Equal Rights

Racial Entitlements & the Supreme Court

NOTE: this column was originally published at MSNBC.COM on March 2, 2013.

Back on November 8, 2012 I wrote this column about President Obama’s legacy after securing a second term. It seems I grossly underestimated myself, especially in light of this week’s oral arguments in Shelby County v. Holder.

341-10-WH65Shelby is the latest case the court will use to determine the viability of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The VRA was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson after the nation saw the ugliness of the Southern states during one of our nation’s worst periods of social unrest. The law erased discriminatory barriers to voting, specifically for black Americans, and forced many Southern states to pre-clear any changes to the way they administered elections and the ability to vote. Since 1975, the Congress has expanded the reach of the VRA to other minority groups, including Hispanic Americans. In 2006, the Senate unanimously voted to reauthorize the VRA and the House voted overwhelmingly the same. In recent years, various conservative Justices have questioned the constitutionality of the VRA but have never gone so far as to strike the law of the land down in part or in whole.

The life of the Voting Rights Act may be short, for all of that changed this past week when the far-right’s favorite Justice, Antonin Scalia, uttered something remarkable from the bench when he called the Voting Rights Act “a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement.” Yep, he went there. He went there in a very Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh kind of way. He went where no Justice in my lifetime has gone. He went where I expect political conservatives to play, to the sandbox of the Rand Pauls and Steve Kings of our political world. He went where I’ve never heard a Supreme Court Justice blatantly go: into the politics of race.

I am a son of the South, grew up in South Carolina, a state where my family has lived since the 17th century. I’m proud of “my people” but I’m not proud of our past or current racism whether it be overt or blatant. I was graduated from the Citadel, a military college in Charleston, SC, in 1989, the same college that was founded to “put down” a slave rebellion in 1842 and the same college that fired the first shots of our nation’s Civil War in January 1861. I firmly believe my home state has come a long way from 1861, from 1961 but even today, the Confederate flag flies prominently in front of the state capitol in Columbia. Racism, my friends, isn’t gone. There’s simply less of it but the immoral cancer still lives in the body of our nation.

Justice Scalia’s comments from the bench of “racial entitlement” were code to white Americans. Let’s be clear: he sent a strong message to the entire nation that the Voting Rights Act isn’t constitutional because it gave black America an entitlement that’s found no where in his view of our Constitution. This interpretation of our Constitution should scare every American regardless of political party. Scalia Image

The court has had a long history of oxygen masks, walking canes, and hearing aids. Justice William O. Douglas served on the court for nearly 37 years, retiring in 1975 after suffering a debilitating stroke nearly a year prior which left him both wheelchair bound and mostly incapable of participating in the Court’s proceedings. It wasn’t until his close friend, former Justice Abe Fortas, stepped in that he retired and even then he tried to remain active within the court, much to his former colleagues’ collective chagrin. There are myriad other examples of this but you get the point: these Justices will stick around, even after disease and mortality have rendered their minds and bodies weak. Justice Scalia might be 76 years old, but he’s is one tough bird.

To date, President Obama has appointed two to the high court: Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan. The court currently has four Justices over the age of 70: Justice Scalia is 76, Justice Kennedy is also 76, Justice Breyer is 74, and Justice Ginsburg is 79. The latter has indicated she won’t step down until she matches former Justice Brandeis’ tenure, putting her retirement in 2015. A little known fact: the last 10 justices to retire had an average age of 80. So yeah, the above are all knock-knock-knockin’ on the court’s door.

It’s possible President Obama could appoint up to four new justices before he leaves office in January 2017. While the court is tilted slightly to the right at this point, a Scalia retirement coupled with a Kennedy retirement could turn the court solidly left, leaving Justices Thomas, Alito, and Roberts as the sole conservatives left. Of all the legislation to be passed in the coming four years, nothing and I repeat nothing is more important than Obama’s future appointments to the Supreme Court. Elections matter–they have consequences. In the coming months, the Supreme Court may destroy the Voting Rights Act and with it, a barrier to racial discrimination this country still needs.

