As a state legislator in Arizona before going to the Supreme Court, in 1974 O'Connor helped create Arizona's system of merit selection and retention. The respected Brennan Center at the New York University School of Law tracks judicial elections and reform efforts and the Center's Adam Skaggs said recently that O'Connor has it exactly right - politics and judges don't mix.Strictly speaking, the Founders thought the same. Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, "there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separate from the legislative and executive powers.” The election of judges may soon get even more complicated thanks to the recent U.S. Supreme Court corporate contributions case Citizens United that was decided by a divided court on First Amendment grounds. Skaggs predicts, as did Justice John Paul Stevens in his dissent in the Citizens case, that more money will soon flow into judicial elections making it even more difficult for voters - and those with business before the courts - to see how judges are any different than politicians. As Justice Stevens noted in the Citizens case “concerns about the conduct of judicial elections have reached a fever pitch” and O’Connor predicts,“the problem of campaign contributions in judicial elections might get considerably worse and quite soon." A superb Frontline document a while back examined Justice for Sale, It was sobering and cautionary and for anyone who really cares about the independence of the courts viewing it will send a shiver down your spine. Justice O'Connor continues her trailblazing career and her thoughtful cautions are worth a careful listen.
Monday, May 31, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
- Money pays for research. McMahon's campaign in Connecticut is self-funded - she says she'll spend $34 million on the race - with the millions she made from professional wrestling. And, again no coincidence, national Democrats have more money than Republicans so far in this election cycle. By definition, that means more money for opposition research on candidates like, say, Vaughn Ward. Well-funded campaigns tend to do the most complete job of researching their opponents - no coincidence.
- Reporters make use of this kind of information - oppo research - all the time and almost never with any hint of where it came from. Nothing wrong with that, perhaps, but it does raise questions of motive and benefit. Next time you see a story along these lines, ask yourself who stands to benefit the most from having the story reported? Who has a motive for getting the story out? And, remember no coincidences.
- Finally, as Harry Truman famously said, if you can't stand the heat leave the kitchen. Politics is a contact sport. Life - political life, especially - ain't fair. If you have skeletons in that closet, they'll be rattled. Reporting the shortcomings in political resumes is what reporters do. With respect to Sarah Palin's stumping for Ward in Boise this week, as she calls it, the "lamestream media" reports what it can stumble upon and also what it is served on a silver platter and that, too, is no coincidence.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
- Can Ward avoid another damaging front page story in the last week? The hits the first time candidate have taken have been fierce, but we'll see if they have been fatal. They range from his wife's work for mortgage giant Fannie Mae, while he's attacking the kind of bank bailouts that saved Fannie Mae. Ward is an Iraq war veteran who has had the Marine Corps chastise him for the way he has presented himself in uniform. He failed to pay taxes on property he owns or properly file a required disclosure form. Spokesman-Review reporter Betsy Russell twice caught his campaign plagiarizing other candidate's positions on his website. That last offense caused Ward to dismiss his campaign manager. As I said, unprecedented incoming fire. Update: The Statesman's Dan Popkey has a story today that won't help Ward's prmary end game. While touting his Marine credentials, Ward - despite promises to do so - hasn't released records about this service.
- Will Ward's money advantage help him prevail? While the use of a borrowed pickup truck for his first campaign TV spot got Ward some unwelcome attention, the fact remains that he's been up on TV and Labrador hasn't. It appears both campaigns, based on the disclosure reports, are running on empty, but many First District voters likely know what they know about the race from seeing a Ward TV spot.
- Will the sustained negative media coverage of Ward's mistakes offset his money and endorsements? Or, put another way - have folks been reading the papers? What is often called "earned media" was once considered absolutely critical to a candidate's ability to to put across his message. But with generally less coverage of politics by the Idaho media, more specialized attention by bloggers and widespread use of social media and the web, whose to say the barrage of negative coverage of Ward has had as much impact on the voting public as it has, for example, on the state's political elite who have generally watched his campaign with jaws dropped.
- Does Palin's visit help? Minnick's campaign poised the question of why she would be campaigning for Ward when he didn't vote for the McCain-Palin ticket in 2008, another of his gaffes? Ward managed the McCain campaign in Nevada, but didn't solve the riddle of getting his hands on an absentee ballot so he could vote. Palin will turn out a crowd, but for whom - Ward or the Wonder from Wasilla?
- Finally, who shows up to vote next Tuesday? Idaho primaries typically produce the most faithful, most committed voters. Does either campaign have a voter turnout operation? And ultimately will Idaho voters follow the money and big name endorsements, or will they, like in Pennsylvania and Kentucky senate primaries, reject the establishment candidate?
No predictions here. I'll just continue to watch with fascination. It's almost as good as a Red Sox-Yankees game.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Consider these names, just in the 20th Century:
Chief Justices Harlan Fiske Stone, a law school dean, like Kagan, and then Attorney General before going to the court. Or, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, a Justice Department lawyer, before becoming a Justice. Hugo Black a U.S. Senator. William O. Douglas, a senior federal official with no judicial experience. Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, Lewis Powell and Earl Warren, all without prior judicial experience and all who became celebrated justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In fact, every president from FDR to Nixon appointed at least one justice without prior experience on the bench.
Given the extreme partisanship that surrounds all judicial nominees, Kagan will have to run the confirmation gauntlet and answer questions about everything she has ever said, written or done. Fair enough. It is a life-time appointment, but not being a judge - as American history shows - certainly shouldn't be a prime factor in the confirmation test. Until fairly recently it hasn't been much of a consideration at all.
By the way, for students of the Supreme Court, the SCOTUSblog may be the best source around for really good information on the nominee, what she has said and done and what others are saying about her.