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206 posts
  • Opinion
  • The Golden State
Film star Tab Hunter, shown in a shot from the documentary movie "Tab Hunter Confidential," died Sunday.
Film star Tab Hunter, shown in a shot from the documentary movie "Tab Hunter Confidential," died Sunday. (The Film Collaborative)

Tuesday’s obituaries of Tab Hunter, a blue-eyed Hollywood heartthrob from the 1950s, conjured a glamorous old movie colony world — but one full of secrets.

Fame, stardom, natty white tennis sweaters, enormous estates and passionate romances were all part of the story, but there were also hidden lives for the industry’s gay men and women, impromptu raids by the LAPD vice squad at bars and houses throughout Los Angeles, vicious scandal sheets that could ruin careers.

This was written about mostly between the lines if you read the Los Angeles Times in those days, or it was ignored altogether.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), left, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Vice President Mike Pence at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), left, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Vice President Mike Pence at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. (Chip Somodevilla / EPA-Shutterstock)

Now that President Trump has nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, we in the punditocracy will be poring through the many decisions he has published for portents about how he might act on the nation’s highest court. 

Here’s one tidbit worth savoring from Kavanaugh in 2011:

“Under the Constitution, the President may decline to enforce a statute that regulates private individuals when the President deems the statute unconstitutional, even if a court has held or would hold the statute constitutional.”

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  • Opinion
  • Plastic Trash
A plastic straw in a Starbucks drink
A plastic straw in a Starbucks drink (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Starbucks jumped on the anti-plastic straw bandwagon Monday, announcing that it would eliminate all plastic drinking straws from its 28,000 outlets by 2020. 

Don’t get too excited. All the cool kids are doing it. At some point last year, the ubiquitous tubes were suddenly transformed in the public imagination from innocuous beverage-delivery tools into Ocean Menace That Kills Sea Turtles and Must Be Stopped.

The speed of the straw takedown was stunning considering how long it took (is still taking) for California to phase out the much-larger environmental devil of plastic bags. And though I want to provide positive reinforcement when such an influential brand (and huge source of plastic trash) takes the lead to reduce a billion pieces of single-use plastic every year… I can’t quite work up any praise.

U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on Capitol Hill.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on Capitol Hill. (Carolyn Kaster)

The heat on powerful Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) isn’t dying down. Several more former Ohio State wrestlers accused him over the weekend of lying about his knowledge of sexual abuses allegedly committed by former team Dr. Richard Strauss while Jordan was an assistant wrestling coach at the school.

Jordan has repeatedly dismissed the allegations against him, suggesting he knew nothing about the alleged abuse and that “the timing is suspect” in the wake of his high-profile confrontation with Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod Rosenstein.

Yes, because the first thing on alleged sexual abuse survivors’ minds as they fight for justice is how to make Jordan look bad after a showboating face-to-face with Rod Rosenstein, of all people. Decades of trauma saved up to score a political point on an issue totally unrelated to their case. 

  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Justice William Brennan's appointment was seen as a gesture by President Eisenhower to Catholic voters.
Justice William Brennan's appointment was seen as a gesture by President Eisenhower to Catholic voters. (Knight-Ridder Tribune)

Three of the four judges on President Trump’s supposed short list to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy are Catholics. But who’s counting?

I am.  As a Supreme Court buff and a student of American history, I find it interesting that Judges Thomas Hardiman, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are all members of the church.  (The fourth finalist, Judge Raymond M. Kethledge, is an evangelical Protestant.)

Kennedy is also a Catholic, but if Trump nominated one of Kennedy’s co-religionists, it wouldn’t be to perpetuate a token “Catholic seat.” Even if Kennedy were replaced by a non-Catholic, there would still be either four or five Catholics on the court, depending on how you categorize Justice Neil Gorsuch. (He was raised as a Catholic but reportedly attends an Episcopal church with his wife who was raised in the Church of England.) The other three justices are Jewish.

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  • Trump
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In his weekly address, President Trump described the sort of Supreme Court justice he planned to nominate in terms near and dear to the hearts of conservatives: one who does not engage in “judicial activism.”

