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Hillary Clinton, Public and Private (selections from the unredacted transcript)

[ 99 ] June 9, 2014 |


Sawyer: Let’s talk about your family’s income after the two of you left the White House. Your husband has been paid more than $100 million to give speeches, and you’ve received two multimillion dollar book advances, as well as being paid $200,000 per speech. Does this seem . . . I’m searching for the right word here . . .

Clinton: Wrong?

Sawyer: Well not wrong, exactly, and of course certainly not illegal, but some might say it’s unseemly for public officials to profit from their time in office in this way.

Clinton: No, I’m pretty much going to go with wrong. It’s wrong, first, because it’s completely obscene that we have an economic system in which some people “earn” one thousand or ten thousand times as much income as other people. Second, while this would be wrong under any circumstances, it’s especially wrong because the people who earn $12,000 per year are usually doing something that has obvious social value, like taking care of children, or cooking food, or cleaning things that need cleaning, while the people making $12,000,000 or $120,000,000,000 per year are usually doing things like speculating in the financial markets, or giving banal speeches to people who speculate in financial markets — two activities that have no apparent social value whatsoever.

Or, to choose another example at random, perhaps they’re doing interviews like this one, in which a celebrity journalist who is paid $12,000,000 per year asks a celebrity politician questions written by someone else about the celebrity politician’s basically fake “book” — also written by someone else, needless to say.

Sawyer: This all sounds very radical, and not appropriate for a network audience. Why do you take the money if you feel this way?

Clinton: I don’t know — why do you take the money? Oh wait, I think I know the answer to my own question: because it’s there! But “because it’s there” doesn’t mean that it’s right that it’s there. It shouldn’t be “there” in the first place. Or if it’s going to be there, 70% or 80% of it should go to the government, just like back when the American Communist Party managed to get Dwight Eisenhower elected president.

Sawyer: Doesn’t saying things like this open you to charges of hypocrisy?

Clinton: Diane, we’re both part of the same hypocrisy.

The Supreme Court, Democracy, And Political Change I

[ 29 ] June 9, 2014 |

Always up for a piece noting the Supreme Court’s largely negative history, I was disappointed by Rob Hunter’s piece in a couple respects. I’ll leave the question of political strategy and what progressives should do about judicial review to another post. Here, I want to focus on the need to analyses of judicial review to take into account how the practice actually works.

One problem with the argument is reveled early, with the old “attribute an bad argument to an entire group of people”:

Liberals lambasted Roberts for arguing in bad faith, but in reality they share his vision. In the liberal political imagination, the Supreme Court is an institution that must vindicate principles rather than practice politics. As the philosopher Richard Rorty once acknowledged, liberals “turn to the judiciary as the only political institution for which we can still feel something like awe. This awe … is respect for the ability of decent men and women to sit down around tables, argue things out, and arrive at a reasonable consensus.”

Unless a simple-minded caricatures of Ronald Dworkin and arguments made by Richard Rorty that Rorty himself has repudiated define “the liberal imagination,” the point isn’t really worth engaging with. Most actually existing liberals in 2014 believe in some form of legal realism, and the liberals who regard the Supreme Court with “awe” are similarly thin on the ground.

On the more specific claims, as is often the case the discussion of Dred Scott reveals some flawed ways of thinking about the Supreme Court as well as more implicit attacks of strawman:

Before the Civil War, the Court largely refrained from invalidating congressional legislation on constitutional grounds. The only important such episode was Chief Justice Roger Taney’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford. Taney wrote that Congress could not forbid the extension of slavery into the territories, and added infamously that constitutional protections applied only to whites. Dred Scott foreshadowed the most obvious and frequent future use of judicial review: protecting constitutional boundaries against the incursions of democratic politics.

Dred Scott was not undone through another decision, but through victory over the seceding states. America’s bourgeois revolution — the mob­ilization and death of hundreds of thousands of soldiers, along with the emergence of a federal government with truly national prerogatives and powers — was what ended slavery, rather than the deliberations of nine old men in robes. The federal government’s victory in the Civil War was memorialized by the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, which established the primacy of a national conception of citizenship over the semi-feudal patchwork of citizenship rights of the antebellum republic.

