The Center for Security Policy’s Frank Gaffney and the Family Research Council’s Jerry Boykin, both national security advisors to Sen. Ted Cruz, discussed on Gaffney’s radio program yesterday how they believe President Obama is, perhaps intentionally, weakening the military by allowing women in combat and training troops on what Boykin called “white privilege and nonsense like that.”
Gaffney asked Boykin if he thought that “the policies that the president has been pursuing” that he claimed have “diminished the readiness” of the military are “designed to have that effect” or if it’s just a coincidence.
Boykin responded that while he “can’t answer what this administration is thinking,” it’s “certainly a possibility” that the president is intentionally weakening the military.
He contrasted the recent capture of an American boat in Iranian waters to the Vietnam era, when “to get a statement out of a POW that was being held in Hanoi, you had to beat that man almost to the point of killing him.”
“Frank, what’s happened to our military?” he asked. “Now, I’ll tell you what part of it is. They have not spent their time being trained on the code of conduct. They’ve spent their time being trained on tolerance and inclusion.”
“Diversity, sensitivity, and white privilege,” Gaffney said derisively.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Boykin said, “on white privilege and nonsense like that. That’s where they spend their training time. I get feedback from military people all the time. 'Sir, we spent the entire week doing nothing but classroom training on tolerance and integrating women into the infantry.' And, I mean, Frank, we’re wasting precious training time at a time when our enemies are growing stronger and we’re growing weaker.”
Earlier in the interview, Boykin and Gaffney took aim at one of their favorite targets, the Southern Poverty Law Center, which Boykin called “probably, next to the Muslim Brotherhood, the most evil group in America.”
The two also revealed that in February Boykin presented Gaffney with the “George Washington Leadership Award” on behalf of the Council for National Policy, a secretive conservative umbrella group that is currently led by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
Glenn Beck is not just a passionate defender of Ted Cruz's presidential campaign, but he is also close personal friends with the Texas senator, with whom he is regularly in contact.
On his television program last night, Beck told his studio audience that he sent Cruz and his wife Heidi a note of support over Easter weekend in the wake of a report in the National Enquirer alleging that Cruz had engaged in several adulterous affairs.
Beck explained that he sent the note in an effort to offer encouragement because nobody knows what it is like to carry the Moses-like burden that Cruz bears.
"These guys actually believe it like we believe it," Beck said. "Imagine being in a position to where you believe it, you believe the country is at the end, you believe that God is telling you, 'Step up to the plate.' You believe that you, just like Moses, may be slow in speech and not the perfect guy, but you know if you get in there, you can actually do something and you've tried to stay loyal. Do you know what that life is like for two years of tearing yourself apart, of 'please Lord, just tell me, just tell me, just tell me, I'll do it, just tell me.' And the burden of I blew it? Oh my gosh, I don't want to be them."
Troy Newman, the head of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue and co-chair of a “pro-life” coalition for Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, has drawn some heat for a book he wrote in the early 2000s that argued that the U.S. has affronted God by failing to execute abortion providers.
Newman says that he was not actually arguing for the execution of abortion providers but was rather building up an Old Testament case that he then superseded with a New Testament message of mercy and redemption, an argument that he made again in an interview with Alan Colmes yesterday.
Newman, however, struggled to explain to Colmes his case that he doesn’t want a legal punishment for women who have abortions — whom he refers to in his book as “contract killers” — but does want abortion providers to be tried for murder.
“Yes, abortion is murder,” he told Colmes. “You punish the murderers. You punish the murderers, Alan, who are the abortionists.”
“If you’re hiring the murderer, wouldn’t you also be punished?” Colmes asked.
“No, traditionally in America, we’ve never punished a woman because she’s a secondary victim, the first victim is the innocent baby,” Newman responded. He later argued that it’s “more than likely” that a woman who has an abortion has been “coerced.”
When Colmes pressed further, Newman said that “you have to draw the line someplace” and that he draws the line at “punishing the abortionists” and “the likes of Planned Parenthood.”
“What should the punishment be for an abortion provider?” Colmes asked.
“Well, if it’s murder, then they should serve time,” Newman responded, “Whether it’s first, second, third degree, that’s for the courts to decide.”
