NPR

A Clown Car Crossover Extravaganza

Detail of 'Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal' by Zach Weiner, 12 June 2015.

Two stars of the 2016 GOP Clown Car strove for fabulosity in a crossover clusterdiddle for the ages. Steve Benen of msnbc brings us the Tales of Two Petty Whines in the wake of marriage equality; first up, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) grasp of constitutional law has long been a little fuzzy. In January, the Republican presidential candidate said Supreme Court rulings don’t set the law of the land because decisions need to be enshrined by lawmakers through “enabling legislation.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee speaks to guests gathered at the Point of Grace Church for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition 2015 Spring Kickoff on April 25, 2015 in Waukee, Iowa. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)The problem, of course, was that this was gibberish.

Huckabee’s argument was presented in anticipation of a Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality, which arrived on Friday. Right on cue, the former governor made a similar argument to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos yesterday.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you calling for civil disobedience?

HUCKABEE: I don’t think a lot of pastors and Christian schools are going to have a choice. They either are going to follow God, their conscience and what they truly believe is what the scripture teaches them, or they will follow civil law. They will go the path of Dr. Martin Luther King, who in his brilliant essay the letters from a Birmingham jail reminded us, based on what St. Augustine said, that an unjust law is no law at all. And I do think that we’re going to see a lot of pastors who will have to make this tough decision.

He added moments later, “I’m not sure that every governor and every attorney general should just say, well, ‘It’s the law of the land,’ because there’s no enabling legislation.” When Stephanopoulos asked if he would enforce federal law if elected president, Huckabee said it would depend on Congress passing “enabling legislation.”

Mr. Benen makes the first, obvious point, that, “There won’t be ‘enabling legislation’.” Mr. Huckabee is, in all seriousness, pulling a screeching monkey out of his ass and telling you it’s a rabbit prophesying in a hat.

There is also the question of civil disobedience, and while most can agree it has its place, one wonders if our Republican neighbors can tell the difference. In tihs case, the proposition is a matter of civil disobedience in assertion of a right to discriminate and harm. In Jesus’ name, you know. Amen.

But wait, there’s more!

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The One About How Nine Justices Walk Into a Bar ….

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before the House Judiciary Committee's Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee on Capitol Hill May 20, 2010 in Washington, DC. Scalia and fellow Associate Justice Stephen Breyer testified to the subcommittee about the Administrative Conference of the United States. (Photo: Stephen A. Masker)

“Congratulations, Congress, you’ve literally sunk to the level of a punch line.”

Steve Benen

The proposition that Congress is a punch line strikes few as new material. Even the idea that a Solicitor General would take the shot is not so strange. Yet Steve Benen makes the point about Justice Scalia’s blithe view of the 114th Congress:

Scalia wasn’t kidding. “I don’t care what Congress you’re talking about,” he added. “If the consequences are as disastrous as you say, so many million people ­­ without insurance and whatnot – yes, I think this Congress would act.”

On a purely theoretical level, this is not ridiculous. Major new laws have routinely needed minor technical fixes for generations, and many of these corrections are intended to bring clarity to ambiguous phrases. Under normal circumstances, the King v. Burwell case wouldn’t even exist because Congress would have clarified the ACA structure years ago.

And, again in theory, if the Supreme Court were to decide in this case that the statute needs clarification, a sane, mature, responsible legislative branch would simply add a few words to the ACA law and ensure that consumers receive the same insurance subsidies they’re receiving now.

But that’s all the more reason to understand exactly why Scalia is wrong.

Perhaps it is Justice Scalia who is the punch line. Then again, neither is that news.

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A Long Note on Political Tradition in These United States

President Barack Obama, delivers his State of the Union speech at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Charles Dharapak/AP)

By now of course we have become accustomed to the proposition that Republicans, once elected, would rather sit around. To some it actually seems a very sick idea; not only did the Speaker of the House demonstrate that Republicans conisder their job description to include going on vacation instead of actually working because, well, the most important part of the job is election and re-election, but in recent months the GOP has shown more and more willingness to simply admit that the inherent failure of government is more of a conservative goal than anything else.

Boehner and the band skipped out on gigs that might need Congressional attention, such as the Daa’ish question, the Ebola question, and the Immigration Reform question; despite their howls of rage regarding the latter, the fact of executive action occasionally arises when Congress refuses to pass a bill and the Speaker of the House calls on the President to use his executive authority. They could have skipped screeching themselves hoarse by simply sticking around and doing their jobs. Then again, the prior statement is controversial if only because it would appear that Congressional Republicans appear to believe their first, last, and only job is to win votes. Given their reluctance to undertake day-to-day Constitutional functions of Congress, such as advising and consenting to presidential appointments—or, as such, formally refusing the nomination—we ought not be surprised that the latest duty Republicans wish to shirk is sitting through an annual speech.

Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right’s mind.

“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.'”

Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one publicly pushing the idea.

Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”

Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”

(Benen)

Wait, wait, wait—sixteen years ago?

Yes. Like impeachment chatter and stonewalling, Republicans want to make refusing to hear the State of the Union Address part of their standard response to any Democratic president.

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Today’s Depressing Dose

Bill Cosby

Look, we know, it hurts.

Heroes rise and fall; the cycle of generations is now molded into prepackaged expectations, but beyond the flighty, twitterpated spasms of youthful celebrity there remain the titans of a former era.

