Month: May 2009

Obama As Compared To Other Presidents In Approval Rating

Barack Obama comes out in the latest Gallup poll as having the fourth highest rating of presidents since Eisenhower after four months in office,  not counting Lyndon Johnson and Gerald Ford, who came in by succession to the White House.

His rating is 65 percent, behind Kennedy (77),  Eisenhower (74) and Reagan (68).  He is tied with Carter (65), and ahead of Nixon (63) and George HW Bush (60).  George W Bush’s rating was 55 and Bill Clinton the lowest at 45.

This puts Obama in a good position, but realize that Carter,  Nixon and George HW Bush all were ultimately seen as failures in different ways in the Presidency, with Carter and Bush losing re-election and Nixon being forced out of office, while Bill Clinton and George W Bush finished their terms and Clinton, at least, is often seen as moderately successful in office, particularly in the latest C-Span poll of Presidents. 

Meanwhile Kennedy, Eisenhower and Reagan are all rated now among the top ten Presidents,  and have always been wildly popular among the general public, if not always with scholars.  So these early ratings may not matter much for Obama in the long run.

Finally, A Conclusion to the Minnesota Senate Race?

On Monday, a full seven months after the election  and five months after the beginning of Congress’s new term, the Minnesota Supreme Court of five members will hear arguments on whether problems with absentee ballots justify reversing the 312 vote lead of Al Franken over Norm Coleman for the Senate seat.

If the Minnesota Court decides that it will uphold the lower courts in their decision that Franken has won the seat, FINALLY there may be a conclusion to the longest Senate race in American history.  It also means on paper that the Democrats will have the 60 vote margin to prevent filibusters, at least in theory.

It is certainly long overdue that the people of Minnesota get their second senator and take the burden off the other Minnesota senator, Amy Klobuchar, who has been good spirited about trying to represent the whole state in the Senate all by herself.

Some Rationality Among GOP Leaders on Sotomayor

Finally, we are seeing some rationality by leaders of the Republican party against the frontal assault by Rush Limbaugh,  Newt Gingrich, and other right wing talk show hosts on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Senator John Cornyn of Texas and RNC Chairman Michael Steele are calling for a halt to these attacks on Sotomayor, which include charges that she is a racist; that she is stupid;  that she is equivalent of David Duke, the white supremacist;  that she is unqualified for the Court, etc.  Both of them see the damage that can be done to the image of the Republican party to oppose a qualified Hispanic woman, who would be on the liberal side of the Court, something that cannot be avoided as a result of the presidential election, but has more background and experience than anyone picked for the Court in the past century.

While neither of these leaders are exactly seen as the ideal model of the Republican party themselves, with their past outrageous statements and actions on many fronts, at least they are not as extreme as the right wingers mentioned above who have no dignity and grace and class at all.

Since Sotomayor will be confirmed without any doubt,  the Republicans have the opportunity to play a reasonable opposition role, but if they continue to allow the extremists to control the agenda on this issue, then the American people will reject their appeals for regaining office for the long run.  Ultimately, their future is in their hands.

The Change In The Supreme Court: A Majority “Minority” Court

How times have changed!   Who could have imagined that the Supreme Court of the United States would reach the stage 220 years into its history to be made up of a majority that are "minority", at least if religion is considered along with gender and race.

When Sonia Sotomayor joins the Court this fall, there will then be SIX Catholics on the Court  (Sotomayer, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Roberts, Alito), the most ever, and in history only eleven in total have served.  There will also be two Jewish justices  (Ginsberg, Breyer), and only one WASP (John Paul Stevens), even though they are still the majority of Americans, albeit in smaller numbers than ever before.

Additionally, there will be two women (Ginsberg, Sotomayor), one Hispanic (Sotomayor), two Italian Americans (Scalia, Alito), and one African American (Thomas).  This will mean that the Court is more representative of the nation than it has ever been, with the likelihood of future appointments further reflecting the diversity of America,  and even leaving the possibility that when Stevens finally leaves the Court, he might not be replaced by another WASP!

