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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Will Americans Heed Biden's Plea To Defend Democracy?

Decades from now, Joe Biden's errors may not be forgotten, whether they relate to Afghanistan, the border or inflation. But whatever Biden has gotten wrong, posterity will remember that he was right about one critical matter: the dangers to democracy that arose in our time.

His prime-time address Thursday was a milestone of a regrettable sort: an American president feeling compelled to warn of a mortal threat to our form of government — not from foreign enemies but from Americans. Biden was elected partly because of public recognition that Donald Trump was at war with the foundational ideals of this country.

But that war continued beyond the election, till Jan. 6 and after. Trump came excruciatingly close to success. Yet the GOP remains loyal to him.

Biden highlighted what's at stake. "MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution," he said. "They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people. They refuse to accept the results of a free election, and they're working right now, as I speak, in state after state to give power to decide elections in America to partisans and cronies, empowering election deniers to undermine democracy itself."

Democracy differs from authoritarianism in that it rests on truth, compromise, pluralism and a respect for the rights of others. Biden will go down in history as the president who played a major role in preserving the institutions and ideals that Trump did his best to undermine.

But maybe I'm being too optimistic. It may be that a generation or two from now, Americans will no longer be living in a constitutional republic based on fundamental rights, the rule of law and the consent of the governed. In that case, the dominant narrative may be that Biden was naive, weak and foolishly wedded to outmoded principles. He may be on the wrong side of history.

Mikhail Gorbachev could empathize. The former Soviet leader once represented the immense possibilities of human progress. More than anyone else, he was responsible for the eclipse of communism, the demise of the Soviet empire and the peaceful conclusion of the Cold War.

He didn't initiate the surge of political freedom that swept the globe three decades ago. Autocratic governments had previously given way to democracy in Spain, Greece, South Korea, and the Philippines, among others. But no transition was more consequential than the one in Moscow.

Today, it's hard to conceptualize how earthshaking it was. Americans of the Cold War era assumed that communism was as permanent as the moon.

In his 2009 book The Rise and Fall of Communism, Oxford University historian Archie Brown noted: "There are those who, in hindsight, think that transformative change was bound to occur in the Soviet Union in the second half of the 1980s. Yet it would be hard to find anyone who at the time predicted change remotely comparable to that which took place."

What was once regarded as impossible came to appear inevitable: the spread of democracy to every corner of the world. Between 1992 and 2006, according to the human rights organization Freedom House, the share of humanity living in free societies grew from 25% to 46%.

Autocracy went into the dustbin of history not only in Eastern Europe but also in much of Latin America and Africa. Even China seemed to be moving toward irreversible liberalization. The words of the English poet William Wordsworth fit the moment: "Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive."

But the tide of change eventually subsided, as tides tend to do. Over the past decade and a half, the forces of autocracy have gained ground. Vladimir Putin has strangled Russia's fledgling democracy. The Chinese Communist Party has grown more repressive. Populist strongmen have come to power in places from Brazil to Hungary — oh, and from 2017 to 2021, in the United States.

In its 2022 world survey, Freedom House reported that global freedom has declined for 16 consecutive years. "The global order is nearing a tipping point," it warned, "and if democracy's defenders do not work together to help guarantee freedom for all people, the authoritarian model will prevail." Biden's address was a call to avert that outcome.

It was once assumed that the story of America was one of steady progress in steadily improving our grand experiment in rule by the people. But nothing in this world is guaranteed to last forever — not even the world's oldest democracy. If it is going to survive, Americans will have to save it — or else be remembered for our failure.

An announcement: Forty-one years ago, I began writing a regular column for the Chicago Tribune, which has been distributed by Creators Syndicate. Today, I'm retiring as a columnist. Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way, and thanks most of all to my readers.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

The Border Crisis Proves America Is Still A Beacon

Five million Ukrainians have fled their homeland since Russia invaded, seeking refuge not only in neighboring countries such as Poland and Germany but also in Britain, Canada and the United States. And who can blame them? The Biden administration has admitted more than 100,000 refugees from Ukraine without provoking a whisper of protest in this country.

It's hard for any of us to fault innocent people who are trying to escape the horrors and hardships of war or the brutal consequences of Russian occupation. They and their children have only one life to live, and they are not eager to put that life at undue risk or endure it in misery.

But Americans have a different attitude toward a group that is not so different: the migrants from Mexico, Central America and South America who have made arduous, dangerous journeys to our southern border in hopes of finding a place here.

A majority of Americans regard the stream of new arrivals as an "invasion" — a word normally reserved for military campaigns. Instead of equating these migrants with Ukrainian refugees, they somehow equate them with the Russian army.


But there is no evidence that those showing up at the border asking for asylum harbor hostile intent. Just the opposite: They come here because they think the U.S. offers a better life than what they had back home. They don't want to harm us. They want to join us.

Small wonder. The three countries of Central America's "Northern Triangle" have some of the highest murder rates in the world. They are among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere. Plagued with corrupt governments, their citizens have no reason to expect their lives to improve.

So they look elsewhere, and they settle on the U.S. That is the highest of compliments, something we used to understand. During the Cold War, we offered sanctuary to those fleeing Communist oppression in Eastern Europe. We took in hundreds of thousands of Jews who suffered discrimination in the Soviet Union.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson proclaimed "to the people of Cuba that those who seek refuge here in America will find it." After the Vietnam War, the U.S. welcomed more than a million people from Southeast Asia.

In his final address as president, Ronald Reagan paid tribute to this tradition. America, he declared, is "still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home."

Back home, these migrants face terrifying violence and intractable poverty. They want something better. Many have walked hundreds of miles or climbed atop freight trains, risking rape and robbery at the hands of criminal gangs, for the mere chance of gaining entry to the U.S.

They're not the only foreigners who, given the choice, choose America. Since the Chinese government liberalized its emigration policies in the 1980s, the number of Chinese living here has risen nearly sevenfold. The Indian immigrant population has grown even faster.

Our universities have more than a million foreign students. According to the Consumer Technology Association, which represents tech firms, 45% of Fortune 500 corporations, including Apple and Amazon, were founded by immigrants and children of immigrants.

The next Steve Jobs may not be waiting in Mexico right now for an asylum hearing. But Latin American immigrants bring their own talents, as well as the drive to make the most of them. They come here without valid visas only because our miserly immigration rules leave them no plausible alternative.

Xenophobes depict a marauding horde. But as Alex Nowrasteh of the libertarian Cato Institute reports, "Illegal immigrants are half as likely to be convicted or incarcerated as native-born Americans are." Overwhelmingly, they want to work for an honest living that exceeds anything they could dream of in their native countries.

It would be an alarming symptom if all these people were avoiding the U.S. in favor of Brazil or Venezuela. Their preference attests to the enduring appeal of the freedom, opportunity and prosperity that this country offers.

Wang Jisi, a professor of international studies at Peking University, scoffs at his government's insistence that America's best days are behind us. "When people stop queuing up for visas in front of the U.S. Consulates," he told The New York Times, "then the U.S. is in decline." For a lot of people around the world, America is still the promised land. And that's not a bad thing.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Is This The Moment For A Third Political Party?

A group of former Democrats, former Republicans and former independents has come together to launch a third party. Called Forward, it is meant to appeal to all the Americans who are so over both major parties.

