Thomas Geoghegan

Thomas Geoghegan is a Chicago-based attorney and writer, and author of See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation (The New Press, October 2007) and other books.

Recent Articles

When We Get Behind the Wheel

Here's some advice on how to proceed once we've got the keys to the congressional car.

As GOP senators drop out, the wild hope grows: Could the Democrats get a filibuster-proof Senate? If so, and if the party took the White House and kept the House, then at last the progressives would have the keys to the car. This would not be like 1992, but more like 1964. Of course it's wrong -- too early -- to indulge in such fantasy. But if it does happen, here are three cautions I would give: 1. Make catastrophe bipartisan. Let's be like the British in both World War I and World War II, and in foreign policy have a government of national unity. Make James Baker secretary of state. Make Chuck Hagel secretary of defense. "What?!" you say. Well, at least for the first two years -- at least during the withdrawal from Iraq -- I'd be glad to see a few reality-based Republicans in charge. In fact, if we had a parliamentary system, I think something like this would have happened just before the 2006 elections. The Bush government would have fallen. A government of national unity would...

What Worker Rights Can Do

It's in the interest of those who favor free trade to see that worker rights are a fixture in trade agreements.

Why put worker rights in trade bills? At first glance they seem toothless. In the past, when these rights made it into trade bills, the signing countries just had to "strive to ensure" the rights. Now congressional Democrats are crafting a new, tougher trade bill for Panama and Peru with language that would flat-out ensure work-er rights. Still, as a labor lawyer, I have my doubts. In 1995 when I helped bring a workers' case against the Mexican government under NAFTA, not a darned thing happened. Why do free traders go into fits over worker rights? So far as I can tell, the rights have yet to stop a thimble's worth of trade. Indeed, it's possible that the tougher the sanctions for these rights, the less likely it is that the U.S. will ever apply them. Government is, well, government. It likes the quiet life. Besides, it seems unlikely the U.S. will complain about violations of worker rights in foreign countries when some of our rivals could make the same complaints about us. I often...

Forget Those Treaties!

It's time to do away with treaties and start passing laws to bring America back in step with the rest of the world.

Here's the question of the day: Can the United States ever ratify a treaty, be it Kyoto or the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC), and take its rightful place in the governance of the world? Not likely -- unless we give up the anachronism of ratifying treaties. Let's just ignore the Treaty Clause (Article II, section 2, clause 2) of the U.S. Constitution: "[The president] shall have Power … with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur …" Two-thirds! And that's two-thirds of a Senate which overrepresents Idaho, Wyoming, and America's backwoods. Remember Woodrow Wilson, or Jimmy Carter, struggling to get through their treaties. Even if the Democrats win the White House and the Congress in 2008, any liberal president will be as paralyzed as Wilson was if he or she tries to revive Kyoto or the ICC, which are among the great global projects of our day. So what's the way out of this bind?...

Make 'Em Vote!

The case for requiring new citizens to register to vote -- and perhaps native-born Americans, too.

Congress is trying to come up with measures for determining which immigrants should be citizens. In the bill currently being hashed out in the Senate, we would "rate" immigrants on things like home ownership, savings, and the like. Isn't that nice? We would write off the kitchen help, the maids, the day laborers, and the working poor who can't get in unions -- or worse, we'd push them into the home ownership messes that too many other Americans are now in. Indeed, it takes some nerve to push "home ownership" on future citizens, a month or so after the Supreme Court effectively struck down every existing state law against predatory lending. And what about a savings account as a measure of good citizenship? It also takes a certain gall to require these new Americans to be like "real" Americans, when real Americans have a negative savings rate. (And it is not clear how would-be citizens are expected to save when the same immigration bill is trying to push the low-income candidates into...

History Lessons

College kids write papers now on how we got into Iraq. Or so it is with my friend's daughter. She's supposed to write a paper on one of the neocons. Which one should she pick? There's Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank. Doug Feith is writing a book. There's all the people at The Weekly Standard . There's also Robert Kagan, who wrote Of Paradise and Power , and his brother Fred Kagan, the think-tank guy who pushed the "surge." My friend thinks his daughter should do Feith -- he's obscure enough, no one's doing him. And there's a case for doing Feith. If I had a kid, I'd make her do Thucydides (460? - 400? B.C) -- he's an honorary neocon in a way, and no one's doing him. Indeed, he's the darling of the neocons. They simply love this guy. Donald Kagan, the father of Robert and Fred, has written four or five volumes on The Peloponnesian Wars , all to illustrate how the neocons should see the world. And other neocons like Victor Hansen Davis make a big fuss over Thucydides, too. And what's...