And sometimes they fall from grace.

It is never pretty. It is never happy. Schadenfreude percolates its toxic brew. And, yes, it hurts.

But to consider the grand scale, this sort of hurt is more a self-indictment; what have we given, and for what? To what?

Some are aware that one such titan of American history—the first black actor to star in a television drama series, the voice and style that charmed generations, a persuasive figure in family and educational philosophy—stands accused, reeling backwards toward the precipice. Bill Cosby sees his legend at the verge of crumbling.

It hurts, but here’s the thing: What if it’s true?

We know the difference between innocent and not guilty. We know the feeling of watching beloved stars from our celebrity cosmos crash and burn. We know about presumptions of innocence. We know about appearances of guilt. And perhaps we are depressed by accusations of serial sex assault, or maybe we are enraged that someone might besmirch The Cos, or it might simply be that our hearts are broken because yet another icon of our cultural glory might well turn out to be just another sack of toxic, useless fertilizer.

It hurts, sure. But who and what are we really indicting?

Because if it’s true, what hurts about watching another star streaking down from the firmament has nothing on the damage such actions caused.

So if you want the overview, consider Jenée Desmond-Harris’ lede for Vox.com:

On Tuesday, the 15th woman to accuse Bill Cosby of sexual assault came forward.

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A Kansas Story

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

It was not so long ago that Don Gonyea of NPR filed a report on the gubernatorial race in Kansas:

This isn’t your typical incumbent-in-trouble story, though. In office, Brownback has done exactly what he said he would. But many, many voters aren’t happy, including a lot of Republicans.

Big tax cuts that Brownback championed have left Kansas with a serious budget problem ....

.... Some of the loudest complaints have come from moderate Republicans. This summer, 104 Republicans — current and former Kansas officials — held a press conference to endorse Davis.

Brownback’s problem is that in fulfilling his promise to alter the state’s financial structure, he failed to fulfill the other part of his promise, that doing so would help Kansas.

In the first gubernatorial debate recently at the Kansas State Fair, Brownback addressed the state’s economic issues. “Our unemployment rate is 4.9 percent. We have a record number of Kansans working. We have the fastest-growing economy in the region and more new business created than ever in the history of the state,” he said.

But Democrat Paul Davis countered with a darker view of things, saying the deficit is projected to hit $1.3 billion in five years.

“Our credit rating has been downgraded three times. We’re 45th in the nation in new business creation,” Davis said. “In 2013, more businesses closed up shop than opened shop. It’s because we have an economic experiment that isn’t working. Let’s return to a proven Kansas model of growing our economy, and that’s how we’re going to help Kansas.”

Many of Gov. Brownback’s critics foresaw htis outcome. The question is whether or not the hardline Republican can convince voters that, “The sun is shining in Kansas and don’t let anybody tell you any different.”

What about the numbers? Will they say anything different, or will they reveal the sunshine?

Right.

Josh Barro explains:

Kansas has missed its tax revenue targets again, and the state is in for new fiscal pain as a result.

You may recall that Kansas gained national attention back in June because it had cut income taxes and lost a lot more revenue than lawmakers had anticipated. For fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30, the state collected $330 million less in taxes than it had forecast, and $700 million less than it had collected in the prior year.

Those are big numbers in a state that spends about $6 billion annually from its general fund, and the revenue weakness led both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to cut Kansas’ credit rating this year.

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Follow-up … Clean-up … Something-up

The Rachel Maddow Show, 6 October 2014

Rachel Maddow’s nearly giddy segment on msnbc last night noted that when the full effect of yesterday’s Supreme Court rejection of appeals against marriage equality reaches the states, the roster will equal thirty states. And she looked forward to decisions expected from the Sixth and Ninth.

Today, the hammer dropped in the Ninth; Dale Carpenter quips:

I haven’t read the Ninth Circuit opinion yet. I have to teach now, so it would be nice if the courts would stop issuing gay-marriage decisions for an hour or so.

The estimable Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog explains what happened in the Ninth:

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling was made up of three parts.

First, all three judges on the panel joined in an opinion by Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt finding that the Idaho and Nevada bans violate the constitutional guarantee of same-sex couples to be treated the same legally as opposite-sex couples. Second, Judge Reinhardt issued a separate opinion, for himself only, saying he would also strike down those bans under the Constitution’s Due Process Clause, arguing that the right to marry is a fundamental guarantee and that gays and lesbians have a right to share in that right. Third, Circuit Judge Marsha S. Berzon, in a separate opinion only for herself, said she would have also struck down the bans on the premise that they discriminate on the basis of gender.

The third member, Circuit Judge Ronald M. Gould, joined only the main opinion on the equal protection principle.

This ruling was perhaps the least surprising among four federal courts of appeals decisions striking down state prohibitions on same-sex couples marrying, and already-married couples gaining official state recognition of those unions, performed elsewhere.

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Sad: Wasted Opportunities

The headline, from Reuters:

    Top Republican sees bumpy Kagan court confirmation

And the lede:

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan will face tough questions at a Senate confirmation hearing because she has never been a judge and has no record of judicial opinions, a top Republican senator said on Sunday.

As if this is news.

With judicial appointments in general, the question is no longer whether or not the opposition will obstruct, but, rather, how they go about doing it. To the administration’s favor in the coming confirmation fight for Elena Kagan is her one great merit throughout—she is very good at appeasing conservatives. (more…)