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Est. April 5, 2002
February 18, 2016 - Issue 641

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Upon Death of Scalia
GOP Hopefuls Plan to Continue
To “TAKE Their Country Back”


"These are the kind of people who want
to fill the vacancy on the high court, so
that they may continue to move the country
toward oligarchy and plutocracy, leaving
the rest of the people to be left at the
margins of society and the economy."

It’s likely that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s body was not even cold last weekend before the Republicans in Congress and all of the GOP presidential candidates promised to keep the first black president from appointing another justice to the highest court.

In true Tea Party form, they all rose up as one to declare that they would do anything to keep President Obama from making a nomination to the high court, to replace Scalia, who died in west Texas Saturday night or Sunday morning during a hunting trip. In doing so, they proved once again that the loons of the Tea Party faction of the GOP have taken over the entire “party of Lincoln,” and their capacity to obstruct knows no bounds.

Start with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who warned Obama that he need not even send a name to the Senate to replace Scalia, in what some observers say is the first warning of its kind from a high ranking official. Usually, this kind of slap in the face of a sitting president is saved for a four-cocktail conversation in a remote corner of a Washington watering hole.

It should not be that surprising, however, because this is the Senate leader who announced, before the entire country shortly after Obama’s election that the job of the Republican Party was to see that Obama was a one-term president. It did not work and Obama has had a seven-year run as president, but there was nothing that he wanted to do that was not like a cage fight with the Republicans, led by the likes of McConnell and the former Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Even though Boehner brought to the House floor legislation that would kill Obamacare more than four dozen of times (all failed), he was declared not to be far enough to the right for the Tea Partiers, who, early in their creation, seemed to want to take their country back, possibly to just before the Civil War. And that might have satisfied them, but one can never be too sure about that.

Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, famous for his filibuster in his first term, upon hearing of Scalia’s death, declared that he would filibuster any candidate that Obama sent to the Senate, claiming that it would be against tradition to seat a new justice on the high court during an election year. That misstatement (probably out of ignorance) was shot down by many, in the press and among his colleagues, not to mention at least one justice who was appointed in the last year of a president’s tenure. That would be Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the last few months of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. That vote was 97-0, in a Senate with a Democratic majority.

Cruz has a way of bringing attention to himself and he seems to have settled on the filibuster as a way of gaining national attention, when he is not making outrageous statements about any subject at hand. For example, one of his recent statements was about the carpet-bombing of parts of the Middle East. If he is elected president, the tough guy declared, “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion...I don't know if sand can glow in the dark, but we're going to find out.”

One of the most satisfying put-downs of one of Cruz’s reckless declarations came from Major General Robert Scales, former commandant of the Army War College, who said, “Anyone with any understanding of military strategy knows that ‘carpet-bombing’ is a term used by amateurs trying to sound tough...” Another high-ranking military officer, General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the kind of bombing that Cruz threatened is not the way the U.S. applies force. “It isn’t now, nor will it ever be,” he added.

All of the GOP contenders for their party’s presidential nomination have agreed with both McConnell and Cruz that the president should not even think about sending the Senate the name of a nominee to replace Scalia. Either misreading history or just blathering, their consensus seems to be that there have been no Supreme Court appointments made by a lame duck president in an election year. Even though they have been proven wrong on that point, they will do what they can to delay any nomination until the first term of the next president, which they think might be a Republican.

Cruz often takes it upon himself to speak for the Republican Party and in fact, for all Americans of his political persuasion and he did so in this case, saying he would “absolutely” filibuster any nomination. “This should be a decision for the people,” he said on Sunday on ABC’s ‘This Week With George Stephanopoulos,’” indicating that Americans should have a vote on the next SCOTUS justice appointment. He surely knows that the people do not vote for high court justices, but if they did, the court might be quite different from the one that exists.

