Tag Archives: Susan Brooks

Trumping The Constitution

I’m not one of those old people who is always looking back in time through rose-colored glasses–“remembering” that families were closer, people were friendlier, children were seen and not heard, etc. etc. Those memories are highly suspect, if not deliberately dishonest.

That said, I do miss the Republican Party of my younger days. It’s true that it always had a right-wing fringe, but before that fringe took control and ran reasonable people out, the GOP I worked for was filled with admirable, public-spirited men and women.

I thought about those “good old days” when I read that a group of former GOP lawmakers had written a letter to Republicans in Congress, urging them to void Trump’s “Emergency” declaration.

A group of 23 former Republican lawmakers, including former Defense Secretary under the Obama administration Chuck Hagel, signed a letter urging Republicans in Congress to pass a joint resolution that would terminate President Trump’s emergency declaration over the border wall.

In an open letter to GOPers, the former lawmakers argued that Congress should not allow the President to “circumvent congressional authority.” They also questioned how willing lawmakers are to undermine the Constitution.

“How much are you willing to undermine both the Constitution and the Congress in order to advance a policy outcome that by all other legitimate means is not achievable?” they wrote.

One of the signatories to that letter was former Indiana Senator Dick Lugar.

The contrast between the Republican Party of Lugar and Hudnut and the party of McConnell and Trump is devastating. The Republicans who currently “serve” Indiana in the House and Senate (please note quotation marks around the word serve) are a sorry group of wanna-be’s, terrified that they will run afoul of the party’s rabid, racist base if they confront a President they know to be corrupt, ignorant and dangerously incompetent.

The letter from party elders was blunt: support for Trump’s “Emergency” is an attack on the Constitution. Failure to oppose it is failure to serve the national interest. And yet, every single Republican member of Indiana’s House delegation caved. Faced with a choice between serving their country and falling into line for Trump, they chose Trump.

Emergency powers are intended to allow Presidents to act when there is not time for Congress to do so. If the President can overrule Congress when it has acted, simply by declaring an emergency, there is no longer a separation of powers. Congress is neutered.

The lawyers in Indiana’s delegation, especially, fully understood the import of their votes. (And yes, Susan Brooks, we are looking at you.)

In an eloquent essay in the Atlantic, Eliot Cohen described these Republicans.

Talk to them privately, and they will confess that there is no emergency at the southern border—there is a problem, to be sure, but one whose seriousness has actually diminished over time. They know that the congressional leadership had the votes to build walls there for the first two years of the administration but did not manage it. They know, for that matter, that border security involves much more than walls. They know that the president is invoking emergency powers as an electoral ploy, and because he is impatient.

They know, in their timid breasts, that they would have howled with indignation if Barack Obama had declared a national emergency in such a circumstance. As they stare at their coffee cup at breakfast, the thought occurs to them that a future left-wing president could make dangerous use of these same powers—because Speaker Nancy Pelosi rubbed that fact in their face. Some of the brighter ones might even realize that emergency powers are a favored tool of authoritarians everywhere.

 But they are afraid. They are afraid of being primaried. They are afraid of being called out by the bully whom they secretly despise but to whom they pledge public fealty. They are afraid of having to find another occupation than serving in elective office. And the most conceited of the lot—and there are quite a few of those, perhaps more in the Senate than in the House—think that it would be a tragedy if the country no longer had their service at its disposal.

I didn’t always agree with Dick Lugar’s policy preferences. (I didn’t always agree with Bill Hudnut’s, and I worked in his administration.) But I respected them both, and I respected the many, many other persons of integrity and intelligence who called the GOP their political home before it devolved into a cult composed of racists and moral midgets.

I miss them.

Speaking Of Disappointments….

A reader has sent me the following information about a “listening session” that Rep. Susan Brooks, an Indiana Republican, will be holding this coming Monday.

Please get the word out. For those in Susan Brooks area of the 5th Congressional District of Indiana, she will be holding a “listening” session in the Indianapolis area on Monday August 6 at the Lawrence Readiness Training Center, 9920 E 59th Street, Lawrence, Indiana (Indianapolis East-side). She needs an earful as she has been weak on women’s issues and against women’s right to choose. She is rarely available in Indianapolis and this is an opportunity to show up and be heard. This is the closest we will ever get to a Town Hall, which she will not do.

