Recently in Politics Category

Eric Holder's Biggest Regret

Attorney General Holder was asked in a CNN interview what his biggest regret was looking back at his tenure in office.  John Hinderaker has this take on it:

Holder was asked by the interviewer, what was your biggest failure as Attorney General? He had so many to choose from! Politicizing the Justice Department, Fast and Furious, stonewalling the House of Representatives, allowing the legalization of marijuana contrary to federal law, failure to enforce the immigration laws, and lots more. But naturally, Holder didn't mention any of those failures.

Mr. Holder's answer was that his biggest regret was the failure to pass gun control (which he calls "gun safety") legislation.

The answer is incoherent on four levels.  First, someone should tell him the Justice Department doesn't pass legislation.  Second, if it did, further restrictions on civil rights (specifically Second Amendment rights) would be a poor idea.  Third, if such legislation were so desirable, it could have been passed (by Congress, that is) when Mr. Holder's party held super-majorities during his first two years in office. Fourth, the failure to secure gun legislation is nowhere near his biggest failure.

Other than that...............................

Ten Questions for the Next Attorney General

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Roll Call is slightly to the left for my tastes, but it has a short, intelligent and spot-on article today listing ten questions the Senate is likely to ask the next nominee for Attorney General.

SCOTUS Denies Stay of Texas Voter ID

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Consistently with its recent pattern of not making major election changes close to the election, noted here, the U.S. Supreme Court has denied the application to lift the Fifth Circuit's stay of an injunction against that state's voter ID law.  In other words, the ID law will be in effect for the coming election.

The vote was apparently 6-3, with Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissenting.
President Obama yesterday named DC lawyer Ron Klain as the Ebola "czar."  I know Mr. Klain only very slightly, from when I was moving out of the White House at the end of the GHWB administration and he was helping the Clinton administration move in.  I found him intelligent, thoroughly pleasant and a gentleman.  Our contacts were slight and fleeting, and I haven't seen him in more than 20 years. 

The WSJ has an editorial today about the Klain appointment.  Its title is, "Ebola Political Contagion," and it begins:

President Obama bowed to the growing Ebola political furor on Friday and named a so-called Ebola czar, though maybe the better label is apparatchik. His man isn't a military general, despite the troops in West Africa, or even someone with so much as nominal expertise in disasters or infectious disease. He's the political operative Ron Klain.

Texas Voter ID

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As predicted in this post, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has followed the Supreme Court's pattern and stayed an injunction against Voter ID.  The pattern is that the high court disallows late changes, whichever way they go.

Early voting in Texas begins on Monday, October 20. On Saturday, October 11--just nine days before early voting begins and just 24 days before Election Day--the district court entered a final order striking down Texas's voter identification laws. By this order, the district court enjoined the implementation of Texas Senate Bill 14 ("SB 14") of the 2011 Regular Session, which requires that voters present certain photographic identification at the polls. The district court also ordered that the State of Texas ("State") instead implement the laws that were in force before SB 14's enactment in May of 2011. Based primarily on the extremely fast-approaching election date, we STAY the district court's judgment pending appeal.
Lyle Denniston has this post at SCOTUSblog.
Nedra Pickler has this story for AP, incorrectly headlined Obama waiting for midterm to name Attorney General. As the text of the story makes clear, he is not going to wait for the midpoint of his term, January 20, but instead is only waiting until the election is past.

President Barack Obama does not plan to announce his choice for attorney general before the November elections, shielding the nomination from the midterm election politics while setting up a potential year-end showdown with the lame duck Senate.
Shielding the nomination from politics?  My, doesn't that sound noble?  Reality is more like shielding the Democratic candidates in close races from having to answer to the people, which is how our representative democracy is supposed to work.

There wouldn't be any need to "shield" if the President were planning to nominate a solid, non-divisive candidate.  So this timing tends to indicate that another divisive, partisan nominee who will continue the politicization of the Department of Justice is headed our way.

