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The 'Deep Roots' Of Justice Alito's Illegitimate Opinion

Not so long ago, the Supreme Court possessed sufficient stature that nobody — least of all its own justices — felt obliged to reassure the public of its legitimacy. Neither Chief Justice John Roberts nor his colleagues had to promise that the court reaches its decisions based on law, not partisanship or ideology. Today they regularly utter such cheerful bromides — and the more they talk, the less anyone believes them.

The highest court's credibility has trended downward for the past two decades, ever since a Republican majority handed the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush, with consequences that most Americans agree were disastrous. That steep slide will seem gentle if and when, as now appears inevitable, the conservative majority's draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade becomes law.

Stunningly ill-advised and contrary to constitutional order, that decision will starkly highlight the crisis of the court — and demonstrate once more how Republicans have gnawed like termites at the lawful foundation of democracy.

The decision's illegitimate foundations lie in the very construction of the court majority that will make it possible. Justice Samuel Alito, who auditioned for his appointment as a relentless foe of abortion, is only on the court thanks to the partisan outcome of Bush v. Gore — which awarded the presidency to a man who had decidedly lost the popular vote and probably lost the Electoral College as well. The three Trump justices — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — likewise gained their appointments via an election that saw the popular-vote loser elevated to power.

Far worse, the conservative majority exists only because Senate Republicans denied an appointment to Barack Obama on spurious grounds that they abandoned at the end of Trump's presidency. By that measure, neither Gorsuch nor Barrett belongs in their seats. When Mitch McConnell whipped those swindles through the Senate, he irrevocably stained the justices who benefited from them. (The McConnell rule is simple: When a Supreme Court vacancy arises, it's always too late for a Democratic president to appoint, but never too late for a Republican.)

Next came the deception perpetrated by the Trump justices during their confirmations, when asked about how they would handle this vital issue. At least two of them clearly stated in public hearings — and privately told senators who supported them — that Roe was settled law, validated many times over the past five decades. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins both now profess astonishment that these men misled them during the confirmation process.

The same lie was reiterated in conservative media. In July 2018, The Wall Street Journal, that repository of reactionary falsehood, published an editorial mocking the "abortion scare campaign" that accompanied the appointment of Republican justices. According to the Journal editorial board, nobody needed ever to fear for Roe: "The reason is the power of stare decisis, or precedent, and how conservatives view the role of the Court in supporting the credibility of the law." (Be warned: That editorial board now breezily insists that vacating Roe won't endanger same-sex marriage, contraception or any of the other "unenumerated" privacy rights whose demise Alito strongly hinted in his opinion.)

Yet there is another stigma of illegitimacy on this act that overshadows all the rest: the almost mindless misogyny that is, to use a favorite Alito phrase, so "deeply rooted" in the court's ongoing repeal of abortion rights. The draft opinion exposed Alito's profound sexist contempt in a way that would be comical if not for the fact that it has cost so many women's lives and will continue to destroy them.

To justify his assertion that abortion is an affront to Western legal traditions, Alito went deep indeed. He cited the views of a 17th-century British jurist named Edward Coke, who declared abortion to be a heinous crime. As Lawrence O'Donnell noted on MSNBC, that same Coke believed some women (and a few men) were witches and should be torturously put to death for assisting the devil. As an additional legal authority, Alito also cited several times Sir Matthew Hale, another 17th-century British judge who oversaw the execution of alleged witches — and came up with the stunning theory that a man by definition could not rape his wife, regardless of her consent.

It seems possible that one of Alito's clerks pranked him with these choices, but he circulated the draft that included the embarrassing citations, so it's on him. Evidently such barbaric jurisprudence is what the likes of Alito mean when they blather on about "original intent."

More than two-thirds of Americans believe that Roe should be preserved to protect the health and security of women and their families. When it is cast aside, the political consequences for those responsible should be severe — because the damage done to one of our most important institutions will be so grave.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Republicans Push Racist Lies About Biden’s Supreme Court Promise

Senate Republicans are attacking President Joe Biden over his plan to name a Black woman as his nominee to the Supreme Court, framing Biden's vow to do so as "racial discrimination" and charging that whoever he picks will be "quota" beneficiary.

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden promised that if elected he would nominate the first Black female justice in the Supreme Court's 233-year history. When Justice Stephen Breyer announced his impending retirement on Jan. 27, Biden reaffirmed that he would keep that promise.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) complained a day later that any Black woman Biden picks will have an inherent conflict of interest on the job.

"The irony is that the Supreme Court is at the very same time hearing cases about this sort of affirmative racial discrimination while adding someone who is the beneficiary of this sort of quota," he told a Mississippi radio network. The court announced Monday that it will hear a case about whether college admissions decisions can take race into account.

On an episode of his weekly podcast titled "Only Black Women Need Apply," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) suggested on January 30 that Biden's move was the real racial discrimination.

"The fact that he's willing to make a promise at the outset that it must be a Black woman, I gotta say that's offensive. Black women are, what, six percent of the U.S. population? He's saying to 94 percent of Americans, 'I don't give a damn about you,'" Cruz charged.