I have known Susan Brooks since the early 1980s. For most of that time, I considered her a friend–not a close friend, but certainly someone simpatico. From what I could tell, she did a good job as U.S. Attorney and as Deputy Mayor, and she practiced criminal defense law with one of the lawyers I most admire, Rick Kammen. (Among his other virtues, Rick has represented Guantanamo detainees, and he is as decent and compassionate as he is skilled.)

Then, of course, she was elected.

The woman I had always assumed was pro-choice trumpeted her antagonism to abortion. The woman I had always considered reasonable was suddenly “all in” to the agenda of a President that she had to know was deranged. A lawyer who had defended the civil liberties of criminal defendants turned into a lawmaker willing to vote for judges opposed to the rights of women, gays and criminal defendants. The woman who attended numerous community meetings as Deputy Mayor became virtually inaccessible to constituents and unwilling to hold Town Halls at which she might be challenged, or forced to defend her increasingly indefensible positions and support for Donald Trump.

Brooks became one of Trump’s most ardent supporters, voting with the President 98.9% of the time, according to Nate Silver. (Based upon Trump’s margin of victory in the 5th district, she would have been predicted to vote with him “only” 85.9 % of the time.)

What were some of those votes? Well, she opposed a carbon tax. She signed onto a resolution supporting ICE and its current immigration tactics. She voted with her party to roll back Dodd-Frank regulations put in place to prevent bankers from engaging in the practices that triggered the 2008 recession, and for the repeal of measures to protect consumers from discriminatory markups on auto loans. She opposed limiting the ability of officials to search and read private messages collected incidentally as part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

She has also been a reliable anti-choice vote, most recently voting to make abortion illegal after 20 weeks. Despite her former experience with criminal activity and gun violence, she voted to make concealed carry permits valid across state lines–a position that most law enforcement professionals view as anathema to reducing gun violence.

And of course, she voted for the execrable tax “reform” bill –  a 1.5 trillion dollar giveaway to the richest Americans at the expense of the middle class, who will have to finance the exploding debt and deficits caused by the tax measure. (Doing so will be made more difficult by the administration’s persistent, successful efforts to increase the costs of healthcare by sabotaging the Affordable Care Act –efforts that Brooks has enthusiastically supported). 

Unlike Indiana embarrassments like Todd Rokita and Jackie Walorski, Brooks is intelligent– she knows how much damage is likely to be caused by these and other measures she has supported. I can only assume that her slavish devotion to this disastrous administration is a cynical effort to foreclose a primary challenge in a district that has been gerrymandered to be reliably Republican.

Staying in office evidently trumps integrity.

Brooks’ Democratic opponent–a businesswoman named Dee Thornton whose positions are far more reflective of those of 5th District voters, according to polls I’ve seen–is an underfunded political novice. Even in a year that promises the possibility of a blue wave, the odds are against her. But if you are one of the many 5th District constituents who thought they were electing a moderate and have subsequently been disappointed, you should register that disappointment, and send Brooks a message, by voting for Dee Thornton.

Meanwhile, Monday’s meeting is a rare opportunity to voice your disapproval in person.

When Ignorance Met Lunacy

Every day, life in America gets more surreal. (Not “When Harry Met Sally” surreal–more “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” surreal.)

Almost every day, there is a departure from the White House. Although no one currently serving there is particularly knowledgable or professional (or, from all appearances, literate) some are reasonably sane–and they’re the ones who have been leaving. Yesterday, it was McMasters–one of the two normal military figures who were supposed to be protecting the nation from Trump’s nuclear fantasies.

If McMasters’ ouster wasn’t worrisome enough, we have learned that he will be replaced by John Bolton, a belligerent chickenhawk who is certifiably loony-tunes.

So here we are. We have a Congress dominated by a Republican Party that is a cross between a cult and a criminal enterprise; a President who hasn’t the foggiest notion what government is, or is supposed to do, and who is uninterested in learning; a looming trade war we can’t win that is likely to devastate the nation’s farmers, among others–and now, a not-insignificant threat that the U.S. will precipitate a nuclear war.