This series of developments in recent years demonstrates how the country is being more and more democratized and made open to equal opportunity, with of course the election of Barack Obama a shining example of this trend.  We are not going to allow the conservative Republicans and conservative groups in general to set us backward to the "old boy" system.  That is part of the prejudiced, limited past, and the time for that is over!  The country is changing for the better, and not too soon!

Sotomayor Designed To Win Over Justice Anthony Kennedy?

A senior Obama Administration official has told newsmen that Obama picked Sonia Sotomayor for many reasons, but that one of them was hopefully to have a positive impact on Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on most Supreme Court cases.

The intention, apparently, is to win him over to the liberal side of the Court, and therefore, make 5-4 decisions that would put the conservative bloc in the minority.  IF that actually occurs, which only time will tell, it will have a major effect on future Supreme Court decisions.

Sotomayor’s selection is creating many interesting side stories, at the same time that it is exposing conservative talk show hosts and leading conservative groups as having a death wish by calling her racist, which is totally preposterous.  Look in the mirror, accusers, and see the truth:  You are the racists and a disgrace to America!  The American people will see you for what you are, and your tactics will NOT work!

Sonia Sotomayor And The End Of The Baseball Strike of 1994

An important footnote to the career of Sonia Sotomayor is her intervention in the Baseball Strike of 1994, which she helped to end as a Federal District Court judge.

A baseball fan who grew up within sight of Yankee Stadium, she stepped in to end the strike by a court injunction which was upheld by a Second Federal Circuit Court ruling, after a 234 day players strike shortened the 1994 season and canceled the World Series of that year.  She ruled against management in this injunction, and revived the game of baseball at a delicate time when its survival was at stake.

Therefore she is a champion of baseball fans, such as myself, and the game was revived after with the usual exciting accomplishments and great players who have always made baseball the National Pastime.  

President Obama referred to this when he nominated Sotomayor, and his joking hope that New Englanders , (meaning the Boston Red Sox fans),  would not hold it against her that she was a lifetime Yankees fan.  :)  LOL

The Attorneys in Bush V Gore Unite on Backing Gay Marriage

The two prominent attorneys who were on opposite sides of the Bush V Gore Supreme Court case over the Election of 2000 have united to fight in federal court against Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, and was just upheld by the California Supreme Court yesterday.

Theodore Olsen (certainly a conservative) and David Boies declared that gay marriage was another civil rights campaign, and that no one should be denied basic rights, and that gay Californians should be allowed to marry again as the federal case moves forward.  It is certainly a bold move for these two opposing lawyers to come together to promote what they see as a violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which promotes due process and equal protection.

Ultimately, the movement for equality under the law regarding marriage, the military, and general discrimination in many areas of American society for gays  must be addressed in the federal courts, and NOT in the votes of Americans, who if left to their prejudices in the past, would still deny equality to African Americans, women, and other religious and racial and ethnic minorities.  There should NOT be a vote on whether individual Americans should have basic rights.  It should be guaranteed as part of the promotion of human rights, the basic story of American history since World War II.

Sonia Sotomayor And Conservative Republican Charges of Racism

The Republican party’s conservative champions seem to have no level to which they will not stoop in the self destruction of their party.

It is an outrage that Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Tom Tancredo are labeling Sonia Sotomayor, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee,  a "racist" because of a speech years ago in which she said that her life experiences as an  Hispanic woman made her qualified to see things differently than a white male.

What is wrong with that statement?  Each person’s background and experiences gives them different perspectives, and certainly the Supreme Court needs more than just the white male perspective, which has been totally dominant to now,with only two women and two African Americans to supply a small level of diversity, and that only since the late 1960s to the early 1990s by date of appointment to the Court. 