If there was ever a time when a third party could gain a following, you might think this would be it. Both of the most likely presidential nominees in 2024, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, have low approval ratings. The bitter polarization of politics, which grates on most Americans, is a product of our two-party system, which gives outsized power to ideological zealots who turn out to vote in primaries.

Forward won't dazzle with star power. Its biggest names are Andrew Yang, who ran for president in the Democratic primaries in 2020, and Christine Todd Whitman, who was head of the Environmental Protection Agency under George W. Bush.

Who the party might run for president is up in the air, but one possibility is someone who finds herself without a party: Liz Cheney. Despite losing her House reelection primary, she's not planning to go away. "I will do whatever it takes to make sure Donald Trump is never again anywhere near the Oval Office," she said in her concession speech.


The veteran progressive Texas politician and pundit Jim Hightower snarked that the only thing in the middle of the road is yellow stripes and dead armadillos. In fact, it's where all the traffic goes.

In 2020, according to the American National Election Study, 59 percent of voters identified themselves as either moderate, slightly conservative or slightly liberal — centrists, in short. But this majority somehow manages to be a minority in either major party. That helps to explain why 62 percent of Americans agree on the need for another vehicle.

If these voters were to unite to challenge the status quo, they could be a mighty force. But the chances of that happening are slim.

We have some recent experience with third parties that actually have made a difference in presidential elections. They suggest the middle is not the most fertile ground for insurgencies.

George Wallace carried five Southern states in 1968 by exploiting racial and cultural resentments. Ross Perot, who captured 19% of the popular vote in 1992, sounded much like Trump in his appeals to nativism, sneering at elites and vilification of free trade.

John Anderson, a liberal Republican in the days before that species went extinct, took the left lane in 1980, getting seven percent of the vote against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Ralph Nader, nominated in 2000 by the Green Party, ran as the progressive alternative and may have taken enough votes from Democrat Al Gore to elect George W. Bush.

"Third parties require a burning cause or a charismatic leader," presidential historian Richard Norton Smith told me. "It's tough to motivate potential majorities to swamp the polls in the name of moderation, good government or civility."

Cheney may not quite fill the bill of a charismatic leader. And if she hopes to block Trump, the GOP primaries are the best avenue. Even with no chance of winning a dogfight, she could put enough holes in his fuselage to bring him down in the general election — as Patrick Buchanan did to George H.W. Bush in the 1992 GOP race.

If Cheney were to run as a third-party candidate, she would pose a bigger threat to Biden or his successor than to Trump. A recent New York Times/Siena College poll found that 16 percent of Republicans say they wouldn't vote for Trump in 2024.

In a two-candidate race, many if not most of them would grit their teeth and cast a ballot for Biden. Offered another option, though, they might go overwhelmingly for Cheney — and some independents and moderate Democrats could join them. Trump would have a good chance to win with an even smaller slice of the popular vote than he got in his previous campaigns.

Given the GOP's capture by people who worship Trump, excuse insurrection, reject the rule of law and accept election results only when they win, a third party is a dangerous proposition. The critical task is to defeat Trump and his confederates.

In a campaign speech Wednesday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker called on "the coalition of the sane" to unite against Trumpian extremism. In the 2024 election, that coalition will have only one option, and it's not a third party.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Taking The Fifth Reflects Trump's Instinctive Fear Of Truth

Donald Trump has invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in a civil case, and if he ever stands trial on criminal charges, neither a judge or a jury may take that as evidence of guilt. But in the court of common sense, we are entitled to reach the obvious conclusion: Trump has committed crimes and wants to keep them secret.

The Fifth Amendment privilege, after all, is not to refuse to exonerate oneself. It's to refuse to incriminate oneself. Answering questions truthfully, as a rule, is incriminating only to someone who has done something wrong.

In our daily lives, everyone understands this. If you ask a coworker if he took your sandwich and he declines to reply, you have identified the thief. If you ask your child if she cut class and she says it's none of your business, you can guess the answer. Innocent people with solid alibis are usually eager to speak up on their own behalf.

But Trump is a master of stonewalling. When he faces suspicions of wrongdoing, the man who never tires of talking about himself falls into surly silence. So when investigators for the New York attorney general asked him questions related to whether he engaged in financial deception, he took the Fifth some 440 times.


The privilege against self-incrimination serves as a shield against police coercion. It requires the government to shoulder the full burden of proof before it can send someone to prison. It's an important safeguard in our criminal justice system

But there is no denying that Trump's use of it suggests a consciousness of guilt. He had refused to appear when subpoenaed by the attorney general, and he complied only when a state court ordered him to do so.

Concealing the truth is as natural to Trump as cheating at golf. He has declined to release his tax returns, as every other presidential nominee has done for decades. He refused to be interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller during the investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 election. He made a practice of tearing up documents that he was legally obligated to preserve.

He denounced the FBI's search of his Mar-a-Lago estate as part of a partisan "witch hunt." But he chose not to make public the search warrant, which had to specify what material the FBI was looking for and the crimes it suspected. Attorney General Merrick Garland finally asked a judge to release it and a list of the evidence collected. Trump, his bluff called, decided not to object.

Trump claims the congressional committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot is determined to "damage me in any form." But he has tried to block every attempt to learn what he and his aides did during, before, and after the bloody siege.

The White House phone log from that day contains a gap of more than seven hours, even though he is known to have made calls during that period. Clearly, he was actively trying to avoid leaving a trail of his communications.

He ordered some of his chief advisers not to comply with the committee's subpoenas to give testimony. One of them, Stephen Bannon, was convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to appear and could go to prison for two years.

Trump has not hesitated to justify his conduct around the Jan. 6 insurrection and in condemning his critics. He accuses the January 6 committee of presenting a shamefully one-sided case, with no witnesses to defend him. But why does he need witnesses to defend him? Nothing is stopping him from appearing before the committee to give his version of events. Trump, however, is unwilling to take that stage.

The reason, it's fair to assume, is the same as the reason that he took refuge behind the Fifth Amendment when grilled by the attorney general of New York. A guilty person, speaking under oath, has three options: 1) lie and risk being prosecuted for perjury; 2) tell the truth and risk being prosecuted for breaking the law,; and 3) zip his mouth.

The third option has its downside, such as reasonable people concluding that you're a criminal. But better for Trump to be thought a criminal by the general public than to be convicted in court and locked up for his crimes.

Trump can blather nonstop against the FBI, the Justice Department, state law enforcement officials, and the January 6 committee. But it's his silences that tell the real story.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Backlash On Abortion Rights Hits Republicans Hard

For decades, abortion was the perfect issue for Republicans: one that they could use to energize "pro-life" voters, and one that would be around forever. What's more, they ran little risk of alienating "pro-choice" voters, who had little concern that the GOP would ever be able to repeal abortion rights.

Key to this strategy was the assumption that the Supreme Court would preserve Roe v. Wade. GOP candidates and legislators could champion the anti-abortion cause secure in the knowledge that they would not have to follow through in any major way. They could nibble away at abortion rights with waiting periods and clinic regulations, but the fundamental right endured. And their efforts were rewarded with the steadfast support of a bloc of single-issue voters.