In a column for the Washington Post, Joe Scarborough (formerly a Republican congressman) called Bolton’s appointment a “fitting coda” to the failure of conservatism.

One hundred years ago this week, the founder of modern American conservatism was born into poverty in Plymouth, Mich. Russell Kirk’s “The Conservative Mind,” published in 1953, laid the foundations of a modern conservative movement that dominated the second half of the American Century. But 65 years later, Kirk’s classic work reads instead as a damning indictment against the very movement he helped launch.

The central thesis of Kirk’s philosophy was that “the conservative abhors all forms of ideology” and subscribes to principles “arrived at by convention and compromise” instead of “fanatic ideological dogmata.” Six decades of Republican overreach and corrosive causes have instead led to the rise of Donald Trump and a foreign policy run by John Bolton, an economy guided by Larry Kudlow and a legal team led by conspiracy theorist Joseph DiGenova.

Bolton will be Trump’s third national security adviser in 14 months, but unlike his predecessors, he may last; his history suggests he has a lot in common with our intemperate, reckless and profoundly ignorant President. As Scarborough reminds us, Bolton has called for the preemptive bombing of North Korea and Iran. He has defended his role in taking the U.S. into the Iraq war–a war that was the worst U.S. foreign policy disaster since Vietnam–and had the chutzpah to call Obama’s 2011 decision to bring U.S. troops home “the worst decision” made in that debacle.

This was the predictable outcome of my Republican Party aligning its interests with the most cynical political operators of our time. The Atwaters, Manaforts, Gingriches and Roves leveraged a weaponized media culture that reduced politics to a secularized religion and consolidated political power and material wealth in the hands of its richest donors.

Meanwhile, no matter how bad it gets, no matter how much damage is being done every day by Trump and the most inept and corrupt Cabinet in my lifetime, Congressional Republicans continue to obediently enable this farce of an Administration. According to 538. com, all of Indiana’s GOP Representatives enthusiastically support Trump’s “agenda.” Two of them–Susan Brooks and Larry Bucshon–have voted with the President 98.6% of the time.

There are seven months until the midterm elections. Assuming we make it to November without experiencing a nuclear winter, we absolutely must give control of the House and Senate to the Democrats. Are they perfect? Hell no. But at least they’re mostly sane.

 

 

 

 

Those Republican “Moderates”

I have frequently noted how far today’s GOP has traveled since my days as an active Republican. I’m not alone, of course, in describing the differences between the party of Eisenhower and even Reagan, and today’s radical Rightists–Facebook posts routinely include surprising quotes from former Republican presidents, and one recurring item contrasts the party’s 1955 platform with the party’s more recent–and far more “anti-government” iterations.

One result of this steady move rightward is a change in meaning of the term “Moderate.” Republican elected officials are now considered moderates if they refrain from explicitly racist and sexist rhetoric, occasionally smile, and exhibit social skills.

Before awarding a “moderate” label to today’s politicians, however, it is instructive to visit Nate Silver’s blog, where he tracks how often every member of the House and Senate votes with or against Donald Trump, who–whatever he is–is certainly no moderate.

Demonstrating how utterly meaningless the “moderate” label has become, the blog contains an excellent example from central Indiana’s Fifth District. Representative Susan Brooks is often favorably compared to some of our more outlandish and vocal elected troglodytes; she is certainly more pleasant in public. She is intelligent, and she discharged her prior government service (as a Deputy Mayor and U.S. Attorney) with competence.

Whether her voting record reflects her political philosophy or her desire to avoid being primaried is an open question. What isn’t in question is the utter lack of moderation in that voting record.

Here is the summary from Silver’s blog:

Trump score
How often Brooks votes in line with Trump’s position
Trump margin
Trump’s share of the vote in the 2016 election in Indiana’s 5th District minus Clinton’s
Predicted score
How often Brooks is expected to support Trump based on Trump’s 2016 margin
Trump plus-minus
Difference between Brooks’s actual and predicted Trump-support scores
97.6%
+11.8
88.6%
+9.0

As the scores indicate, her support for Trump exceeds what the demographics of her district would predict. (A list of the specific votes follows the reproduced chart on the  website.)