Into the Fog, as Predicted

When the President traded five high-value Taliban commanders for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, in patent violation of United States law, we were told that there would be, in good time, a full investigation into the circumstances under which Bergdahl left his unit and wound up with the enemy.  But a full investigation would take weeks, perhaps months.  In the meantime, the first priority was to see to Sgt. Bergdahl's health.  There would be, so we were assured, an accounting later whether Bergdahl was, as many in his unit charged, a shirker and a deserter.

I was skeptical.  I wrote a little more than three months ago:

I [may have] overestimated the President's willingness to act directly and take responsibility for letting Bergdahl off the hook.  It now appears more likely that, while I was correct in saying there isn't going to be any honest investigation, there may not be any pardon as such, either.  Why should there be? Why should there be, that is, when the President can just believe  --  not unintelligently  -- that, if dragged out for long enough, the whole thing will disappear into the fog of even more prominent scandals?

And sure enough.  The Hill newspaper has this Friday afternoon newsdump story titled, "Army Won't Release Bergdahl Review." 

Goodness gracious!  Still, I can take only piddling credit for prescience.  Anyone with the IQ of a tomato understands that this Administration's promises of "accountability" in the by-and-by are nothing but the first step of "dragg[ing] it out for long enough [so that] the whole thing will disappear into the fog of even more prominent scandals."

The Next AG? OMG

Curt Hulse reports at NYT's First Draft:

The White House is moving more quickly than anticipated to select a new attorney general and is poised to announce President Obama's choice before the Nov. 4 election, with Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez emerging as a leading candidate.

Many on Capitol Hill expected the president to wait until after the election to avoid making the nominee a campaign issue for embattled Democratic Senate candidates. But people familiar with the administration's planning now say an announcement could come in the next few weeks.

No final decision has been made, they said, but Mr. Perez, 53, a former Justice Department civil rights official and the son of Dominican immigrants, is at the top of the list. His nomination would be applauded by many Hispanic leaders. And he has a compelling personal story, having worked as a trash collector to help put himself through Brown University.
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Mr. Perez was opposed for the labor post by Republicans, who branded him an ideologue who selectively enforced civil rights laws. But Democrats could push the nomination through in a lame-duck session on a simple majority vote.
Well, maybe we need trash collection experience given all the garbage we have gotten from Mr. Holder, but I seriously doubt Mr. Perez is the man for the job.  For those who thought the next AG would have to be an improvement, maybe not.

My first job after high school was shoveling sand into sandbags at the White Sands Missile Range.  Maybe I should apply, given all the sandbagging Mr. Holder has done in response to congressional investigations.

More Voter ID Developments

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Brent Kendall reports in the WSJ on developments in voter ID cases.

Voter identification laws suffered setbacks in two states on Thursday, with the U.S. Supreme Court blocking Wisconsin from imposing its voter-identification measure during the midterm elections and a federal judge in Texas striking down that state's ID law.

The Supreme Court's action in Wisconsin marked its third recent intervention in a high-profile election case, and the first before the high court in which advocates for minority voters prevailed.

The justices in the two other cases allowed Ohio to cut back on early voting and cleared North Carolina to impose new, tighter voting rules.

The high court in each case effectively put the brakes on lower court rulings that would have prompted late changes in election procedures in the run-up to the Nov. 4 day.

Meanwhile, a U.S. District Judge in Texas said that state's voter ID law amounted to an "unconstitutional poll tax," an outcome the state said it would immediately appeal.

The unfortunate thing about this "avoid late changes" approach is that the timing of an order rather than its merit may determine whether it is in effect for the election.  If the Fifth Circuit follows the same pattern, it will stay the District Court's order.  It won't matter that much in Texas, where the most important races aren't close.  But the Wisconsin governor's race is a tossup, and if the final tally is close enough, the deceased vote could tip the balance.

Update:  Text of the order and dissent follows the break.

USCA7 Upholds Wisconsin Voter ID

Casting a vote while impersonating someone else is a crime.  We have to show ID all the time for a variety of other purposes in life, and showing one to vote is not a big deal.  No, it does not discriminate against the poor as long as the state makes it free to get one.  The Supreme Court upheld voter ID five years ago.