A few points:

  • It’s not clear to me who Hunter is arguing with here.  On the narrow point, nobody thinks the Supreme Court was an ally in the abolitionist crusade.  On the more general point the example seems to be addressing, nobody thinks the Supreme Court is the only way of advancing major political change and very few people think it’s the best way.
  • As I’ve argued before, while it’s used this way across the ideological spectrum Dred Scott is a particularly bad example of the Supreme Court “protecting constitutional boundaries against the incursions of democratic politics.”  The law “struck down” by Dred Scott had already been repealed. The Democratic leadership in Congress had urged the Supreme Court to decide the case exactly as is did for years.  The Doughface-in-Chief praised the decision before it was even officially released.  Dred Scott wasn’t problematic because it usurped the preferences of elected officials; it was problematic because is embodied the preferences of elected Jacksonian officials, which were terrible.  This isn’t a problem that could be solved by eliminating judicial review.
  • Dred Scott, despite its prominence as a symbol, is also notable for its lack of substantive impact on national policy both coming and going.  In 1857, its holdings were irrelevant because congressional majorities and the president opposed citizenship for people of color and opposed general bans on slavery in the territories.  In 1862, it was irrelevant because congressional majorities and/or the president supported citizenship rights for some free blacks and supported bans on slavery in the territories, and ignored Dred Scott while instituting them.  (The fact that so many people vastly overrate the importance of Dred Scott, however, is hard to square with assertions that people approach the Supreme Court with uncritical reverence.)

I’m also puzzled by some of the argument about Reconstruction:

But the ink had barely dried on the Fourteenth before the Supreme Court busied itself with effacing its Privileges or Immunities Clause, which empowered the federal government to protect individual citizens from abuses by state governments. (Contemporary examples of such abuses include welfare “reform,” union-busting, and all-out assaults on public education.) In the Slaughterhouse Cases, five justices narrowly construed the Privileges or Immunities Clause to prevent its extension into state politics — a warning that the federal judiciary could serve as a redoubt for conservative resistance to the project of building a national, centralized, and egalitarian state.

First of all, while the 14th Amendment analysis (although not the judgement) of the Slaughterhouse Cases was certainly wrong, whether the p&i clause can be plausibly read as preventing various bad economic policies passed by state legislatures is, at best, highly contestable.  It’s also, in this context, incoherent — I thought we didn’t want the Supreme Court “protecting constitutional boundaries against the incursions of democratic politics”?  (The Civil Rights Cases would have been a much better example here.)

It is an important truth that the Supreme Court has sometimes been a resort for forces opposed to a strong national state.  But, again, it’s important to remember the Supreme Court generally reflects the views of the dominant coalition.  The Supreme Court’s retreat from civil rights protections during Reconstruction mirrored that of the Republican Party in general.  Consider Section 2 of the 14th Amendment.  It requires Congress to reduce the representation of states that disenfranchise adult males for reasons other than criminal activity; it’s not stated as an option but as a responsibility.   What happened is that states engaged in plenty of disenfranchisement and Congress did nothing.  This is more representative; the Supreme Court was a very minor factor in the reemergence of Jim Crow.

There is good reason to be skeptical of judicial review, but too many such critiques vastly overrate its effects.  I’ll return to what this means in the follow-up post.

The Worst Person in the World

[ 292 ] June 9, 2014 |

George Will:

Washington Post columnist George Will doesn’t believe the statistic that one in five women is sexually assaulted while in college. Instead he believes that liberals, feminists and other nefarious forces have conspired to turn being a rape survivor into a “ coveted status that confers privileges.” As a result of this plot, “victims proliferate,” Will wrote in a weekend editorial that ran in the Washington Post and New York Post.

If you really want to read Will’s article, you can find it. I’m not going to link directly to it. You don’t want to. I will only say that it reminds me how much I hate this “trigger warning” stuff going around on campuses because it just confirms everything conservatives think about universities.

Hurricanes and Waffle House

[ 79 ] June 9, 2014 |

Outside of the GoT podcasts, this site seems even more dour than normal the last couple of days. So since we all like maps and most of us like food (sometimes even food-like substances like ketchup) here’s 40 interesting food maps of the U.S. I was particularly amused by this:

FEMA has been using Waffle Houses as unofficial indicators of disaster recovery in recent years. Why? First of all, the chains are conveniently located (red dots) across the hurricane zones of the US (the gray lines on this map are hurricane and tropical storm tracks since 1851), as you can see in this map from Popular Science. Waffle Houses usually operate 24 hours a day and have exceptional disaster preparedness that lets them open back up quickly after a storm, the magazine reported. So whether a Waffle House has made it through an extreme weather event can be a handy thing to know. Because of this, Waffle Houses have been reporting their statuses to FEMA since 2012.

And here I thought they were testing whether the grease was made of an indestructible superproduct to be used against our national enemies.

Now back to our regularly scheduled bad news.

Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast: SEK & Attewell on Game of Thrones, Season 4, Episode 8: “The Mountain and the Viper”

[ 12 ] June 9, 2014 |

Yes, this is a week late, and for that, we apologize. We shall have the next done forthwith, we promise!

Audio can be found here.