And if that happens, his future appointments to the high court will matter to every American: black, white, male, female, gay, straight, Latino, etc. If you don’t believe me, just listen to Justice Scalia’s words again and again and again: “racial entitlement.” This jurist thinks the right to vote is racial entitlement and I’ve never looked so dimly on the future of our country than I did when he uttered those words in 2013.

Posted on by jimmy in Equal Rights, Presidential Comments Off on Racial Entitlements & the Supreme Court

Obama’s Judicial Legacy

NOTE: this column was originally published at MSNBC.COM on 11/08/12.

President Barack Obama handily won reelection Tuesday and will now have to tackle a number of legislative issues over the next four years. While any president’s legislative record is certainly a centerpiece of his legacy, I’d make the case his appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court matter more than anything else.

In the modern era (post-1900), few presidents have been able to make their judicial mark on the country via court appointments more than President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He appointed nine justices, several of whom stand even today as pantheons of the judiciary branch. Take for example Justices Hugo Black and William O. Douglas. Black sat on the bench from 1937-1971 while Douglas outlasted his friend by several more years until his death in 1975. It’s safe to say no two justices had more influence on America’s collective civil liberties than these two men.

Douglas wrote the prevailing opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut while Black wrote the dissent.Griswold established the oft-debated right to “privacy” that still touches nearly every aspect of our lives today, even in the 21st Century.

President Eisenhower appointed California’s Republican Gov. Earl Warren, who turned out to be the greatest advocate of liberal opinions in the court’s long history. President Lyndon Johnson nominated the nation’s first black justice, Thurgood Marshall, while President Richard Nixon appointed two polar opposites: the conservative Warren Burger and progressive Harry Blackmun. This list goes on and on but the point is clear: long after a president leaves office his Supreme Court justices influence and dictate how we live as a society, and more importantly, keep in check the legislative branch.

In President Obama’s first term, he appointed two women to the high court: Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan. In a second term he may now have the opportunity to sit back and wait for the retirement of 76-year-old Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative. Most court watchers also expect the cagey Justice Anthony Kennedy, also 76, to retire in the next four years. If so, Obama will have the opportunity to turn a 5-4 conservative majority into a 5-4 liberal to moderate majority.

Not since the 1960s has the high court had before it as many civil liberty cases as it does today. The court will rule by June 2013 on gay marriage equality, affirmative action, voting rights, and personhood/abortion. These decisions impact millions of Americans’ everyday lives, their privacy, and their right to be “left alone.”

Under the current court, it’s quite possible for further state restrictions on Roe v. Wade to be handed down and for race to be inadmissible for college qualification. Just this week, four states passed ballot measures affirming marriage equality for gays and lesbians, all of which could be overturned by one opinion coming from the Roberts Court. This is troubling on many levels but even more so now that President Obama and his agenda has been narrowly approved by his re-election.

His winning of a second term provides African-Americans, Latinos, gays and lesbians, and women a collective, and badly-needed, sigh of relief from what would otherwise be a hostile court filled with aging conservatives chomping at the bit to overturn seminal cases like Roe v. Wade, Gideon v. Wainwright, and Lawrence v. Texas. While we have no way of knowing how the court will rule on these important social issues, a retiring justice would make that relief palpable in the very near term.

Obviously elections have consequences. Yet, not in my lifetime have I seen our society’s ability to live privately and without prejudice so endangered by the court than today. This isn’t something a majority of voters would likely stand for so watch for intense battles in the U.S. Senate over any possible court nominees. It will be a fight worth watching.

Posted on by jimmy in Presidential Comments Off on Obama’s Judicial Legacy

The Final Debate

NOTE: this post was originally published at MSNBC.COM on 10/22/12.

The final debate for the 2012 presidential election will focus on foreign policy, a policy arena former Governor Romney has little experience in yet one in which President Obama after almost four years has plenty.

Let’s not forget that one of then-Senator Obama’s weaknesses in seeking the presidency was his lack of foreign policy credentials. Picking then-Senator Joe Biden, former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, was widely seen as a move to stem that criticism and it worked. Couple that pick with his near decimation of Al Qaeda and his killing of Osama bin Laden, and you’d think he would be untouchable.

