Invoking 9-11

Invoking 9/11 to attack diplomacy with Iran would be like criticizing Nixon going to China because of Pearl Harbor.

Chris Hayes

This week’s featured post continues the 2016 Stump Speech Series with Ben Carson.

This week everybody was talking about the Iran deal

which is going to go into effect, now that Senate Democrats have stuck together to block a resolution of disapproval. Meanwhile, the House defeated a resolution of approval, which seemed mostly a moot point after the Republican leadership decided not to bring a resolution of disapproval to the floor. Even if a disapproval resolution could pass the House, the vote on the approval resolution indicated that Democrats had enough votes to sustain a veto.

Ted Cruz organized a rally against the Iran deal, but was upstaged by Donald Trump. I agree with TPM contributor Jason Stanford‘s assessment:

The pity of this all [i.e., Trump’s rhetoric about “winning”] is that the Iran deal shows how America can lead (and win!) in an increasingly disorganized world. We negotiated with Iran from a position of strength. We had support from our European allies. We had Iran’s billions in our banks. Behind door number one was Iran giving up their nuclear weapons program. Behind door number two was Iran becoming the next destination for Drone Airlines. The United States gave up nothing in this deal. In exchange for their own money, Iran gave us what we wanted: an Iran without The Bomb.

This is what winning looks like. This is our enemy surrendering their weapons without a fight not because they love us but because they know they would not survive the fight.

As I said.

The White House couldn’t resist pointing out that Dick Cheney is the last person we should be listening to about diplomacy or the Middle East.

and Kim Davis getting out of jail

at least until she starts refusing marriage licenses to gay couples again. She appears to be walking a fine line: She won’t issue such licenses herself, but she won’t prevent deputies from doing so, as long as the licenses are attributed to a court order rather than her authority as county clerk. She doubts whether such licenses are valid, but I’m not sure who would have both the standing and the inclination to test that in court. So it looks like same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky will indeed get the equal protection of the laws.

Mike Huckabee made a political spectacle out of Davis release (and managed to shut Ted Cruz out). Watching the rally outside the jail, or the clips from it shown on the news networks, you might have imagined that Huckabee played some role in freeing her. But no, he was just cashing in on her publicity stunt.

An amazing amount of nonsense is being repeated about the Davis story, and you can find almost all of it in Huckabee’s comments. For example, he emphasized the unfairness of Davis being held without bail.

Jeffery Dahmer got bail, the Boston Stranger got bail, John Wayne Gacy got bail. Kim Davis, because of her convictions, was not given bail.

But bail is for people who are still innocent until proven guilty, even if what they’re charged with is horrible. Contempt of court is a finding of the judge, who has already ruled, so the comparison to Dahmer is silly — Dahmer didn’t get bail after he was found guilty.

In general, bail for contempt of court would be nonsensical, because sitting in jail until you comply with the court’s order is the whole point.

And then there’s this Huckabee gem:

If somebody needs to go to jail, I’m willing to go in her place and I mean that because I’m tired of watching people being just harassed because they believe something of their faith.

Of course, jailing Huckabee would make absolutely no sense, since he wasn’t the one defying a court order. Punishing one person for the deeds of another is substitutionary atonement, which doesn’t even make sense in religion, much less in law.

Nobody who defends Davis wants to answer questions about how far their religious-freedom principle applies. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski asked the same question I raised last week: Can a clerk who takes Jesus’ denunciation of divorce seriously refuse to issue marriage licenses to divorced people? Huckabee danced and dodged and never did answer.

Ben Carson was asked the same question by Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, and also danced, but not quite as well:

This is a Judeo-Christian nation, in the sense that a lot of our values are based on a Judeo-Christian faith. And when there are substantial numbers of people who actually believe in the traditional definition of marriage — I’m one of them, doesn’t mean that I don’t think other people can do whatever they want to do, but I don’t actually believe that they have a right to force their way of life upon everybody else, nor would I try to force my way of life upon everybody else.

To the extent that response means anything at all, Carson seems to be claiming special rights for conservative Christians, because there are “substantial numbers” of them and because he believes that their faith defines the nation. I think that’s what just about all of Davis’ supporters believe, but most don’t want to admit it.

Apparently this billboard just went up in Davis’ home town.

