Category Archives: The Constitution

His People

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View of the World From 9th Avenue  Saul Steinberg

When I first heard the pundits use the term “Trump’s people,” I thought they meant those who live on Fifth Avenue with a fabulous view of Central Park. Now I know they mean the “white working class” and other “angry white people.” Putting aside Trump’s appearance (the strange hairdo and the perpetually pursed lips), the lack of government experience, and his “unpresidential” behavior, I cannot buy Donald Trump as a working class hero. The man is, after all, a “New Yorker,” and New Yorkers do not get elected president.

A New Yorker is someone who grew up in Manhattan, and most other Americans (of all races, religions and creeds) find them annoying, and for good reason: They give off a powerful air of overweening superiority. People from the other boroughs of New York City as well as Long Island like to think of themselves as New Yorkers, but Manhattanites know better. Even those who live in the “bedroom communities” of Connecticut and New Jersey and work in “The City” (what other town in America is referred to as The City?), like to think of themselves as New Yorkers, but as a neighbor of mine, born and bred in The City, once observed: They’re “worse than the boroughs.”

The last U.S. president from New York was FDR, and he wasn’t really a New Yorker; he lived “upstate” in Hyde Park, the place with which he was most closely identified. The last presidential nominee from New York was Governor Thomas E. Dewey, who lost twice, first to FDR and then to Harry Truman in probably the most surprising upset in history, although, arguably, Trump’s victory over Hillary comes close to or surpasses Truman’s defeat of Dewey.  However Dewey also was not really a New Yorker, for he was born and raised in Owosso, Minnesota (population as of 2010 – 15,194) and afterward lived 65 miles north of The City.  Since then, no one from New York has been nominated by either party (until Trump), despite New York’s large number of electoral votes (the largest number throughout much of American history until 1968, and currently the third largest).  Credible candidates from New York like Nelson Rockefeller and Rudy Giuliani couldn’t even win their party’s nomination.

The New Yorker attitude towards the rest of America was best portrayed in Saul Steinberg’s New Yorker Magazine cover, “View of the World from 9th Avenue.” The picture suggests that New Yorkers believe that there isn’t much of a country between the Hudson River and the Pacific Ocean (see above). Another famous example of the New Yorker attitude towards the rest of the country is the late New Yorker Magazine movie critic Pauline Kael’s possibly apocryphal line, that she didn’t know how Nixon could have won the 1968 presidential election because “nobody I know voted for him.” Some believe that the real quote is from a speech in which she said,“I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.” Either way, Kael remains the embodiment of Manhattan snobbery.

Growing up Jewish in Chester, PA, near Philadelphia, I often heard derogatory remarks about New Yorkers, particularly about New York Jews, who, it was said, felt superior to all other New Yorkers. New York German Jews were even worse because they considered themselves smarter and more sophisticated than everyone. My family and their friends conceded that New York Jews were smart and funny (most of the great comedians, from Groucho Marx to Woody Allen are New York Jews), but German Jews were, like the rest of their former compatriots, bereft of any sense of humor.  Most of all they believed that Jews from New York were the incarnation of the Jewish anti-Semitic stereotype: the “pushy,” money grubbing, loud, obnoxious “kike.” Not unlike the nominally Presbyterian President Donald.

The Donald’s opponents have loudly proclaimed him to be an anti-Semite and racist. The opponents also believe that Trump’s father was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The “evidence” backing this assertion is that someone who was probably Trump’s father was arrested at a 1920 Klan march in Trump’s Queens neighborhood when the father was twenty. The New York Times report notes that he was arrested for not immediately obeying a police officer’s order that he move on and that he was shortly released. The report notes that there is no evidence to support any of the possible reasons why he was there, and the evidence that he was there at all is less than air tight. Yet, from this comes the claim that he was a Klan member.

It is well known that Trump’s son-in-law and close adviser is Jewish and that his daughter converted to her husband’s Orthodox Judaism. The opponents assert that a person with close Jewish relatives in addition to many Jewish business associates and friends can still be an anti-Semite. That he lives in and is closely identified with a city Jesse Jackson infamously called “Hymietown” (the Jewish population of New York City is exceeded only by Israel’s) is apparently irrelevant as well. And we are supposed to believe that Trump’s alleged anti-Semitism (and racism) motivated Hilary’s “Deplorables” to vote for him.