But the court dynamited the political landscape when it decided that the reproductive freedom women had enjoyed for half a century was a constitutional abomination. Roe was cast into the depths, and Americans woke up to a flurry of state laws greatly restricting or banning abortion.

How that sits with voters came into focus last Tuesday in Kansas, where the state constitution guarantees the right to terminate a pregnancy. Abortion-rights opponents put an amendment on the ballot to revoke it, but the effort went down by a crushing margin of 59 percent to 41 percent.


This was a state that Donald Trump won by a landslide twice. Even red-state citizens are recoiling from the new reality. The abortion initiative galvanized a surge in voter registrations and a massive turnout — nearly double the 2018 primary number.

Maybe the outcome should not have come as a surprise. "The vote in Kansas and four other states that had similar ballot measures before Roe was overturned is very much in line with all the national polls from the past several decades that showed roughly 60 percent didn't want to overturn Roe," Karlyn Bowman, a polling expert at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, told me.

The anti-abortion cause has other problems. The first is that however much Americans gripe about the status quo, they often take a dim view of change. The prime example is the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. When it was moving toward passage in 2010, a CNN poll found, 59 percent of Americans opposed it. In 2014, Republicans captured the House and Senate while promising to repeal and replace it. And in 2016, they won the presidency.

But a funny thing happened on their way to scrapping Obamacare: Public opinion went the other way. By the summer of 2017, a CBS News survey found that 59 percent of Americans opposed the "repeal and replace" bill. The legislation failed because three GOP senators voted with Democrats. Even in the House, which passed it, 20 Republicans voted no.

Americans generally don't like the idea of having something taken away from them. With the ACA, they feared losing their existing insurance — which is why Barack Obama repeatedly asserted (falsely), "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it." But once the program was in place, those same people feared the consequences of losing it.

In the case of abortion, many Americans had not really considered the possibility that it might suddenly become illegal. When that became a threat and then a reality, they were moved to fight back. And the people most affected by new abortion restrictions — women — were the ones most motivated.

Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist who teaches at Howard University, notes that after the draft of the Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe leaked, there was a spike in new voter registrations by women — "and a huge jump after the Supreme Court handed it down." Fully 58 percent of the early votes in the Kansas referendum were cast by women, which Bonier says is "unprecedented."

Republicans have done further damage to themselves by doing what politicians often do when they feel emboldened: overreaching. It's one thing to ban abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. It's another to ban them all, without exceptions for rape and incest — and with weak protections to protect the health and life of the mother.

When abortion restrictions pose a danger even to pregnant women who fervently want to give birth, or when they inflict cruel suffering on victims of rape and incest, they are bound to provoke a negative reaction — which could have a major impact on the 2022 and 2024 elections.

On abortion, Republicans have sown the wind. The whirlwind they reap could be something to see.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Laughing At Trump's Bogus CNN Defamation Lawsuit

When Donald Trump sent a letter notifying CNN of his intent to file a defamation lawsuit over its claims that he has lied about the 2020 election, I trust that the network's attorneys reacted appropriately. By that, I mean they laughed so hard that their law school diplomas fell off the walls.

You don't need to have passed the bar exam to know that no one at CNN will lose sleep over his demand that the network "publish a full and fair correction, apology, or retraction" of dozens of statements accusing him of a cynical campaign of deceit. Trump is more likely to win the Olympic decathlon than to prevail in this dispute.

In the first place, he has a history of empty bluster about alleged defamation. During the 2016 campaign, the website FiveThirtyEight reported, he threatened some 20 such lawsuits, most of which never came to pass. When 10 women accused him of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct (a number that later grew), he vowed to seek justice. "All of these liars will be sued after the election is over," Trump promised.

Sure they would. In fact, it was Trump who found himself on the business end of a lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll, who attested that he raped her. She accused him of defamation for claiming that she was lying, and a trial is scheduled for February. In May, the judge overseeing the case faulted Trump for "bad faith" in trying to delay the proceedings, and he may have to provide a DNA sample.


He has good reasons for rarely backing up his words with legal action. As Los Angeles lawyer Lisa Bloom tweeted in 2016, "If Trump sues accusers we then have subpoena power to require not only Trump but all his enablers to appear for depositions. A field day."

He does occasionally follow through, but to little avail. He filed a suit against CNN over an opinion piece arguing that he should be prosecuted for soliciting help from Russia during the 2016 campaign, and a judge consigned it to the circular file. He sued The New York Times over an opinion piece alleging that his campaign had a tacit deal with the Russian government; he lost.

He sued author Timothy O'Brien for writing that Trump, who claimed a net worth of at least $5 billion, was worth $250 million, max. In ruling against Trump, the judge noted his casual regard for facts. When asked in a deposition how he calculates his net worth, Trump replied: "I would say it's my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked. And as I say, it varies."

There is no reason to believe Trump would fare better against CNN. (Full disclosure: My daughter works there but is at no apparent risk of being sued by Trump.) He claims the network has sullied his good name by labeling his accounts of a stolen, rigged election as lies — and even "the Big Lie." But his excuses are enough to make a turtle laugh.

His lawyers insist he can't be lying because he "subjectively believes that the results of the 2020 presidential election turned on fraudulent voting activity in several key states." They note that Webster's dictionary defines "lie" as "an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker to be untrue with intent to deceive."

But Merriam-Webster offers another definition: "an untrue or inaccurate statement that may or may not be believed true by the speaker or writer." There is also a Himalayan-sized mountain of evidence that Trump knows he's peddling falsehoods. His campaign manager, attorney general and White House lawyers, among others, told him the election was not stolen. His campaign's efforts to prove the fraud in court went nowhere.

When he called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger seeking to overturn the outcome in that state, he said, "I just want to find 11,780 votes" — which just happened to be the number needed for him to overtake Joe Biden. He didn't care about voting irregularities. He cared about winning.

Trump's voluminous record of lying about matters he understands well would be a handicap in this lawsuit. The Washington Post documented more than 30,000 "false or misleading claims" during his four years in office.

Would a judge or jury considering his claims about CNN and weighing the evidence buy the idea of Trump as a determined teller of truth? If he believes that, he's lying to himself.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Trump Nearly Won His War On The Constitution

Today we begin with a quiz. What is the most important responsibility of the president of the United States?

a. Protecting our security interests around the world.

b. Promoting a healthy economy.

c. Combating climate change and other environmental problems.

d. Avoiding nuclear war.

e. Fostering racial equity.

The answer is: none of the above. All of these obligations are important, and any president who neglects them deserves criticism. But they are ultimately secondary matters.

The most important obligation of the president is enshrined in the oath of office: to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Aside from the simple duty to "faithfully execute" the office, that is the only responsibility specified in the oath. Nothing else a president does matters so much.


Donald Trump is remembered for the brazen lie he perpetrated on his first day in office, when his press secretary told reporters that his inauguration crowd was the biggest ever. But that wasn't his first lie as president. His first came in his recital of the oath, when he swore to do something he had no intention of doing: that stuff about the Constitution.

Many presidents have taken actions that press the limits of their constitutional authority. Thomas Jefferson secured the Louisiana Purchase even though the Constitution gave him no power to acquire territory. Several have conducted wars without getting a declaration of war from Congress, as the framers intended. But no president has exhibited such contempt for the Constitution as Trump.