Last week Romney blundered his chance at a home run when the President laid a neatly concealed trap on Libya and Romney stumbled right into it. It was jaw-dropping. This week both men will need to be able to explain to the American people why he’s going to be the better Commander-in-Chief and chief diplomat for the USA. Both men have tall orders ahead of them.

I’ll be listening for the following:

1) Will Obama continue to be strong on the Libya situation and specifically will Romney be able to find an open window somewhere in that topic to attack? I’m not sure after last week.

2) Will Obama specifically lay out how he’s going to reshape our military and foreign policy while ending the war in Afghanistan?

3) Will Romney just spew out more Bush neocon gibberish about being strong abroad i.e. code for war when convenient but not when necessary?

4) Will Romney be able to pivot back to the economy, as his advisors continue to say he will do tonight?

Both men have a hell of a lot riding on this last debate and frankly it’s Obama’s to lose.

He must, I repeat, must come across as the man capable of leading this country another four years both abroad and at home. That’s what the narrow sliver of the undecided electorate needs to see tonight. That’s what he must do because if he doesn’t, the growing sentiment that Romney is a plausible alternative could take hold. With two weeks to go, the President has no room for mistakes.

I’ll be live tweeting from @jimmyspolitics with my MSNBC colleague @goldietaylor so follow us there or at msnbc’s facebook page. See you afterwards with “The Final Debate: Part Deux”.

Posted on by jimmy in Presidential Comments Off on The Final Debate

Binders Full of Women?

NOTE: this column was originally published at MSNBC.COM on 10/17/12.

Ok, so you know how you hear something and you have to do a double-take?

Well, that’s how I felt at the beginning, middle and conclusion of this debate…literally stunned. And probably not for the reasons you think.

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the Green Room at CNBC in New Jersey with Jennifer Rubin, the right-wing Op-Ed columnist with the Washington Post. This was right after the Libya tragedy had taken place and we were both talking about the “political sea legs” of it.

While it was early in this tragic story, we both thought it could turn out badly for President Obama and for the last few weeks, Jennifer was right.

Until tonight.

Clearly the President was ready to tackle this issue tonight and he just waited for Governor Romney to bring it up. It was, in two words, a game changer. “Get the transcript” was as calculated and disarming as anything I’ve ever seen in a debate in my adult life. It was like watching Romney walk up to the President and let him slap him across the face in Nassau County, NY. Stunning.

Prior to that part of the debate, I was prepared to say Obama was back “on his game.” He executed a new debate plan and almost to a person, every Republican I’ve talked to post-debate says Obama handed Romney his lunch. After that exchange, there was simply no turning back for Obama.

All of that is fine for the Democratic base but did President Obama do what I wanted him to do? I wanted him to lay out his vision for the next four years to the women in this country and correct Romney when needed. He absolutely succeeded on the latter and mostly succeeded on the former.

The President also lucked into something remarkable: “Binders Full of Women.”

When Governor Romney said he had “binders full of women” for cabinet positions as the chief executive of Massachusetts, my jaw dropped to the floor. Ten years from tonight, when we are playing the historical gaffes of debates, this will be included. It was insensitive, it was callous, it was a turn-off to those very same women I speak of above. It was certainly offensive to me.

The immigration portion of the debate was fantastic. It laid out two very different visions for a subject that matters to many American, both Latino and not. Sadly, we are now three debates down with one left to go and the issue of gay civil rights has yet to be broached.

This is a sad statement, considering the next debate will focus exclusively on foreign relations and the chances of civil rights won’t come up.
I called on the President to have that “gut check moment” and he did it. His appeal to women was widespread and he showed empathy, especially when talking about his grandmother, mother and daughters.

Now let’s see what the polls do. My gut tells me Obama will edge up in Virginia, Ohio and Iowa. If that happens and he holds those three important states, he will be re-elected as the next President of the United States in exactly 20 days. And 20 days in a campaign is a lifetime.

On to the debate in Florida!

Posted on by jimmy in Presidential Comments Off on Binders Full of Women?

Presidential Debate Part Deux

NOTE: this column originally appeared at MSNBC.COM on 10/16/12

As the second debate gets underway between Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Obama needs to do coming off his last debate debacle, and a couple of ideas flooded into my aging, 45-year old brain.