To be sure, I agree with much if not most of the case against Trump. He is obviously unqualified to be president. Business experience is a good thing for a president to have, but it apparently does not mean that he knows how to get Congress to enact the programs he ran on.  I also agree that a lot of his behavior in office is bizarre if not pathological. Still they say that “his people” support him and even approve of his behavior. I don’t think bigotry has anything to do with the reasons why he (improbably) defeated Hilary. Trump achieved the previously unimaginable because he was the only candidate who seemed to understand that an awful lot of people out there in “flyover country” and even states like Pennsylvania are fed up with weaselly politicians, Stalinist politically correct “students,” government waste, illegal immigration (and spectacularly unconstitutional “sanctuary cities,”), racial quotas, presumptuous federal judges, cop haters, a ridiculously complicated health care system and tax code, do-nothing government bureaucrats and more, much more. All of that overcame the distaste that many Americans have for New Yorkers.

Now, if only a more qualified and disciplined candidate, regardless of where he came from, had understood what Trump understood and had the nerve that Trump had to run on it.

 

 

 

 

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Where’s It Written?

 

b.Matthew4.4-2

This morning I picked up my Wall Street Journal and read the following quote from a college classmate, former Watergate Special Prosecutor, and long-time Democratic Party mouthpiece – Richard Ben-Veniste:  “The president of the United States should not be involving himself in an ongoing investigation by soliciting details about that investigation from the head of the investigative agency. That’s just not the way the system is supposed to work.”  The head of the investigative agency is, as you probably know, the now ex- FBI director James Comey, and the president is you-know-who. I am certainly not an expert on this (and I welcome corrections from anyone out there who is), but I would like to know where it’s written that the president is forbidden to do that? Ben-Veniste would have been on firmer ground if he had said: The head of an investigative agency should never hold press conferences where he exonerates or indicts anyone. That responsibility belongs to prosecutors (the Attorney General), not investigators (the FBI).

I am constantly amazed by the definitive statements people (many of whom should know better) make about what’s legal or illegal, what’s a rule violation and what isn’t, and what’s constitutional and what’s not. One example is the popular belief that the missile strike on Syria was either illegal or unconstitutional because Congress didn’t approve it. The Constitution is not very clear on this, perhaps purposely. Yes, Congress has the power to declare war, but there have been only 11 formal declarations of war and more than 20 undeclared wars and military actions, including the Korean War (37,000 plus Americans killed) and the Vietnam War. The last formally declared war was World War II. There is the post-Vietnam War Powers Act in which Congress tried to limit the president’s power to make war, but that too would have allowed the strike on Syria, and besides, most presidents purportedly limited by the law have declared it unconstitutional and intimated that they would ignore its restrictions if they felt it necessary.

The only way to settle this difference of opinion between the president and Congress is to take it to the Supreme Court. To my knowledge, no such cases have gone to The Court. The reason is that neither side wants to risk the chance of losing, for the losing side would lose the power it believed it had. Both branches are afraid of a clear decision on the issue.

I also doubt that the Supreme Court would want to make a clear, definitive ruling on such a crucial constitutional issue. The Court sometimes hands down rulings with loopholes and a modicum of room for “interpretation.” For example, the Court has refused to decide unequivocally whether “affirmative action,” aka, racial quotas, is constitutional or not. The Justices know that racial discrimination is definitely unconstitutional, so they have ruled that race alone cannot be used by university admissions people. That word alone allows universities to make up other excuses for what is plainly racial discrimination.

And so the universities created the diversity standard; An important mission of the university is to insure a diverse student body. But there are many different kinds of diversity: class, ideological, religious, ethnic, and geographical. But the truth is that the universities want more blacks and Hispanics and thus fewer “whites” (Polish, Italian, Irish, Jewish etc.) and Asians (Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese etc.). And the Supreme Court ruled that diversity (without defining it) is a “compelling interest” of the university, so affirmative action apparently will live forever, thanks to The Court’s equivocal, politically motivated rulings.

If the president’s war powers issue ever goes to the Supreme Court, it would be entirely predictable that The Court would hand down the same kind of unclear, compromise  ruling and the struggle between the executive and legislative branches would continue. Nothing would be settled.

So when you read or hear that a political issue is “written,” always ask- where?