Yesterday, the Seventh Circuit upheld Wisconsin's voter ID law in Frank v. WalkerRick Hasen at Election Law Blog is apoplectic.  "Regardless of where you stand on the merits of the constitutional and voter id problem, it is unconscionable to roll out voter id without adequate time for everyone who wants to get id to do so."

Roll out?  The law was enacted three years ago.  It is being "rolled out" now only because it was wrongly enjoined for the three years since it was enacted.  Blame the late "roll out" on the plaintiffs and the district judge, if you're upset about it.  Should the plaintiffs be able to further delay the implementation of a valid law because they wrongly delayed it this long?

Voter ID is constitutional.  It is good policy.  Get used to it and quit whining.  In modern society everyone should have an ID in any case.  If you perceive a genuine problem, then direct your efforts to helping people get IDs.  Of course, if the real purpose is to facilitate fraud, then helping real people get valid IDs won't help, now will it?

Senate Watch

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At five weeks to election day, Chris Cillizza at the WaPo aggregates the election forecasting models for us.  "All three major election forecasting models saw an uptick in the likelihood of Republicans winning the six seats they need to retake the Senate majority over the past week, movement largely due to the party's strengthened chances in Alaska, Colorado and Iowa."

Holder's Legacy of Racial Politics

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Edwin Meese and Kenneth Blackwell have this op-ed in the WSJ, with the above title.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced his resignation on Thursday, leaves a dismal legacy at the Justice Department, but one of his legal innovations was especially pernicious: the demonizing of state attempts to ensure honest elections.

Timing Holder's Replacement

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"President Obama has yet to reveal his choice to succeed Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., but already the Senate confirmation process has begun its march toward contentiousness," Paul Kane and Juliet Eilperin report in the WaPo.  Kristina Peterson reports at the WSJ:

Some Republicans quickly condemned the idea of the Senate considering Mr. Holder's replacement when outgoing lawmakers would still be able to vote on the next attorney general. "Allowing Democratic senators, many of whom will likely have just been defeated at the polls, to confirm Holder's successor would be an abuse of power that should not be countenanced," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) said
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Some Democrats said it would be a mistake to purposefully delay the process. "It would be irresponsible for anyone to try to delay confirmation of the country's chief law-enforcement officer for political purposes and I would hope responsible members of both parties would cooperate in a thorough hearing and a confirmation vote," said Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.)

Holder Stepping Down, Who Is Next?

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Devlin Barrett has this story in the WSJ on the departure of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.  Possible replacements mentioned include Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, former White House counsel Kathyrn Ruemmler, and Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.  See also this post by Reid Epstein on WSJ's Washington Wire blog.  Epstein also lists Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and California AG Kamala Harris.

Barrett notes, "One question is whether the Senate, scheduled to return on Nov. 12, would have enough time to confirm a high-ranking cabinet official before the congressional session ends."

A confirmation hearing in the next Congress, with Chuck Grassley in the chair, could be quite informative.  One can hope.

Governor Races

The previous post noted the Oregon governor's race.  Here are a few notes from elsewhere around the country.

In New Mexico, incumbent Governor Susana Martinez has opened up a commanding 18% lead over Attorney General Gary King in an Albuquerque Journal poll.  Real Clear Politics has moved this race into the "Likely GOP" column.  A commanding win in a "blue" state would make Martinez, a former district attorney, a credible possibility for the 2016 national ticket.

In Colorado, the Denver Post has the race too close to call.  RCP calls it a toss-up.  Unlike Kitzhaber, Hickenlooper may pay a political price for his death penalty weaseling.  The Post says "only" 18% consider that a "major factor" in their decision, but 18% is a lot in a tight race.  Of course, it depends on how many of those 18% are swing voters as opposed to people who would vote for the proverbial yellow dog before Hickenlooper, but given the across-the-political board support for the death penalty we often see in "crosstabs," with even self-designated "liberals" split about even, I have to think at least a couple percent of those 18 are people who might have otherwise voted for Hickenlooper.

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