First and foremost, one-half of this country’s voters simply will not vote for Obama, no matter what he says or does. I’ve been in politics for over 20 years now, and I’ve never seen such hatred for the man holding the top job in our country. The impeachment of former President Bill Clinton looks like child’s play compared to the hatred people have for Obama. It doesn’t matter if it’s deserved or not; the Obama campaign has to acknowledge this fact between now and November 6th.

Second, who’s left over then? Who are the voters the President must get and where do they live? What we know is many of those voters are women ages 30-50. These are white suburban women, mostly; the traditional soccer moms, that choice part of the electorate all candidates must claim in order to hold elected office.

So now that we know women rule the world (Why did it take me this long to figure this out?) and it’s women that will put one of these two men over that Electoral College goal of 270 electoral votes, what do they want to hear? And that leads me to what Barack Obama must say to them tonight.

Women have long memories, and they remember where they were exactly four years ago. They remember the headlines: CNN/Money’s ”Jobs Lost in 2008: 1.2 million; BBC News; “More US workers lost jobs in 2008 than in any year since Word War II”; the New York Times’ ”159,000 Jobs Lost in September, the Worst Month in Five Years.” Talk about doom and gloom.

That was the picture then. So what are today’s headlines? CNN/Money reports, ”Amazon to Hire 50,000 Seasonal Workers”; the New York Times adds, “Drop in Jobless Figure Gives Jolt to Race for President”; the Washington Post says,”The Numbers: 114,000 Jobs Created, 7.8 Percent Unemployment.” Talk about a turn around.

But there’s a problem with these headlines: they’re not enough. They’re good, they’re positive, and they’re pointing in the right direction. But tonight, President Obama has to have a gut check moment, reach into the very core of his being, and tell these women what he’s going to do for the next four years. We all know how bad the last four years have been. Women know better than men.  What we don’t know, what these women don’t know, is precisely what the President is going to do to make them and their families better off in the next month, the next year, and the next four years. Will he commit to rebuilding their children’s aging and crumbling schools? Will he spell out precisely how he’ll make the costs of college tuition more affordable? Will he talk about their privacy, or what happens to them when they’re sitting in their doctor’s office while politicians are deciding how they should live their lives? Will he talk about how he’s going to make sure their taxes don’t go up while he’s president?

That’s the Obama we must see, hear, and feel tonight. He must focus like a laser on these women.  It’s what Reagan did; he made them feel good about America. It’s what Clinton did; he reassured them. It’s what Bush Jr.; he made them feel safe in those critical first years after 9/11.  And yes, Obama must correct the record—specifically former Governor Romney’s record. The president can walk and chew gum at the same time. I mean, he gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden and made a room of political types laugh at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner all within 24 hours of each other.

We know President Obama has nerves of steel. The question is: can he show compassion and empathy with the women of this country? If he does that, he wins. If not…

So, here we go. It’s you, me and 50 million-plus other Americans tuning in to watch two men lay out their very different visions for America. I’ll watch with an open mind and then, afterwards, write the second part of this column.  I’ll also be tweeting under @jimmyspolitics throughout the debate, so watch for my gut checks.

Posted on by jimmy in Presidential Comments Off on Presidential Debate Part Deux

Romney’s Constant Flip-Flopping

NOTE: this post was originally written for & published by MSNBC.COM on 10/23/12

Well, it’s all over but the voting.

Tonight’s debate was clearly won by the President of the United States. While he came out swinging a little too hard in the first five minutes, Obama had an unabashed mastery of the points he wanted to make and he made them forcefully. Governor Romney was also holding back; the look on his face was “pained.”

I’m left with one main takeaway from tonight’s debate: Obama reminded every voter watching tonight that Romney changes his positions wantonly. The biggest doozy of the night came when Romney switched positions on the 2014 deadline for our Afghanistan withdrawal.  This is news, folks. His VP running mate said the same thing but left the door open to staying longer. Tonight, Romney shut that door. He did the same on how he would’ve handled former Egyptian President Mubarak. Time and time again, the President reminded America that Romney will say anything to get elected, even if it’s the exact opposite position he took just a few weeks ago.

