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15 Responses to Truth

  1. RL CRABB says:

    In my role as a critic and chronicler of American politics for the past 38 years, I have watched the slow disintegration of civility and cooperation in our government. It’s not the first time in our history that we have reached this low point, but you would think, in in a time when so much information is at our fingertips that we could avoid the pitfalls and mistakes of the past.
    Every day, we become more fragmented and divided, and no one’s hands are clean.

  2. Michael R. Kesti says:

    Is the disintegration of civility and cooperation in our government the cause of the disintegration of civility and cooperation throughout our society or is it the other way ’round?

    • RL CRABB says:

      “Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.” – P.J. O’Roarke

    • Michael Anderson says:

      Michael, I believe that the disintegration in gov’t and society are caused by elements of our political system which elevate conflict.

  3. Chris Peterson says:

    A very thoughtful and flowery speech by Sen. Sasse, but in his final analysis, he goes off the rails. Judge Kavanaugh, whose character is the central question in this debate, is NOT the paragon of virtue Sen. Sasse makes him out to be. Like the rest of us, he is a flawed human being.
    I believe the testimony of Dr. Ford. I believe Judge Kavanaugh did sexually assault her when she was 15 and he was a party animal at 17 and perhaps he was a dick-headed jock later in college. Has he led an honorable life since that time? Absolutely. At what point that exonerates him of his past aggressions is up to each of us to decide. (Or actually, up to the Senate to decide for us.)

    But two things jump out at me when I’m deciding whether or not I think he deserves a lifetime position deciding cases that will affect the whole nation:
    1. That he is now, before Congress and the American people, lying.
    2. That he has been chosen EXACTLY for those reasons that Sen. Sasse acknowledges are the WRONG reasons to consider him in the first place; his obvious political animus for one side of our political spectrum and his preference for the other, as witnessed by his emotional tirade, unbecoming ANY judge, displayed for all to see.

    And finally, I submit that those who follow politics as closely as you and others on this blog, need to stop and smell the roses a bit more often. I’m surrounded by conservative neighbors, out here in the boonies of the PNW, but nary a spoken word of political anguish is uttered between us at the pasture fence or in the grocery store aisle. We aren’t preoccupied with it; those who are preoccupied with it are the only ones preoccupied with it. People recognize you as someone who’s thinking about politics, so that’s what they talk about when they see you, but that’s no different than the next person they meet who they know is a big baseball fan and that’s where that conversation goes. Perspective: don’t assume that the country is any more polarized than ever before simply because those who myopically focus on such things say so.

    I come here to discuss all matters political whenever the mood suits me, but like most people, I spend very little time focused on such issues during my busy day. I try to stay relatively knowledgeable on the subject of my government and I vote my opinion whenever possible, but the rest is up to the Sasse’s and the Kavanaugh’s of the world, and there’s very little I can do about it.

    And if my opinions come too often, you could always change it so I have to sign in like a stranger every time, after all these years. Oh, wait…

  4. rl crabb says:

    If you have to sign in every time, it’s not my doing. WordPress updates several times a year and screws up my settings. In fact, even I have to verify, and it’s my fucking blog!

    But as to the other business, my main reason for posting this rant is not to defend Kavanaugh, but to agree that Congress is the real problem. They are hired to do a job, and to find solutions to the vexing inadequacies in our society. They pass the buck on immigration. They pass the buck on women’s rights. They pass the buck on fixing healthcare. They pass the buck on social security. And most of all, they pass the buck on the coming debt crisis. Aren’t you glad we’ll be old and infirm by the time all this shit hits the fan?

  5. Steven Frisch says:

    I largely agree with Chris…Sasse is correct that the balance of power between the legislative, judicial and executive in our system of governance has slipped to the executive and judicial…but Sasse kind of loses it at the end.

    If the question is “does Kavanaugh have the temperament and character to put his policy views and political in a box” to act dispassionately on the law the answer was delivered Thursday in the Judges performance in front of the Senate. To his credit, Sasse’s comments were not recorded and replayed here from this weeks Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, it was was from the first round three weeks ago, before the recent allegations. I wonder if Sasse will reconsider his question in light of Thursday?

