Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.
My apologies to all who tuned in to hear me speak with Dan Partland, Writer/Director/Producer of “Unfit,” the #1 Amazon documentary that answers the question, “What the hell is wrong with Donald J. Trump?”
Due to technical difficulties beyond my control, my show was not on the air on 10/15, but Dan Partland has agreed to be with me “live” on 10/22. Trust me: you want to hear this man talk about the truths revealed in his excellent documentary. You can tape the presidential debate, since we already know, based on tonight’s town halls, that DJT will do his best to interrupt and ruin it, anyway. It’s a “live” call-in format so you can call in with questions at 866-451-1451.
Here’s my other thought for today, before I begin comparing the two town halls in a separate piece (to run later). It is page 705 of Jeffrey Toobin’s book “True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump.”
“He has betrayed our national security, and he will do so again. He has compromised our elections, and he will do so again. You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is. Truth matters little to him. What is right matters even less. And decency matters not at all. I do not ask you to convict him because truth or right or decency matters nothing to him, but because we have proven our case and it matters to you. Truth matters to you. Right matters to you. You are decent. He is not who you are.” (Adam Schiff’s adjuration to the Senate during the impeachment of DJT).
When I heard the accusation about “stacking the court” from Pence (at the VP debate) it rang a bell with me from the book by William Dallek I am currently reading, “Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A Political Life.” I knew that FDR had tried to “pack” the Supreme Court—-as Pence termed it. And FDR’s effort failed. “The whole New Deal went up in smoke as a result of the Supreme Court fight,” according to Dallek’s excellent book. The fight opened a divide in the Democratic Party alienating Roosevelt from some former allies and also alienating some Republican allies, like his Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes.
As Dallek said in his book, “Roosevelt’s effort to master the judiciary produced something of a pyrhhic victory. FDR’s expenditure of so much political capital on the Court battle forced him to approach other Congressional disputes with uncharacteristic restraint. Advancing new liberal reforms became a distant hope. The Court controversy, one contemporary observer said, sidetracked ‘much useful legislation that otherwise might have been put through.’”
FDR had a plan, which he tried to float as a way to alleviate the overloaded work schedule of the Court. His plan was to add 6 justices, one for every Justice who had served at least 10 years and failed to retire 6 months after turning 70. This would have allowed FDR to immediately appoint 6 new justices, bringing the total to 15. Although the exact number of Supreme Court Justices is not set by the Constitution, the number has been set at 9 since 1869.
FDR, in Fireside Chats (March 4 & 9, 1936) said “There is nothing novel or radical about this idea. It seeks to maintain the bench in full vigor.” He was obviously feeling apprehensive about the move, but he made it——unsuccessfully—-anyway.
All sorts of rhymes sprang up. Here is just one: “Ancient judges sat in the hall, Ancient judges due for a fall. Our country’s Great Leader thinks some younger men, would see that the court gave us justice again.”
Although 60 to 65% of voters were willing to elect FDR to an unprecedented 3rd term, 50% of those same voters opposed the plan to change the court’s make-up. “The issue touched off the worst congressional conflicts of his administration.” As Dallek put it (p. 280), “As someone with a progressive temperament and an adaptive personality that enabled him to accept that changing times meant adopting fresh ways of thinking about old problems, Roosevelt was impatient with politicians who doggedly clung to the past.”
So, things did not go well for one of the most famous Democratic presidents in history when he attempted to “pack the court.”
I began to wonder WHY Pence would specifically attack Harris on this idea, since it seemed quite obvious that it is the GOP who are trying to “stack the courts” and have, indeed, probably succeeded with their recent nomination of an arch Conservative to fill Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s seat. Did someone I didn’t know about suggest that the Dems might want to change the make-up of the Supreme Court?
I asked this question of Google and the answer was that Eric Holder had mentioned it (former Attorney General under Obama), but that didn’t mean the rest of the party had any plan or knew or approved of his remarks, whereas the GOP have been crowing about how many judges at all levels they have appointed and are attempting to appoint even now.