He added that he was “against the death penalty” and that “life in prison” would be the proper punishment for an abortion provider.
By Miranda Blue, Elliot Mincberg and Brian Tashman
Republicans in the Senate, pushed by outside conservative interest groups, are promising to block President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, and arguing that the next president should fill the current vacancy, in the hope that a Republican president will name a conservative ideologue to the bench.
Even if the Senate does confirm Garland, the next president will likely be charged with nominating at least one person to the Supreme Court, and possibly more. Since it looks like either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will win the Republican presidential nomination, looking at both men’s past statements gives us an idea of the kind of justices that Republicans are hoping for.
Trump and Cruz have both signaled that they would appease their base by nominating justices who would shift the court far to the right. Cruz has lamented that some justices nominated by Republican presidents have strayed from the party line on issues like abortion rights and has vowed that he would appoint “rock-ribbed conservatives” who have a “long paper trail” to demonstrate their “conservative” bona fides.
Trump, dogged by worries among movement conservatives that he would betray them when it comes to Supreme Court nominations, has promised to pick any Supreme Court nominees off a list he develops in partnership with the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.
Both candidates have indicated that they would nominate judges who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark abortion rights and marriage equality decisions. Trump, although he appears not to understand the central legal issue of Roe, has said that the decision “can be changed” through the right judicial nominations since “you know, things are put there and are passed but they can be unpassed with time.” Cruz has warned that unless a true conservative like him picks the next justice, the Supreme Court will soon be “mandating unlimited abortion.” Trump has said that Obergefell was wrongly decided, while Cruz has called the decision “fundamentally illegitimate” and said it can be ignored by the president.
Cruz has made the future of the court a centerpiece of his campaign, while Trump may not actually understand how the Supreme Court works. But both have made clear that as president they would work to shift the court even farther to the right on the issues important to social conservatives and to the corporate Right.
What would a court shaped by a President Trump or a President Cruz look like? Looking at a few of the possible judicial nominees whose names have been dropped by candidates or who have been recommended by the Heritage Foundation, we can get an idea of the kind of ideological conservatives whom Republicans are hoping to put on the bench.
William H. Pryor
One possible Supreme Court nominee whom Trump has specifically praised is William H. Pryor, selected by President George W. Bush to be on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. Formerly Alabama’s attorney general, Pryor has a history of extreme right-wing activism, severely criticizing not just women’s right to choose under Roe v. Wade but even the constitutionality of the New Deal.
Pryor has called Roe the “worst abomination in the history of constitutional law.” He has claimed that with the New Deal and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that it “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime.” As a judge, he has helped uphold a restrictive Georgia voter ID law and joined just one other judge on the 11th Circuit in claiming that “racially disparate effects” should not be enough to prove a violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, even though the Supreme Court has ruled precisely the opposite.
Pryor came first on a wish list of Supreme Court picks that the Heritage Foundation published shortly after Trump promised to consult them before naming justices.
Trump has also repeatedly named Diane Sykes, a Seventh Circuit federal appeals court judge appointed by President George W. Bush, as a potential Supreme Court nominee. Sykes, who previously served on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and a trial court, has also won high praise from the Heritage Foundation and from right-wing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
In a series of dissents, Sykes has argued in favor of big business and against consumers and discrimination victims, including cases where she tried to limit corporate liability for product defects and overturn a $1 million damages award, to protect a corporation from having to defend against an employee’s claim of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to reverse a $3.5 million bad faith judgment in favor of a Lutheran church against its insurance company.
She showed her anti-reproductive-choice views in providing a lenient sentence to two anti-abortion protesters who had to be forcibly removed from blocking the entrance to a Milwaukee abortion clinic and had previously been arrested 100 times for such offenses; Sykes nevertheless praised them for their “fine character” and expressed “respect” for the “ultimate goals” the blockade “sought to achieve.”
