A+ R A-

George Curry

Obama’s Mixed Record on Appointing Judges

E-mail Print PDF

By George Curry

NNPA Columnist

Many speakers at this week’s Republican convention in Tampa have focused on the economy and unemployment as they sought to contrast the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan GOP ticket with the record of President Barack Obama. But there is another battle underway that is receiving less attention but is at least equally import – the fight to appoint federal judges.

For several decades, Republicans have made judicial appointments a top priority. It is still a priority for the GOP and should be one for Democrats, especially because the 5-4 Supreme Court conservative majority could be widened or shifted in the other direction with the possible appointment of two justices over the next four years. Both President Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have made it clear they would appoint a different kind of judge to the federal bench.

So far, the Obama record on appointing judges is like his race – mixed. Obama has appointed two Supreme Court justices – the same number as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush appointed over eight years. He appointed 30 appeals court judges, roughly the same number that Clinton and Bush averaged over a term. The real difference was at the district court level, where most cases are decided. Obama has appointed only 125 district judges, compared to 170 for Clinton and 162 for Bush at this point of their presidency.

Part of the problem was that Obama made judicial appointments a low priority as he tried to push his health reform initiative through Congress. Although he fell far behind Bush’s pace in his first year, he later accelerated the process but not fast enough to equal Bush. A second problem was GOP opposition to Obama’s nominees. Even so, Obama did make significant changes.

The number of appeals court judges appointed by Democrats is now 49 percent, a 10 percent increase over when Bush left office. When Obama took office, judges appointed by Democrats dominated only one federal appeals circuit. Now, six of the 13 circuits are dominated by judges appointed by Democrats.

An Aug. 17 New York Times article on Obama’s judicial record observed:  “…Mr. Obama has also largely shied away from nominating assertive liberals who might stand as ideological counterpoints to some of the assertive conservatives Mr. Bush named. Instead of prominent liberal academics whose scholarly writings and videotaped panel discussions would provide ammunition to conservatives, Mr. Obama gravitated toward litigators, prosecutors and sitting district judges and state judges, especially those who would diversify the bench.”

Many of those were met with Republican obstruction. “The Republicans’ goal has been clear from the start – to keep as many seats as possible vacant for a future Republican president to fill with ultraconservative judges,” noted the Alliance for Justice, an association of more than 100 progressive organizations.

Obama’s goal of diversifying the federal bench has been complicated by the American Bar Association, a group of judicial professionals that vets candidates for federal judgeships.

The New York Times article stated, “Awkwardly, the American Bar Association’s judicial vetting committee later scuttled at least 14 finalists for nominations – nearly all women and minorities –by declaring them ‘not qualified.’” In 2001, the George W. Bush administration announced that it would cease cooperating with the ABA in advance of judicial nominations, preferring to go with judges favored by the conservative Federalist Society.  However, Obama has been unwilling to appoint judges not approved by the ABA.

There is a down side to making safe judicial appointments, especially when conservatives are unabashed in their quest to remake the courts. In a report on the last term of the Supreme Court titled, “The One-Percent Court,” the Alliance for Justice observed that in the landmark decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, Justices Elena Kagan, appointed by President Obama and Stephen Breyer, appointed by Bill Clinton, joined the five staunch conservatives on the court in holding that limits can be placed on Congress’ ability to address some national issues, including civil rights, under the commerce clause of the U.S. constitution. Obama’s only bold move in this area was the nomination of Goodwin Liu, a liberal University of California-Berkeley law professor, to the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco. Senate Republicans blocked his appointment with a filibuster.

He briefly considered nominating another liberal, Pamela Karlan of Stanford University, but stayed with candidates that he believed would be more acceptable to Republicans.

The Times article stated,  “While she said she was not disappointed, Ms. Karlan expressed worries that if Republicans nominated outspoken conservatives but Democrats did not nominate equally liberal ones, the center of mainstream legal debate would shift to the right.”

