The Supreme Court majority built by the hard-right legal movement with help from Republican presidents and senators, and turbocharged by three Trump-McConnell justices, is apparently preparing to overturn Roe v. Wade, eliminating a constitutional right to abortion and potentially eviscerating the constitutional underpinning of rulings protecting privacy and the rights of LGBTQ Americans.
While overturning Roe has been an intense focus and will be a massive victory for the religious right and right-wing legal movement, reversing Roe is just one part of a much broader agenda that has been promoted by the right-wing Federalist Society and allied political operatives who have worked with it to pack the federal courts. Trump basically outsourced his judicial picks to the group’s activists. Now, with the Trump justices cementing a hard-right majority on the Court, Federalist Society lawyers and judges and their political allies can move even more aggressively to reverse a century’s worth of precedents, pulling the constitutional rug out from under the New Deal and Great Society anti-poverty programs like Medicare and Social Security; further gutting voting rights in favor of states’ rights; weakening the separation of church and state; and undermining the federal government’s ability to regulate corporations and protect workers and communities.
Seeking a National Abortion Ban
A leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision written by Justice Samuel Alito dispenses with any notions of nuance in favor of a complete repudiation and reversal of Roe. If the court ultimately rules along the lines set out in Alito’s draft, abortion would be banned or severely restricted in more than half the states immediately or in short order.
Some states already have bans in place. Some have passed “trigger” laws, most of which would take effect at the moment of Roe’s demise. Others, including Michigan and Wisconsin, still have old laws on the books that will come back into force once Alito and his colleagues have removed the constitutional barrier to their enforcement. While some anti-choice groups have talked about preparing for a “50-state battle,” they have already won many of those battles.
Eliminating Roe would intensify the already existing disparities in access to abortion between states. Many people seeking that care will be forced to travel elsewhere—a fundamental freedom that is also being targeted by anti-abortion legislators.
And for all the federalism-embracing, give-it-back-to-the-states rhetoric, expect anti-choice activists to quickly demand a national ban on abortion. The state-by-state approach pursued by anti-choice activists was a strategic decision to bypass Congress, chip away at Roe, and build momentum toward a day when the Court was in their ideological grasp. But a nationwide ban is their goal.
This is not speculation. The amicus brief submitted by Princeton University professor Robert P. George, a brief cited in Alito’s draft, is clear. George argues that “prenatal persons” and “unborn children” are persons under the 14th Amendment from the moment of conception, and therefore that states should be required to treat abortion as homicide. He argues that Congress would have to enforce such a ruling “if States failed in their duties.” George’s brief mirrors the arguments of the hard-core “personhood” wing of the anti-choice movement, which has successfully pushed anti-choice legislators away from even granting exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape and incest. The right to contraception is at risk, too, as anti-abortion activists are hard at work to make the public believe that some widely used forms of contraception are the equivalent of abortion.
Eliminating Equality for LGBTQ Americans
Alito’s draft includes language seemingly meant to suggest that if adopted by the majority, his ruling would not put LGBTQ equality at risk. “Nothing in this opinion should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.” Referring to the Court’s rulings in Lawrence v. Texas, which overturned state laws criminalizing homosexual conduct, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which recognized marriage equality, Alito’s draft says that the Court ruling against a right to abortion “does not undermine them in any way,” in part because those decisions do not involve “the critical moral question posed by abortion.”
But that reads as high-level gaslighting.
In a 2020 comment on the court’s decision not to hear a case brought by a marriage-resisting county court clerk, Alito and Clarence Thomas disparaged Obergefell, saying that a right to same-sex marriage cannot be found in the Constitution. And many anti-choice activists have portrayed opposition to marriage equality as inhabiting the same legal and moral plane as opposition to abortion.
A brief submitted by Texas Right to Life was filed by Jonathan Mitchell, the author of the Texas abortion ban that the Supreme Court has allowed to take effect. The brief sneers at “court-invented rights to homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage,” calling the Lawrence and Obergefell decisions “as lawless as Roe.”
