Fare Thee Well

U.S. President Barack Obama gives his farewell speech at McCormick Place on January 10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

If there is any doubt remaining that the slogan “change” had no content when it was proffered as a reason for electing a President, consider this: Barack Obama bid farewell to the nation without calibrating his calls for change to his assertions of having already achieved it. President Obama’s farewell last night—delivered not in the traditional sedateness of the Oval Office but rather at the site and in the manner of a campaign rally—thus served as a primer on the shift from the liberal politics of amelioration to the Progressive politics of historical teleology. It should be said that despite the setting, he…

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New Methods for Assessing Possible Nominees to the Supreme Court

To state the obvious, the Supreme Court is extremely important.  After years of Repubican Presidents not taking their picks carefully or seriously enough, Republicans appear to have finally have come to appreciate how important not making a mistake is. One of the key questions is not only what the nominee’s views are, but what those views will be in the future.  Republicans have seen their appointees drift over the years – “grow in office” – in large part because the dominant legal culture is so hostile to conservative and libertarian views.  In a world where not having a clear paper trail…

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National Sovereignty, Political Idea of the Year

Freedom   Composed entirely of words, text applicable to image

The year 2016 demonstrated the enduring relevance of political ideas. A political idea is distinct from and more fundamental than a stance on a policy or issue. It is a way of understanding political phenomena in light of a worldview. A political idea connects the dizzying array of available facts, forming a coherent vision of what is really happening in the world.

Nearly every political idea involves at minimum three components, corresponding to these questions:

  • What is a good society—in other words, what should the world look like?
  • Why doesn’t it look that way?
  • What would set things right?

Scholars, journalists, and analysts have attributed Trump’s victory, Brexit, and other nationalist advances to the forces of populism, demagoguery, and xenophobia.

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The Complicated Political History of Mideast Christians

In my first post, I described the terrible conditions facing Mideast Christians today. I’d now like to explore the reasons for their current situation—which are many.

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History’s Fickle Judgment

herbert hoover

Why is Herbert Hoover so reviled?

How should history rate Herbert Hoover, the nation’s 31st President? By today’s standards, Hoover was an anomaly. He rose, in Horatio Alger fashion, from being orphaned at age nine to the pinnacle of self-made success in business and finance. Although he was a Quaker, Hoover’s martial adventures in China’s Boxer Rebellion in 1900—at one point leading a detachment of U.S. Marines against Chinese rebels—rival the fictional exploits of Indiana Jones. In an era before ghost writers, Hoover was an accomplished author; his 1922 book, American Individualism, cemented the fame he had earned as a global mining engineer and international humanitarian relief administrator.

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Filibusters Will Not Prevent Trump from Filling the Scalia Seat

There is much to be said in favor of a supermajority rule for confirming Supreme Court Justices. As Mike Rappaport and I argue in the Judicial Filibuster, the Median Senator and the Countermajoritarian Difficulty, the result of such a rule will be more moderate justices, less likely to go to any extremes. At a more theoretical level, a supermajority rule will temper the countermajoritarian difficulty — the problem created by an unelected judiciary invalidating the decisions of the popularly elected branches.   Judicial review under this confirmation rule would be more likely to impose the long-term limitations on popular government that most people themselves desire.

The filibuster, however, is a weak supermajority rule, because a partisan majority of  Senators can change it any time through the so-called nuclear option. Despite my preference for a supermajority confirmation rule, the filibuster is unlikely to survive, if Senator Chuck Schumer has implied, the Democrats are inclined to filibuster Trump’s Supreme Court nominees. Noah Feldman is thus wrong in claiming that it is plausible that the Supreme Court will continue to operate with only eight members.

First, the filibuster for Supreme Court confirmations has been gravely weakened by the previous Democratic controlled Senate’s elimination of the filibuster for other nominations, both for the executive branch and for the lower federal courts.

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The Dark Night of Silence

silence

It’s just a formality, really. Very easy to do. Easier than walking.

These are the quiet solicitations of the Inquisitor, a character in Martin Scorsese’s new drama Silence. The Inquisitor, played by Issey Ogata, is in charge of persecuting Christians in 17th century Japan. Japan’s Edict of Expulsion of 1614 attempted to eradicate Christianity from its islands. The Inquisitor tortures and kills Christians, but also cajoles with cold ruthlessness. Presenting believers with a plaque with either Jesus or Mary on it, he places it on the ground and tells them: step on it to renounce your faith. It’s a very simple motion, he says. Just one step. Nothing to it.

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Art of the Doge?

Doge And Lion Venice

A few years ago, my beloved wife finally persuaded me to accompany her on a trip to Italy. It proved to be so sublime that tears come to my eyes whenever I reminisce about the history, culture, art, scenery, cuisine, wine, and very mood I experienced there. Italy was like a hint of heaven or a pilgrimage to the cradle of our civilization.

Perhaps what amazed me most was how eerily familiar I found one place in particular: the Most Serene Republic of Venice. For in the distant mirror of that medieval commercial republic I discerned unmistakable reflections of the values, institutions, and civil religion of modern Americans. From its founding in the 8th century to its abolition (by wicked Napoleon) a thousand years later, the Venetian Republic was officially Catholic. But its real religion was a prosperity gospel under the patronage of St. Mark, the Winged Lion who blessed the fleets and commerce of the maritime empire and sustained its power and wealth.

The cathedral of San Marco, font of spiritual authority, and the palace of the doge, font of civilian authority, are literally joined at the hip in Venice. The republic was governed by its business elites through an elaborate array of councils, but at the top stood the doge, who was elected for life. He served as high priest of the civil religion and established the template or operational code of Venetian administration, trade, diplomacy, and war.

Did Americans choose a sort of a doge in 2016?

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The Foreign Emoluments Clause II: Inferences from the Interpretive Rules

In my previous post concerning the Foreign Emoluments Clause, I provided evidence from Rob Natelson that the term emolument had narrower and broader meanings.  The narrower meanings would cover money and benefits from an office, whereas the broader meanings might cover any benefit or advantage whatsoever.   In terms of whether the Clause would cover arms-length transactions with Donald Trump, only the broader meaning would cover those transactions. To resolve the ambiguity, an originalist – especially one who follows the original methods approach – would employ the original legal interpretive rules to see if they could answer the question. The Clause provides: No Title…

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Free-for-All in France

View of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

The French presidential election is almost upon us. The first round will take place in mid-April and the second in early May. Usually, such campaigns unfold in a way that is more or less predictable. Not this year.

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