an acknowledged conservative who is widely respected on the right, would preserve the high court’s balance. Maintaining an existing balance may go against custom, but we are in unusual times. That balance is quite possibly more important now than it has been in a hundred years.

On such an evenly divided Court, unpredictable Chief Justice Roberts would still have the deciding vote.  Obama would guarantee himself a place in history as someone who cared more about the Country than partisan politics.  The far right would have a tough time spinning such a move. Mitch McConnell wouldn’t know what to do and the Senate Judiciary committee would be forced to consider the nomination.

The only downside I can think of is that Obama’s base would have trouble understanding the value of a Court with ideological balance and feel betrayed.  Fortunately a second term President doesn’t have to be that concerned about the heat of the moment.

Gary Kent, Albion

Message to Congressman Collins

Congressman Collins:
Republicans love to wave the Constitution in the faces of their opponents, as if their opponents are dead-set upon ripping it into tiny pieces. But now the roles are reversed, and this time the Republicans are trying to pretend that the Constitution doesn’t apply to themselves. “Surely, the Founding Fathers never intended for a sitting president to nominate someone to the supreme court in the fourth year of their term” seems to be the Republican logic. The only problem is that there is not a word of that in the Constitution! Here’s what the Constitution says: “Elect a president every four years; the president nominates people to fill vacant seat on the Supreme Court”. It’s that simple. President Obama has a Constitutional right and duty to nominate a qualified candidate and the Senate is under every obligation to act on that nomination. Refusing to receive a name, refusing to meet with the nominee, refusing to convene the Senate Judiciary Committee, is nothing less than a coup d’etat and a serious violation of the Constitution. Congressman, please tell me what part of the Constitution justifies the stance of your party leadership, or please tell me on what grounds you are willing to defy the Constitution.

James R. Renfrew, Clarendon

Opinion Articles

This page provides a forum for members of the Democratic Party in Orleans County to express their individual opinions on a wide range of topics. These opinion articles do not necessarily reflect the views of any Democratic group. Submissions can be emailed to info@orleansdemocrats.com, we just ask you to be civil, watch your language, and avoid personal attacks.

Romney’s Remarks

It is my view that every choice we make matters.  That conviction carries over into our civic responsibilities.

In 1960, I watched the Nixon-Kennedy debate on television as a teenager. When I went to school the next day, I was dumbfounded that anyone thought Kennedy had won the debate.  In my mind, it wasn’t even close in terms of their mastery of foreign affairs in particular.

In 1995 I changed my registration to republican in order to vote in the republican primary in 1996. The democrats would not be having a meaningful primary, if they had one at all. My feeling was that republican Bob Dole was clearly a stronger candidate than Pat Buchanan.  I admired Dole’s strong stance on the genocide going on in Bosnia and his prodding of Clinton to act.  Importantly, Buchanan had little objectivity on the Middle East.

Whoever won the primary might become the next President.

In 2000, I donated to John McCain and worked at one of his rallies with a republican friend even though I intended to vote for Gore—and did.  To me, McCain was head and shoulders above George W. Bush.

In any election, I believe we have an interest, regardless of party, in having the two most capable candidates in the November election.  The fact is that, depending on turnout and other factors, either of them could become President of The United States.  Think of my interest in the person the republicans run as a hedge against what is likely my more desired outcome. We should want both parties to run their most capable candidate.

My interest in the nominating process this year is similarly motivated. Anything is possible in an election.

For this reason, I took keen interest in the surprisingly powerful and comprehensive statement made by Mitt Romney today.  It was surprising because he is such a nice guy.  I can only imagine the soul-searching it took for him to say what he said. I believe Romney’s motivation was largely one of patriotism.  It is echoed in the statements made by numerous other republicans nationally and locally. None of my republican friends is enthused about how things are going within their party.

Equally surprising was how tepid and dismissive Donald Trump’s response to Romney’s virtual A-Z indictment of him was.  I can only surmise that he said so little because he hoped to minimize the attention his comments might attract to those of Romney.