As the House committee investigating the January 6 attack has documented in exhaustive detail, he actively encouraged an armed mob to storm the Capitol, stop the certification of Joe Biden's election victory and provide the second term the voters had denied him.

The Constitution provides a mechanism for choosing a president. To Trump, however, it meant nothing because it didn't keep him in power. He had every right to go to court to contest the results in states he lost, but those lawsuits were an all-encompassing failure. Even judges appointed by Trump rejected his claims, because they had no basis in fact.

On July 14, a group of distinguished Republican lawyers and former judges issued a 72-page report that examined each of the Trump campaign's allegations of fraud and reached this conclusion: "There is absolutely no evidence of fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election on the magnitude necessary to shift the result in any state, let alone the nation as a whole. In fact, there was no fraud that changed the outcome in even a single precinct" (my emphasis).

But Trump didn't let facts deter him. He pressured election officials to alter their vote counts. He promoted the acceptance of fake electors who would override their state results. He urged Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue to "say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and Republican congressmen." He demanded that Vice President Mike Pence block the election certification.

When those efforts proved unavailing, he urged the people attending his rally on the Ellipse on Jan. 6 — including some he knew to be armed — to go to the Capitol and "fight like hell." He told them he would join them, and only the firm refusal of the Secret Service kept him away.

One line in his speech that has gotten little attention raised the prospect that Biden would become president. "We're just not going to let that happen," Trump vowed. His followers, some of them chanting, "Hang Mike Pence," did their best to vindicate that claim.

As the committee and its witnesses showed in Thursday's hearing, Trump had plenty of time to put a stop to the assault. But time was not the problem. The problem was that he didn't want it to stop. He wanted it to continue and succeed.

So he watched TV coverage, spurning aides, friends, and family members who pleaded with him to make a public statement telling the Capitol rioters to cease and desist. For 187 minutes, he sat idly as the mob rampaged through the seat of American democracy.

The lives of Pence, his family, Capitol police Secret Service agents, members of Congress and congressional staff were in dire peril. But Trump wouldn't lift a finger to protect them.

That day, he not only declined to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States; he led, approved and facilitated a ferocious attempt to cast it aside. And he showed no remorse afterward.

Other presidencies have been successes or failures. Trump's was something unprecedented: a profound betrayal.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Why Democrats Should Push A Federal Abortion Rights Statute Now

In the wake of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Democrats are caught up in a war they thought they couldn't lose, trying to fend off a wave of state anti-abortion laws. But Joe Biden, despite his reputation for caution and compromise, has bigger ambitions than playing defense.

After the Supreme Court abolished the right to abortion, the president pointed out that there is a way to restore it: through federal legislation. "We have to codify Roe v. Wade into law, and the way to do that is to make sure Congress votes to do that," he said in June. That would override state abortion bans. If passing it requires making an exception to the filibuster — which requires 60 votes for almost any bill — Biden said he's ready to do it.

This is a pivotal change of heart, and one Democrats should build on. They have public sentiment on their side. A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 56 percent of Americans opposed the court's decision. A Pew Research Center survey found that 61 percent think abortion should be legal in all or most cases — with only 37 percent saying it should be illegal in all or most cases.

Abortion-rights supporters may despair at the obstacles that loom ahead. To begin with, Biden hasn't got all 50 Democratic senators on board with his filibuster proposal. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have opposed the idea.

But he can certainly deploy all his leverage and deal-making skills to change their minds. The Supreme Court decision may have changed the political atmosphere enough to make them reconsider.

If that fails, Democrats can proceed to Plan B: campaigning in Senate races on a promise to reform the filibuster to protect abortion rights.

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said in June, all that is needed are "two more senators on the Democratic side, two senators who are willing to protect access to abortion and get rid of the filibuster so that we can pass it." The issue could also help House Democrats by raising the stakes over who controls the lower chamber.

Pessimists may point out that any law passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by a Democratic president can be repealed by a Republican Congress and a Republican president — which the country may get in 2025. So codifying Roe might be a transient achievement. It could even be replaced with a federal ban on abortion.

But a transient achievement is an achievement for as long as it lasts. Besides, there is no guarantee that the GOP will win the trifecta in 2024. Nor is it certain that if it does, every Republican would vote for a federal ban. Some might prefer to leave the matter up to the states, in deference to principles of federalism.

Democrats who support abortion rights but incline toward despair may conclude that Republicans wouldn't need to repeal a codification of Roe — because it would not survive anyway. The law, after all, would have to pass muster with the same Supreme Court that just scrapped Roe.

Conservatives argue that the Constitution gives Congress no power to legislate abortion rights. Elon University law professor Thomas J. Molony wrote in The Wall Street Journal, "The Constitution doesn't empower Congress to force states to allow abortion against their wishes."

But this is a fight liberals can most likely win. The court has long taken an expansive view of the power of Congress over interstate commerce.

Ilya Somin, an originalist legal scholar at George Mason University, writes that "the Supreme Court has held that Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce includes the authority to restrict almost any 'economic activity,' so long as it has a 'substantial effect' on interstate trade."

What's more, he says, "'economic activity' is defined very broadly to include anything that involves the 'production, distribution, and consumption of commodities.'" As Somin notes, the court upheld "a federal ban on the possession of marijuana that had never crossed state lines or been sold in any market (even an intrastate one)."

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who voted to overturn Roe, apparently has no issue with Congress legislating in this realm. In his concurring opinion, he wrote that the Constitution leaves abortion "for the people and their elected representatives to resolve through the democratic process in the states or Congress."

After their demoralizing defeat on Roe, Democrats face a fearsome challenge in trying to restore the rights that were lost. But if there is anything to learn from the success of the anti-abortion cause, it's that they should aim high and never give up.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Supreme Court's Religious Zealots Shred The Establishment Clause

The First Amendment reflects a principled but shrewd attitude toward religion, which can be summarized: Government should keep its big fat nose out of matters of faith. The current Supreme Court, however, is not in full agreement with that proposition. It is in half agreement — and half is not enough.

This section of the Bill of Rights contains two commands. First, the government can't do anything "respecting an establishment of religion" — that is, sponsoring, subsidizing or providing special favors for religious institutions or individuals.

Second, the government may not infringe on the "free exercise" of faith. Americans are entitled to practice their religion without government interference. In short, the government should be scrupulously neutral — not the champion of religion in general or any particular belief and not the enemy.

When it comes to free exercise, this Supreme Court is as vigilant as a hungry tiger, ever alert to any policy that penalizes believers — as it should be. On June 21, the court rebuked Maine for an official bias against religious education.


Because the state's people are widely scattered in rural areas, many school districts lack enough students to justify their own high schools. The state provides tuition assistance so that parents can send their kids to any secondary schools they want, public or private.

There is just one major caveat: The school must be "nonsectarian." Parents who think a religious school is their best option don't have a prayer.

The state thinks this policy is required by the First Amendment, on the theory that public money can't be spent to support religion. But letting families use their tuition aid for accredited religious schools is not state support of religion. The state doesn't decide where the money goes. The choice lies with parents.

It's not state sponsorship of religion for them to spend it on a religious school — any more than it would be to spend unemployment benefits that way. The state, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, may not "exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise."