He also said that the people should “speak” in the next election of a president on the issue of confirmation of a new justice, although that is not likely to be on the ballot, since the people are electing a president, not a judge. He indicated on the talk-news show that he wants a justice as conservative as Scalia. He did not, he said, want a court that “will strip our religious liberties…(or) mandate unlimited abortions…(or) write the Second Amendment out of the Constitution.”

Not to be outdone, Marco Rubio, during last weekend’s GOP debate said, “Someone on this stage will get to choose the balance of the Supreme Court, and it will begin by filling this vacancy that’s there now. And we need to put people on the bench that understand that the Constitution is not a living and breathing document. It is to be interpreted as originally meant.” Seer that he is, he’s sure a Republican will sit in the White House, come next January.

Whether they are prognosticators of great skill or are just filled with profound hubris, the Republican leadership feels its power and the rest of their followers seem to fall in line with the party’s intent to continue their war against the first black president, who they will thwart at every turn. They (McConnell and all of the GOP presidential contenders) have promised to fight Obama for the remainder of this year. At this point, it is not just politics. It is highly personal, the president having had the cheek to win a second term, embarrassing the leader of the Senate and all of those in his party who felt that Obama was a usurper, who did not belong in the White House. The big lie was an integral part of their relentless attacks on him (for example, repeatedly to this day claiming that he was born in Kenya or, at least, outside the U.S.), as if their lies were real and their reality justified their vitriolic opposition, in which no compromise was possible.

Thus, this country has been drifting along a path that was set by the previous administration, which many around the world believe was one which committed war crimes in invading other countries without cause and set the Middle East ablaze at a tremendous cost in blood and treasure for all countries involved and the U.S. in particular. Essentially, the Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have ensured that there will be little governance at the federal or the state levels. Their strategy and tactics seem to have been designed to keep the country from being governed while Obama was in office. In large part, they have been successful.

Racism has played a part in all of this, but, to what extent, we do not really know, because in the modern era, public figures tend to keep their racism to themselves. But, in their public lives, even a passing analysis shows that racism and the inevitable results are a continuation of the racism that America has suffered from for 400 years. The actions of Republicans, the party in control of Congress, have continued a long history of failure to raise up the poor and most vulnerable of this country, especially poor people of color and Native Americans.

The struggle for justice for black and brown people goes on in the U.S. and it is a tough one. It is never ending. As James MacGregor Burns and Stewart Burns wrote in their 1991 book, A People’s Charter: The Pursuit of Rights in America, “Even if ultimately unsuccessful, in the course of conflict black people stretched the scope of rights they felt entitled to and linked their claims with parallel efforts to build autonomous institutions and lift up the black community. African-Americans experienced rights both as individual possessions and as resources held in common. Many felt a moral duty to secure them not just on an individual basis but for their people as a collective entity. For these citizens, rights had a markedly different texture for other Americans who, in Tocqueville’s words, ‘were born equal instead of becoming so.’” And “becoming so” is the heart of the struggle today. The rights of the people can be enhanced or thwarted by both legislative action and judicial action and that’s why the Supreme Court nomination that Obama sends to the Senate is so important.

President Obama will send a nomination to the Senate and it could be someone who Republicans in Congress have approved of in other situations, so it might be hard for them to, without comment or reason, turn them back without a hearing. Those in Congress are not unlike those running for the GOP nomination. There are few words spoken by any of them of justice, of equality, of the welfare of all of the people (unless it is to cut benefits from government programs). Instead, we are treated to the worst kind of macho attitudes about crushing our enemies, but it is always the sons and daughters of others who usually pay the price for their bravado.

These are the kind of people who want to fill the vacancy on the high court, so that they may continue to move the country toward oligarchy and plutocracy, leaving the rest of the people to be left at the margins of society and the economy. All citizens need to demand of their senators that they stand up for a vote on whomever Obama sends to them to replace Scalia. The Senate and the rest of government at all levels need to act to shoulder the responsibility of governing. Only pressure from the people can make that happen. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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