A Word of Explanation

Welcome to my political commentary blog. I figured I’d use this introduction to explain how I arrived at writing this blog. I grew up as a Conservative Republican and went through college and law school essentially holding to those beliefs. Being an Evangelical Christian as well, I would have been considered a member of the Religious Right. However, over the last few years, I became increasingly disillusioned by the Republican party. For instance, I believe in conservative fiscal policy, so I could not agree with continuing massive tax cuts aimed at the wealthiest Americans while the country had a serious budget deficit which was only increasing due to fighting two wars. I am also a firm believer in the rule of law, so I took issue with the Bush administration using the cloak of national security to deny habeas corpus rights. Finally, the politics of fear & division used by the Bush political team, turned me off. Especially, their use of the War in Iraq, which I now believe was a major mistake.

In 2008, this caused me to do what 5 years before, I would have thought to be the unthinkable – I voted for a Democrat for President. In supporting Barack Obama and since I am an advocate by trade, I decided to write a political essay setting forth my rationale. I enjoyed the process so much, I was looking for an outlet to continue my political thoughts. When my cousin started a personal blog, it gave me the idea to start a political commentary blog.

Like the name suggests, I still consider my self a conservative as many of my political stands are conservative, but I definitely have a more progressive line of thinking. You should see both sides come out as I post. Some of the posts will be more analysis while others will be more editorial and take a position. I look forward to any feedback. Let me know if there is a topic you would like me to discuss (see my contact info at the bottom of this page).


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Footnote to the State of the Union

After watching some of the news coverage following the State of the Union, I was struck by how much coverage was given to one part of it – President Obama’s criticism of the recent Supreme Court decision which potentially will change the way campaigns are run and financed. You can click here to read my whole analysis of the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, but in essence the Supreme Court held that corporations are free to use their own money to run advertisements in support or against a candidate that is running for election.

In his speech, President Obama said, “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps correct some of these problems.” At he same time, the cameras apparently caught Justice Samuel Alito (who voted with the majority and was appointed by President George W. Bush) mouthing the words, “that’s not true” or something of the like.

The next day both Republicans and Democrats predictably lined up to criticize one and defend the other (Obama or Alito). Republicans were critical of the President for criticizing the Supreme Court as they sat right there and said that he did step over the bounds of separation of powers. Democrats criticized Alito for reacting in an unprofessional manner for a Supreme Court Justice. While the Supreme Court routinely attends the State of the Union Address, they are seen as the non-political branch of the government and therefore, they sit there and just listen without any reaction. Part of a Judge or Justice’s disposition is such that they are not supposed to pre-judge issues and simply decide cases on their own merits completely outside the world of politics. As such, they are supposed to be a-political. Well, both parties struck me that their criticism and or defense smacked of hypocrisy.

For the Republicans to say that the sitting President should not criticize the Supreme Court during the State of the Union, what do they say about all the times Republican Presidents have criticized justices for being “activist” and especially during the State of the Union, I can recall Presidents Reagan and both Bush’s criticizing Roe v. Wade and President Reagan routinely asked for a constitutional amendment to overturn it. I never heard any criticism then. Also, what if the Republicans had won in 2008? Do they really think that “President McCain” would have avoided the red hot issue when he has been a champion of campaign finance reform for much of his career? As a Senator, he has been critical of the decision and I expect, “President McCain” would have had something very similar to say.

As for Democrats, they were critical of Justice Alito for saying that the President wasn’t correct. As a side note, there is a lot of chatter in the legal community as to whether President Obama was right regarding the issue of foreign corporations. There is a debate whether or not the Supreme Court decision would extend to foreign companies or be limited to American corporations, so for Justice Alito to say that the President was wrong, could be right when it comes to the foreign corporations possible involvement.

So what do I think? I think they were both wrong, but for slightly different reasons. Justice Alito should have some composure as a Justice on the highest court on the land and be able to keep his thoughts to himself. Meanwhile, I have said since the case was decided that President Obama’s criticism is completely hypocritical as he has been the biggest campaign fund raiser by far in American politics. Also, one other thing that I have failed to mention in my prior posts on this Supreme Court decision is that it applies to labor unions as well. You don’t think that will help the President and his fellow democrats? As I’ve said, politics and money go hand in hand and the more the politicians try and separate the two, the more their OWN supporters will try and find the loopholes. If that’s not hypocrisy, what is?

Unfortunately, in a speech where the President tried to reach out to Republicans by espousing many of their ideas (tax cut and credits, off-shore drilling, earmark reform, etc.) and attempted to engage them on some of his issues like health care reform, the parties found something in the speech that could drive them farther apart. In a speech that was an attempt to set up bi-partisan talks, the partisans found a way to make a partisan issue. That’s why I am losing faith in national politics as a whole. It seems like even when there are a few individuals who will try and work together, most of the partisan players are more willing to try to bring the others down then they are in trying to enact meaningful legislation.


  1. Your post before the S.O.U. and this one end very cynically. I wonder if your cynicism is widespread. It would be interesting to study if people are more cynical now than in previous generations about politics. If so, then why? And what can be done about it? If Obama can't inspire America, then who could, and how?

  2. and what's your superbowl prediction?

  3. Karl, the Obama comments related to the recent Supreme Court decision lowered the standard of what is considered "Presidential," and fell quite a bit short of truthful and accurate.

    Your reference to Bush and Reagan does not even compare. Why? They called on the Legislative branch to address an issue that by then was a few decades old. Obama's comments were an attempt to back-hand the court from his bully pulpit for a decision they handed down just days before. The Judiciary is an equal branch of government. His comments were intended to make it appear is if they answered to him. Would you expect the Justices to go on a speaking tour getting crowds stirred up against Congress or even the POTUS? Certainly not.

    Your cynicism may be a hint of "buyers remorse." When will you come to grips with that?

  4. At least he called on Congress to put an immediate freeze on spending starting in 2011. What is so immediate about that? The day after the SOTU speech, our elected officials voted to raise the debt ceiling by another trillion or so. Was that bi-partisan?

  5. Jay: I've been waiting to respond til I had the time as (fortunately) work has been busy. First, I will say the obligatory, "Thanks for Reading." Also, everything I say in this response in no way reflects on the friendship I treasure with you & your family.

    I still say Obama's comments are similar to Reagan's and actually in some respects were more practical. Reagan continuously called for a Right to Life Amendment from Congress & it was still within a "decade" of Roe when he first called for it and all but 1 justice that decided Roe were still on the Court when Reagan took office & therefore would have been there as he did so.

    Obama also called for Congressional action - a law to "correct problems" created by the decision which is much more practical and likely than a Constitutional Amendment. Legal scholars have been arguing since Citizen's United was decided whether the law opened the doors for foreign corporations to spend money on US elections. Clearly, a law should be passed to ban such a practice and I think the Court would uphold that law. For the President to call on Congress to do so in the SOTU was clearly appropriate & I still think that, given his record on campaign finance, "President McCain" would have said something very similar.

    As for the "equalness" of the branches, I truly believe that they are not Constitutionally "equal." In fact, the Executive Branch is clearly the weakest of all the branches from a Constitutional Power standpoint. But I know that's not what you're talking about. Justices & Judges do not act politically, nor should they. They were designed to be impartial and apolitical where the President and Congress were intended to be political bodies. For the political branches of government to criticize any other branch is just a political move & it smacks of hypocrisy for the Republicans to criticize someone for criticizing the courts when that has been one of the Republican's biggest talking points for my entire 37 year lifespan.

    As for my cynicism, I'm going to address that in my next post, so keep reading. Thanks again, friend!