And that’s exactly what has happened.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Romney Budget Cuts ‘Substantially’ Deeper than Ryan’s

E-mail Print PDF

By George E. Curry

NNPA Columnist

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has been carefully trying to put some distance between him and running mate Paul Ryan’s radical budget proposal but he has a major problem – his plan would make even deeper cuts than the Ryan plan.

A careful HYPERLINK "http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3658"analysis of Romney’s plan by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) observed:   “Governor Mitt Romney’s proposals to cap total federal spending, boost defense spending, cut taxes, and balance the budget would require extraordinarily large cuts in other programs, both entitlements and discretionary programs. “For the most part, Governor Romney has not outlined cuts in specific programs. But if policymakers exempted Social Security from the cuts, as Romney has suggested, and cut Medicare, Medicaid, and all other entitlement and discretionary programs by the same percentage – to meet Romney’s spending cap, defense spending target, and balanced budget requirement – then non-defense programs other than Social Security would have to be cut 29 percent in 2016 and 59 percent in 2022.” That would shred the social net that Romney claims to support.

“Governor Romney’s cuts would be substantially deeper than those required under the austere House-passed budget plan authored by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). Over the 2014-2022 period, Romney would require cuts in programs other than Social Security and defense of $7 trillion to $10 trillion, compared with a little over $5 trillion under the Ryan budget,” the analysis pointed out. As I wrote in this space last week, another Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report stated, “Combined, the Bush and Ryan tax cuts would provide an annual windfall of nearly $400,000 apiece, on average, to people with incomes over $1 million. By combining large budget cuts (and tax increases) that disproportionately harm lower-income Americans with big tax cuts that disproportionately help those at the top of the income scale, the Ryan budget would significantly worsen inequality and increase poverty and hardship (and reduce opportunity as well, through deep cuts in programs such as Pell Grants to help low-income students afford college).” And Romney’s budget proposal is worse than that.

In an interview with CNN on Feb. 1, Romney said: “I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich; they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90 percent, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.”

Rather than fixing the safety net for the poor, Romney’s budget proposal would rip it into pieces. A May 21 updated analysis by CBPP revealed, “The cuts that would be required under the Romney budget proposals in programs such as veterans’ disability compensation, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for poor elderly and disabled individuals, SNAP (formerly food stamps), and child nutrition programs would move millions of households below the poverty line or drive them deeper into poverty. “The cuts in Medicare and Medicaid would make health insurance unaffordable (or unavailable) to tens of millions of people. The cuts in non-defense discretionary programs – a spending category that covers a wide variety of public services such as elementary and secondary education, law enforcement, veterans’ health care, environmental protection, and biomedical research – would come on top of the deep cuts in this part of the budget that are already in law due to the discretionary funding caps established in last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA).”

During the campaign, Romney has listed four key proposals that would affect federal spending, taxes and the deficit:

• Reduce federal spending to 20 percent of GDP by the end of first term and cap it at that level.

• Increase “core defense spending” – roughly 93 percent of defense spending – at 4 percent of GDP.

• Extend the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts and other tax cuts set to expire,  reduce income tax rates by another 20 percent, making the top tax rate  28 percent; eliminate the estate tax; reduce the corporate income tax and

• Balance the budget.

“Although Governor Romney has not proposed specific Medicare policies, it would be virtually impossible to achieve his budgetary objectives while sparing Medicare from substantial cuts.  If Medicare as well as Social Security were protected, all other programs – including Medicaid, veterans’ benefits, education, environmental protection, transportation, and SSI – would have to be cut by an average of 40 percent in 2016 and 57 percent in 2022, just to limit federal spending to 20 percent of GDP,” the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities stated. “If the budget also had to be balanced, all government programs other than defense, Social Security, and Medicare would have to be nearly eliminated:  six out of every seven dollars going for them would disappear.” And you thought the Ryan budget plan was bad.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Paul Ryan: The Most Conservative Congressman Picked for VP in 100 Years

