Supreme Court

The Ultimate Legacy Of American Presidents

American Presidents deal with dozens, if not, hundreds of issues while in office, and they have ups and downs, highs and lows, unavoidably.

But, ultimately, they are remembered for one action in office that either puts them in the great, successful category, or in the disastrous, unsuccessful category, and they may be praised or bitterly criticized for others, but they will always be remembered for one specific policy or event, which has the greatest effect on their legacy.

So when we look at Presidents since FDR, what stands out as their primary legacy?

Franklin D. Roosevelt–his New Deal programs that saved millions of Americans, and gave them hope for the future.

Harry S Truman–his courage in his dealings with the Soviet Union through the Cold War policies.

Dwight D. Eisenhower–the steadfastness of his Civil Rights policies, enforcing court orders and promoting the end of racial segregation.

John F. Kennedy–his forthrightness in dealing with the greatest threat in world history, the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Lyndon B. Johnson–his Great Society programs that advanced civil rights, education, health care, and a war on poverty.

Richard M. Nixon–his paranoia and illegal activities, leading to Watergate and his resignation.

Gerald R. Ford–his appointment of Justice John Paul Stevens, who became a giant on the Supreme Court for 35 years.

Jimmy Carter–his promotion of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty, the Camp David Accords, which have brought peace for 35 years.

Ronald Reagan–his tripling of the national debt through excessive military spending and massive tax cuts to the wealthy.

George H. W. Bush–his exceptional conduct of the crisis of the Persian Gulf War.

Bill Clinton–his promotion of the Northern Ireland peace agreement, between Anglicans and Catholics, and with Great Britain.

George W. Bush–the prosecution of the Iraq War, a war that was based on falsehoods, undermining the Middle East and emboldening Iran.

Barack Obama–the promotion of the Affordable Care Act, giving millions of Americans their first time coverage for health care.

The Dangers Of The Supreme Court Run Amuck In Favor Of Wealthy And Corporations!

The Supreme Court is totally out of control, with its new decision on having no limits on campaign spending by wealthy donors, added on to the Citizens United Case of 2010, and the limitation of voting rights in a 2013 decision.

Chief Justice John Roberts has solidified a five member GOP majority to destroy all attempts to prevent corporate and wealthy people from controlling the political system, an effort pursued from the time of Theodore Roosevelt a century ago through Senator John McCain and Senator Russ Feingold in the 1990s and early 2000s.

That is all for naught now, and shows the dangers of a runaway, reckless, right wing radical Court!

This is what made Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Barack Obama criticize Court power, along with progressive reformers including Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin, Senator George Norris of Nebraska, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont!

This is the result of 13 Supreme Court nominees since 1960 by Republican Presidents, to only 8 by Democrats, and with two of those Democratic appointments (Arthur Goldberg by John F. Kennedy and Abe Fortas by Lyndon B. Johnson), only lasting three and four years respectively.

Of course, Republican appointments of Harry Blackmun by Richard Nixon; John Paul Stevens by Gerald Ford; Sandra Day O’Connor by Ronald Reagan; and David Souter by George H. W. Bush, turned out to be major surprises in their rulings, but we also ended up with some of the most reactionary and right wing radical appointments in all of American history with the appointments of William Rehnquist by Richard Nixon and the elevation of Rehnquist to Chief Justice by Ronald Reagan; Lewis Powell by Richard Nixon; Antonin Scalia by Ronald Reagan; Clarence Thomas by George H. W. Bush; and Samuel Alito by George W. Bush. The appointments of Chief Justice Warren Burger by Richard Nixon; Anthony Kennedy by Ronald Reagan; and Chief Justice John Roberts by George W. Bush, have been more of a mixed bag, sometimes good, and sometimes horrible in its effect on constitutional law!

Meanwhile, John F. Kennedy selected a mostly conservative Justice Byron White; Lyndon B Johnson selected Thurgood Marshall; Bill Clinton selected Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer; and Barack Obama selected Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, but sadly, their influence in the last four of the five names listed, has been mostly in being the opposition, sometimes vehement in nature!

The effect on the future of American democracy is massive, with this right wing Court majority, and the only hope is the eventual retirement of Scalia and Kennedy, and hopefully, continuation of a Democratic Senate and President for the rest of the decade, so that the Court changes direction in the future!

Presidential Retirement Years And Constructive Post Presidencies

All of our Presidents, except for eight who died in office, have had periods of retirement after their years in the Presidency.