Robert George, who argues that states must treat abortion as homicide, is also intensely opposed to legal equality for LGBTQ people. A founder of the National Organization for Marriage, George co-authored The Manhattan Declaration, a 2009 manifesto whose signers frame opposition to abortion and marriage equality as similarly non-negotiable. The manifesto concludes with this:
Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.
Anti-LGBTQ activist Ryan Anderson, a Robert George protégé, has urged anti-marriage equality activists to follow his road map to overturning Obergefell, with the religious right’s anti-Roe campaign as a guide. The first step in his plan was to denounce the marriage equality decision as illegitimate, which George and others have done relentlessly. Other anti-LGBTQ leaders, like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown, have also expressed hope that success in eradicating a right to abortion points the way toward doing the same for marriage equality.
And it is not just about marriage. Many religious-right legal and political advocacy groups defended state laws that made gay people de facto criminals and opposed the Lawrence decision. You can hear that in the rhetoric of anti-LGBTQ activists who express a desire to return to a time when gay people were disfavored in law and demonized in popular culture, and already, they are working to return us to that time with a wave of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and legislation smearing LGBTQ people and their allies as “groomers” and sexual predators.
Indeed, anti-choice activist Janet Porter recently said she hopes to apply the nefarious strategy of Texas’s abortion ban, which allows anyone to sue anyone who helps a person obtain an abortion, to LGBTQ issues in schools, making teachers, librarians, and school board members vulnerable to lawsuits for “pushing this garbage on our children.”
‘Rome Wasn’t Burned in a Day’: Return to a States’ Rights Constitution
In the name of federalism, the Supreme Court’s conservative and far-right justices have repeatedly weakened the federal Voting Rights Act, giving a green light to state legislators to pass wave after wave of voting restrictions. That is far from the only way that the right-wing legal movement hopes Trump’s justices can continue to “fundamentally change the country.”
In 2017, Republican congressional and White House aides told a conference of religious-right activists that getting a second Supreme Court justice would allow Trump to create “epic, titanic” shifts and undo New Deal and Great Society programs created when Democrats had wide congressional majorities. Trump also filled lower federal courts with ideologically minded judges who give hard-right justices like Alito and Thomas the “troops” to carry out their judicial counterrevolution.
Dismantling much of what the federal government does to address poverty and access to education and health care has been a long-term project, a reality reflected in a bit of Federalist Society humor: “Rome wasn’t burned in a day.” But right-wing funders knew their long-term investments could bring huge returns.
The confirmation of Trump’s third Supreme Court pick, Justice Amy Coney Barrett—who some anti-choice activists believe was anointed by God to help the Supreme Court overturn Roe—could also strengthen the religious right’s already successful push to weaponize and redefine religious liberty in ways that weaken the Establishment Clause, which prohibits the establishment of religion by Congress, and the separation between church and state.
The net result is all too clear. As tragic as it is, the reversal of Roe is just one step in the far-right campaign to rewrite the Constitution and gut fundamental rights, harming millions of Americans in the process.
This article was originally published by Right Wing Watch and is republished here by permission.
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Trump, Wanting to Change News Cycle, Appears to Confess to ‘Openly and Transparently’ Taking Classified Docs
It’s been a tough month for Donald Trump.
After Republicans failed to produce the red wave he claimed he would have been responsible for if it happened, but could not be held responsible if it did not, then refused to take any responsibility, Trump has been held responsible by left and right wing pundits, and even some GOP politicians.
Trump then moved forward with his 2024 presidential campaign announcement, which was widely panned as “low energy” – so low that several guests trying to leave early appeared to be refused access to the exits.
Days later Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that because Trump announced he is running for President, a Special Counsel has been appointed to two of the DOJ’s investigations into Trump. (Some say that’s good news for Trump, some say bad.)