She asserted in dissent that a jury verdict against a criminal defendant should have been upheld even though there was extensive evidence that one of the jurors did not understand English (including a statement from the juror himself), which disqualified him from serving on a jury under Wisconsin law; that a prosecutor should be immune from a claim that he fabricated false evidence that wrongly convicted a man for 17 years; and that a conviction under federal law against someone convicted of domestic violence for possessing firearms should be reversed and that the law itself could well be unconstitutional, in disagreement with all 10 other judges on the court of appeals. She voted in favor of a Wisconsin voter ID law and of a claim by a student group that it should receive state funding and recognition despite its violation of a university rule prohibiting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, an issue on which the Supreme Court reached exactly the opposite conclusion several years later.
The third name on Heritage’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees is Judge Steven Colloton, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, after previous service for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and as a U.S. attorney.
Colloton has been at the forefront of a number of troubling Eighth Circuit rulings, including writing decisions that reversed an $8.1 million award to whistleblowers who helped bring a defective pricing and kickback claim against a large corporation and a nearly $19 million class action judgment against Tyson Foods for violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. He also joined a ruling making the Eighth Circuit the only appellate court in the country that found that the Obama administration’s efforts to accommodate religious universities and other religious nonprofit objectors to the provision of contraceptive coverage under the ACA was insufficient, an issue now being considered by the Supreme Court.
Even more troubling, Colloton has dissented from a number of Eighth Circuit rulings that have upheld the rights of employees, consumers and others against big business and government agencies. He dissented from a decision giving African-American shoppers the opportunity to prove discrimination claims against a large department store, and then saw his view prevail by one vote when the full Eighth Circuit reheard the case. In another case, he dissented from a decision finding that a city had violated the Voting Rights Act by improperly diluting the voting strength of Native Americans.
Colloton dissented from rulings that gave individuals a chance to prove claims of use of excessive force and, in one case, that a city’s policy to use police dogs to bite and hold suspects without any warning was unconstitutional. In three separate cases, he dissented from decisions that employees should at least get the chance to prove in court that their employers retaliated against them for filing sex harassment, age discrimination, or other discrimination claims. In two more decisions, he argued in dissent that public employees should not have the opportunity to prove that they were retaliated against for speaking out in violation of their First Amendment rights. Yet he also claimed in a dissent that the First Amendment rights of a candidate for state supreme court justice were violated by a state judicial code of conduct restricting solicitation and other campaign activity in order to promote judicial impartiality and ethical conduct by judges. Even the conservative Roberts Court that decided the Citizens United case has agreed that these concerns justify solicitation restrictions in state supreme court elections.
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is Cruz’s closest ally in the Senate and Cruz has said that Lee “would look good” on the Supreme Court. Lee also made the Heritage Foundation’s shortlist of potential Supreme Court justices.
Lee is a fervent “tenther,” someone who believes the 10th Amendment to the Constitution radically restricts the authority of the federal government. As Jeffrey Rosen wrote in the New York Times Magazine in 2010, “Lee offered glimpses of a truly radical vision of the U.S. Constitution, one that sees the document as divinely inspired and views much of what the federal government currently does as unconstitutional.” Among the areas that Lee has suggested it is unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:
Lee has criticized the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion rights and marriage equality, calling Roe v. Wade an “unconscionable decision” that “defied the spirit and the letter” of the Constitution and responding to Obergefell by introducing a measure that would protect anti-LGBT discrimination.
While we don’t expect Cruz to name himself to the Supreme Court, as recently as December Trump was receptive to the idea of extending an olive branch to his main Republican presidential rival in the form of a Supreme Court nomination.
A Justice Cruz would certainly align with Trump’s stated priorities of reversing the Obergefell marriage equality decision and making sure Roe v. Wade is “unpassed.” Cruz, who served as the solicitor general of Texas before his election to the U.S. Senate, has gone so far as to call for the U.S. government to defy Obergefell and to claim that Congress could ban abortion without overturning Roe. Before running for the Senate, Cruz proposed an unconstitutional plan to nullify the Affordable Care Act; last year, he said that a Supreme Court ruling rejecting a clearly meritless challenge to the ACA was the “lawless” work of “rogue justices.” Cruz is known for having politicized the Texas solicitor general’s office, filing dozens of Supreme Court amicus briefs defending conservative positions on hot-button issues such as gun rights and abortion. On the campaign trail, he frequently boasts of his work as an attorney fighting church-state separation.