Libya didn’t play a huge part of the debate tonight but the two visions of what our military should look like did, and what each man described were two very different American militaries.

“Horses and bayonets” may get the most post-debate play, and it should. Romney wants to build more ships and submarines. I suppose by spending trillions of dollars for boats we don’t need is the new way of scaring the hell out of Russia. Problem is: this ain’t a Tom Clancy novel. This is modern warfare and thinking like a Cold Warrior doesn’t make the Cold War come back. Obama was very strong here—”the 1980′s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” he quipped—and provided a stark difference between himself and his opponent.

While I thought the Governor would go “Neocon” on us tonight, he did exactly the opposite. In fact, he agreed with President Obama often, and I’m sure John Bolton’s mustache is turning grey as I write.

Somehow, some way, both candidates did seem (to Bob Schieffer’s consternation) to pivot back to the economy on a regular basis. And once again, Obama did a back-of-the-envelope math quiz and he hammered Romney’s math. Simply put, you can’t increase the Pentagon’s budget by $2 trillion without paying for it, nor can you take the Bush tax cuts and cut them 20% more without paying for them without ballooning the deficit. This is a fact. Just saying “Well of course you can” doesn’t make it so.

It was almost like Romney was sinking into his chair as the night wore on.  President Obama hammered the “my opponent is lying” nail into Romney’s coffin. Will it be enough? Will it play in Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada? If it does, Obama is reelected. If not, well I’d prefer not to think about that possibility. We’ll know in two weeks.

In the meantime, watch closely as the Obama campaign keeps hammering Romney’s character.  It’s how he’ll win.

Posted on by jimmy in Presidential Comments Off on Romney’s Constant Flip-Flopping

Playing By a Different Set of Rules?

I’ve been stewing for months now over this issue of whether half the country does or doesn’t pay income taxes. A few weeks ago, my old Senate colleague “Mac,” emailed me in complete frustration over this debate. We went back and forth and both agreed that there needed to be a simpler way of explaining the “taxing” of America. So I’ve been trying desperately to find the best way to write about this when lo and behold, Governor Romney’s recent statements about the American taxpayer came to light and lit a fire underneath my, well, you get the point.

The basics of taxes are simple: while most workers pay payroll taxes (up to a certain percentage of their salary), not all Americans pay net taxes. Almost all Americans pay income taxes throughout the year but when it comes to that dreaded April filing deadline, nearly half the country qualifies for deductions or exemptions that negate their income tax liability. So while they pay their taxes upfront (check your paystub, you’ll find them), most Americans get refunds.

This presidential campaign seems to be a philosophical war between the “have’s” and the “have nots.” It was less than a year ago the country was abuzz over the 99% vs. the 1%. The GOP was decrying class warfare and the Democrats were calling the GOP cold-hearted and mean. I, for one, was desperately trying to tune it all out. Until today.

Today, my friend David Corn, Washington Bureau Chief at Mother Jones, reported that Governor Romney has been caught saying he didn’t care about the 4 7% of Americans who don’t pay taxes. I’m unnerved by this video but not because he said “half the country doesn’t pay taxes.” My problem with this video is that Romney has written off half the country. He makes it clear, pointedly clear, that this 47% of Americans aren’t going to vote for him, that they’ll never vote for him.

This isn’t a smart move, especially from a politician. This isn’t a smart move from a man who most likely pays NO payroll taxes because he doesn’t have earned income (while just about every other working American does). This isn’t a smart move from a man who admittedly pays only 13% in income taxes on investments (when the top rate on “work” is 35%). Simply put, what Governor Romney has said is offensive and I frankly don’t think he can recover from it.

The reason this “revelation” is so shocking is because it’s finally crystallized that Governor Romney has no clue who his audience even is. The smart folks over at The Tax Foundation have published a ton of great data but this map shows precisely where that 47% of Americans Romney thinks are freeloaders live

The states with the highest number of “freeloaders” are in red. Only one of them, New Mexico, seems to be in play for President Obama. All the rest are solid GOP states. Solid GOP states that Governor Romney seems to think are freeloaders, are slackers, are living off the government, are “entitled,” to use his exact words.

