Thursday, April 12, 2012


President Obama’s troubling remarks concerning the United States Supreme Court and the constitutionality of the Health-Care Law are now well known to us, and much has been written questioning the propriety of the President’s critical comments about the Court, which were made in the aftermath of the highly publicized oral arguments made to the Justices by the lawyers representing the government and the opponents of the Health-Care Law.

To be specific, the President said the following in his press conference on April 2, 2012:

"I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint – that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law."

The next day, the lead headline of The Wall Street Journal thundered: “Obama warns Supreme Court – Says Overturn of Health-Care Law would be ‘Unprecedented Extraordinary Step’.” All experts seemed to agree that the President’s statement was a “rare example” of a president, prior to the Court’s decision, admonishing the Court to use “judicial restraint” before overturning one of the key achievements of his administration.

Some described the President’s remarks as “bullying” or an attempt to “intimidate” the Court into ruling his way. Others saw nothing wrong with his remarks at all. It is important to remember that prior to President Obama’s April 2nd press conference, his relationship with the Supreme Court was already unusually tense and that he had a history of being publicly critical of Supreme Court decisions he did not like. In his 2010 State of the Union speech before Congress, President Obama publicly rebuked the Justices – who were sitting uncomfortably in the audience – for a ruling he said would allow foreign corporations to make campaign contributions in American elections. In another rare moment in American history, Justice Samuel Alito mouthed “not true” when Obama delivered his rebuke.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, and U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder later defended the President’s remarks by saying that he did not intend to imply that the nation’s highest court had no authority to overrule Obamacare and that the President understood that, by virtue of the 200-year-old landmark case of Marbury v. Madison, the Court has the authority to judicially review the constitutionality of Acts of Congress. However, Attorney General Holder also stated, in support of the President’s remarks, that the courts should act with restraint in doing so and that the existing health insurance requirements of Obamacare fall within Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce.

So what are we, as American citizens, to make of this extraordinary chain of events, where a sitting President, our Commander in Chief, and the leader of the Executive Branch of our government, for the second time publicly calls out the Judicial branch of our government and publicly calls upon the Supreme Court to use “judicial restraint” before ruling against him in a landmark decision that could revolutionize the federal government’s intrusion and control over our lives.

Some say that the President’s willingness to take on the Supreme Court in an irreverent way by simply referring to the Justices as an “unelected group of people” shows leadership and his willingness to fight for those things in which he believes passionately. Others say that the President’s statements about the Supreme Court in his press conference, as well as in his State of the Union address, are very disturbing and dangerous, potentially breed anarchy, and show his basic disrespect for our American system of government. They say that such remarks show the tendencies of a potential dictator who is basically unwilling to accept the premise that our government is founded on a system of laws, not men.

It is noteworthy that President Obama is not the first American President to become frustrated with the Supreme Court, nor is he the first to resort to extraordinary means to attempt to influence its actions. In the 1920’s, American was still struggling to recover from the Great Depression, the nation’s economy was still very weak, bread lines were still evident in the nation’s largest cities, and agricultural workers were still suffering from the grapes of wrath. To attempt, in some way, to improve the nation’s economy, Congress passed some of the most far-reaching laws of President Roosevelt’s “New Deal for the American People”, which gave the President broad new powers to regulate trade and industry. Many of these laws were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

According to the eminent historian, Samuel Eliot Morrison, writing in his The Oxford History of the American People,

"In May, 1935 the Supreme Court, in the Schechter poultry case, destroyed the National Industrial Recovery Act in a unanimous and sweeping decision. Congress, said the Court, cannot delegate unfettered power to the President to issue whatever edicts he thinks advisable for the good of trade or industry. The NRA constituted an improper exercise of the Commerce Power, for if the commerce clause were so construed, “the federal authority would embrace practically all the activities of the people and the authority of the state over its domestic concerns would exist only by sufferance.”

President Roosevelt was upset by the Court’s ruling, which struck down what he had described as “the most important and far-reaching ever enacted by the American Congress.” Then, according to Professor Morrison, Roosevelt made “his first big mistake.”

