Thursday, June 24, 2021
Attorneys are supposed to — they are ethically bound to — zealously represent their clients, however unpopular. As a general matter, we should salute this zealousness, not punish it, for fear of chilling representation of those who need it most.
But advocacy has its limits, and Rudy Giuliani, it is safe to say, is no John Adams. One man defended the defenseless in the greater service of the rule of law; the other asserted the indefensible in the service of overturning the results of an election. And so, on Thursday, New York State Bar authorities took the extraordinary step of ordering Giuliani, once the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, immediately suspended from the practice of law as he faces the prospect of being permanently disbarred.
“We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that [Giuliani] communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former president Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump’s failed effort at reelection in 2020,” the judges overseeing the disciplinary proceedings wrote in a 33-page ruling. “These false statements were made to improperly bolster respondent’s narrative that due to widespread voter fraud, victory in the 2020 United States presidential election was stolen from his client. We conclude that respondent’s conduct immediately threatens the public interest.”
It ordinarily takes quite a bit — stealing client money, or obstructing justice — to get yourself disbarred, and even more to have your license to practice law suspended pending resolution of the proceedings. As a practical matter, Giuliani doesn’t have a booming legal practice; at this point, any client would be a fool to have him for a lawyer. And he has bigger problems than losing a law license he doesn’t really use, including a criminal investigation into his activities by the office he used to oversee.
Still, this is a welcome and entirely justified development. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Giuliani wasn’t the only Trump lawyer to make unsupportable claims about voter fraud, but he was the most prominent. Both in and out of court, Giuliani made repeated false statements . . . .
The disciplinary panel found that these statements violated ethics rules that prohibit lawyers from knowingly making false claims to courts or third parties, and from engaging in conduct “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” or “that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer.”
As the panel concluded, “this disciplinary proceeding concerns the professional restrictions imposed on respondent as an attorney to not knowingly misrepresent facts and make false statements in connection with his representation of a client.” The First Amendment doesn’t protect that.
Giuliani says his license shouldn’t be suspended while the proceedings continue because he poses no continuing threat — the election litigation is over and “he has and will continue to exercise personal discipline to forbear from discussing these matters in public anymore.” As the panel recognized, this is no more trustworthy than the rest of Giuliani’s false claims — “persistent and pervasive” statements that he kept making even after disciplinary proceedings were underway.
“False statements intended to foment a loss of confidence in our elections and resulting loss of confidence in government generally damage the proper functioning of a free society.” Coming from Giuliani, “acting with the authority of being an attorney, and using his large megaphone, the harm is magnified.”
Giuliani’s lawyers predicted that he “will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years.” Let’s hope not. He hasn’t suffered obloquy enough.
What should be Giuliani’s final chapter as a lawyer was a disservice to his profession. But unlike the case of John Adams, it was a disservice to his country.
I hope Giuliana is but the first of the Trump attorneys to lose their license for promoting deliberate lies.
“America is back” became President Biden’s refrain on his European trip this month, and in a narrow sense it is.
We no longer have a White House aide desperately searching for a fire alarm to interrupt a president as he humiliates our country at an international news conference, as happened in 2018. And a Pew Research Center survey found that 75 percent of those polled in a dozen countries expressed “confidence in the U.S. president to do the right thing,” compared with 17 percent a year ago.
Yet in a larger sense, America is not back. In terms of our well-being at home and competitiveness abroad, the blunt truth is that America is lagging. In some respects, we are sliding toward mediocrity.
Greeks have higher high school graduation rates. Chileans live longer. Fifteen-year-olds in Russia, Poland, Latvia and many other countries are better at math than their American counterparts — perhaps a metric for where nations will stand in a generation or two.
As for reading, one-fifth of American 15-year-olds can’t read at the level expected of a 10-year-old. How are those millions of Americans going to compete in a globalized economy? As I see it, the greatest threat to America’s future is less a surging China or a rogue Russia than it is our underperformance at home.
We Americans repeat the mantra that “we’re No. 1” even though the latest Social Progress Index, a measure of health, safety and well-being around the world, ranked the United States No. 28. Even worse, the United States was one of only three countries, out of 163, that went backward in well-being over the last decade.