Religious freedom is often seen as a weapon for Republicans to use in the culture wars — by exempting a religious baker from designing a cake for a same-sex wedding and by sparing Hobby Lobby from providing insurance coverage for contraceptives because of its religious objections.

But the court has also upheld the religious rights of people not normally favored by conservatives. It said Arkansas couldn't forbid a Muslim prisoner from having a beard as mandated by his faith. It said a Texas death row inmate was entitled to have his pastor hold his hand and pray aloud during his execution.

Unfortunately, this court's sharp eye for religious freedom violations sometimes blinds it to other concerns. In a recent case, it sided with Joseph Kennedy, a public high school football coach who made a habit, after games, of kneeling at the 50-yard line and praying aloud. Before long, most of his players were joining him. The coach also invited opposing coaches and players to participate.

Kennedy insisted he was merely engaged in a personal ritual on his own. But he was acting in his capacity as a public school employee while players were under his supervision and control.

He could have waited until they had gone home before returning to the field to commune with the Almighty. Instead, he made a conspicuous public display, which created pressure on his players to join him — including some whose parents said they took part because they felt obligated. Who knows? Boycotting prayers might mean riding the bench.

The First Amendment is supposed to prevent some religious exercises — namely those conducted by agents of government to advance religion. The football coach, however, used his official position in a way that visibly endorsed a particular faith and had a coercive effect on students. And the Supreme Court cheered him on.

It was a bad decision that will have bad consequences. University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock told me: "It appears to repudiate the very idea of government neutrality as a constitutional norm. Government is now free to promote religion, and apparently free to promote Christianity in particular, at least in the public schools and possibly much more broadly." The decision doesn't enhance religious freedom; it endangers it.

The First Amendment was supposed to ensure official neutrality on matters of faith. This Supreme Court, however, is happy to see the government doing work that should be left to pastors.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Trump’s Coup Failed But The Danger Still Looms

Every American recalls with pride the revolution of 1776, when our forebears joined together to cast off colonial rule and create a new nation. Far less familiar is one that was almost equally momentous: the revolution of 1800.

The presidential election that took place then, a dozen years after the ratification of the Constitution, was fraught with peril. Federalists, who supported incumbent John Adams, regarded his opponent Thomas Jefferson as a dangerous radical.

If Jefferson were to become president, it was said, "Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will be openly taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of distress, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes." Fear of civil war hung over the nation.

It could have happened. An unintended quirk of the Constitution (corrected by the 12th Amendment in 1803) gave 73 electoral votes to Jefferson — and 73 to his running mate, Aaron Burr, who under the rules had an equal claim to the presidency. The election went to the House of Representatives, and after 36 ballots, Jefferson emerged the winner.

But this result presented a new scenario: the transfer of power from a defeated president. It was a moment of potential crisis for a republic still in its infancy, with its survival still very much an open question. Would the constitutional design function as intended? Or would the losers find a way to hang on to power?


In the end, Adams did what he was supposed to do, and Jefferson became president without incident. Writer Margaret Bayard Smith wrote on Inauguration Day, "I have this morning witnessed one of the most interesting scenes, a free people can ever witness. The changes of administration, which in every government and in every age have most generally been epochs of confusion, villainy and bloodshed, in this our happy country take place without any species of distraction, or disorder."

That peaceful proceeding set the pattern for the next two centuries. Disappointed incumbents swallowed their pride and deferred to the will of the people. While serving as vice presidents, in 1961 and 2001, Richard Nixon and Al Gore even graciously presided over the counting of the electoral votes that made their defeat official.

It's easy to take familiar traditions like these for granted. Only when they are violated does their fragility and their priceless value become apparent. No president ever attempted to stay in power after the voters had rejected him — no president until Donald Trump.

As former federal appellate Judge J. Michael Luttig, a respected conservative, said in a statement to the House committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, "On January 6, 2021, the prescribed day for choosing the American president, there was not to be a peaceful transfer of power — for the first time in the history of our republic."

Except for the moral and physical courage of someone not previously known for that quality, Mike Pence, we might now be ruled an illegitimate tyrant. We might be embroiled in uncertainty with the outcome still up for grabs. We might be on the verge of civil war.

In any case, our form of government would have been fatally damaged. As Luttig noted, it was not just an election that Trump nearly stole; it was democracy itself. What took place on January 6 resembled a desperate battle for power in a banana republic.

A few Republicans have been willing to denounce the attempted coup — notably committee members Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who were among the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his role. But most have tried to dismiss or rationalize it.

Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy derided the committee's televised sessions, demanding that Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold a prime-time hearing on "out-of-control" inflation. But inflation is a recurring malady, which we know how to cure and which the Federal Reserve is already acting against.

By contrast, rescuing constitutional democracy from a mortal threat is something we have never had to do and may not be able to do. It would be foolish to assume that because Trump's attempted usurpation failed, the danger has passed.

After his victory was announced, Thomas Jefferson was pleased but not complacent. "I sincerely thank you for your congratulations on my election, but this is only the first verse of the chapter," he wrote a friend. "What the last may be nobody can tell."

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Will Trump’s Voters Ever Grow Tired Of His Lies?

In the days and weeks following the 2020 election, a host of subordinates told Donald Trump a simple truth that he did not want to hear: He had lost the election fair and square. There was no widespread fraud, no massive irregularities, no hope in a recount. But he insisted on maintaining the fiction that the election was stolen.

At Monday's hearing of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, one Trump subordinate after another was heard in recorded depositions dismissing his claims. Once under oath, aides who had faithfully served and defended him had to acknowledge his utter disdain for the truth.

They obviously got weary of listening to his baseless fulminations. But the more important question is: Do Trump's voters ever get tired of being lied to?

That's a question that has been pondered for the past seven years, and the answer has always been "no." No presidential candidate has ever been so transparent or relentless in trying to deceive. None has ever been so successful at fooling his followers and profiting from their gullibility.

The fraud was obvious from the start. A central theme of Trump's 2016 campaign was the promise to build a wall on our southern border and make Mexico pay for it. At his rallies, adoring crowds chanted, "Build The Wall."


Early in his term, a transcript leaked documenting his phone call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, in which he pleaded pathetically for help in maintaining this fantasy: "The fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall — I have to."

Pena Nieto refused. In four years, Trump built only a tiny portion of his wall, and Mexico didn't pay for it. But the failure didn't matter to Trump's followers.

His presidency was a nonstop parade of lies, beginning on Inauguration Day, when he sent his press secretary out to make false claims about the size of the crowd at his swearing-in.

He also lied about important matters, as when he said he had gotten North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un to agree to give up his nuclear weapons. He said he would "force the Iranians back to the bargaining table to make a much better deal" than the nuclear agreement he renounced in 2018.

He promised to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a program that provided health insurance for "everybody" that would be "much less expensive and much better." He promised a massive investment in infrastructure to "fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, school, hospitals."

In his inaugural address, Trump railed against "the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives" and declared, "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now." But the rate of murders and other violent crime was higher when he left office than when he arrived. If Trump said something would happen, you could be sure it would not.

His insistence that the election was stolen was just another con. His own attorney general and campaign manager, among others, told him to give it up, but he refused.

"There was never an indication of interest in what the actual facts were," said former Attorney General William Barr, who regarded Trump's allegations as "crazy stuff," "nonsense," "rubbish" and "bulls—-."