"It's actually an insult to Black women," he added. "If he came and said 'I'm gonna put the best jurist on the court,' and he looked at a number of people and he ended up nominating a Black woman, he could credibly said 'Okay, I'm nominating the person who's most qualified.' He's not even pretending to say that."

In recent days, other Senate Republicans have also attacked Biden over his pledge.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley used racist dog-whistle language on Wednesday, warning Biden not to "continue to tear apart this country w/ a woke activist," a term he frequently uses to belittle people who oppose systemic racism.

On January 27 Hawley told CNN, "I think it sends the wrong signal to say that, 'Well if a person is of a certain ethnic background, that we don't care what their record is, we don't care what their substantive beliefs are.' That would be extraordinary."

The same day, Texas Sen. John Cornyn retweeted a message posted by a former nominations counsel to the Judiciary Committee under then-Chair Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) charging that Biden and Senate Democrats "only pretend to care about diversity," based on the fact that they opposed the nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals of right-wing California jurist Janice Rogers Brown, a Black woman, 17 years ago.

On Sunday, Maine Sen. Susan Collins told ABC News that Biden's campaign promise had "helped politicize the entire nomination process."

But there is precedent for the approach. In 1980, candidate Ronald Reagan promised to appoint the first female justice to "one of the first Supreme Court vacancies in my administration." A year later, President Reagan kept that promise with the nomination of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

In 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump released two lists of far-right people he'd consider for Supreme Court vacancies; all were white men. He also vowed that any nominees he picked would vote to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion rights ruling. Collins made no charges of politicization when she voted to confirm one of them, Neil Gorsuch, in 2017.

In 2020, Trump announced that he would pick a woman to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, though he did not yet know who. Republicans did not accuse him of politicizing the process.

Biden has not yet announced his pick. Breyer has said he plans to retire after the current term ends this summer, assuming his successor is confirmed by then.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

REPORT: A Flood Of Dark Money Fueled Amy Coney Barrett's Confirmation

Although Democrats have won the popular vote in seven of the United States’ last eight presidential elections, six of the U.S. Supreme Court’s nine justices are Republican appointees — including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whose confirmation was rammed through the U.S. Senate only a month before then-President Donald Trump was voted out of office. The far right wanted Barrett confirmed ASAP, and according to Daily Poster reporters Andrew Perez and Julia Rock, “conservative dark money” played a major role in Barrett’s “confirmation campaign.”

Perez and Rock, in an article published on December 19, report, “A conservative dark money group led by former President Donald Trump’s judicial adviser Leonard Leo bankrolled Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation campaign with nearly $22 million in anonymous cash, while another nonprofit that Leo helps steer saw a fundraising bonanza and showered cash on other organizations boosting Barrett, according to tax returns obtained by The Daily Poster. The new tax returns shed light on how Barrett’s successful last-minute confirmation campaign was aided by a flood of dark money.”

Those tax returns, the reporters add, “also reveal the rapid growth of Leo’s already highly successful dark money network and its tentacles in the broader conservative movement.”

“Leo is a longtime executive at the Federalist Society, a group for conservative lawyers,” Perez and Rock explain. “He formed the Rule of Law Trust (RLT) in 2018, and the group quickly raised nearly $80 million. RLT started spending that money in 2020, donating $21.5 million to the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), another group steered by Leo that played a key role in Republicans flipping the Supreme Court and building a conservative supermajority.”

Perez and Rock add that JCN “spent millions pressing Republican senators to block (President Barack) Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court pick, Merrick Garland, and subsequently spent millions boosting each of Trump’s High Court nominees — Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett — all while Leo was advising Trump’s judicial strategy.”

The fact that JCN opposed Garland’s nomination so vehemently speaks volumes. After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in 2016, Obama went very centrist with his Garland nomination; he didn’t nominate someone as liberal as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Chief Justice Earl Warren. And Obama was more than willing to meet Republicans halfway.

In fact, Garland, as U.S. attorney general under President Joe Biden, has cited Edward Levi — Republican President Gerald R. Ford’s attorney general during the mid-1970s — as his role model for how the U.S. Department of Justice should operate. Ford, of course, was vice president under President Richard Nixon before Nixon resigned, in August 1974, because of the Watergate scandal. And the JCN is so far to the right that they consider even the legal and judicial standards of the Ford Administration too liberal.

“Leo also helps direct the 85 Fund, a charitable organization being used to fiscally sponsor a host of conservative nonprofits, including the Judicial Education Project, which has long been JCN’s sister arm,” Perez and Rock note. “The 85 Fund reported bringing in nearly $66 million in 2020, according to its latest tax return. That’s a huge increase over the roughly $13 million the organization raised in 2019, per OpenSecrets, which found the majority of the 85 Fund’s 2020 money came from DonorsTrust, a group known as a ‘dark money ATM,’ for its use as a pass-through vehicle.”

Article reprinted with permission from Alternet

Video Clips Show Trump Knew He Had COVID-19 Before First 2020 Debate

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes went after former President Donald Trump after it recently came to light that the twice-impeached, one-term president appeared at rallies, meetings with Gold Star families, a party for a Supreme Court nominee, and even the first debate with then-candidate Joe Biden—all while knowing full well he had tested positive for COVID-19.

