Archive for the ‘Nader’s Qualifications’ category

Civics Lesson

May 10, 2009

So it should come as no surprise the NY Times has unveiled an interactive feature that allows readers to make their own selections for the Supreme Court. And it will be even less surprising that these selections have been filtered by the editors, and darling-of-the-moment Sonia Sotomayor tops the list with the most “votes.” Time will tell if the media is finally attempting to just inform us, or if this is the first chapter in a narrative they are building about Judge Sotomayor’s ascent and fall. I hope she’s paid her taxes.

You don’t need me to tell you that Ralph Nader is mentioned nowhere on this rainbow of a list, nor does he even get a mention on the “write-in” sub-list of eleven other names put forth by readers. I duly nominated him myself, but he has yet to receive enough support to place. Remember my first post about the uphill battle?

To Nader-hating naysayers who are tired of hearing about The Man from Winsted, let’s see who NY Times readers view as classical jurists. I confess, ‘twas difficult to tell sometimes whether this was supposed to be a list of Supreme Court candidates or the table of contents of a slightly more political version of People Magazine. Enough readers think that Caroline Kennedy, who thought she should of course sweep un(con)tested into a Senate seat, should now be anointed for the Supreme Court, putting her at number 24 out of 25 on the total list. Does anyone really believe that Caroline Kennedy has a better shot at being on the Supreme Court than Ralph Nader? And if she does, should that make us feel better about the minds that govern this nation?

People who would surely have a place in line ahead of Nader include Hillary Clinton at #19 (up two spots since last week) and Janet Napolitano at #10. Apparently Times readers are unaware that both women already have jobs, neither of which are that cushy, and both of which they have held only for a very short while—barely long enough to fulfill the probationary period for new hires at Wal-Mart. Al Gore and Bill Clinton also make the reader’s list (in that order) despite Gore having no legal training and Mr. Clinton being a disbarred attorney and prohibited from even representing you in traffic court.

The Court has been home to Klansmen, anti-Semites, secessionists, and at least one alleged misogynist. Are we to expect that their judicial philosophies somehow excused all of that? One thing that will probably not be asked of any nominee is his or her view of civic freedom. And yet it seems so fundamental. Robert Bork was shot down after aggressively stating and defending his judicial philosophy, and every nominee since has pretty much skirted the issue. Congress rarely even asks anymore.

What does it mean to be an American, and how does the Supreme Court help to define that? Civic freedom is something that Ralph Nader holds many opinions on, and it has indeed fuelled his career.  And if Obama’s nominee hasn’t spent much time thinking about this question, is that good enough for you?

Here’s what Nader thinks of Civic Freedom. I think it’s a strong indication of the sort of Justice he’d be. And if you can find an argument against him, you should probably run for Senate. Otherwise, no one will ask these questions.


Nader for SCOTUS: The Fetal Stage

May 3, 2009

The Supreme  Court of the United States has made some pretty alarming decisions over the last decade, at least two of which can and have adversely impacted the lives of every American. Bush v. Gore installed a man who lost the election into the Presidency. Retiring Justice David Souter was reportedly disillusioned by the decision. Kelo v. The City of New Haven made it legal for the government to confiscate your house, business, or land, and sell it to a private corporation. Sadly, Souter was of the majority opinion that supported the practice.

In case you aren’t aware, Ralph Nader considered both decisions to be appalling and unconstitutional.

But when it comes to the politics of the Supreme Court, one issue above all others seems to get the press: abortion. Pro life v. Pro Choice. A woman’s right to “choose” v. a fetus’ “right” to be born. Both sides want a litmus test for any Supreme Court nominee, and every President claims they will not administer one. Don’t believe them.

I’ll admit that I tend to lean to the pro-choice side of this argument, at least up until the third trimester. But I also have to confess that I have grown extremely bored with the subject as well. This is a debate that has been raging with virtually the same talking points, the same logical constructions, and the same approaches since 1921. And yet, in 88 years, science still hasn’t bothered to answer the question “when does life begin?”

The abortion issue has become such a vapid, brain-dead debate, populated essentially with business people who raise (i.e.,make) money by promoting one view or the other. Legal points about eminent domain, election reform, tax policy, interrogation techniques, separation of powers, media conglomeration, and scores of other issues come before the Supreme Court all the time. There was also an impeachment trial not too long ago and a hearty call for another during the last administration. But when Obama does finally make his nomination, expect the stock price of cable news companies to skyrocket. Because our country is going to be forced once again to listen to well-funded talking heads rabbit on about a subject that will only ever affect the smallest fraction of our population.