This is the same Barr who staunchly defended Trump after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's damning report on Russia's interference in the 2016 election — and who says he would vote for him again.

Trump didn't let the facts deter him from incessantly deceiving his fans — or from using that deception to separate them from their money.

He asked them for donations, supposedly to finance his preposterous efforts to reverse the election results. They gave $250 million. But the "Official Election Defense Fund," the January 6 committee found, didn't exist. His donors were doubly defrauded.

But do Trump's supporters care? Up to now, they've paid no attention to his self-serving duplicity. A January Rasmussen Reports poll found that 85 percent of Republicans have a favorable opinion of him. A recent UMass Amherst poll found that 55 percent of GOP voters would vote for him in the 2024 primaries.

These voters don't say: Stop telling us lies. They say: Give us more. If that's what they want, he will never disappoint them.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

No, The Second Amendment Doesn’t Rule Out New Gun Restrictions

When the Supreme Court vindicated the right of individuals to own firearms for self-defense, it might have opened a new era of calmer debate about regulation of guns. The National Rifle Association had always trumpeted the danger of complete bans and mass confiscation, and the 2008 decision ruled out such drastic measures once and for all.

Finally, gun owners could breathe a sigh of relief. No longer did they have to worry that gun control measures would put us on a slippery slope to outlawing firearms ownership.

But the court didn't rule out all restrictions. Justice Antonin Scalia noted, "Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms."

Any constitutional right is subject to some regulation. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and assembly, but that doesn't give me the right to organize a protest march on an interstate highway or to drive a sound truck through a residential area at 3 a.m. or to broadcast on a radio frequency without a license.


Gun-rights fanatics, however, were only radicalized by the Supreme Court decision. They act as if it gives them a complete exemption from government interference. Some champion "constitutional carry" — defined as "the overall unrestricted right to carry a firearm, either with a license or not."

But the right to keep and bear arms is not absolute. It is subject to limits defined by the Supreme Court, which may go beyond the ones Scalia cited. That simple fact matters to the current debate over guns.

On Wednesday, the U.S. House approved a bill making 21 the minimum age to buy a semiautomatic rifle or shotgun and forbidding the sale of guns with magazines holding 15 rounds or more. It passed a "red-flag" measure to let federal courts remove guns from those shown to be dangerous.

Joe Biden wants to revive the 1994 federal ban on "assault weapons." Universal background checks are also on the table.

Would these restrictions prevent school shootings or bring down the rate of gun murders? I'm skeptical that outlawing "assault weapons" would help, because these rifles are no more capable or deadly than many conventional guns. I'm skeptical that limiting the size of magazines would make a difference, because killers can carry several magazines and quickly reload.

Universal background checks, however, would close a loophole that lets felons acquire weapons they are not allowed to have. Raising the minimum age can impede some would-be attackers, as we know from the Uvalde, Texas, school shooter — who didn't buy his guns until immediately after turning 18.

Red-flag laws undoubtedly prevent some shootings. But gun control opponents are right in pointing out that none of these changes is guaranteed to head off any particular crime.

Firearms regulations, however, don't have to be foolproof to be constitutional. It's entirely possible that some or all of the ideas being considered would pass judicial muster.

In 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines enacted by New York and Connecticut. The opinion was written by Jose Cabranes, a veteran judge with a moderate reputation. His analysis laid out a persuasive template for evaluating gun restrictions.

Cabranes held that, to be consistent with the Second Amendment, the laws had to meet certain conditions. They had to serve an important purpose; they had to reflect "reasonable inferences based on substantial evidence"; and they had to leave citizens with good alternatives for self-defense. He concluded that these laws were constitutional.

The argument for banning assault weapons and large magazines is that they are overrepresented in mass shootings, because their design makes them alluring to killers and perfect for the task. Banning them doesn't deprive anyone of personal protection or home defense, because plenty of other guns are as good or better.

The court's analysis presents a dilemma for gun rights zealots. They can't very well claim that, first, these bans are useless because criminals can easily overcome them and, second, they render citizens incapable of defending themselves. If criminals can find good substitutes, so can law-abiding gun owners.

Gun-rights advocates may disagree about the practical value of any particular restriction, and they may be right. But the Second Amendment isn't the end of the debate. It's just the beginning.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Defending Ukraine, Biden Shows Resolve — And Restraint

Restraint is a useful but often unsatisfying virtue, and in the case of Ukraine, there are plenty of people who think that it's not a virtue at all. Fortunately, American policy is being set by Joe Biden, who has a sober understanding of the perils of overreach.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine spurred all sorts of extravagant demands for U.S. action. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), urged the president "to send not just arms but troops to the aid in defense of Ukraine." Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS)., was one of several GOP members of Congress to say the U.S. should establish a no-fly zone in Ukraine — which could mean shooting down Russian warplanes.

Biden dismissed these options, even as he extended economic aid, weapons and moral support to the besieged Ukrainian government. But prudence invites charges of weakness. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., says Biden is "scared of Putin."

On Monday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), took to Twitter to accuse Biden of "a betrayal of #Ukraine and democracy itself." His offense? Declining to provide Ukraine with missiles that can hit targets as far as 185 miles away.

"We're not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia," Biden said flatly. The obvious reason is that such missile attacks would drastically raise the stakes for Vladimir Putin — who, let us not forget, has the world's largest arsenal of nuclear weapons. Biden is not about to outsource our fate to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Another idea is to deploy U.S. Navy ships to break the Russian blockade of Odessa, which has deprived the world of Ukrainian grain. But Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pointed out that this option could lead to direct combat with Russia.

"Right now, the sea lanes are blocked by mines and the Russian navy," he said Tuesday. "It would be a high-risk military operation that would require significant levels of effort."

But the concept of "high risk" doesn't register with inveterate hawks who think every problem can be solved by the application of America's armed might — a theory decisively refuted in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other places.

Such disasters instilled in Biden a healthy skepticism about military intervention. But that skepticism has also moved him to look for alternatives in dealing with foreign crises.

As it has from the start, his administration is trying to ensure that Ukraine can stave off the Russian invasion — without provoking Putin to escalate and without embroiling the U.S. in the war.

Biden hasn't tried to dictate what Zelensky should aspire to achieve or what he should be willing to accept. In an op-ed in Wednesday's New York Times, he said he "will not pressure the Ukrainian government — in private or public — to make any territorial concessions."

At the same time, he's made it plain that the U.S. commitment has strict limits. Biden's op-ed didn't fantasize about a complete victory that would evict Russia from every inch of Ukrainian soil. His goal, he wrote, is to help Ukraine achieve "the strongest possible position at the negotiating table." Left unspoken is that any negotiations are bound to require territorial concessions.

Biden's administration has adopted a variety of stern measures to punish and weaken Putin and deter him from broader aggression, most recently signing a package of military, economic and humanitarian aid costing $40 billion.

Biden moved 12,000 troops into NATO countries bordering on Russia, including Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Romania. He welcomed the request from Sweden and Finland to join the alliance.

He imposed a ban on Russian oil and gas imports — a step that prodded the European Union, which is far more dependent on them, to approve its own ban.

He adopted severe economic sanctions to deprive Russia of the money to fight the war. The decision led a host of big Western corporations, from McDonald's to Apple to ExxonMobil, to stop doing business in Russia. All this has been a marvel of Western cooperation and resolve.

