Ever since December of 2021, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case that six months later would overturn Roe v. Wade, a 49-year old precedent – “settled law,” Americans were assured by the Court’s Justices in their confirmation hearings – ensuring women have the constitutional right to abortion, Chief Justice John Roberts has been accused of losing control of his justices.
On Thursday, just days before the high court begins its new term, as one of the Justices’ spouses delivers testimony on her role in the coordinated efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, amid sniping by the Chief Justice and a conservative justice at their liberal colleague, and anger across the nation so virulent the midterm elections appear to be rapidly swinging back to Democrats, the right-leaning Gallup organization has released a new poll that’s absolutely devastating for the Chief Justice and the Court he was entrusted to lead – not to mention American democracy itself.
“Supreme Court Trust, Job Approval at Historical Lows,” Gallup’s damning headline reads.
“47% trust the judicial branch; previous low was 53%,” “40% job approval of U.S. Supreme Court is tied for record low,” and “Record-high 42% say Supreme Court is too conservative.”
Translated, that means the legitimacy of the court is in question, despite entreaties from Justice Samuel Alito, who authored the Dobbs opinion that discarded nearly five decades of settled law to achieve a desired goal: rescinding the constitutional right to abortion, and with it, quite possibly not far down the road, the constitutional right to contraception, same-sex intimacy, and same-sex marriage.
“‘Less than half of Americans say they have ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ of trust in the judicial branch of the federal government, representing a 20-percentage-point drop from two years ago, including seven points since last year,'” Politico reports, quoting an advanced copy of Gallup’s findings.
“This represents a 20-percentage-point drop from two years ago,” Gallup’s own report reveals, “including seven points since last year, and is now the lowest in Gallup’s trend by six points. The judicial branch’s current tarnished image contrasts with trust levels exceeding two-thirds in most years in Gallup’s trend that began in 1972.”
Respect for the Supreme Court was such a non-question that from 1976, when Americans’ “trust and confidence” in the nation’s highest court stood at 63%, Gallup, it appears, did not even ask the question again in polls again until 1997, when the answer came back at 71%.
Today, under Chief Justice Roberts, it is a mere 47%.
Also today, Ginni Thomas, the far right wing activist spouse of one of the Court’s most right-wing jurists, Clarence Thomas, is testifying before the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack regarding her role in efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
This week Justice Alito, also a far-right conservative, delivered a thinly-veiled attack against Justice Elena Kagan, a liberal, in a rare public forum.
So did the Chief Justice, just weeks earlier.
“The very worst moments [in the court’s history] have been times when judges have even essentially reflected one party’s or one ideology’s set of views in their legal decisions,” Justice Kagan said recently, sparking anger from the right. “The thing that builds up reservoirs of public confidence is the court acting like a court and not acting like an extension of the political process.”
“Judges create legitimacy problems for themselves when they don’t act like courts,” she also said, and “when they instead stray into places that looks like they are an extension of the political process or where they are imposing their own personal preferences.”
“If, over time, the court loses all connection with the public and with public sentiment, that is a dangerous thing for democracy,” Kagan warned.
Chief Justice Roberts later delivered a terse retort.
“Simply because people disagree with an opinion is not a basis for questioning the legitimacy of the court.”
Bloomberg Law columnist Vivia Chen, citing the well-respected constitutional scholar and retired Harvard Law professor of law, Laurence Tribe, recently wrote: “Chief Justice Roberts Is Officially Irrelevant.”
“Having had both John Roberts and Elena Kagan as my brilliant students in constitutional law, and having watched each of their careers unfold, I can’t help thinking that one of them, Justice Kagan, has grown into her role as a wise jurist,” Tribe told Chen in response to the Roberts-Kagan flap.
“Chief Justice Roberts has dwindled in stature as his cliches have lost their power and even their relevance,” Tribe added.
Justice Alito entered the sparring match this week, telling The Wall Street Journal: “It goes without saying that everyone is free to express disagreement with our decisions and to criticize our reasoning as they see fit. But saying or implying that the court is becoming an illegitimate institution or questioning our integrity crosses an important line.”
It was a clear swipe at Justice Kagan.
“It’s embarrassingly obvious that recent decisions rendered by the conservative supermajority hew to a certain political agenda,” Bloomberg’s Chen noted, asking: “where does one start? I guess Dobbs was a biggie because it destroyed almost 50 years of reproductive rights for women.”
“Then,” she added, “there’s the decision that crippled New York’s gun-control law and the one that severely cut back climate change regulations. And let’s not forget how the court keeps siding with religion, as if the separation of church and state is an optional part of the Constitution.”
“That the Supreme Court lurched so far to the right in less than a year is breathtaking,” Chen observes. “It’s like we’re suddenly transported to a country where Wayne LaPierre, Christian fundamentalists, corporate polluters, and the ghost of Phyllis Schlafly are calling the shots.”