Lest I be accused of picking on Brooks, let me acknowledge that she is only one example of a supposed “moderate voice” whose actions fail to match their public demeanor. Jeff Flake is an example of someone who has gotten laudatory press for his recent book criticizing Trump, but when it came time to vote on the ACA’s “skinny repeal,” he obediently fell into line. John McCain regularly earns plaudits for being a “maverick,” but McCain has been only slightly more likely than the average senator to vote against his party.

As usual, Paul Krugman cuts to the chase:

When we look at the degeneration of American politics, it’s natural to blame the naked partisans — people like Mitch McConnell, with his principle-free will to power, or Ted Cruz, with his ideological rigidity. And Trump has, of course, done more to degrade his office than any previous occupant of the White House.

But none of what is happening right now would be possible without the acquiescence of politicians who pretend to be open-minded, decry partisanship, tut-tut about incivility and act as enablers for the extremists again and again….

Consider, for example, Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia — whose state has benefited enormously from the Affordable Care Act. “I didn’t come here to hurt people,” she declared not long ago — then voted for a bill that would quadruple the number of uninsured in West Virginia.

Or consider Rob Portman of Ohio, who cultivates an image as a moderate, praises Medicaid and talked big about the defects of Republican health plans — but also voted for that bill. Hey, in Ohio the number of uninsured would only triple.

There are only two Republican Senators one can truly label moderate and principled–Collins and Murkowski. If there are any genuine GOP moderates in the House, they sure don’t come from Indiana.

They Run (for Office) and They Hide….

The unremitting chaos in Washington has triggered a number of Town Halls in which GOP members of Congress have faced rooms filled with angry constituents. As a result, a number of other Representatives have evidently decided against holding such events.

Not surprisingly, hiding from the people you represent hasn’t made those constituents very happy. Their reactions have varied.

I recently had an interesting conversation with a woman who lives in Indiana’s Fifth District, represented by Congresswoman Susan Brooks. She told me that she and several of her friends and neighbors had been frustrated by Brooks’ unwillingness to hold a Town Hall, so they decided that they would organize a meeting and invite her. If she wasn’t going to take the initiative, they would.

A meeting was organized via Facebook and word of mouth, and at 2:00 in the afternoon of May 13rth, approximately 120 5th District constituents gathered at the Sullivan Muncie Cultural Center in Zionsville.

Brooks declined to appear, nor did she send a representative, so the organizers set up an empty chair with her photo and proceeded to conduct a meeting without her.

According to her report, the voters who gathered at the Cultural Center were there primarily to voice their very serious concerns about the GOP Healthcare Plan, although  several other issues were raised as well.

Given the Congresswoman’s reluctance to attend either in person or through a surrogate, the organizers anticipated an effort to dismiss attendees as “agitators” or people from outside the district; in order to rebut any such claims, they prepared a “sign in” book in which those present provided their names, addresses and emails.  During the meeting, each voter was offered an opportunity to speak, to fill out a card with questions for Ms. Brooks, and to sign a large paper scroll expressing their views. The organizers plan to deliver these items to Brooks’ office.

The constituents who spoke at the nearly three-hour meeting shared stories of people with pre-existing conditions, children with ongoing medical needs, and people injured on the job who then saw those jobs eliminated. They  talked about the extent to which they and their families would be harmed by the repeal of Obamacare and its replacement by the current iteration of the GOP healthcare bill.  Some cried.

At the conclusion of the emotional meeting, those in attendance agreed to redouble efforts to meet face to face with Congresswoman Brooks. With or without the Congresswoman, however, they are determined to hold a series of Town Hall Meetings throughout the 5th District.

What is remarkable about this–at least to me–was the event’s genesis and spontaneity. I’ve complained bitterly over the years about Hoosiers’ civic apathy and lack of political engagement, our embarrassingly low voter turnout…Yet here in central Indiana, with no partisan sponsorship, no encouragement from activist organizations, no donations from any lobby or special interest group, ordinary voters got together and demanded to be heard.

It will be fascinating to watch this new democratic (small d) wave play out, not just in Indiana but in Congressional districts across the country. Will elected officials listen? If not, will they be voted out? How safe are those safe, gerrymandered districts?

What’s that old saying? They can run but they can’t hide….