And then a three-judge panel basically destroyed Trump’s attorney who was arguing the former president’s appeal in his case against the U.S. Government. Trump is arguing both that he declassified all the documents but also they are all his property.
That was all before last week.
Six days ago Donald Trump sat down with his invited guest, the antisemite and racist Kanye West, embattled after losing hundreds of millions in endorsements over his antisemitic remarks. That would have been bad enough, but West brought infamous white supremacist and antisemite Nick Fuentes, along with (reportedly) Milo Yiannopoulos and Trump 2016 aide Karen Giorno, who was reportedly involved in a pay-for-pardon scheme.
Since Wednesday the media has exploded with calls for Trump to denounce white supremacism and white supremacists. He has refused.
Multiple advisers have urged Trump to denounce Fuentes, who has a long history of promoting white supremacism, but he has been “rejecting” their advice, The Guardian reports, “over fears he might alienate a section of his base, two people familiar with the situation said.”
Desperate to change the media narrative, late Monday afternoon Trump appeared to confess to stealing thousands of items (some counts say 13,000) including 300 documents with “Classified” and “Top Secret” headers.
“This fully weaponized monster, Jack Smith,” Trump said of the special counsel investigating him, “shouldn’t be let anywhere near the political persecution of ‘President Donald J. Trump.’ I did nothing wrong on January 6th, and nothing wrong with the Democrats’ fix on the Document Hoax, that is, unless the six previous Presidents did something wrong also,” Trump claimed on his Truth Social platform.
That’s when – in a departure from his previous suggestions that the classified documents, which he also claims to have declassified, may have been planted – Trump appeared to confess to the crime.
“When will you invade Bill and Hillary’s home in search of the 33,000 emails she deleted AFTER receiving a subpoena from the U.S. Congress? When will you invade the other Presidents’ homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?”
It’s the, “not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?” that has set off many.
The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, one of the first to notice Trump’s statement, wrote: “Imagine Trump’s lawyers may not love the final line of his latest Truth Social post. ‘When will you invade the other Presidents’ homes in search of documents, which are voluminous, which they took with them, but not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?'”
Some are suggesting the part, “not nearly so openly and transparently as I did?” appears akin to a confession.
Top national security attorney Brad Moss responded to Dawsey’s tweet, writing, “He has the right to remain silent. Anything he says can and will be used against him. He has the right to an attorney. If he can’t afford one, one will be appointed for him by the courts.”
Journalist Touré commented: “In which Trump admits to taking documents, charges other former POTUSs with also taking documents (without evidence), and says he took the documents in a way that’s somehow better than the way that those other stealing POTUSs did. Same ol Trump.”
Image: Shirley Preston / Shutterstock
Critics Blast Hypocrisy of Attacking Fetterman’s Debate Performance While Supporting Herschel Walker
Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman‘s performance in Tuesday night’s U.S. Senate debate against Dr. Mehmet Oz was quickly praised by many supporters on social media, and quickly criticized by GOP voters and especially the mainstream media – the very same people, as some pointed out, who praise and embrace Herschel Walker despite his acknowledged mental illness and clear struggle with basic policy.
Fetterman, who suffered a stroke just days before winning the Democratic nomination for that U.S. Senate seat for Pennsylvania, has been open about his challenges and the use of what is basically a speech-to-text, or closed-captioning instrument that allows him to read what others are saying in real-time. There is no indication he has cognitive impairment, and he and says the situation is temporary.
Fetterman’s physician, Dr. Clifford Chen, “said Fetterman exhibited no effects on his ‘cognitive ability’ or his ability to think and reason after the stroke,” the Associated Press reported last week. He is “recovering well from his stroke and his health has continued to improve.”
The Nation’s Elie Mystal, who is also a popular guest on MSNBC, framed the debate.
“Sounds like Fetterman cleared the Herschel Walker bar. Don’t know why everybody else is complaining,” he wrote.
But as some pointed out, the lack of basic compassion for Fetterman has been striking.