    But there is an even larger question that Senator Sasse’s comment highlight that eventually needs to be addressed. The Constitution itself is not aging well.

    I read a lot of history, quite a bit of American history of every era, and historians would agree that as times have changed the constitution and the role of the branches of government have flexed to meet the challenge. Madison believed that the legislative branch would be by far the most powerful branch, and partly for that reason created a bi-cameral rather than a unicameral Congress, but did not split the power of the executive so that it could act as a check.

    From Marbury v Madison to the Watergate era we have expanded and contracted the relative power of the branches. But the power of the Presidency and the executive has consistently grown over American history, perhaps to the point where we have an imbalance that is a threat to the constitution itself.

    Sasse is correct, even if unconsciously, that as the nation modernized and the needs of the people and the complexity of both society and the activities we engage in have expanded the role of the executive branch, and the office of the Presidency that oversees it, has expanded.

    The power of the Congress is directly enumerated in the constitution and the power of the Presidency as an office is only loosely defined. The power of the Presidency constantly expands because each successive President sets precedent for those who follow; when they expand authority to address a national emergency like the Civil War or the Great Depression the next President retains that power. Many of the powers of the Presidency never reach the Congress or courts, they are exercised and defended by the executive itself and the question is often moot by the time Congress or the courts can act. The power of the Presidency also inherently expands as the scope of the issues addressed grows with the complexity of modern society, thus a bureaucracy grows up around it that defends its own authority. As that federal bureaucracy has grown Presidents have learned how to control it to their own ends–whereas the federal bureaucracy was once almost a ‘fourth branch’ it is now increasingly more regularly bent to the will of the executive, starting during the New Deal and ending where we are today with Trump intervening in even the smallest personal peccadillo. Because the Presidency is unitary they can exercise more efficient control of the media as the media has grown in influence. Media covers the Presidency as though it is the sole control of national policy. The Presidency has become a cultural icon and avatar for the nation. Finally the Presidency controls the national security state, and as the US role in international affairs has grown post WWII the tools the Presidency controls to control the flow of information, intervene in international affairs, and wage war either hot or cold have grown.

    In short the gradual expansion of the powers of the Presidency have not been paced by expansion of power of the Congress or courts, nor is it clear the American people would wish them to do so, thus the imbalance grows every decade.

    There are some natural checks on Presidential power, for example the power of Congress to investigate which I suspect we are going to see in spades in the next four years, and the fact that the Presidency is term limited but Congressional seats are not. But Congress has yet to exercise or take advantage of those powers effectively in the modern era.

    There are things that could be done to reduce the power of the executive.

    We could reduce the ability of the Presidency to use the ‘precedent’ argument…just because LBJ engaged in an undeclared war is no reason we should grant Bill Clinton or Barack Obama the ability to do so. All Congress would have to do is exercise the War Powers Act.

    We could create even greater independence for the Department of Justice…eliminate the President’s ability to simply fire leadership…and there are numerous examples of this in the federal government where other heads of agencies or bureaus are appointed with the consent of Congress for a set term rather than at will.

    We could restrict the Presidents power to enforce secrecy, in decision-making, in document management, in internal decisions, by creating Congressional and judiciary oversight and conference bodies to review the decision of the executive.

    Ultimately I believe the growing power of the executive is a constitutional problem that must be addressed regardless of the party of its occupant, and this is a place where liberals like me and conservative could have common cause.

    • Steven Frisch says:

      Direct Sasse quote should read, ““does Kavanaugh have the temperament and character to put his policy views and political views in a box…”

    • Michael Anderson says:

      I agree with your analysis Steve. The constitutional crisis is here, and Trump is just a symptom of the “not aging well” that you describe. This horrible Kavanaugh confirmation is another symptom.