To call Sotomayor an "affirmative action" appointment implies that she has insufficient background, education and experience, and nothing could be further from the truth.  It is interesting how Republicans who are not elected office holders are making these statements, while the Republicans in the Senate seem to be much more cautious in their reactions.  IF the Republicans in the Senate follow the trend of thought that Limbaugh, Gingrich and Tancredo have pursued, then the party may as well just throw in the towel and become an historical oddity,  such as the Whig Party which died in the 1850s. 

It would be a shame to stain the Republican historical record as represented by such luminaries as Abraham Lincoln,  Charles Sumner,  Theodore Roosevelt,  Robert La Follette, Sr., Robert Taft,  Arthur Vandenberg,  Dwight D. Eisenhower,  Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.,  Jacob Javits,  Charles Percy, Mark Hatfield,  Clifford Case,  Charles Mathias,  Gerald R. Ford,  Nelson Rockefeller, and Jack Kemp, among many others. 

Gay Marriage in California

A tragic development occurred today when the California Supreme Court reversed last year’s decision and upheld the narrow victory of the anti gay marriage supporters in the state referendum held at the time of last fall’s Presidential election.

At the same time, the California Supreme Court upheld the 18,000 marriages that took place over about six months after the court ruled in favor of gay marriage up to the time of the election referendum.

This whole development is so contradictory and invites further attempts to legitimize gay marriage on a permanent basis through another struggle via constitutional referendum in the future.

Just imagine if the states were allowed to vote in the 1960s on whether interracial marriage should be allowed!  The Supreme Court of the United States finally ruled on that issue in 1967, and I think ultimately, the Supreme Court at some point will have to rule on gay marriage in the future.

So gay marriage has made advancements in recent months in several states, just as the largest state embarrasses itself on this issue within one year,  and it makes one wonder why there should even be a vote on this issue.  Is marriage to be allowed only if a majority allow it?  It seems to me that this is not the business of a referendum, but is a basic constitutional right.  At the same time, of course, no religious group can be required to marry two people they do not wish to marry, but since civil marriage exists, religion should not be able to interfere with marriages outside of religious boundaries.

One thing is certain:  the battle over this issue will continue, and I believe, in  the long run, gay marriage will eventually be widely accepted, as it is already among people under the age of 40.  It is a question of time and adaptation to change.

Sonia Sotomayor, The New Supreme Court Justice

President Obama has made an historic appointment of Sonia Sotomayor,  the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, and the third woman ever to sit on the Court.

Sotomayor comes to the Court as the most experienced at time of nomination of any of the present members of the Supreme Court.  Her story is inspiring, growing up in public housing in the South Bronx, New York; losing her father at age 9;  having her mother hold down two jobs while bringing up Sonia and her brother without any other help; excelling in Catholic school and having the opportunity to attend Princeton University and graduating summa cum laude;  going to Yale Law School and serving on the law review;  being appointed by GOP President George HW Bush to a district court judgeship;  and elevated to the circuit court level by Bill Clinton.

Sotomayor comes across as a strong, determined woman who will bring hope to millions of Hispanics nationally, as well as other minorities.  As President Obama said, it shows that anyone can accomplish great things in America.  Some have compared her life story to Obama’s own past, although she grew up in far worse circumstances of poverty than Obama did.  

While she is a diabetic, the hope is that this will not shorten the term of Sotomayor on the Court.  The expectation is that she will distinguish herself on the Court for at least a couple of decades.  She certainly will not be a silent member of the Court, and will start to right the balance on the Court in such a way that women and minorities, who have been denied the opportunity to serve on the highest court in the land, can now expect renewed opportunities for accomplishment at that level.

While there will be opposition expected from the Republican party, hopefully it will not be significant, and not stoop to the level of critics such as Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney.  IF the Republicans choose to follow their lead, then Hispanics and women as major voting blocs will be lost for a generation or more by the party, and it would therefore be an act of self destruction and guarantee the dominance of the Democrats for the long term.  In that political sense,  Barack Obama has shown himself to be extremely shrewd!