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!

Tag: Mike Pence

Supreme Court: To Pack or Not to Pack. That is the Question.

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.

Vice Presidential Race Held in Utah on Oct. 7, 2020

The only vice presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence was held last night (October 7th) and the majority of viewers polled by CNN thought (59% to 38%) that Harris had won the debate.

Some observations:

  • Unanswered Questions – There was a distressing tendency for the participants NOT to answer the question asked. Sometimes it was a complete ignoring of what was asked, as with the question about whether these two second bananas had had discussions with their bosses about what to do and how to do it if their elderly bosses (Trump and Biden) were to be incapacitated.
  • Time Issues – After watching Trump act like the barbarian at the gate during the first (and, so far, only) presidential debate, it was going to be interesting to see if Pence obeyed the rules better than his famously contrarian boss. For me, the answer was that Pence was certainly an improvement, but he still ran long on nearly every question. With each question, I would glance at the second hand on my watch when he began to run long. Pence never went over by LESS than 20 seconds and often went over that amount. With 9 questions being asked, 9 x 20 or 30 seconds meant, to me, that Pence got more air time. At the end of the debate, a figure was put up on the screen that indicated how much time each participant got and it appeared that they felt it was relatively even, but it most certainly did not look or seem like Harris got the same time consideration as Pence.
  • Good Point(s): Pence’s team felt they drew blood on the question of the Supreme Court. In my opinion, the best moments for Harris were her remarks about pre-existing conditions, when she said, “If you have pre-existing conditions, they’re coming for you.”
  • Moderator: Susan Page (USA Today) – She was better than Chris Wallace, but that isn’t saying much. “Thank you, Mr. Vice President” was not an effective way of shutting Pence down when he ran over. When will they either shut down the microphones or put the candidates in glass boxes that can be soundproofed and shut down, when necessary.
  • Chutzpah Award: The fact that Mike Pence could accuse Kamala Harris of “politicizing the pandemic” with a straight face was astonishing. What chutzpah! Most other charges (taxes, fracking) at least seemed to be answered by the participants [when they chose to answer, that is].
  • Does the race change at all? Most say no, except for the age of the presidential candidates, but that is one reason that the question about the transfer of power should have been asked.

Out of 10 people with widgets, 4 said Pence won, 4 said Harris had won and 2 abstained. Most of the experts say the votes ae “baked in.”

  • Truthfuless:  Fact checkers had to step in and say that the claim (by Pence) that Trump had increased manufacturing jobs had to be corrected. Actually, on Trump’s watch there have been 164,000 jobs lost (not the 483,000 gains that Pence tried to claim, incorrectly. The Biden position on fracking might be fluid and that was discussed, as well.
  • Kamal Harris: She got in some good ones, all with a smile. Being female and a candidate brings a certain set of problems for women running against men. When women were polled, 69% said Harris had won, versus only 30% selecting Pence. It was a much closer judgment for men, who said that the margin was still in Harris’ favor, but pegged it as 48% to 46%.
  • Most Interesting Segment: At the point when the BLM situation was being asked about (Brianna Taylor), a large, very visible black fly landed on Mike Pence’s head and remained there for over 2 minutes. As my son said to me, “Mike Pence’s only black friend.” Watch for the skit on Saturday Night Live.

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