E-mail Print PDF

By George E. Curry

NNPA Columnist

After studying the records of vice presidential candidates for more than a century, Nate Silver wrote in Saturday’s New York Times that Paul Ryan, the person Mitt Romney selected to be his vice presidential running mate, is “as conservative as Representative Michele Bachmann, the controversial congresswoman of Minnesota…Mr. Ryan is the most conservative Republican member of Congress to be picked for the vice-presidential slot since at least 1900. He is also more conservative than any Democratic nominee was liberal, meaning that he is the furthest from the center.” As chairman of the House Budget Committee, the Wisconsin Republican has served as the chief architect of the GOP’s budget priorities. Detailed analysis of Ryan’s budget plan show him to be what Jesse Jackson often called on the presidential campaign trail in 1984: a “Reverse Robin Hood” – one who likes to take from the poor to give to the rich.

That’s exactly the point documented by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “…These regressive new tax cuts would come on top of the Bush tax cuts, which also were costly and provided disproportionate gains to the highest-income households. Combined, the Bush and Ryan tax cuts would provide an annual windfall of nearly $400,000 apiece, on average, to people with incomes over $1 million.”

It added, “By combining large budget cuts (and tax increases) that disproportionately harm lower-income Americans with big tax cuts that disproportionately help those at the top of the income scale, the Ryan budget would significantly worsen inequality and increase poverty and hardship (and reduce opportunity as well, through deep cuts in programs such as Pell Grants to help low-income students afford college).”

Even William Gale, who served as a senior staff economist for the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush, agrees. “At a time when our country faces a daunting fiscal challenge, Ryan asks nothing of the wealthiest Americans. His budget proposal would simultaneously cut tax rates for the rich and corporations while slashing programs for the poor and elderly: he would shift many federal low-income assistance programs to state governments and would transform Medicare into a premium support system that will shift health care costs to seniors if health care inflation cannot be controlled,” said Gale, now co-director of the Tax Policy Center.

A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of Ryan’s 2013 budget plan found that it “would get at least 62 percent of its $5.3 trillion in nondefense budget cuts over ten years (relative to a continuation of current policies) from programs that serve people of limited means.”

It explained, “Ryan’s cuts from programs benefiting low-income earners include “$2.4 trillion in reductions from Medicaid and other health care for people with low or moderate incomes” and “$134 billion in cuts to SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.” In addition, Ryan would cut at least $463 billion from “mandatory programs serving low-income Americans (other than Medicaid and SNAP)” and “at least $291 billion in cuts in low-income discretionary programs.”

Like his running mate, Ryan favors repealing President Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act. And what he proposes as a cure for America’s ailing health care system is worse than the illness.

“Ryan budget would divide our health system into a distinct two tiers: those who could afford the care they need would get it; many others would not,” said Edwin Park, vice president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Referring to Ryan, the former White House official said, “He would convert Medicare into a voucher to buy private insurance or traditional Medicare, and cap Medicare financing for the vouchers at levels that wouldn’t keep pace with health costs. By 2050, the Congressional Budget Office says, federal funding for a 67-year-old beneficiary’s health costs would be 35 percent to 42 percent lower than under current law. With vouchers growing more inadequate over time, beneficiaries would face much higher premiums and cost-sharing. Some would become uninsured; others would forgo care they couldn’t afford.”

And the problem with Medicare and Medicaid would not stop there under Ryan’s plan. “He would turn Medicaid into a block grant program and give states less financing each year,” Park said. “States would get one-third less by 2022, which led the C.B.O. to conclude that unless states spent substantially more of their own money on Medicaid, they’d have to make substantial cuts to eligibility, benefits and/or provider payments. When Ryan proposed a similar system last year, the Urban Institute estimated states would cut 14 million to 27 million beneficiaries by 2021.”

In an effort to shore up his conservative base, Mitt Romney has selected a running mate clearly out of step with the American public.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Clarence Thomas Worse than a Member of the KKK

E-mail Print PDF

By George Curry
NNPA Columnist

As the nation eagerly awaited the Supreme Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, all eyes were focused on Anthony M. Kennedy, a staunch conservative who occasionally supplies the lone swing vote that tilts the court’s narrow 5-4 rulings in one direction or the other.

