Tag Archives: term

I already miss President Obama

In the midst of the 2016 presidential election circus, I’m beginning to realize how much I’ll miss President Barack Obama.

This yearning welled up in me during his valedictory State of the Union speech. The president channeled the collective wisdom of many of his predecessors to remind us of who we are and what our country at its best has aspired to. 

Like Teddy Roosevelt, he asserted our strength. Like Franklin Delano Roosevelt, he dispelled our fears. Like Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, he championed fairness for all. Like George Washington, he warned of foreign entanglements.

Like Ronald Reagan, he expressed confidence in our future. He echoed Abraham Lincoln in encouraging us to follow the better angels of our nature. He touted our diversity as only Barack Obama can. 

He challenged the claims of chaos and decline purveyed by the GOP presidential candidates. He warned of the danger of reckless rhetoric. He also conveyed several important lessons, including one that ended on a note of impatience:

“We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis … even if it’s done with the best of intentions. That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately will weaken us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam. It’s the lesson of Iraq, and we should have learned it by now.”

I don’t think any president has ever been so blunt in admitting our failures. I’m proud of President Obama for giving us this reality check. His reluctance to commit ground troops to Syria or against ISIS is clearly informed by the lessons of previous military misadventures. Will our next president exercise such restraint?

The usual critics complained that the president’s speech was a triumph of style over substance. I disagree. His speeches are remarkable for both style and substance, evidenced by the examples I’ve cited. In times of crisis, is there anyone more steady and thoughtful? After Obama, do we really want to go back to a shoot-from-the-hip president?

Pundits already are writing post-mortems on his presidency. The common theme is of promise unfulfilled.

I’m disappointed about some things. I wish he had been more aggressive about his proposals during his first years in office when there were Democratic majorities in Congress. I wish he hadn’t offered so many concessions, especially in the case of the Affordable Care Act. 

But I am grateful to the president for many things. He nominated Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. He continually spoke up for LGBT rights and endorsed same-sex marriage, which became the law of the land on his watch. He championed women’s rights, including the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act. Will the next president veto attacks on reproductive rights as President Obama has?

The president stabilized the economy after the 2008 crash. He restored our reputation abroad after the belligerent Bush-Cheney era. He dared to pursue normalized relations with Cuba and Iran. He re-engaged with the international community in efforts to stem global warming and imposed limits on carbon pollution from power plants here at home. 

I am really going to miss President Obama. I’m confident he will have as distinguished a post-presidency as Jimmy Carter, and I think history will look kindly on his lifetime of achievements.

Walker used private email to send hundreds of messages

Emails obtained by WKOW-TV in Madison show that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his top advisers used private email accounts to send hundreds of messages early in the Republican’s term in 2011.

WKOW reported recently that in response to an open records request Walker’s office turned over nearly 1,000 pages of emails sent by top aides in 2011. 

Walker’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick says the emails are an “extremely small number” given the volume sent and received, and they were retained and released in accordance with the law.

Dozens of the emails WKOW received were never sent to an official state account until they were forwarded to the government email of Walker’s legal counsel four years after the emails were originally written and two months after the station’s open records request.

For the record: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s inaugural address

Here are the remarks Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker prepared for his second inaugural address:

Today, I thank God for His grace; for the privilege of living in such a remarkable country; and for growing up in the greatest state in the nation. As the son of a small town pastor and a part-time secretary in Delavan, it is quite an honor to serve as your Governor. Thank you for that cherished opportunity.

I want to thank my family: Tonette—who is my rock and an amazing First Lady; our sons, Matt and Alex—who have done an outstanding job serving as our masters of ceremony here today; my parents, Llew and Pat Walker—who always set a powerful example of how to serve others; my brother, David, sister-in-law, Maria, and their girls, Isabella and Eva; and to all of my other family members—I am grateful for all of your tremendous love and devotion.

Thanks go out to all who are participants in our ceremony today. I am particularly grateful to the members of the 132nd Army Band and all of the other members of the Wisconsin National Guard—not only for your services today, but for the ongoing support of our many brave men and women who are deployed even as we speak. Our prayers go out to each and every one of you.

And a special thank you as well to all of our outstanding veterans who served our country so faithfully. We salute you.

And thank you to all of the people across Wisconsin who have offered your support and prayers to my family. We are so very grateful.

You see, years ago, Tonette and I sat down and prayed about getting in the race for Governor. We knew statewide elections are tough, but we were willing to make the sacrifice to ensure our sons would grow up in a Wisconsin that is as great as the one we grew up in.

Thankfully, because of our reforms, Matt and Alex’s generation is growing up in an even better Wisconsin.