This is frustrating for me because I don’t live in a world where success is castigated or looked down upon nor do I live in a world where Americans who need a helping hand are government leeches. I, for one, applaud success. What frustrates me here is the hypocrisy coming from candidate Romney. In a closed-door fundraiser, he berates the very voters that love him (see the red states above). He hides his tax returns yet tells us that he pays 13% and demands years of tax returns from his Vice Presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (WI). What’s worse, that he won’t show his returns, that he pays on average less than most Americans pay in taxes, or that he holds his running mate to a different standard than he does himself? This is insulting.

It just seems that Governor Romney seems to be playing by a different set of rules than most Americans. This double-standard is what made “Mac” so upset and should make most Americans upset. For me, it’s simply insulting.

Posted on by jimmy in Congress, Presidential 1 Comment

Is Gov. Romney Responsible for a Woman’s Death?

We’re clearly only a few months away from a presidential election, the latest indicator being the onslaught of negative advertisements coming from each presidential camp. By most accounts, it’s just getting nastier and nastier by the hour. Both sides of the aisle have dirt under their fingernails and the latest ad comes from my friends on the Democratic side of the aisle.

While this ad isn’t surprising, it troubles me.  The message here is that Mitt Romney’s actions at Bain Capital were responsible for a woman’s death from cancer. Nothing is farther from the truth and even the White House/Obama campaign have distanced themselves from it. David Axelrod on Morning Joe was clear: “no one should or could blame Governor Romney for the death of that guy’s wife.” To be clear, this ad ran only on Youtube and aired once I believe on TV before it was pulled down.

Both campaigns and/or their surrogates are spewing false ads on TV, radio, in print, etc. False ads aren’t some sort of new political invention. It just seems to me that the brazenness employed by both sides of the aisle is getting out of hand this cycle. Take for example the TV ad the Romney campaign is running, claiming President Obama cut $716 Billion from Medicare. While it is true he used part of those cuts to pay for “Obamacare,” he also uses part of those savings taken directly from medical providers, NOT Medicare recipients, to pay for preventative care. At no point does Obama cut Medicare benefits. What’s worse is  the Romney campaign leaves out that the Ryan budget did EXACTLY THE SAME THING. The hypocrisy is beyond belief.

Bottom line: both ads are pure unadulterated lies. I suppose it might be a tad bit naive to think that you just can’t lie on tv like that. But yes, that would take naivety to a whole new level, something I’m not prepared to do. Nor should I, for that matter, since I’m a part of the media now.

I’ve said time and time again on tv that what the American people crave right now, what they’re thirsty for, is authenticity, for someone to just tell them the truth. One of the reasons the Obama campaign from 2008 inspired so many people was because of his positive message of hope and change. I supported  President Obama then and support him now but he and his staff were naive to think they could “change” Washington, DC in four short years. I’m reminded of President Carter’s same promise. He, too, failed miserably. And so the GOP talking point, or better yet laughing point, today is “keep the change.”

What I don’t want nor do I expect for the President’s campaign or its surrogates is to engage in the same dirty tricks as the other side of the aisle. Do I expect them to fight back, to counterattack? Of course! Sen. John Kerry’s people will tell you to this day that taking the high road in 2004 instead of attacking the Swift Boat ads was a mistake and probably cost them the election.

It’s one thing to counterattack. It’s another thing to smear the other side with lies. Burton and companies advertisement is dirty and it’s wrong. It is, in a word, a lie. I for one don’t believe there’s nothing the Obama campaign can do to stop these types of things. And I suppose there’s a difference between a campaign lying (like Romney is doing) versus a Super Pac lying (like Burton’s group is doing). In the end though, both stink to high heaven. It’s no wonder tv-watching America can find their “Mute” button without even batting an eye.


Posted on by jimmy in Congress, House, Presidential, Senate Comments Off on Is Gov. Romney Responsible for a Woman’s Death?

Romney vs. Ryan

I’ve been asked over and over again for my opinion on Governor Romney’s vice presidential pick of Representative Paul Ryan (WI). Ryan is, if anything, authentic. And that’s a HUGE problem for Romney.