(For those looking fore even more justification of how the Supreme Court is undermining its own legitimacy, this video clip offers an additional answer.)
All this turmoil, turbulence, and trouble comes days before the Court begins its new term.
“The Supreme Court will return to work on the first Monday of October, after a three-month summer break, with all the determination of a Renaissance-era explorer looking for new lands to conquer,” snarked – or warned – The Nation‘s Elie Mystal. “Last term, the court’s conservative supermajority showed it was willing to ignore precedent (overturning Roe v. Wade), reality (issuing rulings that will lead to more gun violence and climate pollution), and facts (making up evidence in the praying-football-coach case) to arrive at its preferred judicial outcomes.”
“This term, the high court will cement its grip on political life in America, overturning affirmative action and other critical protections along the way,” he says.
“The conservative Supreme Court has been willing to suppress the vote or let Republican-controlled state legislatures gerrymander district maps to the point where the popular vote is all but meaningless, but so far, the court has been unwilling to throw away enough votes after the fact to change the outcome of an election. We’ll see if there’s a first time for everything.”
How bad could it be?
A picture’s worth a thousand words.
Affirmative Action. Tribal Sovereignty. LGBTQ+ Rights. Voting Rights. They’re all on the chopping block this coming Supreme Court term—and this is just what we know so far. In this essential SCOTUS preview, @ElieNYC lays out what’s at stake this term. https://t.co/i3C1vHntmY
— The Nation (@thenation) September 29, 2022
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‘See How Easy That Is to Say?’: GOP Mocked for ‘Weaponization’ of DOJ Claims as Democratic Senator Gets Indicted
The U.S. Dept. of Justice unsealed an indictment against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez late Friday morning, accusing the New Jersey Democratic lawmaker of bribery as prosecutors showed photos of gold bars and nearly half-a-million dollars in cash stuffed into a jacket that bears his name and the seal of the U.S. Senate.
Many on the left immediately demanded Senator Menendez resign, a demand he is refusing. He will step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which Senate Democrats require when a chair is criminally charged.
It took little time for liberals to mock Republicans who have been claiming President Joe Biden and Democrats in general, along with the “deep state,” have “weaponized” the Dept. of Justice against conservatives, especially after Donald Trump’s four indictments on a total of 91 criminal felonies.
“Let me get this straight,” wrote journalist and progressive SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah. “To the GOP, when DOJ indicts President Biden’s son and a senior Democratic US Senator that is great. But when DOJ indicts Donald Trump for attempting a coup and for 32 counts of Espionage that is DOJ’s ‘weaponization’ of criminal justice?!”
“This is the second time that Sen. Bob Menendez has been indicted for corruption. He needs to resign and allow Gov. Murphy to fill that vacancy with someone who does right by the people of New Jersey,” wrote former Human Rights Campaign press secretary Charlotte Clymer. “See how easy that is to say, GOP?”
Journalist, author, and former Clinton White House aide Keith Boykin posted video of the prosecutor announcing the indictment.
US Attorney Damian Williams shows photos of the Mercedes Benz, gold bars, and cash the government alleges Senator Robert Menendez received in bribes. pic.twitter.com/h4hYYwzKVQ
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) September 22, 2023
Boykin later sarcastically commented, “There goes Biden again weaponizing the Justice Department to prosecute political leaders in his own party.”
“President Joe Biden’s weaponized Department of Justice has now indicted Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and *checks notes* Joe Biden’s son,” observed veteran intelligence officer, activist, and social media personality Travis Akers.
Attorney and former Republican George Conway quickly responded, saying, “senile sleepy Joe is playing 65-dimensional chess again.”
“Menendez should resign. Today,” demanded historian and author Kevin M. Kruse.
“One of the nice things about rule of law is that truly believing in it ensures that you don’t end up as a partisan hypocrite,” observed The Atlantic’s Brian Klaas, an associate professor in global politics at University College London. “If Menendez is guilty, he should go to prison as anyone else would. (And it would be prudent to resign swiftly).”
Meanwhile, some used Friday’s indictment of Sen. Menendez to focus on other political figures.
Foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf, warned, “The Menendez case should have Jared [Kushner] and Clarence [Thomas] ordering extra strength Tums today.”
Rachel Bitecofer, the political strategist and analyst also appeared to point the finger at Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni.
