282 Comments
May 7, 2023·edited May 7, 2023

The quote from Lincoln is appropriate. I believe the people who committed crimes on January 6th should be punished for them, but that it should be only condign punishment, not something harsher because of their politics. I think most of them should be treated leniently. The poor suckers were acting under the orders of the President of the United States who told them that they had to take action to save their country from a horrible miscarriage of justice. (They shouldn’t have believed the scoundrel of course, and it is hard for those who have no use for Trump to understand why they did. It might help to imagine a president one thought better of, say for Dems Obama, calling on supporters to take to the streets to save the country. A lot of people probably would obey without a lot of careful thought on the matter, just because a president they trusted asked.) The real and dangerous criminal and enemy of the republic in this is Trump, not the Proud Boys or the guy in the buffalo horns, or any of the others at the Capitol. He planned a rally which could have had no other purpose in that place on that date than to challenge or interfere with the business of the day. He sent the rioters to the Capitol and approved of their actions. He schemed for days after December 14th to remain in power illegally and on January 6th ordered Pence to overturn the election and the government. He is the one with clear guilt and no excuse who should be facing harsh justice. I hope he gets a little of what he deserves. I realize that it would be impractical (and unfair to the secret service) to send a former president to the slammer, but he surely should live the rest of his life as a convicted criminal, barred from seeking any office or even voting.

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https://medium.com/@dpassmore54/living-blue-in-a-red-state-87762011eab I mentioned you briefly as one of the people keeping me sane!

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"We wouldn’t let the man babysit our children or even walk the dog. We would definitely not buy a used car from the guy."

Absolutely correct. And the fact that millions of people voted for him in two presidential elections (more in his second race than his first) and are ready to vote for him again in 2024 if they get the chance is just one more illustration that for an alarming segment of the voting public politics has become totally PERFORMATIVE. MAGA supporters seem to believe that politics has absolutely no connection to their daily lives. Presidents don't need a platform. They don't need a record of achievement or even responsible management. They can be serial sexual predators. They can pile up thousands and thousands of proven public lies. None of that matters. The only thing that does matter is how well our elected officials can act out the resentments, bigotry and hatred of their true believers. Of all the indicators of incipient American fascism, that's the one that scares me most.

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founding

Calling E Jean Carroll Marla Maples. Definitely just playing three dimensional chess and not a sign of diminished mental capacity

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True, but he was the chairman of the judicial committee at the time. So gas more power than the rest to control the votes from Dems.

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When he became a justice Thomas decided that eventually he would “get” his and stick it to the American people he felt had disrespected him. No doubt Harlan picked up on this and decided to exploit it. Thomas is going nowhere with a democrat in the WH and a democratic senate. He might retire if republicans take over but probably not, he is making to much money and he wants to hurt a lot more people

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Proud boys ain’t so proud now. But wait, there will be an appeal. Perhaps a presidential pardon in 2025. Maybe a medal of freedom.

Also - not mentioned today but in the podcast yesterday covering the Kremlin drone. My hypotheses is that if it was really the Ukrainians, they wouldn’t have missed.

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The new ProPublica piece on Leonard Leo's shoveling money to Ginni Thomas is just the most recent stain on the SCOTUS, and the ever-decreasing confidence level shown by the average citizen.

I find it infuriating to read respected law professors proclaim that Thomas has done nothing illegal (see, for example, Josh Blackman on The Volokh Conspiracy). Even if Thomas did nothing contrary to law - which I don't quite understand - he has been blatantly violating judicial ethical standards since at least the early 2000s.