I began to wonder if and when there had been successful attempts to “pack the Supreme Court.” The answer is that it has happened 7 times in history. The first 3 times centered around the political reaction to the Revolution of 1800. The Court was reduced in size at that time from 6 to 5 to prevent Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party from filling a vacancy as the Federalist Party left office. Once Jefferson was firmly in power, the size was moved back to 6 justices, then to 7, so that Jefferson could appoint new justices. Over the next 30 years, efforts to expand the Court were denied, but President Andrew Jackson gained enough power to add 2 new Justices in 1837.
Lincoln increased the size to 10 to prevent judicial attacks on his war policies. After Lincoln was assassinated, Congress reduced the size of the court to 8, to prevent Andrew Johnson (the new president) from harming Congress’ Reconstruction efforts. Ulysses S. Grant added a justice to insure the overturning of a recent Court decision that invalidated the legal tender law that allowed the government to finance its war efforts.
Obviously, what one party does (the GOP right now) can be done by the opposing party when power shifts (tit for tat). At least, those attempts can be made. In FDR’s case, the attempt was made at a time when he was in his 2nd term and riding high, but his move still failed in 1936.
So, that is the history, in a nutshell, of the attempts to expand the Supreme Court.
Dr. Jill Biden and Eric VanLanken in Clinton (IA) on Thursday, January 2, 2020, at Biden Headquarters on 2nd Street.
Dr. Jill Biden came to Clinton, Iowa’s Biden headquarters at 415 South 2nd Street and spoke to a crowd of approximately 30 faithful Democratic supporters who agree with former Vice President Joseph Biden’s wife that, “Anyone can tell you what they want to do, but Joe Biden can tell you what he’s done.”
Dr. Jill Biden in Cinton, Iowa, on January 2, 2020.
Dr. Jill Biden, wife of VP Joe Biden, in Clinton, Iowa on January 2, 2020.
Most of us also agree with her assessment that Biden is the one candidate in the field with the national reputation and experience to defeat Trump in 2020.
A career educator (over three decades teaching at high school and community college levels), Jill Biden holds two Master’s degrees in English, education and reading, as well as PhD degrees, and continued to teach full-time throughout Vice President Biden’s time in office. She is thought to be the first wife of a Vice President to continue her full-time job while her husband was in office.
The granddaughter of Italian immigrant signalman Dominicki Giacoppa, the family anglicized the name to Jacobs and Jill Biden’s maiden name was Jill Tracy Jacobs. Her father, Donald C. Jacobs (1927-1999) became President of a Savings and Loan in the Chestnut Hill area of Philadelphia.
The attractive blonde was due in Clinton at 4:00 p.m., but, with 3 previous stops on Thursday, she arrived about 5 p.m. and was introduced by Eric VanLanker, Commissioner of Elections and County Auditor.
Dr. Biden talked about such initiatives as education, alternative energy (wind and solar), the Affordable Care Act and promised that there would be “no late-night tweet storms” if Biden were elected. With only 32 days until the Iowa caucuses, the push was on to secure Iowa voters who would commit to caucus for Biden on February 3rd and to find others to volunteer in various capacities.
No Tweet storms at 3 a.m.! Yeah!
In the most amusing malapropism of the early evening, Dr. Biden noted (to her amusement and that of theassembled crowd), “We can’t stand 4 more years of a Donald J. Trump pregnancy.” Quickly correcting pregnancy to presidency, the personable blonde posed post remarks with each and every person willing to line up for a selfie.
With packing for warmer climes on my mind, I was forced to depart immediately after her remarks, leaving three books in the care of a staffer to deliver to Dr. Biden, including “Obama’s Odyssey: The 2008 Race for the White House,” Volumes 1 and 2, and BEE GONE: A POLITICAL PARABLE.
Finnegan Biden, granddaughter of VP Joseph Biden, son of Hunter Biden, in 2008.
I hope she enjoys the books, including the picture of Joe Biden’s granddaughter Finnegan Biden in “Obama’s Odyssey,” Volume I, taken in 2008, when I interviewed her at the annual Jefferson/Jackson dinner in Davenport, Iowa. Hunter Biden’s daughter, the lovely 10-year-old, is now twelve years older and, no doubt, just as lovely a young lady.