Some have had very short periods of retirement, periods of less than ten years, including George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James K, Polk, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Chester Alan Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson.

So fully half of our Presidents either died in office or had periods of retirement less than ten years.

On the other hand, the following Presidents had particularly long periods of retirement of fifteen or more years: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush.

The following Presidents had between ten and fifteen years of retirement: Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Ronald Reagan.

Bill Clinton has had 13 years out of office, and George W. Bush has had five years out of office at this time.

With the retirement periods of all of these Presidents listed above, the question that arises is which Presidents made major contributions in their post Presidency years.

That list is a short one:

John Quincy Adams
Martin Van Buren
Theodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft
Herbert Hoover
Richard Nixon
Jimmy Carter
Bill Clinton

Adams served nearly eighteen years in Congress.

Van Buren ran for President on the Free Soil Party line in 1848.

Roosevelt ran for President on the Progressive Party line in 1912, and went on an African safari, and explored the Amazon River basin in Brazil.

Taft served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for nine years.

Hoover wrote books and served as an adviser to President Truman on reorganization of the executive branch of government.

Nixon wrote about ten books and remained an adviser on diplomacy in his nearly twenty years in retirement.

Carter has written nearly twenty books, and engaged in diplomacy, promotion of democracy, fought diseases, and built housing through the Carter Center and Habitat for Humanity.

Clinton has done similar good deeds through his Clinton Initiative, and also worked on relief for the Haitian earthquake and the Pacific Tsunami with George H. W. Bush.

The contributions of these former Presidents have had a major impact on America, and are worthy of remembrance!

The End Of A Hateful Man: The Reverend Fred Phelps Of The Westboro Baptist Church Is Dead!

The world is a better place with the death of the Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.

Phelps died at age 84, and left behind a legacy of total hatred, as he became controversial for his small group of followers, mostly family, picketing at funerals of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, approved by the Supreme Court in 2011 with some restrictions, as freedom of speech.

Phelps and his followers were not protesting the wars America engaged in, but rather the fact that gays and lesbians were permitted to exist, as he and his flock condemned homosexuality, and said gays and lesbians were doomed to hell.

Phelps failed to attract outside supporters, and even some of his own family repudiated him over the years, but he never gave up his fanatical hatred and poisonous rhetoric.

There is the temptation to say “goodbye and good riddance,’” but more than wishing that ill thought on anyone who has died, is the hope that we will never again see the likes of anyone who calls himself “religious”, abuse that term by wishing harm and promoting hate toward anyone, whether for their race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

The ultimate victory over Fred Phelps and his ilk is the fact that 18 states and Washington, DC back gay marriage rights, that eight other states have had federal judges move in that direction—Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma Tennessee, Kentucky, and Utah, and that five other states—Missouri, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, as of this writing, recognize civil unions, a step toward eventual acceptance of gay marriage. So soon, it is likely, after appeal, that 26 states will be allowing gay marriage, and five others are also moving in that direction.

And ultimately, it seems highly likely that cases on gay marriage in the federal courts will lead to a Supreme Court decision, with a likely minimum 5-4 vote, including Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion in the crucial gay rights case, Lawrence V. Texas, in 2003, and then no state will be able to deny anyone the right to marry a person of either gender, another great advancement in human rights!

Eleven Years Since Greatest Blunder In Modern American History: The Iraq War!

Eleven years ago today, America went to war in Iraq on the false premise that there were weapons of mass destruction there, which did not exist!

It is clear that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld KNEW that fact, but they convinced Colin Powell to speak before the United Nations on a lie that he was not privy to, took advantage of his far greater stature than any of them had!

The Iraq War led to 4,400 American dead, and over 30,000 wounded, with many losing limbs or part of their skull, and many having mental and emotional trauma which continues today!

It led to the longest war in American history, except for the Afghanistan War, which was put on the back burner, and still goes on today, making both wars total failures, but another 2,000 killed in that war.

It did not create a stable Iraq, but killed at least many hundreds of thousands in Iraq, if not a million or more.

We spent a lot of treasure, helping to double the national debt under the Bush-Cheney regime.

We allowed ourselves to engage in war with Iraq, when Iran was the much bigger threat, and remains so in 2014.