“My God,” tweeted Pulitzer Prize winning USA Today columnist and New York Times best-selling author Connie Schultz Tuesday night after the debate, “the blue-check [high-profile] people here mocking John Fetterman during this debate, as if they are immune from the randomness of illness and infirmity. Time catches up with everyone, no exceptions. Few would have his courage to recover so publicly.”
Veteran “Saturday Night Live” co-head writer Bryan Tucker summed up some of the hypocrisy, just after the debate ended.
“There’s gonna be a lot of people criticizing John Fetterman tonight for occasional incoherence who also fully support Herschel Walker,” he wrote.
Walker has acknowledged he suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder, which was once known as multiple personality disorder. Walker claims that thanks to God he has “overcome” it, a claim experts disagree with.
“You can get better,” Stanford University psychiatry professor Dr. David Spiegel told The New York Times. “But it doesn’t just evaporate.”
Steve Morris, a political journalist at John Heilemann’s The Recount, says, “Fetterman’s performance was objectively very bad but it’s a pretty big indictment of political media that it’s treated as worse than Herschel Walker revealing disconnection from basic reality – not knowing a federal minimum wage exists or that senators have government healthcare.”
He also posted video supporting his claim.
A reminder of Herschel Walker, sans stroke:
“If you have an able-bodied job, you’re gonna have healthcare. But everyone else have healthcare is the type of healthcare you’re gonna get. And I think that is the problem.”https://t.co/wubymzEZ2N
— Steve Morris (@stevemorris__) October 26, 2022
Herschel Walker is not known to have been diagnosed with CTE, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. But conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan earlier this month wrote, “it’s amazing that the possibility of CTE has barely been raised, even though he has shown classic symptoms — no impulse control, murderous rage, incoherent speech, and even multiple personalities — for decades.”
Last week Tufts University Professor of Psychiatry Nassir Ghaemi, M.D., M.P.H., wrote in Psychology Today about Walker’s Dissociative Identity Disorder diagnosis and about the possibility of CTE.
“The most salient feature of Walker’s biography is that he is a famous football player. As is well known, American football is associated with repeated concussions and very high rates of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE),” Ghaemi writes. “Typical symptoms of CTE are depression, marked impulsivity, violence, suicidality, and, eventually, cognitive decline. Walker, as he has noted, has described some of his psychiatric symptoms, and they mostly represent impulsivity, violence, and suicidality.”
“CTE does not go away,” he adds. “It gets worse over time. So if it is present, it would be concerning.”
Meanwhile, what, exactly, is the “political media” saying about Fetterman’s debate performance?
Immediately after the debate, Axios posted an alert: “Fetterman’s painful debate.”
“Multiple sources wondered why Fetterman agreed to debate when he clearly wasn’t ready,” wrote Axios’ Josh Kraushaar and Alayna Treene – a claim that many disagree with. “Fetterman struggled at times to respond to the moderators’ questions, even with the assistance of a closed captioning device.”
Axios cited an unnamed “Democratic lawmaker and Fetterman backer” who told them, “Why the hell did Fetterman agree to this?”
“This will obviously raise more questions than answers about John’s health,” they wrote.
Compare Axios’ treatment of Fetterman’s likely temporary challenge to how it treated Herschel Walker’s debate against Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock.
Not a single word about Herschel Walker’s acknowledged mental illness, or, as Morris (above) wrote, his “disconnection from basic reality – not knowing a federal minimum wage exists or that senators have government healthcare.”
Axios’ Emma Hurt reported that “The two Georgians answered a range of questions about abortion, inflation, Vladimir Putin and student debt relief. But they also faced questions about various controversies in their personal lives.”
As if both candidates – one who suffers mental health challenges that have reportedly led to violent threats and was “alleged to have preyed upon veterans and service members while defrauding the government,” and one a sitting U.S. Senator and pastor – were pretty much the same in ability and cognition.