It has also had tangible results. Russian exports and imports have plunged. Inflation hit nearly 18% in April. The Russian army has found itself repeatedly stopped or pushed back, and as many as 15,000 of its soldiers have been killed.

Biden understood the importance of responding forcefully to an unprovoked act of aggression. But he also knows that pushing too far can lead to disaster.

Follow Steve Chapman on Twitter @SteveChapman13 or at https://www.facebook.com/stevechapman13. To find out more about Steve Chapman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

How The Right-Wing Attack On Social Media Is Failing

Social media is one of the main places where Americans engage in their ongoing dog fight over political differences. But anything that becomes important also becomes a target for control, and conservative politicians are doing their best to put a choke collar on Facebook and Twitter.

They suffered a setback Monday when a federal appeals court struck down a Florida law imposing heavy-handed restrictions on these communication platforms. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it last year, ostensibly to prevent tech companies from censoring conservatives.

But the court, in an opinion written by a judge appointed by Donald Trump, reminded everyone that the First Amendment protects individuals and companies from government action, not private action.

If you want to stand on a public sidewalk and spew lies, hatred and conspiracy theories, or hand out leaflets filled with them, the First Amendment says the government can't stop you. But if you want to do the same thing in a restaurant, department store or construction site, the owner, not being an agency of government, has every right to tell you to either stop or leave.

The Florida law says that social media companies have no right to make their own editorial decisions. The measure forbids them from removing anyone who is running for office and from blocking posts from "journalistic enterprises" because of their content. Failure to comply can incur fines of up to $250,000 per day.

Texas enacted a similar law, which a federal appeals court has allowed to remain in operation while it is being challenged. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said he signed it to "protect First Amendment rights in the Lone Star State."

But there is no way to square these laws with the First Amendment. Just as the Biden administration may not require Fox News to include liberal viewpoints and Democratic spokespeople on its programs, states can't require Twitter to provide a forum to Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene or Mike Lindell.

A social media company, like any other media entity, may make its own rules for access. Elon Musk doesn't like the rules established by Twitter. If he buys it, he'll have every right to shred them, welcoming anyone he wants and banning anyone he doesn't.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals had no trouble spotting the fatal defects in the Florida law. "Social-media platforms exercise editorial judgment that is inherently expressive," it said. "When platforms choose to remove users or posts, deprioritize content in viewers' feeds or search results, or sanction breaches of their community standards, they engage in First-Amendment-protected activity."

They are no different, in constitutional terms, from The Washington Post or Breitbart News. Both publications choose what subjects to cover, what to ignore, and what viewpoints and writers to include. Without that discretion, neither could function. Without the same discretion, Facebook and Twitter would become a cesspool of bigotry, misogyny, lunacy, disinformation and violent threats.

Anyone who chafes at the restrictions on Twitter or Facebook is free to migrate to other platforms. Trump furnished that opportunity when he started an alternative, Truth Social, to "stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech."

His commitment to wide-open debate is not a model of principled consistency. One user was informed, without explanation, that he had been banned "permanently due to Truth Social community guideline violations." The apparent violation? His account, @DevinNunesCow, was intended to make fun of former Rep. Devin Nunes, the CEO of Truth Social's parent company.

Trump's fans could also move over to the platform ProAmericaOnly, which brags of its "no censorship" policy — while proudly proclaiming that it "doesn't allow liberals." The people using Twitter and Facebook have alternatives that almost all of them are rejecting.

Conservatives once believed that the government should not interfere with the content decisions of big, powerful media companies. In 1987, they persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to scrap the Fairness Doctrine, which required TV and radio stations to present competing views on controversial topics.

Its repeal facilitated the rise of conservative talk radio, because stations no longer had to balance right-wing voices with liberal ones. When a Democratic-controlled Congress passed a bill to codify the policy, President Ronald Reagan vetoed it.

"This type of content-based regulation by the federal government is, in my judgment, antagonistic to the freedom of expression guaranteed by the First Amendment," he said. "In any other medium besides broadcasting, such federal policing of the editorial judgment of journalists would be unthinkable."

Unthinkable to Reagan, yes. But not to the people who have taken over his party.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

The Coming Fight Over Out-Of-State Abortions

Now may be a good time to max out your investments in airlines, car rental agencies, and intercity bus companies. Travel has picked up as the pandemic has ebbed, but the Supreme Court could give it an extra boost by revoking the constitutional right to abortion.

If that happens, a lot of American women are going to find that "shop local" is a useless slogan when it comes to this type of commerce. The pro-choice Center for Reproductive Rights has predicted that with Roe gone, "abortion would remain legal in twenty-one states and likely would be prohibited in twenty-four states."

Vast swathes of the continent would become abortion-free zones — free of legal abortions, anyway. But Americans have been traveling to get what they want since the Pilgrims arrived, and women with unwanted pregnancies are no exception.

In the days before Roe, when the procedure was illegal in most of America, places like New York and Washington state had lots of visitors who didn't come for recreation. Some 40 percent of all abortions were performed on patients outside their home state.

Already, liberal states are a destination for desperate abortion-seekers. Illinois, surrounded by states that have greatly restricted access, saw nearly 10,000 women come from out of state to get abortions in 2020, the Chicago Tribune reports. Planned Parenthood says that number may quadruple if Roe falls. We are on the verge of a wave of abortion refugees.

But anti-abortion advocates are not likely to accept this outcome as inevitable. A bill was introduced recently in the Missouri legislature to bar its residents from getting abortions out of state.

Republican Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman told Politico: "If you believe as I do that every person deserves dignity and respect and protection whether they're born or unborn, then of course you want to protect your citizens, no matter where they are." Though her measure didn't pass, it will undoubtedly inspire other states to enact their own bans.

That would be a radical step, but "radical" is a term of endearment in the anti-abortion movement. It would be a terrible idea, though, and one at odds with our entire system of federalism.

One of our fundamental freedoms, long recognized by the Supreme Court, is the right to travel within the United States and be treated as an equal citizen from sea to shining sea. A state government can no more burden the freedom of its residents who venture out of state than it can burden the freedom of migrants from out of state.

In 1969, the court struck down a California law imposing a residency requirement for public assistance. It said the rule violated the right to travel and amounted to "an unconstitutional discrimination which violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment."

For a state to assert its power over citizens beyond its borders would be an act of extreme presumption. Decades ago, when Nevada was the only state with legal casinos, everyone could go there and gamble without fear of bluenoses back home.

The same limits apply today. Utah can ban recreational cannabis, but its residents may drive to Colorado to get high. California may forbid the open carry of guns, but it can't stop Angelenos visiting Arizona from packing in public view.

As University of Pennsylvania law professor Seth Kreimer has written, one basic principle of American federalism is "that each citizen may take advantage of the liberties offered by any state." This arrangement also contributes to our national civic peace by accommodating a diversity of policies.

Anti-abortion advocates may argue that their cause is different because it involves life and death. Not so. A New Yorker who kills a fellow New Yorker in Atlanta and is acquitted under Georgia's "stand your ground" law cannot be convicted under New York's less lenient statutes.

Conservatives, who champion state sovereignty, should recognize that only one state can be sovereign within its borders. Otherwise, every state could extend its policies into the other 49 states.