If Cruz were to become a Supreme Court justice, however, we wonder if he would stick with his idea of subjecting justices to retention elections.
This post has been updated to clarify the circumstances of a case in which Sykes asserted in a dissent that a jury verdict should have been upheld despite evidence that one juror was disqualified from serving.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who has endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential run, said in an interview with Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon yesterday that the success of “anti-establishment candidates” like Cruz and Donald Trump in the Republican primary shows that Republican voters are channeling the spirit of the American Revolution.
King attributed the success of Cruz and Trump to frustration that Republican leaders in Congress “haven’t followed through on their promises” to repeal the Affordable Care Act, block executive actions on immigration, or call out the president “on his constitutional violations of all kinds.”
He explained that it all started with the Tea Party, which he described as a Christian conservative movement with an energy that “goes back to the pipes of the Revolutionary War” and that is now reflected by the majority of the Republican electorate.
We have watched this within the Tea Party, and they are full-spectrum, conservative Christian, constitutional conservatives for the most part — and they don’t exclude people who are conservatives that happen to be of another faith or religion at all, they’re very welcoming to all people that would join the cause — but that energy and fervor that goes back to that, let’s say goes back to the pipes of the revolutionary war, that’s something that motivates us, we’re rooted in our history, it’s a common historical experience that we have.
And they know that the Declaration and the Constitution were shaped then, and if we fail to adhere to those values, if this is the time to restore and refurbish the pillars of American exceptionalism, that if we fail, our Constitution will be lost. And that’s the 80 percent out there of the Republicans and that’s about the zero percent of the Democrats.
King also explained that he knew he could count on Cruz in 2013 when he held an all-day press conference in protest of the Gang of Eight immigration bill and “for 45 minutes, [Cruz] delivered chapter and verse of everything that I have fought for and believed in with regard to the immigration issue.”
He said that his respect for Cruz was further cemented when he learned that the Texas senator “was raised with the Bible and the Constitution at the kitchen table, side by side, indexed to each other” and that’s when “I knew that it’s in his bones.”
Today on “Breitbart News Daily,” anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist and Ted Cruz adviser Frank Gaffney spoke with host Stephen Bannon about the Texas senator’s support for a police program in New York that monitored Muslims.
Bannon thanked Cruz for praising the NYPD’s Demographic Unit, which Bannon said “was so successful” in combating security threats. However, the Associated Press reported that the NYPD itself acknowledged that the since-abandoned spying program “never generated a lead or triggered a terrorism investigation.”
Gaffney said that the GOP presidential candidate wants to make sure that no neighborhood becomes “dominated by folks who are engaged in a practice that is anti-constitutional and hostile to the values of our country, specifically those who are seeking to impose a program they call Sharia.”
He went on to say that Sharia law is “manifesting itself” in “parts of the United States,” although he didn’t say which U.S. localities he believes have fallen to Islamic rule.
Cruz himself has warned that the imposition of “Sharia law is an enormous problem” in the U.S. and called on the federal government to “empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.”
When Donald Trump suggested this week that he would make Mexico pay for a border wall by threatening to cut off all remittance payments sent by American workers to family members in Mexico, he was echoing years of calls from anti-immigrant politicians like former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Louisiana Sen. David Vitter to punish immigrants who send money to their families.
It isn’t exactly a surprise, then, that Rep. Steve King of Iowa, one of the most vocal anti-immigration advocates in Congress, seems fairly supportive of Trump’s plan despite having endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz for president.
Newsmax host Steve Malzberg asked King about Trump’s plan in an interview yesterday, and King said that while he was “torn between a couple of two fires” on the issue, he’d “like to see Donald Trump go a little further with this dialogue and see what we might be able to get done.”
King, who once insisted that most people eligible for the DREAM Act have “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’ve been hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” said that he suspected that “a good chunk” of remittances to Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America are “laundered drug money.”
Last weekend, the National Right to Life Committee’s board of directors voted to support Ted Cruz in the remaining Republican presidential primaries. A post on the group’s website yesterday said:
National Right to Life believes Sen. Cruz is the only candidate for president who has always been pro-life, who has a 100% pro-life voting record with National Right to Life, who can win the Republican nomination, and who can defeat pro-abortion Hillary Clinton in November.
