Day: May 10, 2010

Senator John Cornyn’s Complaint About Supreme Court Nominees

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas had a complaint today about the Supreme Court after the announcement of the nomination of Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens on the high Court.

His complaint is that her background, and basically that of most Supreme Court nominees for a long time, has been one of having connections to Cambridge (Harvard University), Hyde Park (University of Chicago), and Washington, DC!

Actually, it should be said, to be technically correct, that some of the Supreme Court Justices come from New Haven (Yale University), and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg from NYC (Columbia University)! Also, a good number have had their life experiences affected by New York or California residence.

And so, the thought is, is this a problem? NO, as the facts are that our leading legal scholars and brilliant judicial minds come from the Boston-NYC-Washington DC megalopolis, as well as from Chicago and California! These ARE the leading academic and intellectual centers in the nation, whether people from the hinterland and the South want to accept it!

Do we really want people on the Supreme Court who come from second level law schools? Do we want “mediocre” members in their education and experiences involved in interpreting our Constitution?

Senator Cornyn sounds too much like former Republican Senator Roman Hruska of Nebraska, who tried to defend Florida judge G. Harold Carswell, appointed by President Richard Nixon to the Supreme Court. Carswell proved to be by far the most mediocre and incompetent Justice nominee in many years, and was defeated in the Senate, but not before Hruska admitted Carswell was mediocre, but declared that were not “mediocre” citizens entitled to representation on the Supreme Court? The answer is obviously NO!

We cannot afford anything other than the best of our country on the Supreme Court, and it is time to recognize where our intellectual and academic best are found in this nation! No one should feel cheated by us gaining the highest quality nominees, even if they are primarily from three locations geographically! We deserve nothing but the best!

Elena Kagan Inherits The Court Seat Of Brandeis, Douglas, And Stevens!

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, inherits a Court seat possibly the most significant single seat in the Court’s history!

In the past 94 years, the seat she takes over has had exactly THREE people in it, with all three being giants in the Court’s history!

From 1916 to 1939, Louis Brandeis, an appointee of Woodrow Wilson, served on the Court. The first Jewish Justice, and arguably the second greatest Justice in the Court’s history (after Chief Justice John Marshall), Brandeis promoted the concept of Sociological Jurisprudence in the legal system, which has had a dramatic effect on the whole history of the Court long after his time on that body ended!

Brandeis was succeeded by William O. Douglas, appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and served from 1939-1975. As the longest serving Supreme Court Justice ever, 36 and a half years, Douglas promoted the Brandeis liberal view of the Court, and is usually considered among the top ten Supreme Court Justices of all time!

John Paul Stevens succeeded Douglas in 1975, appointed by Gerald Ford, and will leave the Court this summer as the second oldest Justice ever (only surpassed by Oliver Wendell Holmes), and also the second longest serving Justice (only behind Douglas by about two years service). He will certainly be ranked historically as one of the 25 greatest Justices in the Court’s history!

So Elena Kagan takes on a major responsibility, to fill the shoes of three judicial giants, who have together had a overwhelming impact on Supreme Court history! May we wish her the best as she pursues fulfilling an imposing challenge!

The Key Moment In Obama’s Presidency May Be Right Now!

President Obama has faced many complex issues in his first 16 months in office, but ironically, it could be the twin crises now facing him that determine the long range view of his Presidency!

These crises are the British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the failed Times Square terrorist bombing attempt in New York City.

How these two crises work out will be seen as a crossroads in history, as the issue of the danger to our economy and environment represented by the catastrophic oil spill, and the growing threat of internal terrorism by people who reside in the United States hits upon the major insecurities and anxieties that most Americans have!

If we do not have economic stability, protection of the environment, and safety and security on an every day basis, what else really matters to most Americans?

This is not a partisan or political issue alone! It is the crux of what all Americans have on their minds on a daily basis, as what we used to be able to take for granted is no longer guaranteed!

Any President is faced with circumstances he has no control over, but the way he reacts to these situations could lower his public opinion ratings dramatically and sometimes permanently, and can mark his Presidency in history for all time as a success or a failure!