Gary Kent, Albion

Hillary

Article by Gary Kent

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Experience is a great teacher. A better alternative has not been found.

Making mistakes comes with making the attempt. Those who never try fail only because they fail to try.

Someone who has been a governor’s spouse, First Lady of the United States for eight years, a United States Senator and Secretary of State has learned from a variety of relevant experiences. Working with others is in her comfort zone.

The people Hillary Clinton served with as a hard-working United States Senator approved her nomination as Secretary of State by a vote of 96-2. The man she fought for the democratic nomination for President in 2008 nominated her.

Her husband’s transgressions are not hers. She is often faulted for standing with him. I firmly believe she would be faulted had she not stood with him. Regardless of what she does, it is interpreted as “political.” To understand such things, it is important to remember that Bill Clinton committed the unpardonable sin of winning the Presidential election in 1992. She is guilty by association.

The fact that Hillary Clinton is treated “differently” is inescapable.

Consider that what might be called a “system failure” cost the lives of 3,000 people on September 11, 2001. Another “system failure” cost the lives of 5,000 Americans, and counting, in 2003. The foreign policy inexperience of George W. Bush certainly contributed mightily to these deaths. Call it what you will, a failure to adhere to the advice of every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff cost the lives of 264 United States Marines in 1983. A decided lack of familiarity with the Middle East certainly contributed to that avoidable tragedy. As I recall, there were virtually no official questions asked about these events, much less millions being spent on Congressional inquiries and hearings.

Rationalize the double standard as you will, a Secretary of State has been investigated and pummeled unmercifully for what arguably may have been nothing more than a system failure that cost the lives of 4 Americans while she was Secretary of State. Republicans in a position to know have admitted her treatment was meant to destroy her chances of ever becoming President.

I do not support Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. I support her because she is, more than any other person running, the candidate most ready to be President on Day 1. Unlike nearly all of her potential opponents in November, it won’t be necessary for her to be brought “up to speed” on foreign affairs in particular.

Even in a year when all the conventional wisdom is being questioned, there is still no substitute for experience.

Second Amendment and Gun Control

Article by Gary Kent

Republicans have been adept at using the Second Amendment and gun control to manipulate their base. The pipedream that the S.A.F.E. Act might be repealed has been a useful smokescreen for incompetent politicians for four years. The gun control “slippery slope” idea is another notion that may not pass the smell test. What does it say about the “slippery slope” that the assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse?

A cursory look at the Second Amendment might suggest it gives “the people” the right to keep and bear arms. “Arms,” not muskets. How are “arms” defined today? Are we to believe there should be no limit to the “arms” we may keep and bear? Would devotees of an expansive reading of Amendment 2 argue it gives all individuals the right to possess “arms” such as grenade launchers and Stinger missiles?

Amendment 2 states this right “shall not be infringed.” But the background checks supported by the vast majority of those polled are an infringement of the right to keep and bear arms! What part of the words “shall not be infringed” do the many N.R.A. members who favor background checks not understand?

Is having and driving a car a “right?” Cars are potentially deadly weapons. They and the drivers who drive them can kill people. How many of us question registration, licensing, vehicle use taxes and car insurance? Most don’t question any of those restrictions. Few would argue that, at some point, judges shouldn’t be allowed to revoke the right/privilege to drive.

One of the biggest myths used by some ostensibly sincere defenders of the right to keep and bear arms to mislead voters is the goofy notion that “democrats” want to take our guns away. There may be some who do, but I do not know any of them personally. After all, democrats are Americans. We know our history. We share American traditions. We revere what the Constitution actually says. Consequently, we respect the role firearms have played in our national existence. We know the utility of firearms for hunting and self-preservation. Just as many republicans, we know their capacity to inflict damage and suffering must be respected and, within reason, guarded against. Just as cars, guns require responsible users.

The idea that “democrats” want to take our guns away is baseless, period. It is fiction perpetuated by those seeking to use the issue for political gain.