They are young people, like my sons, as well as the daughters of our Lt. Governor and of our Attorney General. The Kids from Wisconsin, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Green Bay Girl Choir, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, the Falls Baptist Music School Choirs and Chamber Orchestra, the Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Immersion School, and the Bruce Guadalupe Community School Jazz Band—each of them here today represent all of the sons and daughters from across this great state.

Our children are leading this inauguration ceremony as a reminder of our big dreams for them—and for the future of this great state.

The founders of Wisconsin had a grand vision as well. These ideals are laid out in the state Constitution that now rests here in this rotunda.

After the preamble, the start of this treasured document now reads:

“All people are born equally free and independent, and have certain inherent rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; to secure these rights, governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

These are powerful words. A few moments ago, I took an oath to support this constitution and the Constitution of the United States. I take that charge seriously.

Unlike other places around the world, this document says, in Wisconsin, it doesn’t matter what class you were born into or what your parents did for a living. Here, our opportunities should be as equal as possible, but the outcomes should still be up to each and every one of us.

In Wisconsin, we understand that true freedom and prosperity do not come from the mighty hand of the government. They come from empowering people to control their own lives and their own destinies through the dignity born from work.

In Wisconsin, we understand people create jobs, not the government. Those who choose to employ—be it one or many—are to be appreciated and encouraged, so as to prosper and increase employment for others in the future.

In Wisconsin, we understand the best way to improve lives and strengthen families, as well as raise wages, is to assist people to get a better education and to acquire more skills. This is how we grow household incomes, while putting people to work.

Since I last stood at this podium, our state has become more free and prosperous. We took the power away from big government special interests and returned it to you—the hard-working taxpayers. More people are working and fewer are unemployed. School scores have improved and more of our students are graduating from high school.

Our retirement system is the only one fully funded in the country. The state’s pension and debt ratio is one of the best. And Wisconsin’s bond rating is positive.

In contrast to the politicians along the Potomac, we get things done here in the Badger state. There is a clear contrast between Washington and Wisconsin.

We’ve been good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and lowered their tax burden as well. We’ve shown why the founders of this great nation looked to the states—and not the federal government—as the source of hope for this exceptional country. We will not let them down.

Now, we have a grand vision for the future—a dream of freedom and prosperity for all who live here in the great state of Wisconsin.

We will help our fellow citizens—regardless of mobility or income, station or status in life—to achieve the education and skills needed to succeed in their chosen occupations. This will not only help fill positions open today, but will build confidence in employers that they can create new jobs and find qualified workers to fill them.

We will ensure every child—regardless of background or birthright—has access to a quality education. For many, like my sons and me, it is in a traditional public school. For others, it may be in a charter, a private, a virtual or even a home school environment. Regardless, we will empower families to make the choice that is right for their sons and daughters.

We will reduce the size and scope of government to match the will of the people. State agencies will be merged to make them more effective, more efficient, and more accountable to the public. We will continue to weed out waste, fraud, and abuse. Budgets will be set based on the taxpayers’ ability to pay and not on the government’s ability to spend.

We will build the needed infrastructure to support a thriving economy. A transportation system to assist major industries, like manufacturing, agriculture, forest products, and tourism is a key part of this infrastructure. So is broadband internet access to connect every part of the state to the global economy and cost effective and reliable sources of power to fuel our growing economy.

Overall, everyone in this state should have an opportunity to live their piece of the American Dream—right here in Wisconsin.

For some, that dream might be succeeding in their chosen career—and maybe even starting their own business someday.

For others, that dream might mean owning their own home.

But for many of us, that dream is as simple as ensuring our children live in a place that it is better than the place we grew up in. As mentioned, Tonette and I decided to run for Governor years ago because we wanted our sons to grow up in a state where they, and future generations, have the opportunity to dream big and work hard to make those dreams a reality.

After traveling this state, I believe that we are not alone. Visiting factories and farms and small businesses on a frequent basis, I find mothers and fathers just like Tonette and me. They work hard each day for more than a paycheck or a title. They work hard, so their children can have a better life than they did.

That’s what I want for Wisconsin. Working together, I believe we can create a state that is even better than the Wisconsin we grew up in.

Help us realize that dream of freedom and prosperity for all. For the sake of the children at this ceremony; for all of the others like them across this great state; and for countless generations yet to be born, we cannot let them down. We will not let them down. We will move Wisconsin forward.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the great State of Wisconsin.

UPDATE: No rulings on marriage today

UPDATED: The Supreme Court has six cases, including some of the term’s highest profile matters, to resolve before the justices take off for summer vacations, teaching assignments and international travel.

The court met today (June 25) and will release the remainder of its decisions at 10 a.m. EST on June 26.

Two of the remaining cases are the marriage equality cases. One is a challenge to California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The other is an attack on a provision of federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and pension benefits.

