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Monday, May 5, 2014

Two Good Things In One Day

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." — James Madison

It’s not often that two good things happen of the same day but today we had just such a happening.

The first thing was a ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of the Town of Greece, New York v. Galloway et al. The Supreme Court ruled that a town in upstate New York did not violate the Constitution by starting its public meetings with a prayer from a “chaplain of the month” who was almost always Christian. (See Washington Post Report)

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority in a 5-to-4 decision that divided the court’s more conservative members from its liberal ones, said the prayers were merely ceremonial. They were neither unduly sectarian nor likely to make members of other faiths feel unwelcome.

“Ceremonial prayer,” he wrote, “is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town’s practices could not be reconciled “with the First Amendment’s promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government.” What else would you expect from the four progressive, non-tolerant liberals sitting on the Court?

Town officials in Greece, N.Y., near Rochester, said that members of all faiths, and atheists, were welcome to give the opening prayer. In practice, however, almost all of the chaplains were Christian. Some of their prayers were explicitly sectarian, with references, for instance, to “the saving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.”

Two town residents sued, saying the prayers ran afoul of the First06SCOTUS-articleLarge Amendment’s prohibition of government establishment of religion. They said the prayers offended them and, in Justice Kennedy’s words, “made them feel excluded and disrespected.” That’s it folks two residents out of a town of 94,000. I guess 93,998 have to bow two the wishes of 2 malcontents that are offended.

But Justice Kennedy said the relevant constitutional question was not whether they were offended. “Adults often encounter speech they find disagreeable,” he wrote.

Justice Kennedy said traditions starting with the first Congress supported the constitutionality of ceremonial prayers at the start of legislative sessions. He added that it would be perilous for courts to decide when those prayers crossed a constitutional line and became impermissibly sectarian.

“To hold that invocations must be nonsectarian,” he wrote, “would force the legislatures that sponsor prayers and the courts that are asked to decide these cases to act as supervisors and censors of religious speech, a rule that would involve government in religious matters to a far greater degree than is the case under the town’s current practice of neither editing or approving prayers in advance nor criticizing their content after the fact.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined all of Justice Kennedy’s opinion, and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas most of it.

Justice Kennedy did suggest that some prayers may be unacceptable if offered consistently over time, including ones that “denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation or preach conversion.”

Town officials had tried, he said, to recruit members of various faiths to offer prayers.

In dissent, Justice Kagan said they had not tried hard enough. “So month in and month out for over a decade,” she wrote, “prayers steeped in only one faith, addressed toward members of the public, commenced meetings to discuss local affairs and distribute government benefits.” How hard were they supposed to try? Perhaps they should have scoured the state and nation for volunteers. Ridiculous!

In 1983, in Marsh v. Chambers, the Supreme Court upheld the Nebraska Legislature’s practice of opening its legislative sessions with an invocation from a paid Presbyterian minister, saying that such ceremonies were “deeply embedded in the history and tradition of this country.

Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said the case from Greece was different. The prayers at the town board meetings were often explicitly sectarian, they said, and residents were forced to listen to them in order to participate in local government.

“No one can fairly read the prayers from Greece’s town meetings as anything other than explicitly Christian – constantly and exclusively so,” she wrote in her dissent in the case, Town of Greece v. Galloway, No. 12-696.

Moreover, she said, the clergy “put some residents to the unenviable choice of either pretending to pray like the majority or declining to join its communal activity, at the very moment of petitioning their elected leaders.”

These 4 liberal progressive justices will go to any length to disrespect the intent of our Founders when it comes to religion and the First Amendment.

As I drive east along SR 91 in Orange County there is a cross high upon a hill surrounded by a chain link fence that is clearly visible from the freeway. There is an even larger cross visible from the northbound I-215 in Riverside County near Murrieta. Both crosses are on private property, but very visible to and motorist driving east or north past the respective Christian symbols. I am waiting for the day when some bone-headed person brings an atheist group to town to bring a suit for the removal of these crosses on the grounds that they are “offensive” to them and cause such a distraction that they could cause a traffic mishap. To paraphrase Justice Kennedy’s comment on offensive speech; there are things I see and hear that I don’t like, but I just ignore the moron who said it and go one with my life. I used to live in the neighborhood where a mosque was located and I drove by every day. In fact I drove by it so often I no longer saw it. All I have to say to those who supported the two malcontents in the Town of Greece is “get a life.”