We also gave the excuse for Vladamir Putin of Russia to invade and take over Crimea, as allowed under international law, because, after all, we had claimed the right to invade a sovereign nation in a war of choice, a preemptive war, making us no better than past aggressors, who attacked without a direct provocation.

Many feel that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld are international outlaws, and it is clear that if it were possible to arrest them, they could be tried on human rights abuse at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the Netherlands!

Of course, that will not happen in reality, but this is not something that should be overlooked as an example of what happens when the wrong people are put into power, particularly with the reality that George W. Bush did not win the popular vote in the Presidential Election of 2000, but won the court case that was decided on party line vote in the Supreme Court, a majority which had been picked by Republican Presidents!

History will not judge the Bush Presidency well, and no matter what the Republican Party of 2014 does to sweep the past under the rug, the truth will win out, and it will not be pretty!

What If The US Senate Goes Republican In 2014? What Would Be The Effects?

The battle for the majority control of the US Senate is in full swing, with the Republicans needing to pick up six seats in order to gain control in the MIdterm Elections of 2014.

The odds are seen as good, IF the establishment Republicans coming up for reelection are able to hold off the Tea Party challengers they face in primaries.

The Democrats are on the defensive, since about two thirds of the seats up in 2014 are Democratic, and particularly in the South, the small number of Senate Democrats from that section are under assault.

This blogger will examine the Senate races over time, but right now, the key issue is the effect IF the Senate goes Republican.

The likely scenario would be the following:

The Senate would work against any immigration reform.

The Senate would block any attempt at any gun regulation

The Senate would be likely to attempt a block of any Supreme Court nominees of President Obama, and probably battle more than ever over any judicial appointments at the lower levels of the courts, along with clear opposition to Presidential appointments to the cabinet or other key positions.

The Senate would probably help to encourage a Republican House of Representatives to draw up charges of impeachment against President Obama, but would be unable to gain a two thirds vote in the chamber, to convict and remove him from office.

Senate attempts to override Presidential vetoes would become more common, but the President would continue to have the advantage in that regard, as gaining a two thirds override is highly unlikely.

Overall, more gridlock and stalemate would occur, and more disillusionment with our national government would grow, and cause a likely return to Democratic control of the Senate in 2016, when Hillary Clinton or any other Democratic nominee wins the White House!

Suddenly, Joe Biden Makes It A Race With Hillary Clinton For 2016!

Here many thought that the Democratic Presidential race for 2016 was over, and that Hillary Clinton would saunter to the nomination without opposition.

True, that former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley were hinting that they might challenge Hillary, but the thought was it could just be an attempt to gain some publicity, and hope that Hillary would not run, giving them the edge simply on intention to run.

Well, forget about that, as Vice President Joe Biden has made it clear that he does not wish to be ignored or overlooked, and that IF he decides to run, it will not be affected by what Hillary does. After all, even good friends compete in life, right? Biden does not want to be seen, certainly at this point, as a “lame duck”, still wanting to be seen as significant and in the game for the next three years as Vice President and beyond.

When one thinks about it, since Richard Nixon, it has been assumed, and often the fact, that a sitting Vice President was seen as a likely successor to the President he served, at least for the nomination. Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey, Gerald Ford, Walter Mondale, George H. W. Bush, and Al Gore all became Presidential nominees after serving under Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Nixon and Bush became President, while Humphrey, Ford, Mondale and Gore failed to win the Presidential elections after they were nominated by their party. Only Dick Cheney never considered running for the Presidency, after being Vice President under George W. Bush. Even Spiro Agnew, before he was forced to resign due to scandal, was perceived as the likely successor nominee to Richard Nixon, and the same for Dan Quayle under George H. W. Bush, who tried and failed to win the Presidential nomination in 1996.

So the idea of Biden wanting to run is not at all out of the norm, and when one looks seriously at Joe Biden’s record in public life, all one say is WOW!

The reality is that NO Vice President has EVER had the wealth of experience in public office of Joe Biden!

BIden served 36 years in the Senate, and will have had 8 years in the Vice Presidency, for a total of 44 years in public service by 2016.

Biden is a well liked, admired, gregarious, public figure, even if one does not agree with his viewpoints and record.

It is well known that Biden can build bridges with the Republican opposition, and that Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell like him, work well with him, and that Joe Biden has helped to resolve differences on many issues for the Obama Administration. Biden has been a major player and influence over policy and strategy for President Obama, and has been a loyal soldier when his viewpoints have lost out in the cabinet and national security meetings.