Awful Democrat of the Day

[ 63 ] June 9, 2014 |

In a tradition Albany Democrats have long been in the process of perfecting, Virginia State Senator Phillip Puckett thinks that substantial number of Virginians should be denied care through the Medicaid expansion because he wants less electorally-accountable taxpayer-funded sinecures for himself and his daughter. I don’t know whether this is legal bribery, but it’s certainly ethically and morally odious.

…let me put it this way: it’s pretty amazing when in a dispute among venal Democrats Terry McAullife is the unambiguous good guy.


[ 223 ] June 9, 2014 |

Turns out if you handle anti-government freaks with kids gloves and let them act violent with no consequences, they just turn up the violence:

Neighbors of the couple who ambushed two police officers Sunday in Las Vegas told local newspapers the pair had bragged about spending time at Cliven Bundy’s ranch during the standoff with the federal government earlier this year.

The two suspects, whose names have not yet been released, fatally shot two police officers who were having lunch at a CiCi’s Pizza restaurant before killing a third person at a nearby Wal-Mart. The female suspect then shot the male suspect and then herself in an apparent suicide pact.

Neighbors in an apartment complex where the two suspects lived said they “had a reputation for spouting racist, anti-government views” and boasted about their gun collection, according to the Las Vegas Sun. The newspaper reported that residents of the apartment complex who spoke about the suspects also brought up the couple’s relationship with Bundy Ranch, where the two bragged about being present for the standoff between militia members and the Bureau of Land Management.

SEK’s Game of Thrones recap, Season 4, Episode 9: “The Watchers on the Wall”

[ 104 ] June 9, 2014 |

In all seriousness:


Podcast for last week’s episode — which was decidedly not meh – will go up later today.

What the Hell is Wrong With People?

[ 371 ] June 8, 2014 |

The occasions under which rape threats are appropriate are: Not ever. The contexts under which it is appropriate to mock or make light of rape threats are: None.

This has been another edition of Things People Should Know Without Being Told.

When Pledging Your Virginity to Your Dad Isn’t Creepy or Weird

[ 316 ] June 8, 2014 |

Ha ha ha! I’m just kidding–it’s always creepy and weird. And, I’m sorry, but these dads are creepy perverts.


I mean, let’s just put our gross, creepy, pervert cards on the table. (BTW, if you’re in a gift-giving mood, please do not get the Gross, Creepy Pervert Dad set of cards for me; I already have them. THANKS, TONY PERKINS.)


UKIP Demands Fairer House of Lords Representation

[ 34 ] June 8, 2014 |

bnb-petitionI’m still writing my quadrennial World Cup predictions post, and this weekend (as are most when I’m in England) is all about the daughter, but I saw this and as it’s 6:30am and she’s not yet awake, I had to share:

“UKIP will “absolutely insist” on being granted new peers in the House of Lords, leader Nigel Farage has told his party at a conference.”

Lord Pearson of Rannoch, one of three UKIP members (erm, “peers”) in the House of Lords, is quoted as saying “Our democracy requires that we have more than three peers in the House of Lords when we’re getting 27 per cent of the vote in the latest national election.”

Lord Pearson used the word “democracy” in the same breath as “House of Lords”.

Cue Butthead: Er, democracy sucks.  Uh huh huh huh.  Lets go like call somebody and stuff (uh huh huh huh huh).

Donald Rumsfeld and Frederick Douglass

[ 33 ] June 7, 2014 |

I did not know that Don Rumsfeld owns the plantation where Frederick Douglass was sent to be broken in the 1830s. But boy is this appropriate:

The houses have names. Mr. Rumsfeld’s is Mount Misery and is just across Rolles Creek from a house called Mount Pleasant. On four acres, with four bathrooms, five bedrooms and five fireplaces, built in 1804, the Rumsfeld house is just barely visible at the end of a gravel drive.

Thomas M. Crouch, a broker at the Coldwell Banker office in town, says one legend attributes the name to the original owner, said to have been a sad and doleful Englishman. His merrier brother then built a house, and to put him on, Mr. Crouch supposes, named it Mount Pleasant.

But there is some historical gravity to the name, too. By 1833, Mount Misery’s owner was Edward Covey, a farmer notorious for breaking unruly slaves for other farmers. One who wouldn’t be broken was Frederick Douglass, then 16 and later the abolitionist orator. Covey assaulted him, so Douglass beat him up and escaped. Today, where the drive begins, Mount Misery seems a congenial place, with a white mailbox with newspaper delivery sleeves attached, a big American flag fluttering from a post by a split-rail fence and a tall, one-hole birdhouse of the sort made for bluebirds — although the lens in the hole suggests another function.

Does Rummy fantasize about this himself? Does he wish he could break the Iraqis who resisted U.S. occupation in 2004? Did he get off on Gitmo and Abu Ghraib based upon what happened on the land he owns in 1833? The mind reels.

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