"F.D.R., feeling that the country could not afford to wait for the six septuagenarians on the Court to make their last decisions, in February, 1937 made the startling suggestion to Congress that it authorize him to appoint one new Justice for every one over seventy years of age who had not retired."

The public’s renunciation of Roosevelt’s radical “court-packing plan” was immediate and came from every quarter. While the “public may have been irritated by the obstructionism of the Supreme Court, . . . it did not wish that revered institution to be tampered with.” Congress refused to pass Roosevelt’s proposal.

Put in proper context, it is obvious that President Obama and his followers, like Roosevelt and his New Dealers, believe that our Supreme Court often seems to find ways to. . . “favor private economic power and always to find ways of circumventing the efforts of popular government to control or regulate it.” (See Schlesinger’s The Politics of Upheaval).

My thoughts? I am grateful that the founders who wrote our Constitution put in place a system of checks and balances which prevents one branch of government from gaining too much power.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


“Many Republicans shudder at the thought of a brokered National Convention, but one of the GOP’s most accomplished political strategists believes it could improve the party’s chances of ousting President Obama.” So said Lou Cannon, former White House correspondent for The Washington Post and the author of the famous book, “President Reagan – The Role of a Lifetime”, described by many as the definitive account of the Reagan presidency. In his March 2, 2012, article in Real Clear Politics, Cannon quotes the now-retired Stuart K. Spencer as saying “We need a donnybrook of a convention.”

In his prime, Stu Spencer was a highly-sought-after political strategist who ran congressional and legislative campaigns for the California Republican Party. He gained national attention when he and his partner, Bill Roberts, managed the campaign of Nelson Rockefeller against Barry Goldwater in the closely contested but decisive California Presidential Primary; and he later managed Ronald Reagan’s successful campaign for Governor of California. In 1976, Spencer advised the sitting President, Gerald Ford, and (according to Lou Cannon) played a “key role” in “derailing Reagan’s challenge” for the Republican nomination for president in that year.

In the Presidential Campaign of 1980, (after Ford lost to Jimmy Carter in 1976) Spencer was “back with Reagan” at the request of Nancy Reagan. This time, Ronald Reagan was elected President of the United States, and thwarted President Jimmy Carter’s bid for a second term. “The rest, as they say, is history”.

As most Republicans know, 1976 was the last time Republicans had “a donnybrook of a convention.” Many of the same issues and fault lines within the party that faced Republicans in 1976 also face Republicans today in the bitter primary races between Romney, Santorum and Gingrich. Whereas Gerald Ford was characterized as a “Rockefeller Republican” by the Reagan forces in 1976, Mitt Romney is today characterized as a “Massachusetts moderate” who is the darling of the Republican eastern establishment that can deliver large amounts of cash to a candidate but few, if any, electoral votes from the northeastern states. On the other hand, Rick Santorum, like Reagan before him, has been characterized as “too extreme” in his views to be electable in November.

Indeed, Romney supporters are fond of saying that President Obama and his advisers are salivating at the prospect facing the conservative Rick Santorum in the general election presidential race. It is noteworthy that President Jimmy Carter likewise was salivating at the thought of having Reagan as his opponent because Carter and his advisers believed that the conservative Reagan would turn off moderate independents voters in the general election. However, Santorum has yet to demonstrate that he has the broad public appeal that Reagan had in 1976. Reagan was essentially a “happy warrior”, whereas Santorum often appears angry and frustrated.

As we watch the news – talk shows night after night, we almost universally hear respected commentators tell us a contested or brokered Republican National Convention would split the GOP and is extremely unlikely to occur in any event. Spencer’s answer is that the party is already badly divided and that the current crop of GOP candidates has already alienated independent voters. Indeed, a PEW survey taken in February found that only 32 per cent of the voters have a favorable opinion of Governor Romney, the established front runner.