I made a similar point once:

You can accurately describe American marriage after 1981 in a lot of ways, but “traditional marriage” is not one of them. I don’t know of any traditional society where husbands and wives have been equal under the law.

or maybe twice:

In the case of same-sex marriage, the main thing that has changed since the Founding era isn’t the Supreme Court, it’s opposite-sex marriage. In 1789, any gay or lesbian couple claiming they had a right to marry would have been laughed out of John Jay’s Supreme Court, and rightfully so. That’s because in a truly “traditional” marriage husband and wife are legally distinct roles that can only be filled by people of the appropriate gender.

One proposed solution to Kim Davis’ problem is the First Amendment Defense Act. Walter Olson explains what’s wrong with it: The FADA explicitly grants rights to anyone who “believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage.”

In other words, your rights under FADA depend on whether you have the proper beliefs.

Astoundingly, the protection would run in one direction only: It would cover those who favor traditional definitions of marriage, while leaving those who might see merit in same-sex marriage or cohabitation or non-marital sex perfectly exposed to being fired, audited or cut off from public funds in retaliatory ways.

In real-life governance, of course, there is no reason to think that wrongful pressure on dissenters cuts only one way: Some federal employees get targeted by their bosses for leaning right, others for leaning left. Under FADA, however, only one side gets to run to court complaining of ill treatment.

Olson concludes:

FADA as currently drafted isn’t really an accommodation law. It’s an our-guys-win law.

It looks like a shoot-out over Kim Davis will be avoided, but right-wing crazies are coming closer and closer to insurrection. Oath Keepers — one of the groups of armed wackos that intimidated federal agents out of enforcing the law on public-land-moocher Cliven Bundy — announced that it was sending armed guards to protect Kim Davis from being arrested again, if she went back to defying the court. What could possibly go wrong with that plan?

Fortunately, Davis rejected the offer and seems to be trying to avoid giving the court grounds for re-arrest rather than angling to go out in a hail of gunfire. So this time we were just one lunatic short of that scenario.

One aspect of the armed-patriot movement that never gets enough attention is its white privilege. Imagine Black Lives Matter defying a court order and the New Black Panthers sending armed guards to protect BLM leaders from arrest by U.S. marshals. Is there any chance that wouldn’t end in a bloodbath? And wouldn’t the same people who support Oath Keepers and Kim Davis now be cheering when it did?

While we’re talking about insurrection, a poll finds that 43% of Republicans could imagine supporting a military coup in the United States.

but not enough people are talking about Republican attempts to sabotage the next climate-change agreement

The Paris Climate Conference starts in November. Wikipedia says

The conference objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world.

If you’ve been listening to the campaign speeches of Republican candidates, one of the biggest objection they make to the United States taking any action against climate change is that one nation acting along can’t accomplish anything.

Carly Fiorina:

What all the scientists also tell us is that a single state, or single nation acting alone can make no difference acting alone. … California can be the most onerous regulatory regime in the world, which they are, and it won’t make a bit of difference in climate change.

Rick Santorum:

Is there anything the United States can do about it? Clearly, no. Even folks who accept all of the science by the alarmists on the other side, recognize that everything that’s being considered by the United States will have almost – well, not almost, will have zero impact on it given what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Marco Rubio:

America is a country, it’s not a planet. So we can pass a bunch of laws or executive orders that will do nothing to change the climate or the weather but will devastate our economy.

So you might expect Republicans to applaud the prospect of getting the rest of the world to act in concert. I mean, you could imagine U.S. climate rules driving jobs away to India, but new world rules aren’t going to send jobs to Mars.

Well, guess again. Politico reports:

Top Republican lawmakers are planning a wide-ranging offensive — including outreach to foreign officials by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office — to undermine President Barack Obama’s hopes of reaching an international climate change agreement

Jonathan Chait asks and answers the obvious question:

Why would Republicans try to persuade the rest of the world to keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? One reason is that, while other countries transitioning to low-emission fuels may not cost American consumers anything, it definitely costs American fossil-fuel companies. People who own large deposits of coal and oil want to sell it abroad. The Republican climate-change strategy has been hatched by a group of Republican politicians and fossil-fuel lobbyists so tightly intermingled there seems to be no distinction between the interests of the two.

… In any case, the old conservative line, with its explicit or implicit promise that international agreement to reduce emissions might justify domestic emissions cuts, has suddenly become inoperative. The speed at which Republicans have changed from insisting other countries would never reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions to warning other countries not to do so — without a peep of protest from within the party or the conservative movement — says everything you need to know about the party’s stance on climate change.