But this time, to the surprise of arch-conservatives who had championed his cause, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. sided with the liberal bloc on the Supreme Court, giving President Obama an unexpected clear victory in his signature legislative accomplishment. What was not surprising was that Clarence Thomas would not step into the role filled by Roberts. He is widely regarded as the most conservative member of a conservative-dominated Supreme Court. Thomas is far more conservative that Hugo Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan who served on the court from 1937-1971.

Black, a former U.S. Senator from Alabama (he once filibustered an anti-lynching bill) joined the KKK in the early 1920s. In fact, during the 1926 election, he gave speeches at KKK meetings throughout the state. Black later acknowledged that joining the Klan was a mistake and became one of the most liberal members of the Supreme Court, strongly backing the principle of “one man, one vote” and using the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to forbid racial discrimination. No such luck with Clarence Thomas. In every major case involving affirmative action – including Texas v. Hopwood, Adarand v. Pena and Grutter v. Bollinger – Thomas voted against the interests of African Americans. What makes that so strange is that Thomas has benefited from affirmative action throughout his adult life. In their excellent book, Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas, Kevin Merida and Michael A. Fletcher, two colleagues at the Washington Post, write: “Every Thomas employer, from [Former Missouri Sen. John] Danforth, who gave him his first job, to President George H.W. Bush, who nominated him to the Supreme Court, chose Thomas at least partly because he is black. Race is a central fact of his meteoric rise, and Thomas has alternately denied it and resented it – all the way to the top.”

To characterize Thomas’ behavior as resentment is an understatement. The late U.S. Appeals Court Judge Leon Higginbotham observed, “I have often pondered how is it that Justice Thomas, an African-American, could be so insensitive to the plight of the powerless. Why is he no different, or probably worse, than many of the most conservative Supreme Court justices of the century? I can only think of one Supreme Court justice during the century who was worse than Justice Clarence Thomas: James McReynolds, a White supremacist who referred to Blacks as ‘ni@#*$s.’”

Though arguably the worst, Thomas is by no means the only African American who votes against the interests of his community.

Alabama Congressman Artur Davis was soundly defeated two years ago in his bid to win statewide office. Under the delusion that he could become the first Black governor of Alabama, Davis fervently attacked local Black leaders and was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote against the Affordable Care Act.

Longtime Alabama State Senator Hank Sanders challenged Davis tactics. “Some Whites use race to consolidate White voters during election and some Blacks use race to consolidate Black voters,” Sanders wrote in his newsletter, Senate Sketches. “But this time, there is a new context: a technically well qualified Black person is running for Governor of Alabama in the Democratic Primary against a technically well qualified White. There is also a new twist: a Black person is attempting to use the race of other Blacks to consolidate Whites behind him. It’s a new context with new twists in an age old saga.”

The saga did not end well for Davis, who has since joined the Republican Party. In his primary contest against Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, who is White, Davis lost 10 of the 12 counties that made up his congressional district, some by as much as 70 percent. He even lost his own polling place in Birmingham.

And let’s not forget Edolphus Towns, the Democratic Congressman from Brooklyn. Though Towns did not vote for a civil contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder, he took a more cowardly approach by voting present. We should not be surprised. This is the same person who supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in 2008. Before that, he backed Republican Rudy Giuliani for mayor over Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messenger. Fortunately, Towns is not seeking re-election.

When I look at Clarence Thomas, Artur Davis, Edolphus Towns and others we should hold in contempt, I think back to what Thurgood Marshall said about Clarence Thomas: “There’s no difference between a white snake and a black snake. They’ll both bite.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Rodney King Symbolized Police Brutality

E-mail Print PDF

By George E. Curry
NNPA Columnist

Rodney King would be the first to tell you that he was no Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X. His lifelong bout with alcohol and drugs – battles that he always seemed to lose – and frequent run-ins with police did not qualify him for icon status. Yet, that’s what he achieved in 1991 at the age of 27 because of one video clip. It was graphic footage filmed by a bystander showing at least four Los Angeles policemen savagely kicking and beating King with police batons, landing at least 50 blows as the unarmed King was sprawled on the ground or struggling to stand up. In the video, the officers were seen teeing off on King as though they were holding baseball bats or golf clubs. Several other officers stood around, doing nothing to halt the repeated assault on the helpless King.