Spencer’s conclusion that a “donnybrook” of tumultuous Republican convention would be best for the Republican Party in 2012 is not based on his fear that disagreements within the party will keep many Republicans from supporting Romney or whoever is the eventual Republican nominee. According to Lou Cannon, “Spencer does not buy that. He says Republicans of all stripes share a negative view of Obama and will back the nominee, while Democrats will vote for Obama although Democrats could have a turnout problem. Spencer’s concern is independents, who he said will decide the election. He finds their declining support for the current Republican candidates ominous for the GOP.”

Stuart K. Spencer therefore thinks we should select and unite behind a new untarnished face to lead the charge against President Obama in the fall of 2012. He believes that the bitter primaries, the relentless negative advertisements of the Super PACS, and the overall inability of the candidates to generate broad public appeal have contributed to the decline of broad support for any of current Republican candidates.

Stu Spencer is now retired. Although still sought out for political advice by many, perhaps he is now truly past his prime and out of touch with today’s political realities. Perhaps.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A John Grisham Novel

The former Reagan speech writer, Peggy Noonan, had it about right in her January 21, 2012, column in the Wall Street Journal, when she said:

“We have entered a new phase, the John Grisham novel, secret off-shore bank account, broken love, the testimony of anguished ex-wives; ‘He wanted an open marriage. A battered old veteran emerges from the background and, in his electoral death throes, provides secret information – ‘I’m for Newt’ – that he hopes will upend a dirty, rotten establishment. A vest-wearing choir boy turns out to be the unknown winner of that case back in Iowa. And all this against the backdrop of a mysterious firm that moves in and destroys communities – ‘when Mitt Romney came to town…’ – while its CEO pays nothing in taxes.”

I agree with Peggy’s analysis when she said: “What’s happening out there on the trail is a great story. But it’s not a good story. And the past few days it didn’t feel like a story that was going to end well.” The Republican free-for-all of 2012 has confirmed once again what many have been saying for months, if not years - that there are two major wings of the national Republican Party: the “economic issue Republicans” and the “social issue Republicans”. This schism was first clearly demonstrated on the national level in the epic Republican primary battle of 1976 between the conservative forces of the challenger, Ronald Reagan, against the more moderate forces of the sitting Republican President, Gerald Ford. In that year, Gerald Ford had served as Vice-President by virtue of an appointment by Richard Nixon, who later resigned as a result of the Watergate scandals and allowed Ford to take his place. Once he became President, Ford promptly appointed Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York as his Vice-President and kept his friend, Henry Kissinger, on as his Secretary of State.

Rockefeller and Kissinger were despised by the Reaganites and the followers of Barry Goldwater, who often said they would like to saw-off the northeastern portion of the United States and let it drift out into the Atlantic. They had particular disdain for the “Rockefeller Republicans”, and Vice-President Rockefeller ultimately agreed to step down and let Senator Bob Dole of Kansas become Ford’s running mate (after Ford barely defeated Reagan for the Republican nomination in 1976) in his campaign to be elected President on his own against Democrat Jimmy Carter.

As stated by Gerald Seib in his Wall Street Journal article dated January 17, 2012, the economic establishment faction of the Republican Party says economic growth and job creation are far and away the most important issues in the 2012 election; and all other concerns are secondary. This is essentially the Romney message in this year’s Republican Primary and the message of his supporters based in Massachusetts and the northeast. As Seib points out, Romney pushes his spectacular success in the business world, which explains why Gingrich attacks Romney’s experience running Baine Capital and charges that the private-equity firm, while making money for investors, was actually dismantling companies and “shedding jobs”.

The social-issue Republicans (often referred to in the news media as “evangelicals” or “born-again Republicans”), believe that traditional family values are of much greater importance than do most of their more secular fellow Republicans of the northeast. Gingrich and Rick Santorum criticize Romney’s record and position on guns, abortion, and other social issues. This explains why Romney emphasizes Gingrich’s ethics problems which he encountered while Speaker of the House and why Romney charges that Gingrich resigned as Speaker of the House “in disgrace”.

