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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.”
On Tuesday, the Trump administration rescinded Obama-era guidance to school districts and colleges and universities about how they could take race into account. Was this a rollback of affirmative action?
Yes and no, but mostly no. The administration’s withdrawal of these documents, joint products of the departments of Education and Justice, doesn’t alter civil rights law nor does it repeal the Supreme Court decisions the Obama documents cited to justify some consideration of race in college admissions and pupil assignments in public schools.
At the same time, rescinding these documents sends a clear message that this administration frowns on policies that take race into account even when they are deemed legal under Supreme Court rulings.
It’s hard to think of anyone who plummeted from power faster and further than Harvey Weinstein. And with the announcement Monday that a Manhattan grand jury had updated its indictment from May against Weinstein with three more charges, the onetime Hollywood overlord turned ankle-monitored outcast now faces not just the possibility of lifetime banishment from Hollywood but possible lifetime imprisonment as well.
Weinstein was initially charged with raping one woman and sexually assaulting another. He pleaded not guilty. Now he’s been hit with new assault charges for allegedly forcing a third woman to have sex with him. The three additional charges carry a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life.
Since last fall, dozens of women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct and assault, leading to his downfall and his perp walk into a New York City police station and giving rise to the #MeToo movement and the unprecedented raising of consciousness about the unacceptability of sexual harassment.
When the Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s so-called travel ban last week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered a passionate dissent from the bench. She accused the 5-4 majority of "turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering the [ban] inflicts upon countless families and individuals, many of whom are United States citizens."
It was a dramatic moment, but the American people didn’t get to see and hear it. The court bars television cameras not only from oral arguments but also from the supposedly public announcements in which justices summarize their opinions.
It doesn’t look as if that is going to change anytime soon. Three days after he announced the travel-ban decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was scotching the ideas of cameras in the court.
A noxious legislative proposal leaked out of the White House over the weekend, and for once the name matched the stink the bill would raise: the U.S. Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act, or less delicately, the U.S. FART Act.
Axios reported Sunday that it had obtained a copy of the five-page draft bill, which would empower the president to raise tariffs unilaterally on any country that imposes “significantly” higher tariffs or other barriers to U.S. goods than the United States imposes on its goods. The measure would violate key World Trade Organization rules that the United States has committed to — and that Trump has disparaged as bad for Americans.
The irony here is that the WTO was created to resolve the sort of dispute that Trump would rather settle with tariffs — a tax on imports that raises the price of goods here in the United States and that encourages retaliation by foreign companies on exported U.S. products.
LeBron James is coming to Los Angeles. For the next three years at least, the greatest basketball player in the world will be playing for the Lakers.
But while we’re all still celebrating the purple and gold’s impending return to basketball relevance, here’s a fun fact I’d like to remind my fellow Angelenos: Our new basketball savior doesn’t like to drive.
Not only does he not like to drive, LeBron James is a cyclist. It’s his preferred method of transit. He’s been known to ride his bike to and from games. He holds annual “bike-a-thon” charity events in home state of Ohio. He bought a stake in the bike company Cannondale. He’s even got the spandex.