      I would like to see good people of all political stripes agree to certain reforms: the elimination of the Electoral College, amending Article 3 to limit SCOTUS appointees to 18 years, and figuring out some way to elect our bicameral legislature with a more proportional voting system in order to neuter our two corrupt political parties.

  6. Steven Frisch says:

    Consider this argument I made to family member last week: the current objection to the Kavanaugh nomination is largely (but not solely) driven by the fear of the judicial overturning of Roe v. Wade. The only reason a member of the SCOTUS has the power to substantively influence Roe v. Wade, and the thus the power of the President to influence the decision is elevated, is because the legislative branch, Congress, has not clearly defined woman’s rights, forcing Roe v Wade to be decided on an arcane interpretation of the 14th amendment implied right to privacy. Congress could end the debate almost immediately by simply advancing a clear definition of rights, whether legislatively or through amendment.

    If Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed, and if Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned as cases advance, I can almost guarantee that the power of women, once given a right and having it revoked, will be awesome, and will force the very process I described above. If it comes to that it will be even more power than #MeToo because women will not be saying “you harmed me” they will be saying we demand our full, complete, equal and enumerated rights. We need a new Equal Rights Amendment.

  7. Chris Peterson says:

    And I reciprocate to the affirmative, Steven.
    A couple of points along the way, though; Kavanaugh was instrumental in most of W’s executive signings where he basically refused to go along with legislative controls, ie. the treatment of detainees, (torture), and the wholesale eavesdropping on the entire planet via the NSA. (See notes below on the GOP/Kavanaugh paper dump.)
    I agree that we must curtail the growing influence of our Presidents and my suggestion would be to start with the circus surrounding the two year campaign for the office being held to a cap of 6 months. And certainly reigning in the idiotic flow of money allowed as “free speech”, both dark and legitimately sourced.
    The slippage of the War Powers Act to the executive branch is definitely covered in Sasse’s rant on the Congress’s willingness to pass on the responsibility, and therefore not be judged on its outcome. It’s the same reason they had an outside source question Dr. Ford; they didn’t want the blowback of looking like out-of-touch, grey-haired, old fat guys. (Sasse was spot on that reelection is their #1 priority.) And they were perfectly happy with that role until they noticed halfway through Kavanaugh’s weird defense that he was taking too many hits with no one hitting back. That’s when the highest ranking closet-gay in government broke rank and struck out at the Dems, which successfully brought the debate back to a full-on partisan focus and no longer on either person being deposed.
    Not many of us, (and I include all political groups), were fooled that more of Kavanaugh’s records than any previous candidates had been released. It’s an old lawyers trick to inundate your opponent with meaningless paperwork while withholding those facts that are damaging and necessary to reach a knowledgeable conclusion.
    I don’t think, even if Kavanaugh is confirmed, that this is over. Further investigations, both public and private, will continue to be made and if it is ever found concretely provable that he lied to Congress on any matter of importance, he can still be impeached. The Constitution makes provisions for that.
    And you know as well as I do that diminishing the powers of the President will only be agreed to by the party not in control. Neither party would have anything to do with that proposition if it’s their guy in their White House.

  8. RL CRABB says:

    I’ve been sitting on the fence while the Kavanaugh circus plays out. I don’t believe in condemning a man on the basis of a 36 year old claim that could not be proven.
    But after watching Brett’s performance last week, I believe he was capable of abusive behavior.
    First was his response to Senator Kobachar’s question about blacking out while inebriated. His anger, and throwing the question back in her face, tells me there’s something in his past he doesn’t want to confront.
    And now the letters from former classmates that pretty much confirm that Brett was a sloppy drunk.
    There aren’t many of us guys who grew up in the latter half of the 20th century that didn’t make a damn fool out of himself at one party or another. It was a rite of passage back then.
    But it’s the lie that is catching up to Kavanaugh. If he had just admitted that it was possible he could have done the deed and apologized, he might have convinced me that he was worthy of the office he seeks. America is famous for second acts.
    If he enters the court under this cloud, it will haunt every decision his vote decides.

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