Another assessment this month, the I.M.D. World Competitiveness Ranking 2021, put the United States No. 10 out of 64 economies. A similar forward-looking study from the World Bank ranks the United States No. 35 out of 174 countries.
So it’s great that we again have a president respected by the world. But we are not “back,” and we must face the reality that our greatest vulnerability is not what other countries do to us but what we have done to ourselves. The United States cannot achieve its potential when so many Americans are falling short of theirs.
“Europeans may envy America’s corporate dynamism but can comfort themselves that they are doing a much better job on a host of social outcomes, from education to health to the environment.
Biden’s proposals for a refundable child credit, for national pre-K, for affordable child care and for greater internet access would help address America’s strategic weaknesses. They would do more to strengthen our country than the $1.2 trillion plan pursued by American officials to modernize our nuclear arsenal. Our greatest threats today are ones we can’t nuke.
America still has enormous strengths. Its military budget is bigger than the military budgets of the next 10 countries put together. American universities are superb, and the dynamism of United States corporations is reflected in the way people worldwide use their iPhones to post on their Facebook pages about Taylor Swift songs.
But they also comment, aghast, about the Capitol insurrection and attempts by Republicans to impede voting. American democracy was never quite as shimmering a model for the world as we liked to think, but it is certainly tarnished now.
Likewise, the “American dream” of upward mobility (which drew my refugee father to these shores in 1952) is increasingly chimerical. “The American dream is evidently more likely to be found on the other side of the Atlantic, indeed most notably in Denmark,” a Stanford study concluded.
“These things hold us back as an economy and as a country,” Jerome Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, said Tuesday.
We can’t control whether China builds more aircraft carriers. We can’t deter every Russian hacker.
But to truly bring America back, we should worry less about what others do and more about what we do to ourselves.
Tuesday, June 22, 2021
Senate Republicans on Tuesday blocked the most ambitious voting rights legislation to come before Congress in a generation, using the filibuster to deal a blow to a bid by President Biden and Democrats to counter a wave of state-level ballot restrictions and fueling a political battle that promises to shape the 2022 elections.
Mitch "Moscow Mitch" McConnell and those pictured with him in the image above might just as well be wearing full KKK robes and regalia since they know full well - despite their disingenuous blather - what the state level laws seek to do and how it would weaken the GOP and its shrinking racist base. Worse yet, these modern day advocates of Jim Crow laws are opposing non-white White House nominees. A column in the Washington Post further elaborates on what the Senate Republicans' actions spotlights - that the GOP wants an America where white, heterosexual right wing "Christians" rule. Here are excerpts:
It was a good day for the insurrectionists.
Senate Republicans voted in lockstep on Tuesday to block the landmark voting rights bill, in effect embracing the disenfranchisement of non-White voters under the “big lie” justification that widespread voter fraud denied Donald Trump reelection.
Even as they did so, Senate Republicans also embraced the latest Fox-News-generated conspiracy theory: that a shadowy network of America haters — suspiciously similar to antifa, BLM and the deep state — had taken over the Biden administration with a nefarious ideology known as critical race theory, or “critical theory.”
“Critical theory is, in fact, very real,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), the man who pumped his fist in solidarity with the people who attacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, declared on the Senate floor on Tuesday. “It is very influential. And it appears to have become the animating ideology of this administration.”
In short, Hawley explained, the Biden administration hates America. “President Biden is nominating for federal office individuals who do not share a view of America as a good and decent place,” Hawley announced. His nominees instead “believe that this is a country founded in racism and shot through with corruption.”
Hawley offered zero evidence for his claims, beyond Biden reinstating racial sensitivity training and his nomination of an Indian American woman, Kiran Ahuja, to run the Office of Personnel Management. Hawley alleged that critical race theory “appears to be her fundamental ideology.” This wild claim is based on a Boston University professor’s lecture on “antiracism” at the charity she ran, and her linking to an article of his claiming Trump’s election was an example of white supremacy.
But Republicans rallied behind Hawley’s demagoguery anyway. They voted unanimously Tuesday against her confirmation, requiring Vice President Harris to break the Senate’s tie. Ahuja was the latest of several non-White Biden nominees to run into Republican opposition.
Critical race theory (at its core, the belief that racism in America is systemic) had been around for decades in academic circles without attracting much attention — until Fox News took it up last summer.