The Constitution is often selectively cited to further one’s political agenda. Baloney aside, it was written because the folly of out of control states’ rights was threatening to destroy a new nation. Contrary to what many choose to believe, the Constitution was meant to greatly increase federal power while affording protection and a greatly reduced role for the states.

Those who know the Constitution certainly are aware of the 10th Amendment. As I recall it, powers not granted the federal government, nor prohibited the states, belong to the states and the people respectively.

People who know the Constitution are also aware of loose construction. It wasn’t dreamed up by big government bureaucrats or activist Supreme Court judges. It cannot be stated emphatically enough that loose construction was anticipated by the Constitution’s authors and built into the document that it might better stand the test of time.

People who hang their hats on the 10th Amendment should carefully read Articles 1-7. Gun rights advocates should note, as well, that even if Amendment 2 had nothing to do with the right of individual, ordinary people—versus those who are part of a “well-regulated militia”—to keep and bear arms, to this democrat, Amendment 9 certainly has to be viewed as protecting such a right. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that gun ownership was protected by the Ninth Amendment, even though, just as with innumerable other rights, gun ownership is not mentioned specifically. That is the beauty of loose construction. Without it, the Ninth Amendment is just one part of the Constitution that would have no meaning. It would not be there if there was no reason for including it.

Serious Proposals

Article by Gary Kent

“These aren’t serious proposals,” protested Jeb Bush. Bombing “the _ _ _ _ out of them” and finding out if sand “can glow” were some of the things that Bush was referring to.

But, to Donald Trump and “TrusTed” Cruz, they are serious proposals for ridding the world of ISIS.

Jeb might want to insist that–as would-be standard bearers for the G.O.P.–Trump and Cruz should be required to cost out and detail exactly what their “solutions” would involve. After all, it is a test republicans often expect when a democrat proposes an action.

For such sensationalist prescriptions as bombing “the _ _ _ _ out of them” to work, it would be necessary to have ISIS sympathizers from around the world travel to a designated location in the Syrian Desert. This includes ISIS cell members in Hamburg, Brussels, London, Rome, Tripoli, Minneapolis and elsewhere. The alternative would be carpet bombing places like Hamburg to make sure “the _ _ _ _ is” bombed out of them. That could get messy.

Presuming—as Trump and Cruz must—that they all have the same death wish, ISIS followers should jump at the opportunity to achieve martyrdom.

Getting them all in the same place at the same time is the key to this “serious” proposal. That would be a major undertaking. Some would undoubtedly arrive before others. They would need accommodations while they awaited their personalized bombs.

That shouldn’t be a problem, as Trump has a great company that builds nice hotels, provided he can get a major tax break first and declare bankruptcy once they are finished so that it isn’t necessary to pay the construction companies that build them. We would have to check the Syrian bankruptcy laws, which may not have been written by unscrupulous developers.

Aside from the cost of hotel accommodations for ISIS types eager to punch their ticket to the “promised land,” the other major expense would be the air fares to get them to Syria. That could be costly, but if arranging to deport 11,000,000 undocumented people from Mexico is merely a question of “proper management,” I am sure getting 100,000 ISIS types from around the globe to Syria in time for the “party” would be something Ivanka could handle before brunch.

Sorry, Jeb, but you may underestimate your republican colleagues. They are serious and the “solution” they propose could work as long as ISIS cooperates and the taxpayers don’t mind picking up the cost of a few thousand airfares and hotel stays.

Syrian Refugees

Article by Gary Kent

Refugees fleeing the horrific violence and devastation in Syria have been streaming into Europe for months. Some of our N.A.T.O. allies are taking them in by the tens of thousands. Germany, France and Norway are among the countries we expect to join with us in a coalition to defeat ISIS. (The British have been more reluctant to follow us than most, ever since the disastrous venture in Iraq.) How should the United States respond to the refugee crisis?

The Daily News carried a telling cartoon, as well as a great column by Kathleen Parker on Friday, November 20. While acknowledging legitimate security concerns, Parker noted that refusing to allow Syrian refugees asylum was not a great option.