Back on January 1, 2008, I printed some remarks made by Senator Joe Biden (D, Delaware) as he appeared in Davenport, Iowa, during the Iowa primary campaign season. In light of Senator Biden’s selection Saturday (Aug. 23, 2008) to be Barack Obama’s running mate for the Democratic bid for the Presidency, I’m reprinting some of his more noteworthy comments. (For those who wish to see the original article, complete with photo of Joe Biden and Yours Truly, check the archives on www.associatedcontent.com).
There is no doubt that Senator Joe Biden is a great orator. Sometimes, he has followed in the tradition of “loose lips sink ships,” as when he used a line at an Iowa State Fair speech and failed to properly attribute it (he had attributed it appropriately in prior addresses). This furor derailed an earlier bid for the Presidency with charges of “plagiarism.”
When the position of Chairman of the Democratic Party was up for grabs, it was Dean and Biden who really stood head-and-shoulders above the field and commanded attention. (Dr.) Howard Dean had just come off his unsuccessful bid for the Presidential nomination during the “Sleepless Summer” tour in Iowa, which derailed in Iowa at the ValAir Ballroom in what infamously became known as “the shout heard round the world.” Howard Dean is now DNC Chariman, and the ValAir Ballroom derailing was nothing more than a dirty bit of Republican showmanship. (Ask Joe Trippi, his campaign advisor, if you don’t believe me). Howard Dean has been known to say a few things off the top of his head, to “lip off,” which he may later regret. And so has Joe Biden. But isn’t some candor refreshing after years of Darth Vader Cheney?
Here are a few quotes from Senator Biden’s Iowa appearance on January 1, 2008:
“I’ve been a Senator since I was 29. There are only 27 in history that have served longer than me. My Grandpa Finnegan would not believe this. Iowa is the last level playing field in American politics. You can’t do this anywhere but here. We owe you. The whole process owes you. Win, lose or draw, I’ll always be indebted to you. Absent you and New Hampshire, it’s all about the money.”
“I look forward to a country that is proud of its great heritage. The United States does not torture and does not condone torture. The world is not stable. George Bush has done more than mess up. He’s been the worst President in history…at least the worst in the twenty-first century. The next president has to know what they’re about. I am the only candidate with a specific, concrete plan to end the war (The Biden Exit Strategy creating a Federal State of Iraq.). Five years ago, when I visited Afghanistan, you could walk down the street. You can’t do that now. You have to stay in the Green Zone. We may be in the midst of losing Afghanistan.”
[This last nugget of information was seconded by a British Army member I met in Las Vegas recently, who had just completed his second tour of duty in Afghanistan and said that Britain would soon withdraw all its troops, as the situation was untenable and unwinnable.]
Biden: “You have the most dangerous and complicated nation in the region in Pakistan, armed with nuclear weapons. Their population is larger than Russia’s. It’s the place where Bin Laden lives, where the Taliban reside. Imagine a Pakistan taken over by 15% of the Muslim zealots. My God, the lack of focus we have! My god, what hat this President wrought? This is the single most consequential election of your lifetimes. If it’s about experience, well, heck, I win! There’s good change and there’s bad change. It’s not about change or experience. It’s about pragmatic action. Inaction is a decision in itself.”
Moving from the topic of national security, Biden noted that he wrote the Violence Against Women Act “back in the eighties” working alone, and that it took him six years to get it passed. He added, “Initiating change is about taking action.”‘
Biden also quoted the statistics that show him to be “the fourth most liberal Senator and the Crime Bill that helped him put 100,000 more policemen in the streets, with $10 billion of additional funds for the task. “I’ve gotten it done in the past, and I believe I can do it again.”
On the subject of Republicans, in general, Biden commented, “I’ve had it up to here with the moralizing on the part of the Republican party…Where in the bible does it say torture is good? How can a tax cut for the rich, while millions have no health care coverage and millions live in poverty, be good or fair?”
Biden ended that night by saying, “I can hardly wait to debate any of these Republican candidates. I can hardly wait. The test for the Democratic candidate for the Presidency is crystal clear: who can take these guys on and win? Who can turn this nation around?”
[For an exclusive AC interview with Finnegan Biden, Joe’s granddaughter, search the Associated Content archives.]