Joe Biden has chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his expertise in foreign policy, and his knowledge of, and relationships with foreign leaders make him invaluable in dealing with national security and defense issues. He was often thought of as a possible Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense in the past, due to his brilliance in these areas of such great importance to America’s future.

Joe Biden has also chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his knowledge and understanding of constitutional matters and the Supreme Court, make him invaluable on legal controversies, including his advocacy of gay rights and gay marriage ahead of most politicians who have served in Congress or the executive branch.

Joe Biden is a leader, who if he were President, would be able to get things done much more easily, and is a “wheeler dealer” in the mode of Lyndon B. Johnson, but with a more kind and caring edge than the former President, who could be quite brusque and crude at times.

Hillary Clinton has great background and experience, but on pure years and accomplishments, she cannot match Joe Biden, and in fact, NO ONE in public life can do so!

The major shortcomings of Joe Biden are:

His age, which will be 74 and two months if he took the oath of office in 2017, making him the oldest first term President, and in theory, the oldest President altogether, if he had two terms, and left office at age 82 and two months.

His health, the question whether it would hold up, as he had serious health issues in 1987, due to an aneurysm, which required brain surgery, and his son, Beau Biden, the Delaware Attorney General, suffered a similar health crisis a few years ago, also recovering, but making it seem to be a genetic problem, which could arise, although health issues could also arise for Hillary Clinton, and really, for any Presidential candidate or winner of either party at any age!

His tendency to say embarrassing, or sometimes, purely stupid comments, although one could argue all of us do that, but when in high office. it can have reverberations, and there are critics who keep lists of “Bidenisms”, but they do NOT match the moronic nature of comments made by Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann or Louie Gohmert in the present, or Dan Quayle in the past!

One thing is certain: If Joe Biden were to become President, we would have one of the most lively, colorful, dynamic Presidencies, with Biden being very warm, genuine, sincere, caring, and yet hard nosed enough to get things done and read the “riot act” on his own party members to get things done!

It would be nice to see such a Presidency, which would be inspiring in so many ways.

Having said all of the above, it is clear that if Hillary Clinton runs, she is likely to be the Democratic nominee.

If she chooses not to run, then Joe Biden is the odds on favorite for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

However, if Hillary does not run, or even if she does, it is likely that a “younger generation”, an idea advocated by this blogger in entries before now, are likely to enter the race and make it interesting, including the already named Schweitzer and O’Malley, and if Hillary bows out of the race, possibly Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Virginia Senator Mark Warner.

The Arizona Anti Gay Law: Unconstitutional And Reprehensible!

Arizona has made quite a name for itself in recent years, being the infamous state that passed the toughest anti immigration bill, SB 1070, in 2010, causing an uproar, and eventually having several major provisions of the law being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, while keeping some parts of the controversial law, and hurting Arizona tourism and public image irrevocably.

Now Governor Jan Brewer has until Tuesday to decide whether to sign a new anti gay law, that allows all public services to be denied gay and lesbian people, if the people providing the services choose not to deal with them on religious grounds. Business owners could declare their opposition to homosexuality, and refuse to give service to such customers.

Such a law is unconstitutional and reprehensible, as one’s religious beliefs do not and should not include the right to discriminate against anyone!

If such a law was to be upheld, it would, effectively, make gays and lesbians second class citizens, a sexual “apartheid”, a group that would be denied public services on the basis of someone claiming to be a “good” Christian, when there is absolutely no way that the teachings of Jesus Christ could be interpreted as promoting hate and prejudice against ANYONE!

If this could be allowed, then why not refuse services to Jews, African Americans, Latinos, disabled people, women, the elderly, etc? The Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be upended, precisely 50 years after its passage!

Anyone can be anti gay, or anti African American, or anti Jewish, or anti Latino, etc in their THOUGHTS, as no one can control that, but NO ONE should EVER be able to use religious orthodoxy to discriminate, mistreat, condemn in their public activities regarding such people!

If one wishes to work with the public, one MUST serve ALL Of the public, whether one likes it or not!

Otherwise, imagine the tow truck driver who will not give service to a driver who has a flat tire; or the pharmacist who will not give service to a customer for a prescription; or the nurse who will not give medical services in a hospital to a customer on religious grounds; or the gas station attendant who will not allow a person to buy gasoline; or any business owner in any type of store dealing with the public who refuses service, including the much discussed cake maker who will not bake a cake for a gay couple (but could also be a Jewish couple, or a interracial couple)!