Most experts agree that ISIS wants terrorism to draw thousands of U.S. military personnel into the Middle East. It is widely accepted that jihadists desire to turn sporadic, limited armed conflict into a global war between Islam and the West. To that end, they sought to define the Iraq war as a war against Islam.

The United States is, of course, a nation of immigrants. In part because we have received innumerable benefits from them, we have long made special provision for admitting political refugees. Plymouth colony was settled by such people.

In the days since the Paris attacks, to some degree, politics has appeared to trump good sense. For the short term benefit they hope to gain, many politicians have expressed varying degrees of opposition to accepting even as few as 10,000 Syrian refugees into the United States. For comparison, France is reportedly taking 30,000.

We expect our European allies to share intelligence and provide support in the fight against ISIS, but we want to take a pass on reducing ”their” refugee burden.

We justifiably take pride in thinking of ourselves as “the beacon on a hill,” a refuge for the “wretched refuse of your teeming shores,” except when the refugees are Muslim. This is perhaps based on the variously estimated 1-5% of the world’s Muslims who are jihadists.

To The Founding Fathers, religion was officially irrelevant. Do we need to be reminded that the United States Constitution provides that no religious test shall be a qualification for holding office (Article VI, section 3) ? The First amendment strikes yet another blow for religious freedom.

At the pinnacle of Ku Klux Klan activity—which was aimed, in part, at ridding the United States of Catholics and Jews– did we succumb to an impulse to prohibit Protestants from entering the country? Burning churches and synagogues to the ground was, after all, terrorism. While Japanese-Americans fought in World War II, those within the country were put into internment camps. Their children’s photos were purged from high school yearbooks. Did the fact that none of them were ever found to have committed treason teach us anything?

The thinking goes that if you have seen one who happens to be evil, you have seen them all. The rest are evil by association. Stereotyping people never has been useful, but people who ignore the relevance of history—or who do not know it—don’t know that.

ISIS counts on ignorance and weakness, even though it is understandable that Americans are fearful.

In some ways, taken by itself, banning immigrants from Syria as a result of the Paris attacks makes the attacks a smashing success. Those who died, in effect, will have died to further the ISIS agenda. Once we make the blunder of stereotyping Muslims, we are one step closer to accepting global culture war. That is exactly what the jihadists want. Banning Syrian victims of the horrific mess we helped create is a betrayal of who we have historically been. It is a sad commentary on anyone professing Judeo-Christian values. It would be a slap in the face to loyal American Muslim citizens, including those in uniform. More than that, it would be a recruiting bonanza for ISIS.

Inclusion is a source of our strength. Who among us would refuse to be rescued by a person of another religion, race, or ethnicity? In this case, we may find that jihadist terror has conspired to put us in the same “boat.”

Do we need more knee-jerk reactions, or more rationality? Do we need to act in our long term self-interest? Or should we respond viscerally– and act impulsively–to please the talking heads exploiting a tragedy and make ourselves feel good in the moment?

This is a test we may not want to fail.

The Rubio Factor

Article by Gary Kent

Marco Rubio appears to be the new republican establishment replacement for Jeb Bush. In order to get the “nod,” he will have to overcome such “heavyweights” as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Dr. Ben Carson.

The Republican Party’s worst nightmare, Donald Trump, just keeps rolling with a new Trumpism every week. Thousands of New Jersey Muslims (or maybe they were Gaza Strip Muslims?!) supposedly cheering the twin towers collapse one week; being able to “feel” a terror attack coming the next. This week he decided we needed to ban all Muslims from entering the U.S. until we can figure out “what the hell is going on.” Perhaps when he suggests we should unleash Godzilla on ISIS people will get a sense of how shallow he is. Mocking a reporter with a disability didn’t evidently do it. Saying he would make Mexico pay for the wall after stereotyping Mexicans as criminals wasn’t enough. Saying John McCain isn’t a war hero because he got captured wasn’t too over the top either. Does anyone really think sending 11,000,000 people of Mexican origin/descent back to Mexico would be nothing more than a “management” issue? When reporters challenge him on the implementation of anything, he usually says it is just a question of “management.”