More than any other event, the brutal beating of Rodney King, an unemployed construction worker, forced America to see what many did not want to believe existed – police officers, hiding behind a badge and a gun, brutalizing citizens who pose no immediate threat to them or the public. King was found dead early Sunday morning at the bottom of his swimming pool at his home in Rialto, Calif. No foul play was suspected.

His entry into the national spotlight has its roots in an incident that took place in 1989. King robbed a grocery store in Monterey Park, Calif. He took $200 and was sentenced to two years in prison. On the night of March 2, 1991, following hours of drinking with friends, King was spotted speeding in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles. When cops tried to pull him over, he tried to elude them by driving even faster, up to 100 miles per hour, fearing that he would go back to jail for violating his parole.

After a high-speed chase joined by other officers, King was cornered and ordered out of his vehicle. The two passengers accompanying him, Bryant Allen and Freddie Helms, immediately complied with the order to exit the car and lie face down on the ground. King delayed his exit and when he emerged, he acted strangely, waving at police helicopters that had been part of the chase and giggling uncontrollably.

Sgt. Stacey Koon, the supervising officer, fired a Taser into King’s back, causing him to drop to his knees. Officer Laurence Powell hit King in the head, knocking him to ground, and continued striking King. Other officers moved in as well, pummeling King with their night sticks. After being struck 56 times and kicked a half-dozen times, King was handcuffed and dragged to the side of the road on his stomach to await the arrival of an ambulance. King later reported that he had suffered 11 skull fractures, permanent brain damage, kidney damage and broken bones and teeth. Four of the officers – Koon, Powell. Timothy Wind and Theodore Briseno – were charged with excessive use of force. The trial was switched from Los Angeles to Simi Valley, a largely White community in Ventura County. On April 29, 1992, a jury that contained no African Americans acquitted three of the officers and was unable to reach a verdict on a fourth. Los Angeles exploded upon hearing the verdict. At the end of six days of unrest, there were 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries and property damage was nearly $1 billion. In an effort to end the violence, Rodney King appeared in public to utter his now famous, “Can we all get along?”

After the Los Angeles prosecutor failed to win a conviction against the four officers, the federal government obtained indictments charging the officers with violating the civil rights of King. Koon and Stacey were found guilty and sentenced to 32 months in prison; Wind and Briseno were acquitted. The city of Los Angeles settled a civil suit brought by Rodney King for $3.8 million. Later, it became clear that the Rodney King beating was not an aberration.

Feb. 4, 1999 – Amadou Diallo was killed by New York City police officers who claimed they thought he was reaching for a gun. Four officers were indicted for second-degree murder, but were acquitted.

Sept. 2, 2005 – Following Hurricane Katrina, Henry Glover was shot to death while near a strip mall shopping for baby clothing. Two cops were sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for shooting Glover, tossing his body into a car and setting it on fire.

Nov. 26, 2006 –Three unarmed Black men, including Sean Bell, were shot a total of 50 times by New York police officers. Bell, who had been celebrating at his bachelor’s party, died in the hail of bullets. Three officers charged with manslaughter were acquitted.

Jan. 1, 2009 – Oscar Grant was shot in the back by Officer Johannes Mehserle while on the ground at a train station in Oakland, Calif. The officer was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, but served only 11 months in prison.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cases similar to the ones above. Thanks to Rodney King, the public is not as quick to believe police officers who abuse their power and violate public trust. George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine, is editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA) and editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine. He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Page 19 of 35

Quantcast

BVN National News Wire