The Changing Supreme Court: The Nomination Of Solicitor General Elena Kagan

With the announcement of Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the newest member of the Supreme Court, we will be learning a lot about this second appointment to the high Court by President Obama.

What sticks out right at the beginning is the following:

1. Kagan will be the third woman on the Supreme Court, the highest number ever! The others are Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor.
2. Kagan will be the third Jewish Justice, the highest number ever! The others are Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer.
3. Kagan will be the youngest member of the Court, and being only 50, could serve for thirty or more years.
4. Kagan’s appointment is the first since William Rehnquist, appointed by Richard Nixon, to have no judicial experience at all, although eight of the nine members of the Court at the time of the Brown V. Board of Education case of 1954 had never been judges. This could be the beginning of a trend toward picking Justices who have a wider experience than just being on the bench.
5. This appointment continues the trend toward having Supreme Court Justices who have been graduates of Harvard or Yale University Law Schools, with Ruth Bader Ginsberg being the only exception, as a graduate of Columbia University Law School.
6. This marks the first time in history that not even one Protestant Justice will sit on the Court, which now will have six Catholics and three Jews on the Court, along with two Italians, one African American, and one Latino. Overall, this is a very diverse Court, but who could have imagined fifty years ago that a Court which was noted for having an Irish Catholic Justice (William Brennan) as an unusual event, would now be consisting of groups that be called “minorities”!

There will be more commentary on this historic event as weeks go by, as this will be a headline story for at least the next two months!

Obama, American Jews, And Israel: Changing Dynamics!

One of the most controversial areas of the foreign policy of President Obama is the relationship with America’s traditional ally, Israel.

Obama’s decision to openly criticize Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in March for approving the construction of new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, an area that Palestinians hope will be the location of their future government capital, outraged the general Israeli public, and leading American Jewish groups, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and the World Jewish Congress. It also greatly upset Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate who this week had a luncheon at the White House, as President Obama attempted to repair damage done by his strong stand against Israeli interests.

While Wiesel said he had been reassured, the major Jewish organizations remain opposed, and there is great suspicion among a majority of Israelis toward Obama Administration policy.

The fact that Obama used Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to deliver his message of opposition to the new settlements, along with his snub of Netanyahu when he visited Washington last month, and the resulting refusal of the Israeli Prime Minister to show up at the recent Nuclear summit that 47 nations attended, only added to the crisis atmosphere.

This led administration officials to speak before the Anti Defamation League National Leadership Conference this week to try to restore good relations, and convinced Obama to communicate with Netanyahu over the phone on the issue.

Many observers think Obama can only mend fences by a direct trip to Israel and promoting a so called “charm offensive”. But that is unlikely to work, because this issue of the settlements in East Jerusalem is very emotional and personal to most Israelis and many American Jewish groups.

But at the same time, it is a fact that a breach has developed between major American Jewish organizations and many American Jews, who do not like what they see as the overwhelming power and influence of traditional Jewish organizations who tend to support Israel with undivided loyalty.

Many Jews in America are pro Israel, but don’t feel the need to support every viewpoint and policy of the Israeli government, particularly a right wing one as headed by a hard liner such as Netanyahu.

So it is not at all surprising that younger Jews, and those without political and pressure group connections, are more critical of Israel and its policies on Middle East peace. 78 percent of Jews voted for Obama, and many agree with his domestic initiatives. A new poll suggests that 55 percent support his policies on Israel, a totally different perspective than that coming from the traditional Jewish leadership.

The real issue seems to be that most American Jews are liberal leaning and secular, while the Israeli government is now controlled by right wing nationalists and ultra religious elements that many American Jews do not approve of.

The long range concern is that the chasm developing between many American Jews and the Israeli policies will continue, and that loyalty and emotional commitment between Jews and Israelis will decline over the next few generations. Many Jews intermarrying only adds to the long range crisis.

The ability of the Obama Administration to bridge the gap between Israel and the United States is under great scrutiny, and there is no way to tell now whether the old relationship has been changed forever, to the detriment of both nations and to the American Jewish community itself!