Though he probably won’t be, Ben Carson should be difficult to bypass, as he is good at keeping his ignorance to himself. He is incredibly ill-informed on foreign policy and comes across as aloof without much foundation for his attitude of superiority. Though he is often misinterpreted, he appears too often dismissive of serious concerns. Though not much more of a novice than most of the others in what Reince Preibus calls a “strong field,” Carson’s deficiencies in the foreign affairs arena would likely make him more of liability than George W. Bush.

Ted Cruz proved how ignorant he is with his recent remarks about how he will “utterly destroy ISIS.” He went on with more bluster, saying, “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion” and “I don’t know if sand can glow, but we will find out.” His non-solutions get loud cheers from those who are understandably frustrated. Just as most of the others, he insists the President is incompetent and should “do more.”

Marco Rubio is nearly as scary as the master of the bankruptcy laws. It escapes me how anyone takes this guy seriously.

Some of what Rubio says is every bit as adolescent as Trump. In the first republican debate, Rubio actually said that the reason democrats take the position they do on climate change is that, “They want to destroy the economy.” (Check the transcript) Is that something you can just apologize for while you promise to play nice? What is nearly as bizarre is that no one I know of has asked him what the heck he was talking about. Can you seriously imagine a President who goes into office thinking that half the people he has to govern with want to destroy the country?

More recently, Rubio referred to Vladimir Putin as a “gangster in charge of a country!” Does he think it is okay to speak every thought that pops into his head? Rand Paul reminded him that he—God forbid—might have to dialogue with Putin on a variety of serious issues and might need his cooperation. Paul rightly pointed out that we continued talking to the Soviets throughout the Cold War.

But, hey, the republican establishment appears to be moving in Rubio’s direction. “Any port in a storm,” as they say. As weak as he is, it may be necessary to turn to Rubio to save the party from Cruz, Trump, and Carson. Candidates with experience and good sense are in short supply (Kasich and Bush?)–and not polling well– in this “strong” republican field.

Laquan McDonald

Article by Gary Kent

It isn’t often questioned that those with serious mental health histories should be kept from legally purchasing firearms. As I understand it, polls have indicated 75-85% of N.R.A. members accept background checks despite the argument that—as infringements—they appear to violate the second amendment.

Does it make sense for even a tiny percentage of police officers who may have issues such as paranoia, or bigoted attitudes toward classes of people, to be armed with, and authorized to use, deadly weapons? Is every person who goes into law enforcement necessarily emotionally and mentally “stable?”

The October, 2014, case in which Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke “allegedly” shot LaQuan McDonald 16 times is the latest in a string of incidents that certainly appear to discredit the 99.999% of law enforcement professionals who apparently do their jobs and avoid making such “mistakes.”

McDonald may have been on drugs and evidently used a knife to smash a police cruiser windshield and puncture one, or more, tires. He may have appeared to be disrespectful as well.

Police often deal with some extremely dangerous people, whom they do not know, under very difficult circumstances, very often fraught with grave uncertainty. Police have been shot during routine traffic stops. Their jobs are not easy, and the work is certainly not for everyone. The fact remains that what happened before Van Dyke’s outrageous action hardly excuses shooting someone to death.

For Van Dyke’s attorney to justify his actions by saying he “feared for his life” is suspect at best. His attorney has attempted to put an extremely damning video into “context” by describing what took place before the video recording. He added that video does not always show what actually occurred.

Just as in education and the priesthood, serious law enforcement professionals, interested in advancing and protecting their profession, should demand those whose actions discredit their profession be held accountable.

Van Dyke has done a disservice to the law enforcement community by making it just that much more difficult for the conscientious and overwhelming majority of them to do their jobs well and safely. His actions, and those of the people who attempted to cover them up, diminish the trust essential for law enforcement professionals to do dangerous jobs effectively and safely. Whether we like it, or not, the actions of a few can tarnish entire groups. For Van Dyke to avoid responsibility for LaQuan McDonald’s death, under the circumstances, would merely add to the sense of how hopeless the pursuit of justice in America often is.