Further, I understand why Justice Roberts declined to appear before the Senate Judicial Committee. He, too, has violated ethical standards by the fact that his wife left a good job in a prestigious law practice to establish a head-hunting company specializing in finding lawyers for large firms. Just coincidentally, some of these firms have been arguing cases before the SCOTUS:

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"Jane Roberts, the wife of Chief Justice John Roberts, made more than $10 million in commissions over an eight-year stretch where she matched top lawyers with elite law firms—including some that had cases before the Supreme Court—according to documents obtained by Insider, as concerns grow about justices possibly having unreported conflicts of interest." (https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicholasreimann/2023/04/28/chief-justice-john-roberts-wife-made-over-10-million-as-legal-consultant-report-says/?sh=2ca477011e9a)

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I would think a second income of ~$10 million over eight years would be of interest to the country - especially considering the kinds of pillow talk between Roberts and his wife regarding some of her clients that most likely happened. I cannot be convinced that over all of this time nothing would have been said between them about cases before the Court argued by firms who, IMO, have bought influence through Jane.

On top of the financial scandals we can add Justice Kavanaugh's sexual peccadilloes that were not investigated by the FBI prior to his confirmation. This diminishes even more the confidence many Americans had in the SCOTUS.

All in all, this is nothing new. It has been revealed recently that Justice Scalia also had recurring financial augmentation of his income while on the bench.

In 1969 Justice Fortas showed how these kinds of problems can and should be handled by the various Justices. After being embroiled in a financial scandal:

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Associate Justice Abe Fortas resigned from the Supreme Court yesterday, insisting that he had done nothing wrong and was acting only for the good of the court." https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2023/04/17/supreme-court-clarence-thomas-abe-fortas/ (note: this article was originally printed in May, 1969)

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It is well past time for the Court to adopt ethics standards, and abide by them. It is also time for a congressional investigation into possible corruption on the SCOTUS. Part of this investigation should include cases where Justices did not recuse themselves where there was a conflict of interest. This is not just a problem with conservatives Justices, but also liberal ones, too. Justice Gorsuch did not recuse himself when a book publisher that released a book of his came before the court, and the same applies to Justice Sotomayor (three different occasions):

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"In two separate copyright infringement cases concerning the publishing conglomerate Penguin Random House, the high court declined to take up the appeals, with the court saying in 2013 that it wouldn’t hear the first case, and the second case being turned away from the court in 2019 and again in 2020. In both cases, the publisher won at the lower court level, and those decisions stood.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who joined the court in 2009 and has been paid millions of dollars from the publisher over the years, declined to recuse herself in all three instances. https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/04/politics/sonia-sotomayor-neil-gorsuch-book-recusal-supreme-court-cases/index.html#:~:text=In%20financial%20disclosure%20forms%20for,and%20advances%20during%20that%20period.

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The SCOTUS is out of control. It's past time for the Court to develop its own Code of Ethics, and if they continue to refuse then Congress should force one on them under their obligations of oversight of the other branches, which includes the Judicial branch.

fnord

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Leonard Leo did not bribe Clarence Thomas. Bribes are simple, direct, quid pro quos. Leonard Leo is a much, much more sophisticated player than that. Almost singlehandedly, his fundraising prowess and ruthlessness created an alternate conservative legal universe.

Leo is the devil on the shoulder of the conservative legal movement. The angel is the nerds like Federalist Society founder Prof. Steve Calabrese or Leo's former nominal Federalist Society boss, Gene Meyer. The nerds believed that their principles of limited government and judicial restraint would win on their own merits. By contrast, Leo's view was that winning required money, networking, and influence.

For a long time, the nerds gave the conservative legal movement its legitimacy. Their arguments gave intellectual impetus to the movement and inspired young lawyers.

But Leo's growing money and network turned the Federalist Society and especially him into a power broker. Lawyers joined up for influence, not principle. The jocks took over from the nerds a long time ago, even if they were still telling themselves it was the chess club. The Federalist Society is a fairly well funded organization, but its resources were eventually dwarfed, by many orders of magnitude, by the money that Leo personally, and quietly controlled

Leo had a clever insight. There was a time where if a justice or judge wanted respect -- strange new respect -- in the form of invitations to swanky events, cool overseas summer teaching gigs, speeches lionizing them, law schools named after them, and the like, they needed to join the liberal establishment. Thus, so the story goes, the line of conservative disappointments, from Blackmun to O'Connor to Kennedy to Souter.