Realize also that many “straight” people could be wrongfully tagged as being gay or lesbian. There are people who may seem effeminate in gesture or voice who are NOT gay or lesbian. There are people who may dress a certain way that makes some people think they are gay or lesbian. There could two men or two women, with or without kids, who some might think are gay and lesbian, but are not. The fact that a majority of gay men and women do not “act” gay or lesbian (whatever that prejudicial feeling is supposed to be), makes the whole idea of discrimination even more outrageous and despicable!

This is not the Russian Federation, nor Nigeria, nor Uganda, all nations where right wing evangelicals have campaigned to pass anti gay laws! It is the United States of America, and we cannot tolerate ANY such prejudice or mistreatment in the United States!

Any professional, as in medicine, for instance, who would refuse to serve anyone on the basis of religion, should have his or her license to practice taken away, as he or she is violating the Hippocratic Oath to serve all people!

This is a time to crack down and make clear that there will be NO tolerance of any prejudice or discrimination by anyone, that it will lead to legal action, prosecution, and punishment within the limits of the law!

There is no room for bigotry in American, based on so called religious principles, in America in the year 2014 and beyond! It is time to crack down once and for all!

FDR’s Worst Domestic Mistake: 72nd Anniversary Of Japanese American Internment Order

Franklin D. Roosevelt is rated in most polls of scholars as our second greatest President, right behind Abraham Lincoln, or if placed third, behind George Washington as well.

FDR did so much good for us in the years of the Great Depression, with his wide variety of New Deal programs, and he also took us through the travails of World War II.

But he made a horrible mistake, when he issued Executive Order 9066 on this day in 1942, 72 years ago, allowing the building of prison camps, specifically for Japanese Americans, but also for some German Americans and Italian Americans, on the basis that they might be a “Fifth Column” working for the nation of their family’s origin.

About 110,000 mostly Japanese Americans were locked up in internment camps, and if they tried to escape, were shot and killed by guards. They were kept there until the middle of 1945, for no crime other than their ethnicity.

Many of the young Japanese American men went off to fight in Europe in World War II, and won more medals, honors, and awards for their bravery in battle, than any other unit of the war effort.

It took until 1988 for President Ronald Reagan to sign legislation granting compensation to the approximate 50,000 such victims still alive.

On the 31st anniversary of Executive Order 9066, President Gerald Ford signed legislation in 1976, declaring that executive order null and void for the future, with the memory of the miscarriage of justice that had been visited on Japanese Americans.

Never again should any such executive order be issued against any ethnic, racial, or religious group, but one can be sure that there are many right wingers who would love to do the same to our Muslim population, or our Latino population.

This mistake by FDR, giving in to hysteria, was upheld shamelessly by the Supreme Court in Korematsu V. US in December 1944, a low moment for the Court, but not the only one it has done in its long history!

Civil liberties of people should never be breached in the name of hysteria and panic!

Federal District Court Judges And Same Sex Marriage Bans Collapsing!

The move toward same sex marriage churns on, with federal judges having utilized the 14th Amendment in four “Red” states in the past two months now to end the discrimination against gays marrying.

So on Valentine’s Day, it now looks more evident than ever that a national Supreme Court decision is in the offing, with Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority decision in Lawrence V. Texas in 2003 igniting the gay civil rights movement, likely to be the fifth and decisive vote in any case that goes to the high Court!

Who would ever have thought that Utah, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and now, newly turned “Blue” Virginia (the state of the Loving V. Virginia interracial marriage case in 1967), would see such rapid action to defy the bigots and the haters?

The federal courts have been the herald of the future in so much of modern history, as with Brown V. Board of Education on racial integration, and Roe V. Wade on abortion rights, and Lawrence V. Texas on gay rights, and the courage of federal district judges across the nation to push the Supreme Court toward a final determination of same sex marriage is an indication that often we have to leave it to appointed judges to lead us to our better side of human nature, the ending of discrimination and injustice!

Sadly, we see right wing evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons fighting a rear guard action, which only makes one realize the evils of these organized groups that have in the past been on the wrong side of many moral and ethical issues, overlooking slavery, segregation, women’s rights, and now gay rights. This is a losing battle long term, and these groups fighting against progress and human rights will pay the price in loss of membership by their willingness to fight a battle that is already lost!