Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.com.
What once may have sounded like a distant and wonkish abstraction — namely, the nature of future nominees to the United States Supreme Court — is now upon us as a rapidly worsening catastrophe.
Within the past few days, owing to the seat stolen by Senate Republicans for Neil Gorsuch in 2017, the high court has upheld Donald Trump’s discriminatory travel ban, enabled the deception of desperate women by anti-choice “counseling clinics,” and inflicted a stunning blow from which the American labor movement may never recover.
And yesterday Justice Anthony Kennedy sent a letter to the White House announcing his plan to retire from the court on July 31, which will deliver another seat to a Trump appointee. What that might portend for civil liberties, human rights, consumer protection, industrial regulation, and decent government is difficult to contemplate. But suddenly the most outlandish dreams of the far right are much closer to being realized.
Despite his reputation as a “moderate,” Kennedy was in truth a very bad, mostly right-wing judge and a dim intellect, as his notoriously senseless Citizens United opinion proved. His record on the court was so bad, observes the astute judicial analyst Ian Millhiser, that even a Trump justice may not do much worse. Those who believed that Kennedy wouldn’t surrender his seat to this dangerous executive overestimated his character.
The endless reign of injustice that stretches before us is hardly what most Americans want or deserve, at least as measured by the 2016 election results. If that presidential election was “a referendum on the future of the court and thus the country,” as Trumpist pundit Hugh Hewitt crowed in The Washington Post, the Republicans lost by more than three million votes. And yet they won control of the high court and much of the judiciary for perhaps a generation to come.
As you imagine a nation without reproductive rights, voting protections, or environmental laws, are you looking for somebody to thank? It isn’t hard to compose a list of those responsible for the present disaster, from the ruin of the Supreme Court to the torment of children on our borders and a thousand other disasters large and small. Such a list could include Hillary Clinton herself and her clueless campaign staff. But at least the Democratic nominee tried to warn us about the consequences of electing Trump, including his potential perversion of the courts.
Even more culpable than Clinton, perhaps, is anyone who told voters that she didn’t deserve their support; anyone who complained that she was the same as Donald Trump or even worse; anyone who bloviated that Democrats are no different from Republicans; anyone who urged a ballot for Jill Stein as a way to advance progressive politics and achieve moral hygiene; and anyone who said that electing Trump might even “bring on the revolution.” Trump’s tiny, almost accidental margin in the Electoral College can be directly attributed to voters who acted out their “protest.”
It is now clear that we will endure the consequences of their stupidity for a long time, as will our children. We all ought to have known better after the 2000 election, when a few handfuls of ‘protest’ ballots (and a crooked Supreme Court majority) smoothed the disastrous Electoral College victory of George W. Bush. Will we learn the lesson this time?
Jeff Danziger’s award-winning drawings are published by more than 600 newspapers and websites. He has been a cartoonist for the Rutland Herald, the New York Daily News and the Christian Science Monitor; his work has appeared in newspapers from the Wall Street Journal to Le Monde and Izvestia. Represented by the Washington Post Writers Group, he is a recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army as a linguist and intelligence officer in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. Danziger has published ten books of cartoons and a novel about the Vietnam War. He was born in New York City, and now lives in Manhattan and Vermont. A video of the artist at work can be viewed here.
In the loud debate over the alleged Russian intelligence attack on our democratic system, Americans have heard all kinds of specious assertions from Donald Trump, his minions, and others who reject the findings of the US intelligence agencies, for their own reasons. Trump clearly fears that a full investigation of those allegations will permanently discredit his narrow electoral victory, already tainted by Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote majority. It is telling that he described the hacking probes as a partisan “political witch hunt” before the nation’s spy chiefs even presented him with their evidence.
Telling, but not surprising: As usual, Trump is sending up chaff designed to distract from his own dubious conduct and connections.
Who interfered illegally with the 2016 presidential election and why should be a matter of fundamental importance to all Americans, regardless of political affiliation. It doesn’t matter whether the hackers who invaded email accounts associated with the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign decided the election’s result, a claim that can never be proved or disproved. (Trump won Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin by less than one percent of the vote, which could be attributed to almost anything, including voter error.)
It doesn’t matter whether Clinton ran a “good” or a “bad” campaign, it doesn’t matter whether she deserved to win or lose, and it doesn’t matter whether the information released was scandalous or boring, which are all simply opinions that have no weight in this investigation. And it also doesn’t matter whether previous U.S. administrations historically interfered with elections in other countries, as they assuredly did, since that cannot justify attempts to rob ordinary American citizens of their democratic rights.
The only relevant question — as more than a few patriotic Republicans have emphasized — is whether foreign or domestic elements, perhaps affiliated with the Kremlin and perhaps not, intervened illegally in an American election. Politicians, business leaders, labor officials, and all kinds of citizens attempt to influence election outcomes everywhere, as Barack Obama unsuccessfully did when the United Kingdom voted on Brexit. There was nothing illegal or underhanded about his remarks on that referendum.
So let’s dispense with all the argumentative chaff, from whatever direction.
Regardless of which side won last November and who or what might be responsible for that outcome, this administration, the next administration, and Congress would bear no less responsibility for investigating any unlawful activity — foreign, domestic, or any combination of both — designed to skew the 2016 outcome. There can be no doubt that the series of electronic thefts of information from Democrats, released by hackers with the obvious purpose of damaging Clinton, represented major crimes. The serious nature of those offenses is aggravated by their purpose, striking at the heart of the republic.
That is why Trump’s furious tweets on this topic, along with acrid comments by his top aides, are so disturbing. By publicly disparaging the intelligence community’s findings before he has examined the evidence, he appeared to obstruct this essential investigation. And as he considers making changes in the nation’s intelligence agencies and structures, he also seemed to threaten officials and employees who pursue facts that he prefers to leave hidden. That behavior was hardly mitigated by his anodyne and ambiguous comments after a “constructive” meeting with the intelligence chiefs at Trump Tower on Friday.
Both circumstantial evidence and Trump’s own behavior have aroused deep suspicions about his relationship with the Russian regime. He has refused to fully disclose his finances. His foreign policy pronouncements distress American allies and delight the Kremlin. And every time he harms US relationships with friendly nations, with the UN, with NATO — even with China — Vladimir Putin must be gleeful. As Trump isolates the United States, demoralizing our diplomatic and intelligence corps, Russia is emboldened and empowered.
Whatever his motives, it is hard to imagine a worse impediment to the nation’s security than a commander-in-chief who ignores and politicizes intelligence. The last time a president ignored CIA briefings, we suffered the 9/11 attacks. The last time a president (and his associates) politicized data collection, we invaded Iraq, with disastrous consequences that continue to this day.
What this controversy has exposed about Trump is further proof, were any needed, that he lacks presidential temperament. But we already pay far too much attention to his ranting. Every Senator must disregard Trump’s tantrums and resolve to uphold the oath that he can be expected to violate. The only way to defend the Constitution now is to complete a full, fair, competent, and unsparing investigation of the criminal conspiracy against the 2016 election, wherever that may lead.
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The National Memo is a political newsletter and website that combines the spirit of investigative journalism with new technology and ideas. We cover campaigns, elections, the White House, Congress, and the world with a fresh outlook. Our own journalism — as well as our selections of the smartest stories available every day — reflects a clear and strong perspective, without the kind of propaganda, ultra-partisanship and overwrought ideology that burden so much of our political discourse.