The irony, of course, is that Republicans are now proving that systemic racism exists — and they, along with Fox News, are the primary offenders. With their united stand against the voting-rights bill and their united votes against Ahuja on the bogus justification of critical race theory, they’re the ones reducing Americans “to their racial identity alone,” as Hawley put it. The Proud Boys who attacked the Capitol must be filled with pride anew.
The Republican leadership’s opposition to the voting-rights bill was so rote that they didn’t bother dividing up their talking points.
Now that the Republican filibuster has blocked the voting-rights bill, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) will try to sell Republicans on a scaled-back version that addresses key GOP complaints. But McConnell made clear Tuesday that he isn’t interested in any voting-rights legislation. Asked why he wouldn’t even allow a debate on the bill, he told reporters: “This is not a federal issue.”
Republicans will instead focus on the real federal issue: accusing the Biden administration of opposing the flag, family businesses, merit, grace, Christianity, your dreams, your family and America.
I am continual ashamed that I was ever a Republican.
The phrase “systemic racism,” like “climate change” and “gun control,” has been sucked into the vortex of the culture war. The emotional reaction to these words seems to preclude reasoned debate on their meaning.
But a divisive concept can be clarifying. I know it has been for me: I don’t think it’s possible to be a conservative without believing that racism is, in part, structural.
Most on the American right have dug into a very different position. They tend to view racism as an individual act of immorality. And they regard the progressive imputation of racism to be an attack on their character. In a free society, they reason, the responsibility for success and failure is largely personal. They’re proud of the productive life choices they’ve made and refuse to feel guilty for self-destructive life choices made by others.
It’s an argument that sounds convincing — until it’s tested against the experience of our own lives.
I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood of a middle-class suburb in a Midwestern city. I went to a middle-class high school, with middle-class friends, eating middle-class fried bologna sandwiches. And for most of my upbringing, this seemed not only normal but normative. I assumed this was a typical American childhood.
Only later did I begin to see that my normality was actually a social construction. By the time I was growing up in the 1970s, St. Louis no longer had legal segregation. But my suburb, my neighborhood and my private high school were all outcomes of White flight. The systems of policing, zoning and education I grew up with had been created to ensure one result: to keep certain communities safe, orderly and pale.
I had little hint of this as a child. It seemed natural that I hardly ever met a person of color in a racially diverse city or seldom met a poor person in a place with some of the worst poverty in the country. All I knew was that I shouldn’t get lost in certain neighborhoods or invite Black people to the private pool where we were members. (My brother did once, and there was suddenly a problem with processing our membership card.)
But none of this was neutral or normal. Systems had been carefully created to ensure I went to an all-White church, in an all-White neighborhood, while attending an all-White Christian school and shopping in all-White stores. I now realize I grew up in one of the most segregated cities in the United States.
Was this my fault? Not in the strictest sense. I didn’t create these systems. But I wish I had realized earlier that these systems had created me.
This is what I mean by systemic racism. If, on my 13th birthday, all the country’s laws had been suddenly, perfectly and equally enforced, my community would still have had a massive hangover of history. The structures and attitudes shaped during decades and centuries of oppression would still have existed. Legal equality in theory does not mean a society is justly constituted.
For me, part of being a conservative means taking history seriously. We do not, as Tom Paine foolishly claimed, “have it in our power to begin the world over again.” We live in an imperfect world we did not create and have duties that flow from our story.
There is an important moral distinction between “guilt” and “responsibility.” It is not useful, and perhaps not fair, to say that most White people are guilty of creating social systems shaped by white supremacy. But they do have a responsibility as citizens, and as moral creatures, to seek a society where equal opportunity is a reality for all.
[A]s a conservative, I believe that equal opportunity, rather than mandated economic equality, is the proper goal of a free society. But what if we are (to employ a football analogy) not 30 yards away from the goal of equal opportunity in the United States, but 70 yards? What if equal opportunity is a cruel joke to a significant portion of the country? Shouldn’t that create an outrage and urgency that we rarely see, and even more rarely feel?
Though our nation is beset with systemic racism, we also have the advantage of what a friend calls “systemic anti-racism.” We have documents — the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the 14th Amendment — that call us to our better selves. We are a country that has exploited and oppressed Black Americans. But we are also the country that has risen up in mass movements, made up of Blacks and Whites, to confront those evils. The response to systemic racism is the determined, systematic application of our highest ideals.