“So John Fetterman, who will recover his mental acuity, shouldn’t be a Senator, But Herschel Walker, who has no mental acuity and never will, should. Is that the Republican line today?” asked Joe Conason, Editor-in-chief of The National Memo.
Politico’s Ryan Lizza and Eugene Daniels took a similar tack as Axios.
“Let’s state the obvious,” they claimed. “John Fetterman struggled to effectively communicate during his one and only Senate debate with Mehmet Oz Tuesday in Harrisburg.”
“Fetterman failed to meet even the low expectations his own campaign set for him Monday,” they continued.
“Voters are not doctors. Many are myopic, distracted, and quick to make judgments with limited information. If there’s one thing everyone knows about campaign debates, it’s how superficial they are,” the Politico pair wrote. “The median voter in Pennsylvania is a middle-aged white person with a mid-five-figure salary who did not attend college. That demographic is perhaps the least likely to be following the Fetterman ableism debate on Twitter and MSNBC.”
Policy researcher Will Stancil responded to Politico’s take.
“Herschel Walker and Donald Trump are both a lot less coherent than Fetterman, who understands policy but jumbles his words. Somehow you don’t get long rationalizations in POLITICO about how voters could be surprised by their incoherence, though.”
“Meanwhile Fetterman just wasn’t very slick. But he wasn’t out there talking about invisible planes or injecting sunlight, like Trump, or saying ‘If you have a job you have healthcare’ like Herschel Walker said, incomprehensibly, on a debate stage last week,” Stancil added.
The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, also pointing to the same Politico piece, says, “This seems like a strangely insular way to read the politics of Fetterman’s condition. It doesn’t account for even the *possibility* that some swing voters might see it thorough the lens of their own struggles with adversity. Yet this very demographic does face such struggles.”
“The ‘median voter in PA’ doesn’t need to follow the ‘ableist’ debate to see Fetterman’s struggles through the lens of their own. Even if you think the debate cuts against him on net — which is unclear at best — this possibility needs to be at least part of the discussion,” Sargent adds.
Conservative attorney and Principles First Founder Heath Mayo objectively summed up the apparent hypocrisy.
“If you thought Fetterman’s debate performance suggests he should not be a US Senator… you can’t support Herschel Walker either. Period.”
Who Are The 33 House Republicans Sponsoring the Vigilante Federal ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill?
Thirty-three of the most extreme House Republicans are sponsoring blatantly anti-LGBTQ “vigilante” legislation that is so broad and so poorly written it could effectively ban any and all mention of gender to children under 10 in any federally-funded facility or program. LGBTQ activists and others are calling it a federal “Don’t Say Gay” bill, but it’s actually far more encompassing.
Similar to anti-abortion legislation out of Texas and now other states, the bill could reward anyone who files a complaint.
The text of Johnson’s bill says it is is designed to “prohibit the use of Federal funds to develop, implement, facilitate, or fund any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10, and for other purposes.”
Under “findings,” the bill laments, “Certain school districts that receive Federal grants have implemented sexual education for children under 10 years of age,” and “Many newly implemented sexual education curriculums encourage discussions of sexuality, sexual orientation, transgenderism, and gender ideology as early as kindergarten.”
The bill does not put any numbers or specifics to these “findings,” but it does appear to equate sexual orientation solely with homosexuality, and gender identity only with being transgender.
Congressman Johnson’s bill also attacks libraries that have “sexually-oriented literature and materials that target preadolescent children and teach them about concepts like masturbation, pornography, sexual acts, and gender transition,” while calling drag queen story hours “sexually-oriented events.”
The legislation bans any federal funds from being used for “any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature for children under the age of 10, including hosting or promoting any program, event, or literature involving sexually-oriented material, or any program, event, or literature that exposes children under the age of 10 to nude adults, individuals who are stripping, or lewd or lascivious dancing.”
It provides definitions that appear to be intentionally broad.
For example: “The term ‘sexually-oriented material’ means any depiction, description, or simulation of sexual activity, any lewd or lascivious depiction or description of human genitals, or any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects.”