Cruz spent an hour with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly last night. The first audience question came from a woman who described herself as a pro-choice Republican who was afraid that Cruz would make abortion illegal nationwide if he became president. Those are extremely well-founded fears; Cruz is a zealous advocate for the criminalization of abortion. Last night he said that he sees Roe v. Wade as judicial activism, not settled law. Kelly noted for the record, and Cruz reaffirmed, that he wants to ban abortions without any exceptions for cases of rape or incest.
Cruz then engaged in a bit of disingenuous rhetorical misdirection, saying that if Roe v. Wade were not the law of the land, questions about abortion and exceptions “would be up to the people of Wisconsin to decide.” But of course Cruz doesn’t really want decisions about abortion being made at the state level as they were before Roe v. Wade. He has publicly supported a constitutional amendment to ban abortion nationwide. And he doesn’t really even think a constitutional amendment is necessary. He said a few months ago that Congress could “absolutely” get around Roe v. Wade just by passing a law declaring that fertilized eggs have all the legal rights of people under the 14th Amendment. That would not only criminalize all abortion nationwide but would almost certainly make some forms of birth control illegal and leave women open to prosecution for miscarriages deemed suspicious by local authorities.
Clare Lopez, the vice president of the Center for Security Policy and a national security adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, told a Minnesota radio program yesterday that parts of Minneapolis have become “no-go zones” where the police “don’t go” and are letting Sharia law take hold.
Lopez, speaking on the “Ox in the Afternoon” program about supposed “no-go zones” in Europe, said that “we’ve got them in America, at least in the beginning stages.”
“In Minneapolis, for example, places where the police don’t go because they know they’ll be attacked, have been attacked in the past already, and places where the police know that Sharia is being practiced,” she said.
Last year, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins similarly claimed that neighborhoods in Minneapolis had become “no-go zones” where authorities had allowed Sharia to become the law of the land. This prompted Rep. Keith Ellison, who represents parts of Minneapolis, to invite Perkins to tour the city and see for himself. Perkins is now a prominent supporter of Cruz.
Lopez, who said she was in Minnesota to deliver several talks, warned that the U.S. is in danger of terrorist attacks like those that happened recently in Paris and Brussels because the country has “allowed in and invited in populations of Muslim migrants and refugees who do not have the same worldview, the same principles, the same democratic, constitutional principles that we live by in this country” and “allowed them not to assimilate.”
Islam, she said, “has actually conquered every single other major civilization it’s ever gone up against, from the Buddhists to the Byzantines to the Middle East Christians to the Middle East Jews to the Hindus to the Persians, conquered every last one of them, some of them might, sophisticated civilizations at their peak, conquered them all. There are only two left standing: the Han Chinese and whatever’s left of Western civilization. That is a sobering reality.”
Donald Trump’s recent comment about needing “some sort of punishment” for women who have abortions threw many in the anti-choice movement into damage control mode. But some anti-choice activists have been cheering Trump on, including, not exactly surprisingly, radical Colorado pastor Kevin Swanson, who said on his radio program today that abortion should be considered “a criminal action” by a woman.
Swanson, who a few months ago hosted Trump’s main Republican presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz, at a campaign forum in Iowa, explained that the principle of lex talionis, or “an eye for an eye,” means that women who have abortions should indeed be prosecuted.
“The answer to this,” he said, “is the lex talionis does bring out that if a hazardous condition is created such that a child would be likely to die, whether in the womb or outside of the womb, there ought to be some level of prosecution going on. In that case, it may be just a fine or a prison sentence of some sort. But the principle of the matter is that it’s a criminal action to kill a child, to murder a child, it ought to be a criminal action. And, now, there ought to be, I believe, some leeway as to what sort of prosecution, what sort of sentence might be used in that case.”
He added, however, that “the culpability of the woman might be mitigated somewhat” by the “many forces around her that are pressing her towards this decision.”
“Yes, in many cases, it’s the abortionist, it’s the boyfriend, it’s the mother, it’s the father, it’s — somebody is pressing that woman to kill her child,” he said. “That ought to be brought into the conversation.”
