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Courts & Health Care


It is right and fitting that the courts are looking at the question of whether or not the health care reform bill passed last year is constitutional. That is what courts ask and answer. But, if the issues were not so important, it would be hilarious to see these conservative judges repudiating the kind of judicial restraint they have been urging for years. They have long argued that the courts should defer to the political branches, but evidently now they are having qualms. They will hide behind a restrictive reading of the Commerce Clause, to be sure, but it is difficult to see the intellectual consistency of their stance. If they argue, as for example Justice Scalia argues, that Roe was wrong to remove the issue of abortion from the political branches, why should the Congress and the President not be able to fashion a health care law too?
Ever since Bush v. Gore, it has required more than a little credulity to believe conservative jurists when they decry activist judges. Now, it is becoming impossible.

The Politics of Gay Marriage


The women in the Bush family have something like a tradition of letting it be known that they do not share the social conservative agenda the men in the family have had to embrace to win Republican nominations. The wife of President George H. W. Bush, Barbara Bush, and the wife of President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, both let it be known that they were pro-choice, for example. Especially with Bush pere, one had the suspicion that his views on social issues were more consonant with his wife than with the GOP primary electorate. Now, Barbara Bush the younger, daughter of George W. and Laura, and granddaughter of her namesake, has made a video promoting gay marriage in New York.

I know that the bishops have decided they must fight efforts to confer legal rights on same-sex couples tooth and nail, but they have lost the battle, and Barbara Bush’s renunciation is simply the latest evidence of how even conservatives are abandoning the traditional marriage ship.

Huckabee's Israel Dog Whistle


I actually like Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate. But, the last thing we need in the current crisis in Egypt is a prominent American politician running to Israel and viewing the turmoil in Egypt solely through the lens of its effects on Israel.
Huckabee also took a moment to say something truly dumb about the settlements, arguing that any Israeli should be able to live wherever they want within Israel, as if there was no issue about borders awaiting resolution. I was reminded of something one of my most thoughtful and well informed Jewish friends once said when his son was born: "My boy can grow up to be whatever he wants, except a West Bank settler."

Save the 14th Amendment


Senators David Vitter and Rand Paul have introduced legislation that would alter the heretofore commonly understood meaning of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the United States. They wish to deny such citizenship to the children of undocumented workers. The whole issue is entirely trumped up. There is little in the way of data to show that non-citizens come to America to give birth so that their children can acquire American citizenship. But, why let a little thing like reality get in the way when you are trying to develop a wedge issue, putting a racist policy in constitutional drag, and trying to exploit poor people for political gain.

Egypt & Augustine


Maybe it is because he was from North Africa, but the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia should bring out the Augustinian in all of us. Sometimes in life, it is not only the spiritual life for which the gate is small and the path narrow. There are dozens of ways disaster could emerge from the streets of Cairo and Tunis but only one, and a difficult to discern one at that, by which a better future can emerge.

Yahoo Watch: Rep. Paul Broun


Congressman Paul Broun, R-GA, is sticking by a tweet he sent out after the State of the Union. He wrote that the President does not believe in the Constitution, he believes in socialism.
There is nothing new about rightwingers launching the charge of socialism at progressives, Democrats and, you will recall, Dwight Eisenhower. The John Birch Society considered Ike a communist dupe. The charge that someone doesn't "believe" in the Constitution, however, is of more recent vintage. The choice of verb is interesting, no? Does anyone "believe" in the Constitution? Is it a subject of belief? More importantly, what I suspect Mr. Broun means is that the President does not share his interpretation of the Constitution, but that is something different, and such distinctions are not unimportant. I do not share all of President Obama's interpretations of the Constitution, most obviously regarding Roe v. Wade. But, I do not doubt the President's commitment to the Constitution and it is yahoo-like to do so.

Marty Peretz & The New Republic


Yesterday, the New Republic announced that Marty Peretz is officially stepping down as editor-in-chief, a title he has held since 1974. I never worked for Marty directly, but I am proud to count myself among those whose careers as a writer Marty encouraged. In my case, that encouragement came rather bluntly, as many things that came from Marty's mouth did. When I complained about a particular article in the pages of his magazine he said, "Well, you do not choose to publish your opinions." My first published essay appeared in the pages of the New Republic a short time later.

The Boston Tradition


Walter Russell Mead has a fascinating essay, and a blessedly concise one too, on the Boston tradition of investing the state with moral import and significance. Mead goes back to the Puritans, through the Abolitionists, and up through the Kennedys in his analysis, showing how each group invested government with the mission of articulating, and furthering, the moral good of society. This essay is a fine rebuke to one of the commentators on my post yesterday about the National Catholic Register's article regarding the children of same sex parents attending Catholic schools. A "John F" expressed faux shock that "New England" should be so unconcerned with morals and truth. Alas, John F has it all wrong.


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