Yesterday the Obama administration brought LGBT rights to the top of its foreign-policy agenda, announcing it would tie the receipt of foreign aid to a country’s treatment of gay and lesbian citizens. “Gay rights are human rights,” Hillary Clinton said in a rousing speech to the United Nations in Geneva. “It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave.” As one would expect, the GOP quickly jumped on the opportunity.
One of the little joys of teaching a presidency class in the fall is that my session on presidential pardons falls around Thanksgiving so I can lead off with video of the leader of the free world pardoning a turkey. However, one of the interesting things about the pardoning power is that, with the exception of impeachment charges, “the President’s authority to grant pardons [for federal offenses] is essentially unfettered” as this CRS report explains. Presidents can pardon individuals or classes of people, with or without conditions.
For a member of the conservative establishment, the last two weeks have not been ideal. Your nominal candidate — former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney — has not been able to consolidate his position among Republican voters, and has hit a wave of intense criticism as Democrats and Republicans begin to wonder about his core beliefs, or lack thereof. Under normal circumstances, you might switch your vote to another candidate, but the emerging alternative is Newt Gingrich, whose poor record as House Speaker is tarred by affairs, adultery, and a series of shady business ventures. Democrats are gleeful over the possibility of a Gingrich nomination, and for good reason; it would give President Obama a huge advantage in the general election.
Matt Dickinson’s blog Presidential Power over the weekend updated us on an important legislative development (hard though it is to believe there could be a legislative development at present): the Senate’s odd bipartisan effort to require that all terrorism suspects be detained by the military and tried, if at all, by military tribunals rather than the civilian courts. As Matt notes, this would be true even if the suspect was an American suspect, captured on American soil.
Jonathan Chait wrote a truly excellent essay in this month’s issue of New York that refuses to sympathize with the liberal journalists and scholars who have been writing damning commentary on Democratic presidents since the early 20th century.
Executive. There’s a campaign under way to get President Obama to say he supports marriage equality; he hasn’t gone that far, claiming instead that his position “continues to evolve.” He has said that he opposes DOMA—which means little, in practice, for all the reasons we know from middle-school civics classes. Because it’s Congress’s job to make laws and the executive branch’s job to enforce them, the president can’t just stop enforcing DOMA: Same-sex couples still have to file taxes as single, and so forth. However, the executive branch does have some discretion. To wit:
The Supreme Court, as expected, has decided to take up the question of whether the Affordable Care Act violates the Constitution, and has allotted five and a half hours for oral argument. This is far longer than the typical 30 minutes lawyers get to argue before the Court, but it represents the magnitude of the case. Supreme Court opinions striking down acts of Congress are rare.
The Prospect’s Jamelle Bouie blogged about the most important story that’s been hiding under Newt Gingrich’s surge (a news story fit for nothing but speculation for how it will end) and other election stories—“the European debt crisis has raised the odds of a U.S. recession to more than 50 percent by early 2012, according to a new report from the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank.”
The Supreme Court’s decision today to take up the constitutionality of President Obama’s health-care reform in this session—they’ll hear oral arguments in March and rule by session’s end in June— means that the issue will be revived for voters just a few month before next November’s presidential election. This is probably good for Republicans no matter which way the justices rule. And, no matter which way the justices rule, I can’t see how this helps the Democrats.
Michael Tomasky’s piece deserves a few responses. He begins with some unnecessary swipes at political science:
Politics is sometimes a science and other times an art. So here we sit, with the election exactly a year away, and the conventional wisdom in the political press is largely driven by the political-science theory of presidential elections and economic determinism: that is, that the results of presidential elections are pretty much strictly a function of economic conditions, and if those are bad (defined by various measures, chiefly the jobless and growth rates), the incumbent will lose. By that theory, Barack Obama is pretty well doomed. And yet I don’t know a soul who thinks he doesn’t stand a decent chance of winning next year.
When president-elect Barack Obama named Cecilia Muñoz as director of intergovernmental affairs at the White House, Latino nonprofits and media outlets celebrated. Her appointment was viewed as a sign of inclusion for Latinos in government and an example of our growing political power.
Given that Muñoz was the former senior vice president for the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR)—the largest national U.S. Latino civil-rights organization and a prominent advocate for immigrant rights—many expected that her advocacy would move with her into the White House.