2016 politics on display as Congress ends term

Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, voted for the “fiscal cliff” compromise that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rand Paul voted against it. And Vice President Joe Biden helped broker the deal with GOP leaders in the Senate.

As Congress closed out its term this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accused fellow Republicans of showing “callous indifference to the suffering of the people of my state” by not holding a vote on Superstorm Sandy aid. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined him in the rebuke.

And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton drew headlines for a different reason after being hospitalized for a blood clot in her head, an illness that raised questions about the Democrat’s political future.

While the next presidential primary voting is still three years away, the political implications of the actions and whereabouts of the potential field of 2016 candidates hung over extraordinary year-end Washington drama.

The fiscal cliff vote forced those in Congress who are eyeing presidential runs to stake out early positions which signal how they may be aligning themselves – and which could come back to haunt them should they move forward.

The intense legislative debate also gave would-be candidates involved in them an opportunity to command the spotlight while rivals were on the sidelines. And the weeks of gridlock over the looming fiscal cliff of big tax increases and spending cuts provided governors weighing bids a chance to cast themselves as outsiders and, perhaps, start building a case for taming Washington paralysis.

For Republican White House hopefuls in Congress, the votes on the compromise that raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans could help frame future presidential primary debates over the debt ceiling, tax code reforms and how to fund government and entitlement programs. The party has rejected tax increases for more than two decades but now finds itself trying to regroup after President Barack Obama’s re-election and dealing with a struggle between Republicans who want to take a more pragmatic tax approach and tea party loyalists advocating a firm anti-tax position.

“The American people chose divided government. As elected officials, we have a duty to apply our principles to the realities of governing,” Ryan said after joining with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in support of the bill, putting him in the minority of the GOP caucus and against the tea party.

Ryan may be spared some political fallout from the right, given that Republican activist Grover Norquist, who for years has pushed GOP lawmakers to pledge not to raise taxes, and several other conservative heavyweights supported the bill, including Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, the former head of the anti-tax Club for Growth.

Two other potential 2016 presidential candidates drew praise from conservative opponents of the measure for voting to refuse tax increases.

Rubio, a prominent Hispanic lawmaker in a party trying to connect with Latino voters, called the legislation an impediment to “rapid economic growth and job creation.” The Florida senator also said it failed to control runaway debt. Paul, the son of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, opposed the bill because of the combination of spending and tax increases. The Kentucky senator said: “We’re going to raise taxes and we’re going to raise spending. Tell me what’s good about that?”

On the Democratic side, Biden played a major role in the deal-making, with his late-night talks with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell leading to the compromise plan. It was a reminder of the former Delaware senator’s legislative skills, which could either impress Democratic primary voters or anger liberals who may view the deal as too much of a compromise with Republicans.

As the vice president helped broker a deal, it was hard for Democrats to overlook where Clinton, the party’s formidable potential contender, was: She revealed she was being treated in a New York hospital for a blood clot in her head that formed after she suffered a concussion during a fainting spell in early December. She was released from the hospital Jan. 3 and doctors said they were confident she would make a full recovery. But the extended illness made it more likely that Clinton, 65, would face scrutiny over her health should she run.

Beyond Washington, two prominent Northeast governors weighed in on Congress’ year-end wrangling, and wasted little time assailing the House GOP leadership over hurricane relief.

Christie said his state had been betrayed by his fellow Republicans in the House, who refused to bring a Superstorm Sandy aid package to a vote, adding, “America deserves better than just another example of a government that has forgotten who they are there to serve and why.”

Cuomo, a Democrat long considered by party insiders to be a possible White House candidate, issued a joint statement with Christie condemning the “inaction and indifference” by the House. “The people of our states can no longer afford to wait while politicians in Washington play games,” they said. House Republicans said after Christie’s blistering news conference that they would hold a vote Friday for $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another on Jan. 15 for a remaining $51 billion in the relief package.

It’s impossible to say whether this week’s votes and comments will become 2016 campaign fodder. But they certainly give hints about how possible candidates are testing the waters – and how their positions are faring with certain parts of the electorate.

“It strikes me that Ryan is thinking he wants to be the establishment candidate,” said Doug Gross, an Iowa Republican who chaired Mitt Romney’s 2008 campaign in the state. Conservatives may agree – and not look kindly on that. As Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator and the editor of RedState.com, put it on Twitter, “Thus ends the Paul Ryan 2016 Presidential Exploratory Committee.”

Still, some Republicans dismissed any fallout from their candidates’ votes.

“I don’t ultimately think this one vote will hurt any of them,” said Sara Taylor Fagen, a Republican strategist. “But to some degree it probably forecasts their voting patterns for the future.”