The second good thing that happened is Speaker of the House John Boehner finally after 601 days of spinning, obfuscating, lying, cover-up, political posturing, and Congressional hearings appointed a select committee to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi on the night of September 11, 2012 when terrorist carried out a planned attack on our consulate and left the ambassador and three others dead. No more “what does it matter” Mrs. Clinton, now, hopefully we will get to the truth.

To head this committee Boehner selected a very good congressman. His name is Trey Gowdy from South Carolina. He’s got fifteen years of120622_trey_gowdy_reuters_640 prosecutorial experience at both the federal and state levels. (Fun fact: I was watching an old episode of “Forensic Files” on HLN a week or two ago and who popped up onscreen but a young, dark-haired Trey Gowdy, discussing a murder case he’d won in South Carolina.) He’s also been out in front of the caucus in accusing the White House of Benghazi cover-ups: He’s the man who claimed last summer that they’d been giving CIA agents linked to the incident new identities to hide them from House investigators, and he told Greta Van Susteren just a few days ago that he has evidence that the White House is deliberately withholding documents related to the attack.

Boehner’s statement in appointing Gowdy.

“With four of our countrymen killed at the hands of terrorists, the American people want answers, accountability, and justice. Trey Gowdy is as dogged, focused, and serious-minded as they come. His background as a federal prosecutor and his zeal for the truth make him the ideal person to lead this panel. I know he shares my commitment to get to the bottom of this tragedy and will not tolerate any stonewalling from the Obama administration. I plan to ensure he and his committee has the strongest authority possible to root out all the facts. This is a big job, but Rep. Gowdy has the confidence of this conference, and I know his professionalism and grit will earn him the respect of the American people.”

Gowdy may not be a Sam Ervin of Watergate fame but he is damn close. According to Hot Air:

“Smart politics twice over. Part of the reason Boehner agreed to the select committee was to unify the party ahead of the midterms; after Ben Rhodes’s e-mail became public, refusing toSam_Ervin form a committee would have been another flashpoint between the party establishment and the grassroots to go along with amnesty and increasingly tepid opposition to ObamaCare. It stands to reason that if you’re going to do something to placate your base, you might as well choose a conservative in good standing for chairman too. If he’d appointed a centrist and the committee came up with nothing, righties would have accused him of a whitewash. They can’t do that with Gowdy in charge, and if Gowdy comes up with nothing too, then Boehner can distance himself from it by saying it was largely a tea-party production all along.

The other reason it’s smart politics is that not only is Gowdy a respected prosecutor, he’s consistently one of the most dynamic members at House hearings. (You’ve watched enough clips of him on this site to know that.) Boehner doesn’t know what he’s going to get by way of evidence but he will insist on some political payoff from this ahead of the midterms, and Gowdy’s just the guy to deliver that. You want clips of John Kerry or Hillary Clinton sweating under a tough cross-examination to dominate the day’s news cycle on cable? He’ll do that for you better than virtually anyone else.

One question, though. Will Democrats participate in the committee? Here’s Adam Schiff telling Chris Wallace yesterday on FNS that he thinks the party should boycott. I hate to admit it but that’s sound strategy. They’re taking a risk in doing it: If the GOP turns up compelling evidence of Obama’s or Hillary’s negligence on the night of the attack, the fact that Democrats refused to take part in the investigation will make them look complicit in the cover-up and whitewash. If the GOP doesn’t turn up something compelling, though, the boycott will make it easier for Democrats to argue that it was a kangaroo court all along that the public should either pay no attention to or actively punish Republicans for organizing. In fact, Dems can cite their boycott as a reason for the public to downplay or ignore any evidence that Gowdy does uncover. E.g., “We knew Republicans would be grossly unfair to the administration and blow their findings out of all proportion. That’s why we didn’t participate.” It’s a way to delegitimize the effort, which is the whole ballgame for them right now.”

Be that as it may the Democrats better buckle up during the coming weeks. It’s going to get rough and explosive just like Watergate did. There are too many skeletons that have been stashed away in their closet and it’s up to Gowdy and his staffers to drag them out. It’s also a good time for Gowdy and some of his staffers and investigators to make a name for themselves. Over the past 20 months people have been shuffled around, demoted and promoted. Documents have been uncovered and no doubt some folks are fearful of their political fate. Washington is no bastion of loyalty when things get tough. Ask John Dean of Jeb McGruder.