He added that “organizations like Planned Parenthood” are “extremely culpable” when it comes to abortion.
“In other words,” he said, “we need to take care of those that are most culpable first and foremost, and that would be the abortionists and the pro-abortion organizations that engage in as much of the propaganda that we’ve seen in the public schools and elsewhere. So if we deal with it at that level first, we won’t have to deal with it at the level of the average and ordinary woman who has to deal with the decision.”
Glenn Beck took questions from a studio audience on his television show last night, where he was asked how Ted Cruz, if elected president, would enact his agenda amid the gridlock in Washington, D.C.
Beck laid out a scenario in which Cruz, being so well-versed in the Constitution, literally places his own vice president in charge of controlling the Senate.
The Constitution says that "the Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided," and Beck envisioned President Cruz exploiting that by tapping a "pit bull" like Carly Fiorina to serve as his vice president, tasking her with controlling the Senate in order to get it to do his bidding.
"If you're smart and you want to get things done," Beck said, "you partner with your vice president and you say, 'Go run the Senate.' And then the vice president then walks up to, let's say, [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell and taps him on the shoulder and says, 'Excuse me, Mitch. You're in my chair.' And now the White House is running the Senate as well. That's how you get things done."
"Whether that will happen, I don't know," Beck said with a smirk, "but I do know that Ted Cruz is a constitutionalist and he's a historian. I know there's many things that have been forgotten that have stopped this gridlock in the past."
Needless to say, if President Obama and Vice President Biden were to try something like this, Beck would have a total aneurysm and immediately begin screaming for impeachment.
Sen. Ted Cruz, who won the endorsement of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week in the lead-up to the state’s Republican presidential primary, told a Wisconsin radio host yesterday that he was “inspired” by Walker’s notorious stand against unions in his state.
In 2011, Walker signed legislation stripping public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights, survived a recall election, and came back to severely weaken private-sector unions as well. The right-wing celebrity that this brought Walker was not enough, however, to win him the Republican presidential nomination, although he did say that battling union members had prepared him to fight ISIS.
In an interview with Wisconsin talk radio host Charlie Sykes yesterday, Cruz expressed his support for so-called “right-to-work” laws that are designed to weaken unions and said that Walker’s battle with union members had “inspired” him.
“Absolutely, I think right to work, it’s a fundamental right,” Cruz said, “and I think we need to have government that sides with the working men and women of this country rather than with special interests, rather than with union bosses.”
He added that “when Gov. Scott Walker and millions of men and women across Wisconsin stood up and took on the union bosses, it was powerful, it inspired people across the country, it inspired me.”
He told Sykes that “what y’all have done in the state of Wisconsin is exactly what we need to do in Washington, is we need a president who stands with the working men and women of this country against the special interests and lobbyists in Washington. “
One of the conservative establishment’s greatest fears about a Donald Trump presidency has been that he wouldn’t pick movement ideologues to sit on the Supreme Court. Trump attempted to put that concern to rest last week when he announced that he was working with the conservative behemoth the Heritage Foundation to shape a list of 10 possible Supreme Court picks from whom he would choose nominees if he were to become president. (Whether he would actually keep that promise, however, is an open question.)
Meanwhile, Trump’s main GOP presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, has promised to make nominating ultra-conservative justices a “priority” of his presidency. He has even made a point of criticizing past Republican presidents for appointing insufficiently conservative jurists.
Trump hasn’t released his list of candidates, but today the Heritage Foundation published a “non-exclusive” list of eight people that it said “illustrates the kind of highly qualified, principled individuals the new president should consider” for the high court — and who, it’s safe to assume, represent the kind of judges the conservative movement would pressure Trump and Cruz to pick for the federal courts.
Two of Heritage’s picks, federal appeals court judges William Pryor and Diane Sykes, have been mentioned repeatedly by Trump on the campaign trail. The name of another, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, has been brought up by Cruz, who even picked up the Utah senator’s endorsement.
In a profile of Sykes last month, ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser wrote:
… Sykes, who currently sits on the Seventh Circuit, backed a voter ID law . She also wrote a decision expanding religious objectors’ ability to limit their employees’ access to birth control coverage that SCOTUSBlog’s Lyle Denniston described as “ the broadest ruling so far by a federal appeals court barring enforcement of the birth-control mandate in the new federal health care law.”