You know who else hid money from the IRS and ran his bribes through his wife?! pic.twitter.com/kWJuAPCtbJ
— Rachel Bitecofer 📈🔭🇺🇲🇺🇦 (@RachelBitecofer) September 22, 2023
‘Total Breakdown’: House Sends Members Home – Experts Warn ‘Republicans Can’t Govern’ And Have No ‘Working Majority’
Nine days before an increasingly-likely shutdown of the federal government of the United States, Speaker Kevin McCarthy has effectively adjourned the House for the rest of the week, with GOP leadership telling members they may go home and come back next week, after a procedural vote to fund the Dept. of Defense failed for the second time this week.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram reports, “Note that the House has not officially dismissed everyone.. but everyone expects they are done for the week. Why? They House lacks the VOTES TO ADJOURN.”
He later added that “Things are very fluid,” and “there could be votes TOMORROW or this weekend still in the house. This could be a problem if some members already got on flights.”
Fox News online is reporting, “House abruptly cancels votes for the week without spending deal after series of defeats for GOP leaders,” and notes members are not expected back until Tuesday.
McCarthy this week has repeatedly denigrated and attacked the extremist members of the House Republican conference on camera to reporters, and Thursday was no different, saying, “This is a whole new concept of individuals that just want to burn the whole place down.”
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) blasted House Republicans upon hearing the House was about to adjourn for the week.
“What you need to understand is that chaos is the point for a big chunk of House Republicans. They came to congress to BURN THE GOVERNMENT TO THE GROUND,” the Connecticut Democrat wrote. “Their goal is a shutdown.”
The sentiment is being echoed by political experts, but many of those are placing the blame on Speaker McCarthy.
Democratic strategist Sawyer Hackett, senior advisor to former Obama Cabinet secretary Julián Castro Thursday afternoon wrote: “Reminder: Kevin McCarthy could put a clean bill to fund the government on the floor right now and it would pass easily. Instead, he’s sending members home for the weekend with 9 days until a shutdown—all because he’s afraid he’ll lose his job.”
Evidence that the far-right extremist House Republicans, led by U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) are effectively in control comes via Punchbowl News co-founder Jake Sherman:
At 1:13 PM ET Sherman posted that Rep. Gaetz had “just emerged from” Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s suite. “Gaetz said that he’s advocating for pausing consideration of the Pentagon spending bill and moving to bills that cut spending. He mentioned: State-Foreign Ops, Agriculture, Energy and Water.”
Sherman noted that Gaetz “said again there are not enough votes” for a continuing resolution, legislation to keep the government open temporarily, possibly 30 days past the September 30 deadline.
“Just to review, the plan right now is to begin passing 11 appropriations bills with relatively open rules allowing for amendments between next tues (possibly wed) and Sunday.”
At 2:40 PM, Sherman added, “This is now the strategy. They’re going to bring up individual approps [appropriations] bills next week, per lawmakers who just met with @SpeakerMcCarthy.”
Others were less pleased.
Veteran foreign policy journalist Laura Rozen wrote: “truly insane. Mccarthy surrendered to Gaetz.”
Even before McCarthy adjourned the House for the rest of the week, political experts had warned the volatile situation was worse than it may have appeared.
Sherman, late Thursday morning, issued this warning on social media after the failed Defense Dept. vote: “Just to put this in context, republicans cannot even agree to debate the pentagon spending bill. This bill usually passes by big margins. It failed twice this week. Kevin mccarthys House Republicans are in a state of crisis.”
Josh Chafetz, Georgetown Law professor of law and politics, responded to Thursday’s failed Defense Dept. procedural vote, writing: “if you can’t pass the procedural stuff you don’t have a working majority.”
Aaron Fritschner, the Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) is calling the state of the GOP House a “total breakdown.”
“I started working in the House nearly 11 years ago, I’ve seen some crazy days and some chaotic votes but never seen anything like what is happening with this majority. Just a total breakdown,” he wrote Thursday morning.
Professor and American historian Aaron Astor on Thursday asked, “Does the GOP actually have a working majority in the House?”
Veteran journalist John Harwood quickly replied, “clearly not.”
‘Good Riddance’: Experts Blame Rupert Murdoch for ‘Intellectual and Moral Decay’ of America, Issue Warning on Future
Rupert Murdoch‘s announcement he is stepping down as chairman of Fox Corp. and News Corp. circulated rapidly Thursday morning, with critics celebrating the exit of the billionaire media mogul some are blaming for the “intellectual and moral decay of our society.”
Murdoch created Fox News, which he launched in October of 1996. His massive empire also includes the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal, along with dozens of other media outlets in the U.S. and around the world.
“I have decided to transition to the role of Chairman Emeritus at Fox and News,” his letter, addressed to “Dear Colleagues,” reads. One of his sons, Lachlan Murdoch, “will become sole Chairman of both companies.”
“My father firmly believed in freedom,” Murdoch adds, “and Lachlan is absolutely committed to the cause. Self-serving bureaucracies are seeking to silence those who would question their provenance and purpose. Elites have open contempt for those who are not members of their rarefied class. Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth,” he claimed.