When picking a replacement for retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, Trump said, his “greatest responsibility” is to find someone who will “faithfully interpret the Constitution as written.” He added, “Judges are not supposed to re-write the law, re-invent the Constitution, or substitute their own opinions for the will of the people expressed through their laws. We reject judicial activism and policy-making from the bench.”

Ahh, judicial activism — the supposed hallmark of liberals on the bench. Whether that’s true, though, depends on how one defines the term.

  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Judge Merrick B. Garland with Barack Obama on the day he was chosen as a Supreme Court nominee.
Judge Merrick B. Garland with Barack Obama on the day he was chosen as a Supreme Court nominee. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

The odd news item of the week was that Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer recommended President Trump appoint Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

According to the Washington Post, Schumer suggested that naming Garland — the federal appeals court judge who was denied a hearing after former President Barack Obama nominated him to succeed the late Antonin Scalia — would help unite the country. It would apparently be a form of restitution.

Schumer wasn’t the only one to mention Garland. The day before Kennedy announced his retirement, the journalist Matthew Yglesias tweeted: “The theft of Merrick Garland’s Supreme Court seat is legitimately the greatest heist in world history.”

Scott Pruitt resigned as Environmental Protection Agency administrator on Thursday.
Scott Pruitt resigned as Environmental Protection Agency administrator on Thursday. (Jabin Botsford / Washington Post)

Republicans who secretly wished for an opening at the top of the Environmental Protection Agency got it on Thursday, when ethically challenged EPA administrator Scott “Security Detail” Pruitt tendered his resignation. But this one may fall into the category of “be careful what you wish for.”

Pruitt became the subject of multiple internal investigations and external scandals, thanks to such questionable moves as spending outrageous sums on bodyguards to fend off nonexistent death threats, ordering a rule-busting $43,000 soundproof phone booth to be built in his office and using an EPA employee to help him seek a Chick-fil-A franchise for his wife

This kind of personal misconduct cast a pall over his far-right agenda at the EPA, which reversed Obama administration initiatives on air and water pollution, climate change and other threats. Had Pruitt stuck to cozying up to executives for polluters regulated by his agency, he’d probably still be running the EPA today. That’s not the sort of sketchy behavior that gets you in trouble with many deregulatory Republicans in Washington. But no, he went much, much further — for example, by accepting an implausibly sweet deal on a Capitol Hill condo from the wife of an energy industry lobbyist. 

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President Obama introduces federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland as his nominee for the Supreme Court on March 16, 2016.
President Obama introduces federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland as his nominee for the Supreme Court on March 16, 2016. (Ron Sachs/CNP/Sipa USA/TNS)

Running a successful democracy requires compromise, concessions, shared values and a measure of respect for one’s political opponents. That’s why some people argue for calm and caution in the upcoming process to appoint a Supreme Court justice to replace Anthony Kennedy.

They argue that the elected president is empowered by the Constitution to nominate Supreme Court justices — and that he should be granted some latitude to do so. Rather than politicizing the process or seeking to make the court hyper-partisan, the theory goes, the president should select able, thoughtful nominees who are not extremists — and members of both parties in the U.S. Senate, which is tasked with confirming or rejecting the president’s nominees, should give a measure of deference to the president’s choice.

That was the theory under which the liberal editorial page of the Los Angeles Times, for instance, endorsed John Roberts to be chief justice, despite concerns about some of his positions.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, right, swears in Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch at the White House on April 10, 2017.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, right, swears in Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch at the White House on April 10, 2017. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

U.S. presidents have to work closely with members of their Cabinet, so it makes sense for presidents to pick people with whom they have a good rapport. I mean, if you may have to spend tense hours in the Situation Room or even days at Camp David with them, you don’t want a bunch of people whose dad jokes offend you or whose posh accent grates on your nerves.

But there’s no need for any kind of chemistry between a commander in chief and a Supreme Court justice, which is why it’s so odd that President Trump’s choice of a nominee to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy reportedly will come down to that.

Axios’ Mike Allen wrote Thursday that “a White House official involved in the vetting process” confided that Trump’s pick “will come down to ‘who he feels most comfortable with in a personal setting.’ ” As my colleague Patt Morrison said on Twitter, “In politics, this is known as the ‘someone-you’d-like-to-have-a-beer-with’ standard.”