Monday, June 21, 2021
The long march toward equal rights for gay, lesbian and transgender Americans — whose advocates have eyed major advances with complete Democratic control in Washington — has run into a wall of opposition in the Senate.
Foundering alongside other liberal priorities such as voting rights, gun control and police reform, legislation that would write protections for LGBTQ Americans into the nation’s foundational civil rights law has stalled because of sharpening Republican rhetoric, one key Democrat’s insistence on bipartisanship and the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.
While Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) hinted at potential action this month — the annual LGBTQ Pride Month — Senate aides and advocates say there are no immediate plans to vote on the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act alongside race, color, religion and national origin.
The House passed the legislation in February, 224 to 206, with only three Republicans joining all 221 Democrats in support. The Senate companion bill is sponsored by 49 Democrats and no Republicans. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) is the Democratic holdout, and the lone Republican who had sponsored a previous version of the bill, Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), is not yet doing so in this Congress.
The partisanship around the issue on Capitol Hill stands in contrast to the wide-ranging support for LGBTQ rights among the public at large, in corporate America, and even in the federal judiciary, which has delivered a string of rulings expanding those rights — including a landmark Supreme Court opinion last year written by conservative Justice Neil M. Gorsuch that effectively banned employment discrimination on the basis of sexual identity.
[S]ignificant obstacles to progress on the Equality Act remain, including polarized views on how to protect the rights of religious institutions that condemn homosexuality and Republicans’ increasing reliance on transgender rights as a wedge issue.
Schumer last month said the bill was “one of the things we’re considering” for a vote during Pride Month but added, “it’s a very busy June.” And while individual conversations are taking place, according to Baldwin and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the lead Senate author, there appears to be no organized negotiation underway as there has been on other hot-button issues.
The backdrop is a new Republican push to target LGBTQ rights. Advocates count at least 17 state laws passed this year targeting the community, most of them specifically aimed at transgender Americans. When the House debated the Equality Act earlier this year, numerous Republicans came to the floor to warn of dire consequences if the bill were enacted.
Rep. Andrew S. Clyde (R-Ga.) said passing the bill would be “opening the door for predatory men to prey on [women] in the most vulnerable of places — in shelters, changing rooms and showers.”
The corps of advocates who see the Equality Act as the capstone of a 50-year struggle for LGBTQ civil rights say they remain optimistic that progress can be made on a lawmaker-by-lawmaker basis. They say that at least 10 Republicans will ultimately be open to passing the law, vaulting a potential filibuster, and that Manchin will support the bill once a critical mass of Republicans get on board.
“We’ve had the First Amendment on the books for decades. We’ve had a clear separation between church and state for decades. The Equality Act does not change the fundamental principles that support religious freedom,” he said. “We heard some of the same arguments, if you will, in the 1960s when the Civil Rights Act was amended — that this would really radically affect how religious institutions function. That didn’t happen.”
The push has been complicated by the federal courts, which have taken up major cases dealing with LGBTQ rights in recent years. Some Republicans have cited last year’s surprise decision banning employment discrimination in declaring that they no longer see a need for broader civil rights legislation. And on Thursday, a unanimous Supreme Court rejected a Philadelphia agency’s decision to sideline organizations that refused to place foster children with same-sex couples on religious grounds — a narrow decision that did not establish a broad new religious freedom doctrine.
But the advocates argue that the courts have left major gaps in LGBTQ rights — such as excluding discrimination in housing, public accommodations and jury service — while also pointing out that existing statutes and court decisions do plenty to preserve religious freedom.
In explaining his opposition to the bill in 2019, Manchin expressed general support for LGBTQ rights but cited the discomfort of school officials in his home state with the bill’s gender implications, saying he was “not convinced that the Equality Act as written provides sufficient guidance to the local officials who will be responsible for implementing it.” He promised to “build broad bipartisan support and find a viable path forward for these critical protections.”
The bill’s proponents have been reticent to discuss any changes that would address the GOP objections about transgender sports and other issues they have used as political cudgels. Instead, they have focused on convincing lawmakers that their fears are simply misplaced.
Don't hold your breath hoping the GOP will relent. Decades of history shows the GOP is the enemy of LGBT Americans.