Tag Archives: supreme court

Long Live the King

This week was a thriller.

Bernie Madoff thought he was a smooth criminal. Turns out he’s just bad. Really, really bad.

SCOTUS says it don’t matter if you’re black or white.

The House has a bill it hopes will heal the world. Will the Senate tell them to beat it? (No one, after all, wants to be defeated.)

LGBT groups think Obama secretly wishes they’d just keep it in the closet.

And Mark Sanford is starting with the man in the mirror. He’s asking him to change his ways.

But we begin this week with a milestone in what’s become a millstone. American troops are withdrawing from Iraqi towns and cities today, effectively ending U.S. occupation of those areas.

The drawdown is part of a Bush Administration plan sketched out this time last year. Dick Cheney supported the plan at the time, but since the responsibility now belongs to the Democrats, he says it puts America in danger.

Iraq is the main course on a full foreign policy plate. President Obama condemned a weekend Honduran coup, and Iran is still wracked by fear—not to mention increasingly jittery about foreign interference.

Despite turmoil abroad, domestic issues take may top billing this week. Yesterday, two court verdicts set the tone. First, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling against New Haven, Conn. firefighters who claimed they were passed over for promotion because they are white.

The lower court ruling was issued by a panel of three judges including Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Will this ruling threaten her confirmation? Doubtful. Will it make the hearings more interesting? Darn tootin’.

The other verdict came from Manhattan, where convicted swindler Bernard Madoff got the maximum: 150 years in prison. Madoff cheated 8,000 investors out of hundreds of billions of dollars. His case has become a focus for Americans who’ve lost jobs, homes, and retirements to economic forces beyond their control. Madoff himself is now a symbol of greed and crookedness, and few people were sad to see him jailed.

Back in Washington, Congress turns its attention from the environment to healthcare, which is shaping up to be an ugly fight. Senate Republican leaders held a press conference today to declare a need for reform and a desire to block whatever Democrats come up with.

Speaking of the Democrats, President Obama has again turned the details of a major legislative priority over to a rudderless Congress (see this week’s Top 5). So far the strategy has worked, but eventually the House may need more direction from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Other loose ends may affect the balance of power in Washington. Mark Sanford isn’t quitting (yet), but his plans to run for the White House in three years are on indefinite hold. He’s the second potential GOP 2012-er to flame out in the last two weeks.

The aforementioned House climate change bill may face well-entrenched opposition in the Senate. President Obama showed praiseworthy resistance (in the Blog’s humble opinion) to the House version’s protectionist clauses. Do the Democrats know what they think about trade policy?

And Al Franken is finally a Senator, but illnesses still keep Dems short of 60 votes.

And so the chaos continues. One final note this week: the Blog will be out of the office for the next month. Dry your tears. If you want to keep track of the Blog’s travels, check our sister blog.

See you in August.

Top 5

The week’s best political reporting and commentary…

CNN: “Jenny Sanford becomes the new political paradigm” by Gloria Borger.

The New York Times: “Baucus Grabs Pacesetter Role on Health Bill” by David Herszenhorn.

The Washington Post: “Despite Majority, Obama to be Tested” by Murray and Balz.

Real Clear Politics: “Alice in Medical Care” by Thomas Sowell.

TIME: “FDR: Getting it Right” by Bill Clinton.

Human Resources

It was a busy week in the Blog’s HR department. Let’s take a peek at the ol’ inbox.

 

Item One: Justice Souter served his two-weeks notice. That’s no real surprise—he’d told friends he would retire if Obama won last year’s election—but Souter’s departure has implications wide and deep. Everything that happens in Washington this summer will be affected by a new pick for the bench. Don’t expect the GOP to stand blithely by. Their new ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee is Jeff Sessions, a veteran of nasty confirmation fights.

 

Obama will likely choose a moderate-to-liberal jurist to replace the moderate-to-liberal Souter. Asked what he’s looking for in the next SCOTUS associate justice, Obama replied, “Empathy.” Interpret as you will, dear reader.

 

Here’s a list of likely candidates.

 

Item Two: Senator Specter filed a party-change application. This isn’t the first time. Specter began his career as a Democrat, but switched to the GOP to win a Philadelphia district attorney race. Now he’s switching back to hold his Senate seat.

 

The real significance of Specter’s re-conversion? It (plus Al Franken’s eventual accession) puts the Democrats at 60 votes in the Most Deliberative Body, a filibuster-proof margin over their Republican counterparts.

 

For Democrats, the 60 vote margin means they can legislate as they please, so long as they maintain party unity. The defection also allows them to cast the GOP as, like James Carville recently said, “a church that’s chasing out heretics” as opposed to “a church that’s trying to bring in converts.” The Republican Party is beholden to its far-right wing, Democrats will argue.

 

But it also means Democrats have no more excuses. Anything that goes wrong will be their fault. There’s almost no chance everything will go right, which is how the GOP can win back a few seats in next November’s midterm elections. And while Specter will likely support Dems on healthcare and environment issues, he’ll likely buck his new party’s line on foreign policy and spending.

 

Ultimately, the Specter switcheroo gives Democrats the image of total control, but it’s nearly impossible Democratic orthodoxy will prevail.

 

Item Three: A stack of applications for sick leave due to Swine Flu, a.k.a. H1N1. While the threat is still growing, the many diagnoses and relatively few fatalities has seemingly convinced health officials the crisis is containable.

 

Item Four: Chrysler is asking for unemployment benefits. Again. The automaker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week with the blessing (read: encouragement) of the White House. Fiat will be a partner to the company’s rebuilding efforts, and while the move generates more bad headlines for a company already drowning in ink, it’s probably the only road to recovery.

 

So HR’s been putting in overtime. Check this week’s “On Deck” to read why the pace will only quicken from here.

 

Top 5

The week’s best political reporting and commentary…

 

The Washington Post: “Quiet N.H. Home is Where Souter’s Heart Has Always Been” by Philip Rucker.

 

The Wall Street Journal: “Progressive Vision Likely in Next Jurist” by Jess Bravin.

 

Los Angeles Times: “It’s all on Obama now” by Peter Nicholas.

 

Newsweek: “The Slippery Side of 60” by Howard Fineman.

 

U.S. News and World Report: “Death of Newspapers Could Kill Communities, Civic Values, Too” by Mark Dunkelman.

 

 

On Deck: More to Come

The real problem for the Blog’s HR department? Each change above means more changes down the road. A new justice may be nominated as early as this week. Specter’s switch means new committee assignments for members of both parties. Will Specter be rewarded with a plum post at the expense of a fellow Dem, or will he be told to wait his turn, something he’s never especially enjoyed?

 

Final note: the John Edwards comeback tour is officially underway. Ugh.