Thursday, August 18, 2005

Constitutional "originalists"

President Bush has appointed John Roberts to be the next Justice of the Supreme Court. He has selected Roberts because Bush believes Roberts has the same judicial philosophy as his model justices, Scalia and Thomas. He wants an "originalist" who will make decisions based on the Constitution as it was originally written.

Allen Snyder writes about what all this "original" talk means in terms of how cases should be decided:

1) Strict Constructionist: The Constitution means today what its words and phrases meant when they were first written down by those who drafted and ratified it.

2) Original Intent: Interpretation should be consistent with what it was originally intended to mean by those who drafted and ratified it.

3) Original Meaning: Interpretation of the Constitution should be based on what it would commonly have been understood to mean by reasonable persons living at the time of its ratification.

Then Snyder cites Article II, Section I of the US Constitution wherein the qualifications and manner of election for the President are laid out including the Presidential Oath of Office:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation: - "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Something's missing isn't it? No, this is exactly as written in the Constitution. But what does every president say when he takes the oath? " help me God."

So how do we interpret Article II, Section I according to the "originalists?" Either:

1) "Say the Oath as printed -- if we wanted God in there, we'd have put him in there."

2) "Say the Oath as printed -- if we wanted God in there, we'd have put him in there."

3) "Say the Oath as printed -- if we wanted God in there, we'd have put him in there."

Why no objection from the "originalists" to the inclusion of "So help me God"? Because being a Constitutional preservationist, strict constructionist, or originalists has nothing to do with interpreting the Constitution. From Snyder:

It's about turning back the clock on defending the rights of individuals, women, minorities, and the environment . . . It's about doing away with regulations that provide for a safe workplace, eliminating limits on pollution and the defiling of the natural landscape, ending affirmative action, ending campaign finance limits, allowing prayer and bible crap in public schools, posting the ten commandments, bringing back discrimination and segregation, criminalizing homosexuality, and reducing the power of the legislative branch while exalting that of the executive.

Because none of that stuff is in the Constitution, is it?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"Support Our Troops" as code

The ubiquitous magnetic ribbons in yellow, red-white-and-blue, all the colors of the rainbow. On the backs of cars, trucks, vans.

"Support Our Troops"

Of course, we all support our troops. That is, we pray for their safety, for their success, for their home-coming as whole persons, body and mind. Thus, on its face, "Support Our Troops" is akin to "Breathe".

So why the ribbons? It's "code" of course. Code for "support our president." It implies that if you don't support Bush, you are not supporting the troops, and you wish them ill.

Many of us support the troops but don't support their mission. "Nonsense!" say the wingers. "You can't be supporting the troops if you don't support their mission." And since their mission is Bush's policy, if you don't support Bush and his policy and the mission he has given the military then you are not supporting the troops. You are unpatriotic.

Horse manure, I say. Can't criticize the president during war? Well, I'm afraid there is precedent for criticizing the president during war. Kos provides some quotes from when Clinton committed troops to Bosnia. Here are a few:

"You can support the troops but not the president."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years."
--Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
--Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
--Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
--Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."
--Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

As Kos reminds us, "Funny thing is, we won that war without a single killed in action."

Sunday, August 14, 2005

"It's only a matter of how much humiliation..."

I remember a couple of years ago I saw or read someone experienced in foreign policy say, in essence, that the US had already "lost" Iraq and that the only question left was how much humiliation the US would reap by leaving then or later.

I don't know if the US has "lost", failing to achieve its goal in Iraq. I don't know what the US goal is because the Administration does not have a clearly defined goal, at least one that lasts for more than a few weeks. And I haven't heard any that appear to be achievable at this point. The Administration has put us in a situation where there are no good alternatives.

I was not a proponent of invading Iraq. When the invasion was inevitable, it was my fervant hope that the US forces would win the shooting war as quickly as possible and with the fewest possible casualties. This is one facet of the effort that was successful. However, due to the stubborness of Rumsfeld and his adherence to policies which were at odds with those who had knowledge and experience with invasion and occupancy, the Iraq effort was lost within the first thirty days following Saddam's ouster. The failure to provide enough military strength at the beginning to secure the country, its people, and its infrastructure was critical. The opportunity for success was destroyed by the chaos that began with the looting of the national museum and continues today with the daily car bombs. Like a precious vase shattered, it cannot be glued back together.

The Washington Post today reports that "The US Lowers Sights on What Can Be Achieved in Iraq." Here's the money quote:

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning." [emphasis added]
Frank Rick in today's New York Times says, "Someone Tell the President the War is Over." I recommend reading this. Rich writes:

"Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America: not a shotgun constitution rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline, not another Iraqi election, not higher terrorist body counts, not another battle for Falluja (where insurgents may again regroup, The Los Angeles Times reported last week). A citizenry that was asked to accept tax cuts, not sacrifice, at the war's inception is hardly in the mood to start sacrificing now. There will be neither the volunteers nor the money required to field the wholesale additional American troops that might bolster the security situation in Iraq."

Someone please tell me what realistically possible outcome in Iraq will have been worth the sacrifice of life, limbs, treasure, and reputation that the US has lost since April of 2003.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The terrible "death tax"

High on the Bush agenda is abolishment of the Estate Tax, or as the Right calls it, "the death tax." Their claim is that thousands of family farms and businesses will need to be sold off to pay the estate tax.

The thing is, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, in 2000 only 300 farms would have had to pay the estate tax and only 27 of those didn't have enough liquid assets to pay the tax. That's under a $1.5 million exemption. Democrats have proposed raising the exemption to $3 million or $5 million in order to "protect" more families, but the Republicans want it abolished altogether. Read more at Think Progress.

Now the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is starting to affect many, many thousands of middle income families who were never intended to be subject to this tax. Bush will only approve a fix to this growing burden to the middle class if the remedy is "revenue neutral." But the estate tax must go with no plan to make up the difference, estimated to be almost $1 trillion over the first ten years.

That's fair!!! Right???