Archive

February 27th, 2016

The Party of ‘No Way!’

    Perhaps the most important thing Washington will do this year is decide whether to approve President Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. But Republicans have already announced their decision: “No way!”

    It’s rich for Republicans to declare pre-emptively that they will not even hold hearings on an Obama nominee, considering that they used to denounce (while their party held the White House) the notion that judges’ nominations shouldn’t proceed in an election year.

    “That’s just plain bunk,” Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said in 2008. “The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.” His sense of reality has since changed.

    Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said in 2008, “Just because it’s a presidential election year is no excuse for us to take a vacation.”

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The economic dilemma Democrats face in 2016

    Democrats face a dilemma in 2016: How do they deal with the Obama presidency, and particularly the Obama economy? As the early primaries have shown, Americans are in a surly mood, with the economy at the center of their concerns. The Obama administration naturally wants Democrats to brag on its record. Republicans, of course, blame President Obama for everything under the sun. My Post colleague E.J. Dionne Jr. argues that Democrats will "undercut" their "chances of holding the White House" if they don't defend the progress made under Obama and proclaim that the United States is "in far better shape economically than most other countries in the world." But this morsel of conventional wisdom ignores what is going on in the country.

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The case for making bikers stop at red lights

    Bicyclists who barrel through red lights without even slowing down are the worst, right? As urban cycling has grown in popularity, this reckless behavior has become a major traffic hazard, exasperating drivers and endangering pedestrians and cyclists.

    Bicyclists who slow to a crawl at red lights but then roll on through if there are no pedestrians or cars nearby aren't so bad though, are they? Or I should say "are we?" because I do that on occasion. Not in, you know, midtown Manhattan, but in other, less trafficked parts of town. I did get a ticket for this once in New Jersey, but it if I remember correctly it only cost me $95. It hasn't stopped me from continuing to roll through red lights when I deem it appropriate.

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Mitch McConnell Is a Supreme Hypocrite

    Antonin Scalia is gone. The nastiest and noisiest of right wingers on the Supreme Court is dead.

    But in a blatantly partisan ploy to prevent President Barack Obama from nominating a successor to Scalia, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has cited a brand new historical precedent dictating that presidents in the last year of their term don’t name new justices to the high court.

    “Therefore,” McConnell babbled, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

    What a silly old squirrel McConnell is. Article II of the U.S. Constitution plainly states that the president, with the “advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, [and] judges of the Supreme Court.”

    Note that the Constitution says the president “shall” do this — as a duty to the nation.

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Jeb Bush, Donald Trump's unwitting enabler

    The humiliating demise of Jeb Bush's presidential candidacy resulted from his willingness to make himself a sacrificial lamb to save the Republican Party from Donald Trump. It remains to be seen whether anyone else will so conspicuously offer himself.

    None of the other GOP candidates seemed quite as personally offended as Jeb Bush was by Trump's effrontery, aimed as it so often was at Bush and his family.

    Trump's mockery of Jeb's "mommy" for campaigning for him in South Carolina, and his suggestion that George W. Bush lied about the existence of weapons of mass destructions to justify his invasion of Iraq, challenged the integrity of the whole Bush family. It finally seemed to arouse Jeb's exclamation point!

    But the second Bush son's own laid-back manner and style, unlike the swagger and cockiness of his brother, made Jeb a perfect target for the loud-mouthed bully-boy from Manhattan. The label Trump slapped on Jeb -- "low energy" -- appeared to leave him figuratively gasping for breath.

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In This Western, The Bundys Are Bumbling Villains

    Looks like that epic cowboy movie Cliven Bundy and his boys dreamed of playing starring roles in will never get made. Thankfully, their own epic stupidity ended the fantasy less in tragedy than in farce -- definitely more "Blazing Saddles" than "The Wild Bunch."

    Or was it "Cliven Bundy and the Sundance Kid" they were going for? No matter. That one ended badly for the romantic outlaws, too.

    Apart from the needless death of one True Believer in a cowboy hat who committed what city folks call "suicide by cop" -- announcing his determination never to be taken alive and then reaching for his pistol -- the rest of Bundy's sagebrush revolutionaries eventually surrendered without incident. Most are headed to federal prison.

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Federal judge: Recording cops isn't necessarily protected by the First Amendment

    In a bizarre ruling issued last week, federal District Court Judge Mark Kearney ruled that the First Amendment rights of two people were not violated when they were apprehended for attempting to photograph or record police officers. As far as I know, this is the first time a federal court has not found that recording cops while on duty and in a public setting is protected by the First Amendment. Two federal appeals courts, at least two state supreme courts and a few other federal circuit court judges have all determined otherwise. Some of those decisions found that the right hasn't been clearly established long enough for those wrongly arrested to overcome the qualified immunity afforded to police officers, but they did find that the right to record exists. Kearney in this decision rules that no such right exists.

    There are two plaintiffs in these cases. One, Richard Fields, is a man arrested for taking a photo of a group of police officers who had gathered outside a private house during a party. The other, Amanda Geraci, is a woman who was apprehended by an officer in retaliation for recording him. This happened while she was attending a protest as a legal observer.

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Cruz isn't out, and Rubio isn't a shoo-in

    Billionaire Donald Trump's big win in Nevada, with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio pulling even with or just ahead of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, fuels the conventional wisdom that the Republican presidential contest is now down to a two-man race. However, this year the conventional wisdom has been consistently wrong.

    Next Tuesday will test that two-man theory. Cruz, despite third-place finish in South Carolina and a weaker showing in Nevada, is in decent shape for next week's so-called SEC or Super Tuesday primaries, when 14 states weigh in and a quarter of the Republican delegates are decided. The biggest is his home state of Texas, with 155 delegates. One good night for Cruz, and he could pull ahead of Rubio and rival Trump for overall delegates.

    So then you'd have a three-way race. But it might not be that simple. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is counting on being competitive, conceivably even winning in Vermont or Massachusetts on March 1. He won't capture many delegates elsewhere but would argue he's doing better than Rubio. That would keep him politically alive as the race moves into the big Midwestern primaries, including his home state.

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Can Rubio stop the Trump steamroller? Not if he rolls over first.

    A lot of pundits -- and antsy Republicans -- keep suggesting that there is a "ceiling" to Donald Trump's support, meaning that he will be contained eventually. The problem is that this "ceiling" may be as high as the support of his two leading rivals -- combined.

    That, at least, is what happened Tuesday night in Nevada, stunning the political world. Trump won 45.9 percent of the vote, while Marco Rubio came in a distant second with 23.9 percent and Ted Cruz earned 21.4 percent.

    The entrance polls suggest that Trump won among a whole lot of voter groups that he isn't "supposed to" be winning and indeed are "supposed to" be ripe for Rubio's picking:

    -- Trump beat Rubio by nine points among voters aged 17-44 (though Rubio won among the more narrow 17-29 group).

    -- Trump beat Rubio not only among blue collar voters (Trump's base) but also beat him by double digits among college graduates.

    -- Trump beat Rubio among Latinos and nonwhites overall.

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A solution to confirmation gridlock?

    The judicial wars threaten to engulf us in ceaseless cycles of partisan warfare and recriminations. Herewith, two modest (read: unlikely) proposals to try to mitigate the damage, one involving the chief justice, the other the president.

    To begin with, though, a stipulation and a sense of the stakes involved.

    The stipulation is that no one in this almost 30 Years War -- Robert Bork was nominated in 1987 -- comes with clean hands. The situational ethics of the capital are never more evident than when it comes to confirmation battles.

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