Another big Supreme Court term kicks off today

When last we saw the chief justice of the United States on the bench, John Roberts was joining with the Supreme Court’s liberals in an unlikely lineup that upheld President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Progressives applauded Roberts’ statesmanship. Conservatives uttered cries of betrayal.

Now, the Supreme Court is embarking on a new term beginning today that could be as consequential as the last one, with the prospect for major rulings about affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights.

Many people on both the left and right expect Roberts to return to the fold and side with the conservative justices in the new term’s big cases. If they’re right, the spotlight will be back on Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote typically is decisive in cases that otherwise split the court’s liberals and conservatives.

But Roberts will be watched closely, following his health care vote, for fresh signs that he’s becoming less ideologically predictable.

It may be that the dramatic health care decision presages “some shift in his tenure as chief justice,” said Steve Shapiro, the American Civil Liberties Union’s national legal director. “Or does it give him cover to continue to pursue a conservative agenda?”

The first piece of evidence could be in the court’s consideration of the University of Texas’ already limited use of race to help fill its incoming freshman classes, which comes before the court Oct. 10. The outcome could further limit or even end the use of racial preferences in college admissions.

Roberts has expressed contempt for the use of race in drawing legislative districts, calling it “a sordid business, this divvying us up by race,” and in assigning students to public schools, saying that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

The written arguments submitted by both sides in the Texas case leave little doubt that Kennedy, not Roberts, holds the prized vote. The challengers of the Texas program and the university itself cite Kennedy’s prior writings on affirmative action a combined 50 times.

The court also is expected to confront gay marriage in some form. Several cases seek to guarantee federal benefits for legally married same-sex couples. A provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act deprives same-sex couples of a range of federal benefits available to heterosexual couples.

Several federal courts have agreed that the provision of the law is unconstitutional, a situation that practically ensures that the high court will step in.

A separate appeal asks the justices to sustain California’s Proposition 8, the amendment to the state constitution that outlawed gay marriage in the nation’s largest state. Federal courts in California have struck down the amendment.

Once again, many legal analysts expect Roberts essentially to be against gay marriage. “The outcome clearly turns on how Anthony Kennedy votes,” said Georgetown University law professor Michael Seidman.

The justices may not even consider whether to hear the gay marriage issue until November.

Another hot topic with appeals pending before the high court, and more soon to follow, is the future of a cornerstone law of the civil rights movement.

In 2006, Congress overwhelmingly approved, and President George W. Bush signed, legislation extending for 25 more years a critical piece of the Voting Rights Act. It requires states and local governments with a history of racial and ethnic discrimination, mainly in the South, to get advance approval either from the Justice Department or the federal court in Washington before making any changes that affect elections.

The requirement currently applies to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covers certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan and New Hampshire. Coverage has been triggered by past discrimination not only against blacks, but also against American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaskan Natives and Hispanics.

The court spoke skeptically about the provision in a 2009 decision, but left it mostly unchanged. Now, however, cases from Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas could prompt the court to deal head on with the issue of advance approval. The South Carolina and Texas cases involve voter identification laws; a similar Indiana law was previously upheld by the court.

It is unclear when the justices will decide whether to hear arguments in those cases. Arguments themselves would not take place until next year.

Yet there still is a chance that the court could become enmeshed in election disputes, even before the ballots are counted. Suits in Ohio over early voting and provisional ballots appear the most likely to find their way to the justices before the Nov. 6 election, said Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California at Irvine law school.

Among other important cases already on the court’s docket:

• A high-stakes dispute, to be argued first thing Monday, between the business community and human rights advocates over the reach of a 1789 law. The issue is whether businesses can be sued in U.S. courts for human rights violations that take place on foreign soil and have foreign victims.

• A challenge to the use of drug-sniffing dogs in two situations. Florida police used a marijuana-sniffing dog’s alert at the door of a private home to obtain a search warrant to look inside the house. The question is whether the dog’s sniff itself was a search. A separate case looks at the reliability of animals trained to pick up the scent of illegal drugs.

• A challenge to the detention of a man who police picked up a mile away from an apartment they had a warrant to search. Occupants of a home may be detained during the search for the safety of officers, but this case tests how far that authority extends away from the place to be searched.

• Environmental disputes involving runoff from logging roads in Oregon and water pollution in Los Angeles.

Paul Clement, the Republican lawyer who lost the health care case and could be before the justices on gay marriage and voting rights, said last term punctured the notion that in close cases, the court goes where Kennedy wants.

“We’ve all been reminded that’s not always the case,” he said.

The idea that could be tested this term is whether Roberts’ concern for the court as an institution that is apart from politics will influence his votes, or at least his reasoning, in the year’s biggest cases.