Friday, May 26, 2017

Trump and the Republicans Continue Their Attacks on Education

by Neil H. Buchanan

The release of the Trump Administration's proposed federal budget has been met with mockery and ridicule across the political spectrum.  All budgets are "dead on arrival," but Trump's budgets stands out for its dishonesty, incompetence, and inhumanity.

Even though most Republicans have been running away from Trump's budget (although they continue to support him in the face of evidence of impeachable offenses), this budget falls into the category of what Michael Dorf once described as "Trump as GOP on truth serum," where Trump is merely saying out loud what Republicans have not yet dared to say.

My initial reaction to Trump's budget, in fact, was that it fully explains why House Speaker Paul Ryan has continued to support a man whom Ryan so clearly despises.  Ryan has spent his career trying to look concerned while crafting reverse-Robin Hood policies.  Trump's budget proposal will allow Ryan to look comparatively humane while implementing a deeply inhumane series of cuts to crucial lifelines for the middle class and poor people, all in the name of shoveling money toward the rich.

One area that deserves special attention is the approach that Trump and the Republicans have taken to financing college and post-college education.  Their proposals are especially damaging at a time when higher education is more essential than ever for upward mobility -- and even simply to prevent downward mobility.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Should Democrats Kiss Trump’s Ring?

by Michael Dorf

The scene of the lavish reception that greeted President Trump in Saudi Arabia was arresting to say the least. The Saudi royal family (literally) rolled out the red carpet, treating Muslim-bashing Trump as a hero. While the speech Trump thereupon delivered was no doubt written for him before Air Force One touched down in Riyadh, anticipation of a royal welcome could well have been a factor in what went into it. Meanwhile, by kissing up to Trump, the Saudis appear to have scored a double victory on substantive matters: Trump has tilted US foreign policy decisively in favor of the Sunni side of the regional cold/hot war between Sunni and Shia forces; and Trump more or less endorsed the view of the Gulf states with respect to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

This is not the first abrupt foreign policy about-face by Trump. A cordial meeting with Xi Jinping instantly turned China from a currency manipulating hostile power into a strategic partner. It appears that foreign leaders have figured out that by swallowing their pride and flattering Trump, they can obtain major foreign policy concessions.

That phenomenon in turn raises a question for Democrats who would like to see Trump moderate his stance on domestic issues: Should Chuck Schumer, Tom Perez, and other Democratic Party leaders debase themselves before Trump in the hope that a show of sycophancy would pay policy dividends? The short answer is no.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A More Civilized Sort Of Jury Nullification

by Sherry F. Colb

In my column for this week, I write about the topic of jury nullification, occasioned by an episode of RadioLab that begins with a woman who served on a jury discussing having been criminally penalized for telling her fellow jurors about their ability to acquit the defendant for any reason. I talk about some of the pros and cons of nullification and conclude that if one has a basic trust of government and its officials, one will tend to oppose jury nullification and favor leaving it up to prosecutors to exercise their discretion in a just and wise fashion.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Necessary Conditions for A Few Republicans to Be Courageous

by Neil H. Buchanan

Everyone is still trying to figure out what to make of the last two weeks of nonstop news about Donald Trump's unraveling presidency.  His trip abroad is generating a bit of news (including his curtsy to a Saudi ruler), but until he inevitably becomes unhinged by the rigors of travel and diplomacy, the rest of the world will have some time to digest the multitude of shocking revelations that led to the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the Trump/Russia mess.

The overarching question that has generated serious political commentary is whether and when any Republicans will turn against Trump.  Until that happens, he is in no danger of being forced from the White House.  Of course, even something short of Trump's removal from office is a win for sanity, both because nonstop drama will derail the Republicans' regressive policy agenda and because it will keep Trump's supporters on the defensive in the 2018 midterm elections.

Still, it is reasonable to wonder what exactly it will take to shake a few Republicans loose.  As it happens, this is a subspecies of a question that I have been asking for the past few years, which is when the Republicans' headlong rush into fact-free extremism will push enough people to oppose them.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Villains, Careerists, and Patriots: Thoughts on Kobach, Rosenstein, Comey, and McMaster

by Michael Dorf
(cross-posted on Take Care)

As a college student in the early to mid-1980s, I knew Kris Kobach because we were on the debate team together. I'm a couple of years older than Kobach, but he started debating as a freshman, so I had two full seasons to get to know him. I recall him as smart and genial. He was conservative but in what at the time struck me as a middle American country-club Republican sort of way. I did not hear from Kobach again until the mid to late 1990s, when he was a junior faculty member at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He contacted me to talk about an academic paper he was working on. It was very much a scholarly rather than polemical exercise. We had a pleasant substantive exchange, which confirmed my earlier impression of Kobach.

Thus, I was very surprised when, a few years later, Kobach emerged on the national political scene as the evil genius behind many of the state-level efforts to crack down on undocumented immigrants. At first I thought there must be some mistake. Maybe this was a different Kris Kobach? Or maybe his views were being reported inaccurately in the press? But eventually I bowed to reality. Either I had been profoundly mistaken about Kobach all along or at some point he had transformed himself. Accordingly, I have no illusions that in his role as the Vice Chair of the Advisory Commission on Election Integrity Kobach will be anything but a champion of disenfranchising minority voters via Trumped up claims of voting fraud.

I relate the foregoing personal anecdote because it may bear on how to think about people with good intentions and reputations for integrity who take at-best questionable actions. When do their actions demonstrate that (as in Kobach's case) whatever they might have been in the past, they are now villains? When do their curious actions reveal them to be careerists? And when does the sacrifice of personal reputation serve a greater good? I'll explore these questions with regard to Rod Rosenstein, James Comey, and H.R. McMaster.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Judges Speaking Out: Justice Alito and Religious Liberty

By Eric Segall

On at least three occasions over the last seven months Justice Samuel Alito has made public remarks about the appropriate role of religion in this country that, if made by a liberal Justice, would likely result in conservative outrage and calls for recusal the next time the Supreme Court hears a case regarding religious liberty (there is such a case on the docket this term). Despite these public comments by Alito, there has been a deafening silence by those who often complain when other Justices make such political statements.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Federal Courts Exam on Travel Ban, Presidential Immunity, Etc.

by Michael Dorf

Once again, it's that time of year when I post an exam. There are three questions. As always, creative answers are welcome in the comments, but I won't grade them. I apologize for the fact that despite my best efforts to concoct outlandish hypothetical examples based on real events, the actual real events are still more outlandish.