Men will never get pregnant. And women can prevent it if they choose to. This news hasn’t received its fair share of coverage in the last 88 years. So neglected is this fact, this miracle that could satisfy both sides, that I feel compelled to donate some free ad space to a little known startup that sells affordable, easy-to-use, and medically sound devices that prevent unwanted pregnancies:




These little wonders are easily available to all sexually active men and women of any age, and in many cases they can even be obtained for free. Okay, this may not completely solve the problem this post is devoted to, but the information should help lower the blood pressure of abortion activists everywhere, on both sides. We talk about abortion in this country as though the British are coming, when in reality we are. And prophylactics can do something to contain that… literally.

Unfortunately, if President Obama went on television and said, “Use condoms. They’re free. Take as many as you want,” we wouldn’t have as much fun this summer as the confirmation hearings would be more boring. Leave it to Americans to take a steady supply of free condoms and still be unable to figure out how that can make life fun. 

So bring on the litmus test. 

One of the benefits of having a Supreme Court nominee who has run for President is that he has probably had to take a public position on most of the issues the Supreme Court will face. Being a Justice is supposed to be apolitical, and many appointees have surprised their Presidents by swinging in directions they didn’t expect. But SCOTUS confirmation hearings are nothing if not a determined hunt to discover the nominee’s ideology. William Howard Taft was not our best President, but by most accounts he proved an excellent Chief Justice (succeeding to the post, ironically, in 1921). Having been President, the country likely knew where he stood on issues of the day, and Taft brought a unique perspective on the interrelation of the branches of government.

So where does Ralph Nader stand on abortion? The best resource I’ve come across is a website called On the Issues, which appears to be an objective compendium of where just about every current politician stands on every issue you’ve seen reported, complete with sources. On Nader’s page, we see that he has been criticized for not treating the abortion issue with the same gravity that he would treat, say, poverty. Or cancer. Or nuclear war. Rep. Barney Frank and activist Gloria Steinem have often faulted Nader for not making abortion the center of his universe. Still, I bet if either of them ever encountered a broken condom, he’d be the first one they’d call.

But what is his actual opinion on the legality of abortion?

Nine years ago this week on NBC’s Meet the Press, Nader said this to Tim Russert:

“I don’t think government has the proper role in forcing a woman to have a child or forcing a woman not to have a child. And we’ve seen that around the world. This is something that should be privately decided with the family, woman, all the other private factors of it, but we should work toward preventing the necessity of abortion.”   

That about sums it up for me. He went on later that year to express support for the so-called “morning after pill,” which was just being introduced to the US market, saying use of the drug was “up to the woman, not the government,” and calling it “preferable to surgical procedure.” I don’t see anything Barney Frank or Gloria Steinem could argue against here. As of 2008, Nader was on record as fully endorsing the National Organization for Women’s Agenda on Women’s Health and Reproductive Rights. 

He did get into some hot water during his campaigns by stating that Roe v. Wade was in no danger of being overturned, even by an ultraconservative President. Nader claims such talk is simply a scare tactic designed to rally the respective bases, and the Republicans would never allow themselves to preside over the first back-alley abortion death. Even conservative Justices like Scalia and Thomas were confirmed by Democrat-controlled congresses. Of course he said this years ago, before conservative Justices like Roberts and Alito were confirmed… with the help of Democrats. Neither Roberts nor Alito took a position on abortion at their hearings, both vowing to keep an open mind on the issue or respecting Roe v. Wade as “settled law.”

Of course, George W. Bush did try to sneak ultra-right-wing-nut Harriet Miers past us in 2005, but was roundly panned… by Republicans (Democrat Harry Reid actually recommended her for the nomination). 

So, it seems that Nader was right. Eight years of Bush and Cheney gave us two stagnating wars, an economy in collapse, torture, domestic wiretapping, several impeachable offenses and transgressions, not to mention a total failure in preparing for or responding to Hurricane Katrina… but abortion is still legal. Oh, and remember RU-486, the debated “morning after pill”? It’s legal too.

So bottom line: If you care about protecting abortion rights for women, Nader is on your side. He would be the least likely person you’ve ever heard of to overturn Roe v. Wade, but would probably spend most of his energy on more fundamental Constitutional issues that affect far more people. Only with the issue of abortion would Ralph Nader support the status quo. Heck, he might even try to make it financially easier for poor women to obtain the procedure, or at least the drug.

It has been nearly four years since John Roberts assumed the office of Chief Justice, and still there has been no assault against the right to choose from the Court. His predecessor, the arch conservative William Rehnquist, served as Chief Justice for 19 of his 33 years on the Court, and abortion never came up. If Roberts and his conservative brethren decided to launch an attack all of a sudden, wouldn’t you rather have them forced to go up against Ralph Nader than anyone else?