In other words, a man and a woman kissing in a play hosted by a federally-funded theater or college could by definition be banned – or children under 10 would have to be.
New York City’s Public Theater “Shakespeare in the Park” would have to ban any child under 10 from attending most productions. (Similar “Shakespeare in the Park” events are held each year in over two dozen cities across the country, any may or may not receive federal funds.)
The legislation specifically mentions federally-funded museums. Johnson’s legislation would force many museums to either ban children under 10 or place some works of art out of sight of children, say, in a back room or behind a curtain.
Harvard Law’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society clinical instructor Alejandra Caraballo, an attorney, this week blasted Johnson’s bill, exposing several disturbing aspects.
“Universities, public schools, hospitals, medical clinics, etc. could all be defunded if they host any event discussing LGBTQ people and children could be present. The way they define ‘sexually oriented material’ simply includes anything about LGBTQ people,” she writes.
Pointing to the vigilante aspect of the bill, Caraballo says it “includes a private right of action against any government official AND private entity for a violation. This is [Texas] SB8 style bounty lawsuits against anyone accepting federal funds. This will be a ban on all discussion of LGBTQ people in any entity that received federal funds.”
Caraballo goes on to liken the legislation to Vladimir Putin’s anti-LGBTQ law, which led to horrific violence.
“This is the American version of Russia’s gay propaganda law passed in 2013. This is their end game. To censor and ban LGBTQ from all public life and force them back into the closet,” she says.
And while right wing news outlets are focusing on the drag queen aspect of the bill, as Caraballo notes, “In reality, the way the law is defined, it could apply to a school that has a screening of Buzz Lightyear.”
On a more personal note, Caraballo writes: “It is so incredibly dehumanizing and hateful for congressmembers to draft a bill that would define under federal law who I am as a queer trans woman as being “sexually oriented.” As if my very existence is harmful to children. It’s disgusting, heinous, and monstruous.”
Blogger Melissa Hillman, PhD, issues a similar warning.
“Republicans are planning to force LGBTQ Americans out of public life. They’re pretending any mention of LGBTQ people is ‘sexual content.’ It comes w a bounty hunter provision like Texas’ abortion ban. We could lose every American freedom in one election.”
So which Republicans re sponsoring this bill?
There are currently 33 original co-sponsors, including Congressman Johnson, who falsely claims that Democrats “are on a crusade to immerse young children in sexual imagery and radical gender ideology at school and in public.”
Freshman U.S. Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL), who last year positively invoked Adolf Hitler, is one of the original sponsors. This week lauding Johnson’s bill she appeared to threaten anyone who opposes the legislation, tweeting: “Don’t mess with our kids!“
“We will not allow radical elites to use taxpayer dollars on perverted sex-ed curriculum and dangerous transgender policies that harm our children,” Miller said, adding she is “proud to join” Rep. Johnson “in signing onto the Stop the Sexualization of Children Act!”
The original cosponsors include: GOP Representatives Bob Good (VA), Brian Babin (TX), Jeff Duncan (SC), Vicky Hartzler (MO), Doug Lamborn (CO), Markwayne Mullin (OK), Lauren Boebert (CO), Greg Steube (FL), Debbie Lesko (AZ), Daniel Webster (FL), Ralph Norman (SC), Randy Weber (TX), Van Taylor (TX), Mary Miller (IL), Lance Gooden (TX), Louie Gohmert (TX), Glenn Grothman (WI), Bill Timmons (SC), Clay Higgins (LA), Steve Womack (AR), Tracey Mann (KS), John Joyce (PA), Scott Franklin (FL), Burgess Owens (UT), Matt Rosendale (MT), Russ Fulcher (ID), Tom Tiffany (WI), Nicole Malliotakis (NY), Doug LaMalfa (CA), Andrew Clyde (GA), Michael Guest (MS), and Dan Bishop (NC).
(Links in bold above lead to NCRM’s coverage of those specific lawmakers.)
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