There are two other smaller factions in the Republican Party which Mr. Seib refers to as “the deficit faction” and “the national security faction”, which emphasizes a strong military and national security. The patron saint of the deficit faction is Ron Paul, who is basically an isolationist and in favor of massive cuts in federal spending, while at the same time promoting economic growth.

So there we have it: an authentic, northeastern establishment, Rockefeller Republican pitted against the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, who has heavy baggage on family values and ethics issues. Waiting in the wings, yet to be fully assaulted by the Super PACS, is former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who lost by almost 20 points the last time he ran for the U.S. Senate in his home state.

I note that Michael Reagan is supporting Gingrich while most establishment Republicans, like Bob Dole and George H. W. Bush, are all supporting Romney. How will the ultimate Republican winner look to the voters by the fall? What are independents going to think of our nominee? Peggy Noonan gave the following opinion:

“We all know politics ain’t beanbag, but it’s not supposed to be clown-car Indy 500 with cars hitting the wall and guys in wigs littering the track.

There’s been a lot of damage. We lose sense of it day to day, but in the aggregate it’s going to prove considerable.”

Friday, January 6, 2012


The frenetic Iowa Republican Presidential Primary is now over, and my sense is that Republicans in general have already lost the first round of the 2012 presidential sweepstakes. The spectacle in Iowa, with the full participation of the northeastern Republican “establishment” at the highest levels; as well as their campaign consultants, “Super-PACs” and the candidates themselves, has given immeasurable aid and comfort to President Obama and those who wish to transform the United States into a European-style socialist nation where American ingenuity and our capitalistic free-enterprise system is permanently put in moth balls for future study by historians.

As Karl Rove noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article (Dec. 22, 2011): “Obama will frame this election as a fight for the middle class. He told his Kansas audience that America was once a place where ‘hard work paid off, and responsibility was rewarded, and anyone could make it if they tried.’ Now, as he informed ’60 Minutes’ correspondent Steve Kroft, ‘the rules are rigged’ against ‘middle class families’”.

If Rove is correct (and I believe he is) the realization that the 2012 Obama re-election strategy will be a frontal assault on the American way of life and the free market society, should send cold chills up the spine of every Republican and every person who loves and considers America to be the last real beacon of hope for freedom in this world. Accordingly, one would think that responsible Republican candidates for President (and their advisors and supporters) would have recognized the stakes we are playing for in this election, and would have conducted themselves in a civil manner when debating each other so as not to do permanent damage to the Republican cause once the primary season is completed. Unfortunately, this was not the case in Iowa.

Instead, each of the candidates at one time or another were subjected to brutal attacks if they showed any sign of gaining traction with their message, and breaking out of the pack. These attacks took many forms. Some became deeply personal (my favorites: “If you cheat on your spouse, you could cheat on your business partner”; and “my opponents are anti-muslim”). Other attacks described their victims as being of such low character as to be basically unfit to be in the presence of decent, god-fearing men and women, much less to be President of the United States.

The northeastern Republican “establishment”, the national conservative media, as well as the “Super-PACs” (those anonymous organizations created for special purposes or to support a certain candidate) and their consultants also fully participated in the negative onslaught through paid direct-mail and television advertising designed to bring down certain candidates without their opponents having to dirty their hands in the process.

Undeniably, negative advertising works in political campaigns but negative advertising is also divisive and drives down voter-turnout, because the voters are often disgusted with the tactics employed to attack a victim. They are also often repelled by those making the attacks. In my opinion, the negative attacks by candidates on fellow Republicans in Iowa became so widespread, so divisive and so deeply personal, that I fear the Republican Party and its ultimate nominee for President have been permanently and unnecessarily damaged, all to the benefit of President Obama.

It has been said by some that politics is a “contact sport” and while Republicans may fight hard against each other in the 2012 primaries, they will come together in the fall to oppose President Obama in the general election. Undoubtedly, many (if not most) Republicans will come together in the general election. However, if the Republican base is divided, disheartened and unenthusiastic in November, 2012 (as it was in 2008 when John McCain was the nominee), President Obama will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat once again.

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