Leo's fundraising created an alternate universe. Conservative justices get adoring standing ovations at huge black tie events. One of his donors gave George Mason law tens of millions to name its law school after Antonin Scalia. He's created a welcoming, luxurious, very comfortable cocoon. All you have to do is stay inside the lines. If you don't, as John Roberts discovered after his ACA vote, life is cold and lonely, unloved by Left or Right.

So, it's not exactly a bribe. It's more of a seduction, part of keeping someone in the fold. To be totally trite and a bit precious, it's like the bumper sticker that says "come to the Dark Side, we have cookies." I mean, you're not going to do Dark Side stuff in exchange for cookies, but it's hard not to enjoy hanging out with, or feeling good about, people who give you cookies, right?

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founding

Trumps Honest Dishonesty:

I might get some blowback for this, but I do think there’s something refreshing about Trump’s honesty about his dishonesty and immorality. I mean it is true that celebrities and wealthy people can and often do get away with lots of things “regular” people wouldn’t. We all know this. Trump just says it out loud. And for some reason we act like that’s worse than pretending that it’s not true and acknowledging that there isn’t a real systemic problem here.

Favreau said something similar about Trump’s comment on not participating in the debates. He said something like “debates are for losers - I’m like 20 points ahead. Why would I do a debate?” And well, that’s true! There’s absolutely no down side from him deciding to skip the debates. If he participates, the only thing that will happen is that the lesser known candidates will attack him and they might succeed and make him drop a few points. And no one in the GOP can really force him to take part because he’s the de facto leader of the party and they don’t want to anger his supporters. The result might be that DeSantis also drops out (since there’s no point if he can’t challenge Trump and the other candidates will then attach him) and/or the networks decide to cancel it because they know that half the audience will lose interest if Trump isn’t participating.

In a normal political environment, a candidate who decided not to participate in a debate would be judged as someone who thought he was “above the rules” or “not competent enough to handle hard hitting questions” and suffer political consequences. But the fact that Trump knows he has all the leverage here and it’s strategically better for him not to participate in the debates means that the system is broken.

This is also true about his opinion that “smart people hire people to find loopholes so they don’t have to pay taxes” or his openly stating how corporations make deals with politicians or his failure to admit that he’s ever done anything wrong but rather that no one has been able to prove that he’s done anything wrong. And he’s right! All his crimes before running for president were either settled before trial or he just bribed people to keep their mouths shut. He’s never had to suffer consequences for anything because we have a two-tiered system of justice in this country.

It’s not that I think Trump is right in any of these situations - he’s clearly not. But he is inadvertently revealing bigger problems in our systems and institutions that let people like him get away with and even benefit from doing the wrong thing. Perhaps along with criticizing Trump and holding him accountable, we should also try to reform these systems so this doesn’t keep happening.

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Charlie, please have Dr Russell Moore on your podcast soon to talk about his response to Tucker Carlson’s Replacement Theory as being non-Christian. We need to show more courageous people who speak truth to lies.

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In addition to being a mountebank, charleton and a fraudster, Trump is effing dumb, as the transcript of his Carroll deposition makes clear.

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According to Trumpites, he has a deeper kind of wisdom and a higher form of virtue beneath a rough "style."

I wonder if they ever feel a twinge of embarrassment about what they're defending. But after years of resolutely denying the obvious and painting it as the opposite, it must be a pretty tough pill to admit that it really is quite obvious after all.

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All exceptionally well said. Your sadness over the collapse of what once might have been called character-rooted conservatism is all too apparent. I share, as an idiosyncratic former left-winger, your sense of fear and borderline despair.

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founding

Harlan Crow doesn't "own" Clarence Thomas. That would be silly. He just has him on retainer.

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Excellent article by Charlie Sykes in The Atlantic. Well done!

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Republicans have low standards for the presidency because they use it as a reality show performance.

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