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake was among the many who pointed to Murdoch’s “elites” remark.
“Murdoch in his letter: ‘Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth,'” Blake writes, before pointing to court documents from the Dominion Voting Systems lawsuit Fox News settled for $787 million. “Murdoch in the Dominion documents: Showing exceeding concern about angering the most powerful man in the world [Donald Trump] by telling the truth.”
Murdoch in his letter: “Most of the media is in cahoots with those elites, peddling political narratives rather than pursuing the truth.”
Murdoch in the Dominion documents: Showing exceeding concern about angering the most powerful man in the world by telling the truth. pic.twitter.com/yd980z5qkG
— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 21, 2023
Author, editor, and professor of international relations, Nicholas Grossman, also focused on Murdoch’s “elites” remark.
“Rupert Murdoch’s parents had the titles of Sir and Dame. He’s a multi-billionaire, and very influential, owning prominent news outlets in the US, UK, and Australia. The notion that Murdoch, of all people, is not elite, and not in cahoots with media, is ridiculous, absurd, insane.”
Although Murdoch’s move is not effective until the shareholders’ meeting in November, his announcement comes just one day after a Vanity Fair interview with author Michael Wolff: “Murdoch Chronicler Michael Wolff Foresees the Fall of Fox News: ‘It Will Cease to Exist in Its Present Form.'”
“Now, with The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty, Wolff has directed his poison pen back to a topic that helped make his name,” Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo writes.
Wolff’s focus is on what happens to Fox News after the 92-year old Rupert Murdoch dies, and how his more liberal son James might impact the media empire.
“I think it will cease to exist in its present form,” after Murdoch’s death said Wolff. “I think it will go into a radical transition in which, either James Murdoch will take over and change it into something else, or they will sell it. Fox has existed in its present state just for one reason: It’s controlled by Rupert Murdoch, who is the one man who can stand up, or has been able to stand up, to the political and social opprobrium at a fierce, fierce level, and to do this for the sake of making enormous amounts of money. But when he departs, that changes very clearly and very quickly.”
Wolff added he thinks the “logical” decision will be to sell off Fox News.
“I think it’s more logical, at any rate, to sell the whole damn thing. And I think the position that cable television news is not going to get more valuable, it’s only going to get less valuable, is persuasive.”
Wolff Thursday morning reposted this photo:
Michael Wolff at his book launch explaining that the end of the Murdoch era will come sooner rather than later about 13 hours before Murdoch announces his retirement. Not bad. https://t.co/Eon2eRFR1U pic.twitter.com/1wSFEiVCFy
— thomas beller (@thomasbeller) September 21, 2023
Political and journalism experts, like foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf, on Thursday cheered the Murdoch news and denounced his reign.
“On this happy day on which Rupert Murdoch has announced his retirement, let us reflect on the fact that no single individual has done more damage to Western democracy or more for the intellectual and moral decay of our society during the past half century than Rupert. Good riddance,” wrote Rothkopf.
“I believe one could accurately argue that Rupert Murdoch did more to corrode American democracy and fuel division than any other individual in modern history,” wrote veteran intelligence officer, activist, and social media personality Travis Akers. “His departure from Fox News leaves a wake of public distrust, violence, and a nation in a cold civil war.”
Author and former Chicago Tribune editor Mark Jacob adds, “Millions of Americans are more ignorant and less loyal to our democracy because they got their’news’ from Rupert Murdoch.”
MSNBC’s Medhi Hassan wrote: “As Rupert Murdoch announces his ‘retirement’, a reminder that some of the worst things we have had to experience in recent years – the Iraq war, the rise of Trump, the Big Election Lie – are all thanks to him and to Fox.”
Media Matters for America President Angelo Carusone served up this warning:
“Lachlan Murdoch is worse than Rupert Murdoch, so you’ll basically just get a more malevolent version of Fox that will also be even more chaotic since Lachlan is both a less competent leader and Fox is facing an especially turbulent period that Lachlan has no idea how to navigate.”
With an eye to the future, veteran journalist Kara Swisher offered this on Lachlan Murdoch: “Prediction: It will be a short reign of the crown prince — after the old man goes, the other siblings will have the con and it will all be sold off (Elon? Right leaning PE firm or media org?).”
Media Matters’ Madeline Peltz also glimpsed into what the future might look like under Lachlan’s leadership.
“Lachlan Murdoch is now the sole chairman of his family’s media empire. He is a dangerous ideologue who unwaveringly backed Tucker Carlson’s white supremacy on the network,” Peltz said, referring to the now-former top Fox News host. She added: “Murdoch was the number one champion of Tucker Carlson, even as he cost Fox News millions in ad revenue and spread dangerous extremism that inspired acts of right-wing terrorism around the world.”
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