I haven’t figured out a good way to research the question I’m asking, so I’m mainly just trusting my own (possibly nostalgic) impressions. But didn’t politics used to stop “at the water’s edge“? In the Obama Era, congressional efforts to torpedo American diplomacy have become normal. But I can’t remember anything similar in past administrations, certainly not supported by the leadership of the party out of power.

and you also might be interested in …

Today’s Great Moment in Irony:

Jon Chait has turned optimistic on climate change.

Surprise! “Jeb Bush’s Tax Plan is Mostly a Giveaway to the Rich“. Who could have predicted?

While the full details are still vague, the basic outline lowers the corporate tax rate, offers a reduced tax rate on money corporations have stashed overseas, cuts the top individual rate from 39.6% to 28%, and ends the estate tax altogether, so that dynasties of inherited wealth can dominate America even more than they do now.

You might wonder what will replace that revenue and prevent the kind of massive deficits his brother’s tax cuts caused. Growth! It didn’t work for W, but Jeb’s tax cuts will boost GDP growth to 4% per year. Because he says so.

The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson did the research I only fantasized about, and answered the conservatives who have been comparing the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision to Dred Scott.

In fact they have backwards “which side in the marriage debate has inherited the Dred Scott legacy”: In the 7-2 decision saying that blacks could never be citizens and had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect”, the majority 7 were interpreting the law the way today’s conservatives do, and the dissenting 2 were making the arguments of today’s liberals.

In particular, the Dred Scot 7 invoked original intent, arguing that since the man who wrote “all men are created equal” was a slave-owner, clearly the Founders did not intend the so-called “rights of man” to extend to blacks. Chief Justice Taney wrote that

No “change in public opinion” about the races “should induce the court to give to the words of the Constitution a more liberal construction.”

Today’s conservatives argue that letting same-sex couples marry degrades the institution of marriage. In 1857, Justice Daniel made the same argument about blacks and the institution of citizenship.

Justice Kennedy’s rhetoric about the “dignity” of same-sex relationships is often mocked as his own moral invention rather than a strictly legal argument. Justice McLean’s Dred Scott dissent had similarly lofty rhetoric:

A slave is not a mere chattel. He bears the impress of his Maker, and is amenable to the laws of God and man, and he is destined to an endless existence.

McLean made a living-Constitution argument that would be familiar to today’s liberals:

McLean acknowledged both the sorry racial views of the Founders’ time and the allowance for slavery in the Constitution, but he suggested that the language used could have a better meaning in a freer era. Madison, he noted, was careful to keep out of the Constitution words that “convey the idea that there could be property in man.” (Indeed, the Constitution never refers to a “slave” but to a “person held to service or labor.”) There was always more of a debate about slavery, and a consciousness of wrong, than Taney let on. The Constitution has, built into it, a hope for change.

This is a rich article and has much more to it. Go read it.

and let’s close with something sentimental

Namely, a celebration of Dads.

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  • Jacquie Mardell  On September 14, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    I think substitutionary atonement is actually the whole point of Christianity, a feature it shares with none of the other major religions.

    • weeklysift  On September 14, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      That isn’t the issue that caused me to leave traditional Christianity, but it’s the one that would be the biggest obstacle to going back. When I hear the “good news of salvation” I get stuck on what Jesus’ death has to do with anything — in the same way that I ask what imprisoning Huckabee would have to do with anything.

      • Jacquie Mardell  On September 14, 2015 at 3:03 pm

        When you wrote “makes no sense in religion”, you meant ‘makes no sense in religion’, not ‘is not found in religion’. I misinterpreted.

  • Jacquie Mardell  On September 14, 2015 at 1:50 pm

    Which maybe means that Huckabee sees himself as Christ-like?

  • GoldMark City  On September 14, 2015 at 2:50 pm


  • orionblair  On September 14, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    An article in today’s NYTimes on teaching the history of slavery – the history many of us would rather ignore:

  • ramseyman  On September 17, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    The comparison to Pearl Harbor is perhaps even more telling than Chris Hayes intended. Declassified documents, as detailed in Robert Stinnett’s thoroughly researched book “Day of Deceipt”, show that the Roosevelt administration wanted a way into the war, provoked the Japanese at every turn, and then ignored all the indications that an attack was coming. In the 60 years between Pearl Harbor and 9/11, I would think it likely the main thing that’s changed with that kind of thing is the White House having gotten more skillful at covering its tracks. Not the point Chris Hayes was making, but it’s all related isn’t it.

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