The timeline as laid out by Hayes shows dereliction of duty even more repugnant than usual for Trump.

According to a memoir by Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, titled, The Chief’s Chief, before Trump tested negative for COVID-19 on September 26, 2020, he tested positive—nearly a week before he publicly disclosed his condition.

But instead of quarantining out of an abundance of caution, the White House chose to dismiss Trump’s positive result and allow the president to attend an event honoring his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett—with her children in tow—along with several other GOP members—all without masks, indoors and zero social distancing. This event was later acknowledged as a super-spreader event.

Later that day, Trump again tested positive for COVID-19. Still, instead of letting the folks present at the Barrett event know of his results, the president flew to Middletown, Pennsylvania, for a rally—even walking on to Air Force One maskless and speaking to reporters, one of whom later got COVID-19.

The following day, September 27, Trump held meetings with Gold Star family members in the White House.

The next day, Trump held a press conference outdoors on the subject of COVID-19 testing. He asked Admiral Giroir to talk about COVID testing during the event, where he joked, “Good luck. Hope you don’t test positive.”

Several staffers in the White House would test positive for the virus.

On September 29, knowing that he had COVID-19, Trump flew to Ohio for his first debate against a then 77-year-old Biden.

According to MSNBC, Mark Meadows writes that even though he was fully aware that each candidate was required “to test negative for the virus within seventy-two hours of the start time ... Nothing was going to stop [Trump] from going out there.”

Meadows writes that Trump had been looking “physically unwell,” and was not tested before the debate.

“His face, for the most part at least, had regained its usual light bronze hue, and the gravel in his voice was gone. But the dark circles under his eyes had deepened. As we walked into the venue around five o’clock in the evening, I could tell that he was moving more slowly than usual. He walked like he was carrying a little extra weight on his back,” Meadows writes.

Chris Wallace of Fox News, later said Trump hadn’t tested before the debate because he arrived late.

In the days that followed, Trump attended multiple rallies, without masks or social distancing.

Trump’s aide Hope Hicks was the first person in his inner circle to test positive for COVID-19. Trump then got a second positive test, but told Fox News’ Hannity that he’d recently gotten a test, but implied he didn’t know the results, saying, “we’ll see what happens.“ He then said that, if he’d gotten COVID, it would have been contracted from “soldiers and police” desperate to shake his hand.

“They want to hug me and they want to kiss me. And they do. And frankly, I’m not telling them to back up,” Trump told Hannity.

Trump finally publicly announced his COVID diagnosis on Oct. 2, allegedly just one hour after getting the test results. He was checked into Walter Reed later that day.

“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19,” Trump tweeted, adding that they would begin to quarantine immediately.

But even in the hours before announcing his diagnosis, Trump was diminishing the virus and the pandemic.

”I just want to say that the end of the pandemic is in sight,” he said in prerecorded remarks.

In a statement on Wednesday, Trump called Meadows’ claims “Fake News.”

The full video is below:

Danziger Draws

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, a novel and a memoir.

Sotomayor Laments 'Stench' Created By Right-Wing Partisans On High Court

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and examining the constitutionality of Mississippi’s highly restrictive abortion law. Abortion rights defenders fear that the case will result in Roe v. Wade being overturned. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, speaking on Wednesday, was highly critical of the Mississippi law’s supporters — expressing concerns that the Supreme Court will be viewed as overly politicized.

Justices appointed by Republican presidents now have a 6-3 majority on the High Court, and Sotomayor is among the three justices appointed by Democratic presidents. The Court moved even more to the right in 2020 when liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and was replaced by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a Donald Trump appointee. The two other right-wing justices Trump appointed during his presidency are Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Sotomayor, appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, pointed to the fact that the new case is driven by political expediency and as the culmination of a carefully crafted agenda, rather than being the result of a particularly pertinent legal question or a new set of circumstances.

“Now, the sponsors of this bill, the House bill, in Mississippi said: We’re doing it because we have new justices," she explained. "The newest ban that Mississippi has put in place, the six-week ban, the Senate sponsor said: 'We’re doing it because we have new justices on the Supreme Court.' Will this institution survive the stench that this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts? I don’t see how it is possible.”

GOP Supreme Court Justices Defrock Themselves

Reprinted with permission from Creators

Ralph Waldo Emerson told about a dinner guest in his home who spent the entire evening prattling on about his belief in virtue, honesty and his own integrity: "The louder he talked of his honor," Emerson wrote, "the faster we counted our spoons."

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Refusing To Back Abortion Rights Bill, Collins Shows True Colors At Last

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) is under mounting criticism for refusing to support a Democratic bill that would make access to abortion the law of the land, as the U.S. Supreme Court, experts believe, prepares to reverse its historic 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Senator Collins, who repeatedly claims to be pro-choice, is being criticized after years of supporting then-President Donald Trump's judicial nominees at every level of the federal judiciary, including two of his three Supreme Court picks.

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