Recognizing a serious threat, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blasted the expansion of the House GOP probe of Benghazi as an “election-year stunt.”

Close, but no cigar. The real stunt came during the election of 2012, and it was carried out by Democrats.

That’s when the White House went into full fudge mode to protect President Obama from responsibility over the terrorist attack that killed four Americans, including our ambassador to Libya.

The desperate effort included lying about the attack, a fact that is now undeniable thanks to the release of a secret email written days later.

In it, an Obama aide said (Ben Rhodes) a goal of having U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice do five TV interviews was to “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.”

But there was no protest about a video before the Benghazi attack, and CIA analysts said they knew instantly it was a planned terror operation. The date — the 11th anniversary of 9/11 — was one of many telltale signs.

The slaughter came only two months before Election Day in a campaignbenghazi270_20140505_194906 where Obama insisted that Al Qaeda was on the run. He couldn’t say “never mind,” with Mitt Romney breathing down his neck.

So his campaign and the White House tried to obscure what the president knew and when he knew it, and the question now is whether they committed a crime. The email was released in response to a private group’s lawsuit, after being withheld from congressional subpoenas asking for all Benghazi documents.

In promising a select committee would pursue the case, House Speaker John Boehner used the “O” word, accusing the White House of illegally “obstructing” Congress.

That carries echoes of Watergate and Monicagate, so Hilary and the Democrats buckle up it’s a rough road ahead.

To me this was very good news as I called for such committee in my blog of May 10, 2013.

The mainstream media declared the Benghazi story insignificant long ago. To the extent it is covered, the focus is usually on the horrific and unnecessary deaths of four Americans. The Obama administration dismisses it as a lot of fuss about a few silly talking points. Remember Hilary’s “what does it matter” comment.

But everybody is missing the big-picture story of the Benghazi affair and its cover-up. It’s about the White House using the intelligence community for its own political purposes, and lying to the American public in order to win an election. It’s about abuse of power, and that is a big deal. It always has been about the abuse of power and the cover-up. It always is. Those who abuse that power use their minions in the media to assist in the cover up and then wait while the public just forgets about. Too the relatives of those four dead Americans do not have the luxury of forgetfulness.

That’s why the administration cannot be allowed to investigate itself. That’s why it is time for Congress to appoint a special committee to get to the bottom of the story. Benghazi is no longer just a political issue. It’s not just a partisan witch hunt. It goes to the heart of what our system of government is all about.

If it turns out that Benghazi and the cover-up were just a series of junior level mistakes that’s the end of it. But if it turns out the administration was using the military and intelligence communities for political purposes prior to the attack, during the attack and in a subsequent cover-up, it must be held accountable. Because once the precedent is set, future administrations will feel no reluctance to do the same.

America has the most powerful military and intelligence services in the world, probably in the history of the world. They have an infrastructure that endures separately and beyond any administration or politician.

At the same time, the military-intelligence complex takes its orders from the American people, through their elected/appointed representatives in the White House and Cabinet.

It’s a sacred trust at the heart of our Constitution, as set out in civilian control of the military. But it comes at a price — that our civilian leaders do not abuse that power and bend the military and intelligence communities to do their political dirty work.

The president doesn’t order the military to seize political opponents. He doesn’t order his intelligence community to lie about national security for political purposes. He uses the military or intelligence communities to protect the United States and our citizens, not to help him win elections.

That’s the heart of the Benghazi scandal and cover-up. The White House twisted intelligence to suit its political needs.

It is now incumbent on Rep. Gowdy and his select committee to act and act like a hungry dog digging for his bone. There have been countless hearings into Benghazi by numerous congressional committees, but none have had subpoena power to demand the paper trail, or to force government workers to testify about what they knew and when they knew it.

The questions I see at the heart of the Benghazi scandal and cover-up are specifically:

Did the White House fail to provide adequate security at the Benghazi consulate because it didn’t want to acknowledge that a terrorist threat remained, even though Bin Laden was dead?

Did the White House order the intelligence community to change its analysis so the president could claim his policy was a success, rather than a failure, just a few weeks before an election?

And, finally, what was the relationship between an overzealous White House staff and the president himself? What did the president know, and when did he know it?

This is no longer just a political issue. It’s not just a partisan witch hunt. It goes to the heart of what our system of government is all about. That’s why it’s time for Congress to act and to get to the bottom of this, once and for all.

That’s why Benghazi matters.

I am sure in the coming weeks I will have more to say on this issue.

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