Listen, Ryan is a smart guy. He’s a serious policymaker and he has proposed serious policy positions, many of which I’ve legitimately disagreed with. Ryan has gone places where most Members of Congress would never go and I respect that. There are some votes where I’ve agreed with him, specifically his vote in support of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And there are plenty of votes where I’ve disagreed with him, including his vote in favor of Medicare Part D (because it wasn’t paid for and added trillions of dollars to our national debt), his vote against my marriage equality, and obviously I disagree with much of what’s in his proposed budgets. But again, Ryan actually believes what he’s proposing. I’m going back and looking at his record and I can’t find a single time where he’s flipflopped on a single policy position.

I don’t need to rehash Governor Romney’s habitual flipflopping. That’s widely-reported but now his inability to come up with a single position and then stick with it is under even more scrutiny because of his running mate’s record. By picking Ryan, Romney has inadvertently turned the spotlight directly back on himself. The contract between the two couldn’t be more stark. Romney will say anything to be elected POTUS and Ryan doesn’t shy away from anything.

Simply put, Ryan has a core and Romney doesn’t. That’s harsh. That’s tough. But it’s fair. By choosing Ryan, Romney has exposed his ultimate wound. He’s shown he’s the Stepford husband of the pair. There was plenty of me to agree with when Romney was the Governor of Massachusetts, yet very little of me to agree with as the eternal “conservative” candidate for the presidency. He’s devolved in his positions whereas Ryan picks a position and sticks with it.

I’m of the school of thought that most Americans just want someone who’s authentic to lead this country in these troubled times. In 2008, most Americans thought that was going to be then-Senator Barack Obama. Then the reality of Washington slapped him square across the face with its ugly partisan hand.

Four years later, the country is being asked to make a decision: pick a man who lacks a core or a pick a man who’s been schooled as a sitting President. It’s a “choice” election and Ryan’s pick I think will backfire on Romney and hand the Democrats the White House for four more years. We’ll see in exactly 86 days.

Posted on by jimmy in Congress, Equal Rights, House, Presidential 1 Comment

Supreme Court’s Ruling is a Game Changer

Today’s Supreme Court decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, is watershed and a game changer. Simply put, Roberts’ decision will change the face of healthcare in America because now not only is it constitutional, it forces the GOP to be in favor of actual reform (something they’ve only given lip-service to for years). 

The conventional wisdom inside the D.C. beltway today was that “Obamacare” (or ACA) would be struck down by a 5-4 decision and that the decision would be written by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy. Very few in the smart crowd actually thought a) Roberts would side with the liberal Justices and b) that the nexus of agreement between that unlikely group would be Congress’ ability to levy a tax versus whether or not the individual mandate was constitutional under the Commerce Clause.

That’s a lot of D.C.-speak, which sounds remarkably similar to Charlie Brown’s teacher: “whonk whonk whonk whonk whonk.” What this reminds me of is the fallout from Brown vs. Board of Education, something a large number of Americans remember or have studied in civics class.

In Brown, the Court combined several high profile cases into one and issued a sweeping ruling. Like Brown, ACA was highly controversial leading up to oral argument before the Court and after the subsequent ruling. Social unrest throughout many parts of the country was prevalent, notably with Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, Alabama George Wallace, Virginia Senator Harry Byrd’s “Massive Resistance” and the “Southern Manifesto.” For the record, all of these men were Southern Democrats.

The political outrage was palpable then and it is today. I’ve written before that the day President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, he told his aides he had delivered “the South to the Republican party for a long time to come.” I’m not sure what happens at the ballot box this November or precisely how today’s ruling will affect the public’s perception. What I do know is the opinion issued today by Chief Justice Roberts matters. It matters because it validates Congress’ actions, which declared universal healthcare to be something we should strive towards. That we are the wealthiest and most powerful country in the history of the world but with over 22 million uninsured is embarrassing and the Roberts court today has said what Congress did is perhaps not popular but without a doubt legitimate.

Legitimacy matters to me and ultimately I believe to the American people.

Posted on by jimmy in Congress, Equal Rights, Presidential 1 Comment