The right should also beware of handing a new weapon to progressives. If a state can punish conduct that takes place in another state, Connecticut, which bans "assault weapons," could imprison a resident who uses one for target shooting in Maine. The possibilities for liberal mischief are endless.

If and when the enemies of Roe win their greatest victory, they will be tempted to seize every possible method of exploiting this success. But even the long reach of the law needs limits.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

The End Of Roe Is Just The Beginning

Roe v. Wade may not be dead, but it appears to be terminally ill, with a life expectancy of less than two months. So supporters of abortion rights, including me, are confronted with the grim prospect of returning to the bad old days when abortion was illegal in most of America and many women were forced to travel out of state to end their pregnancies. But we shouldn't be so optimistic.

Abortion rights opponents have long averred that they only want the issue returned to the states. By establishing a constitutional right to abortion, they complained, the Supreme Court imposed a uniform policy at odds with our system of federalism. What suits New Yorkers may not suit Nebraskans. Overturning Roe would allow people in each state to have their way.

Justice Samuel Alito's draft opinion overturning the 1973 decision followed this reasoning. The case at hand concerns Mississippi's ban on any abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The state, he noted, asked the court to overturn Roe "and once again allow each State to regulate abortion as its citizens wish."

Alito — along with four other justices, it appears — is eager to grant that request. "Our Nation's historical understanding of ordered liberty does not prevent the people's elected representatives from deciding how abortion should be regulated," he wrote.

It's always been taken for granted that if Roe were struck down, abortion would remain available in many states — and women elsewhere would be able to travel to get legal abortions. But neither may be true for long. Having won at the Supreme Court, and in many states, abortion rights opponents are bound to press for even broader bans than those that existed before 1973.

The first option surfaced recently in Missouri, which has passed a "trigger" law to ban abortion after eight weeks of gestation, with no exceptions for rape or incest. It would take effect when Roe is jettisoned. Republican Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, however, is not content to ban the vast majority of abortions in Missouri.


At the moment, women in her state can drive across the Mississippi River to Illinois, where abortion is strictly protected, to end their pregnancies. Coleman, however, proposed to authorize lawsuits against anyone helping a woman get an abortion — even in another state. The Illinois exit would be closed and locked.

Her measure failed, but it is safe to wager that some other states will take the idea and make it law. Women in those states would find themselves in a pregnancy prison: barred from getting an abortion at home and barred from getting one somewhere else.

That outcome, however, is not the direst scenario. Republicans have long opposed giving women the right to decide whether to carry their pregnancies to term, and they are not likely to be content with banning abortion in some states. The Supreme Court's reversal would mean abortion could also be banned in every state, through a federal law.

That once seemed impossible. Not today. Republicans are poised to win both houses of Congress in November. If they control Congress and elect a Republican president in 2024, they will have the power to eradicate legal abortion in every corner of America.

Would they do so? Maybe not. The availability of legal abortion in blue states softens the harsh impact of bans in red states. It assures women with financial resources that, should they ever want an abortion, they would be able to get it. A federal ban would provoke wider opposition by depriving every woman of any choice.

But whether that possibility would deter a Republican Congress and president is far from certain. Most Americans don't want to outlaw abortion, but the people who do are far more engaged and far better organized than the ones who don't. Unless more pro-choice voters make the issue their highest priority — as their adversaries have done — they will keep losing ground.

There is plenty of ground to be lost. The logic of the anti-abortion cause is that anything that saves fetuses is not only commendable but imperative. Any Republican state legislator who is not willing to ban out-of-state abortions, and any Republican member of Congress who is not willing to outlaw abortion everywhere, will face a simple, stark question: Why not?

For the anti-abortion movement, the demise of Roe is not an end but a beginning. Abortion rights supporters who see the looming demise of Roe as the ultimate nightmare will soon realize that the worst is yet to come.

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

Authoritarian DeSantis Tramples On Disney’s Free Speech

When Elon Musk bought Twitter, conservatives were ready to hold a ticker-tape parade. "Free speech is making a comeback," proclaimed Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. Fox News host Tucker Carlson exulted in this victory over liberals who are "trying to control what we say and think." Gloated Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, "The Left is terrified of free speech."

But the right's unquenchable ardor for unbridled expression depends on who is speaking and who is trying to stop them. When Twitter de-platformed Donald Trump after the Capitol riot, that was censorship. When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis punishes Disney for daring to oppose his "Parental Rights in Education" law, though, that's what Disney should expect for opening its big mouth.

The law he signed stripped the company of the special self-governing status it has had for 55 years, which enables Disney to handle many functions and obligations normally assigned to municipal governments. A conservative could see that privilege as a commendable way of preventing local bureaucrats from over-regulating an innovative corporation. But Florida Republicans were willing to do that only so long as Disney didn't step out of line.

On the day DeSantis signed the "Don't Say Gay" bill, Disney said the law "should never have been passed" and that it should "be repealed." The governor took great offense at the spectacle of a company that has long enriched the state presuming to question his wisdom.

Not that he minds big corporations involving themselves in political matters. He did not object when Disney contributed more than $100,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis political action committee. But if the company is going to make its views known, they had better align with his.

In their applause for DeSantis, conservatives have been unwilling to consider whether the anti-Disney measure contradicts the basic principles of free expression — and whether it violates the First Amendment. If they did, they would realize the new law is guilty on both counts.

The government does many things for its citizens that it is not required to do and is free to stop doing. Congress could abolish Pell Grants, which pay for college expenses. States can set conditions for eligibility for certain programs, such as requiring anyone getting unemployment compensation to look for work.

But once the government has extended certain benefits, it may not withdraw them from a beneficiary for exercising a constitutional right. The federal government may not revoke a student's Pell Grant, or a worker's unemployment benefits, for making a speech in favor of, or in opposition to, abortion rights or gun control or Joe Biden's immigration policy — any more than it may put them in jail.

The Supreme Court made this clear in a 1958 decision, among others. Back then, California granted property tax exemptions to military veterans, but only if they signed an oath that they did not advocate the use of force to overthrow the state or federal government. The court ruled the loyalty oath unconstitutional.

In language that could have been written with the Disney episode in mind, the court said: "To deny an exemption to claimants who engage in certain forms of speech is, in effect, to penalize them for such speech. Its deterrent effect is the same as if the State were to fine them for this speech."

DeSantis and his accomplices made little effort to conceal their illegitimate motives. "You're a corporation based in Burbank, California, and you're going to marshal your economic might to attack the parents of my state?" he said. "We view that as a provocation, and we're going to fight back against that."

Said GOP Rep. Randy Fine: "It's time for them to remember that we are not California. And they are a California company. And we're not interested in their California values here in this state."

But the First Amendment says Californians can preach their values in all 50 states. Same goes for Floridians who venture beyond their own borders.

You can't pretend to be a champion of free speech while deploying the power of government to exact vengeance against people who disagree with you. Florida never had to grant a special taxing district to Disney. But having chosen to do so, it may not revoke it in political retribution.

DeSantis and Co., who regard the guardians of Mickey Mouse as woke, immoral and hostile to Florida values, are entitled to trumpet their views till their tonsils fall out. But here's the thing about freedom of speech: Disney gets to do the same.

Printed with permission from Creators.