Millhiser noted that Sykes also ruled “that anti-gay groups have a constitutional right to continue receiving government subsidies even if they engage in discrimination,” another troubling indication that she could support conservative groups’ attempts to justify discrimination.
Pryor, a former Alabama attorney general, also has a history of right-wing activism. Pryor has called Roe v. Wade the “ worst abomination in the history of constitutional law” and said that it created “ a constitutional right to murder an unborn child.” He has claimed that with “the New Deal” and other measures, the U.S. has “strayed too far in the expansion of the federal government,” and asserted that the federal government “should not be in the business of public education nor the control of street crime .” Like Sykes, Pryor has upheld a voter ID law.
Lee, a Tea Party favorite who has been Cruz’s strongest ally in the Senate, has a legal philosophy that might be even more troubling, dismissing large swaths of the federal government’s work as unconstitutional. As Peter summarized recently:
Here are a few things that Sen. Mike Lee believes are unconstitutional for the federal government to be engaged in:
Peter noted that Lee “dismisses Supreme Court rulings upholding a woman’s right to abortion” and has “called the court’s marriage equality ruling a ‘breathtaking presumption of power.’”
Also on Heritage’s list is Brett Kavanaugh, a George W. Bush appointee to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, where he is a colleague of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Kavanaugh, who before his career as a judge worked on the notorious “Starr Report” about President Clinton, is just one example of Bush’s effort to put ideologically motivated conservatives on the federal bench.
Kavanaugh’s rulings on the D.C. Circuit include striking down important EPA air pollution rules in an opinion that one columnist called “60 pages of legal sophistry, procedural hair-splitting and scientific conjecture.” PFAW summarized the issue at hand:
Last summer, two Bush-nominated judges on the D.C. Circuit issued a much-criticized ruling in EME Homer City Generation, striking down important new EPA rules on air pollution that crosses state lines. In 2011, the EPA issued new regulations to limit the levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide emitted by coal-fired power plants and crossing state lines. Based on the administrative record and its expertise on environmental health, the agency concluded that the new rules would prevent 34,000 premature deaths, 15,000 heart attacks, and 400,000 cases of asthma. As if that weren’t important enough, the rules would also save $280 billion a year in healthcare costs.
In 2011, Kavanaugh dissented from a ruling that found ExxonMobil was not immune from being sued by Indonesians who said they had been “beaten, burned, shocked with cattle prods, kicked, and subjected to other forms of brutality and cruelty" by the company’s security forces. Dissenting from a ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act the same year, Kavanaugh suggested that a president who thinks the ACA is unconstitutional could simply decline to enforce it.
Also on Heritage’s list are Paul Clement, who served as solicitor general in the Bush administration and is just 49 years old, and federal appeals court judges Steven Colloton and Raymond Gruender. Another Heritage suggestion is Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett, who was nominated by then-Gov. Rick Perry after helping Bush run his faith-based initiatives in Texas and in the White House.
Bloomberg reported this afternoon that Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, in the taping of an MSNBC town hall meeting that will air tonight, said that not only should abortion be outlawed but there should be a “punishment” for women who obtain illegal abortions.
[Update: Trump’s campaign later changed course and said that abortion laws should only punish providers, saying, “The woman is a victim in this case as is the life in her womb.”]
What happens to women in a regime in which abortion is completely criminalized is the third rail of the “pro-life” movement, and its leaders generally attempt to avoid discussing or to downplay the medical and legal consequences of recriminalizing abortion. Recent cases in which women have been arrested for botched abortion attempts or for “endangering” fetuses, however, expose some of the troubling consequences of laws that place abortion politics over the dignity of women.
Trump may have touched the third rail, but that doesn’t mean that his Republican rivals should not also be pressed on the consequences their “pro-life” policies would have for women.
In particular, Sen. Ted Cruz should face questions about his choice of an anti-choice activist who has taken even more extreme positions than Trump’s to co-chair his “Pro-Lifers for Cruz” coalition.
Troy Newman, who is one of 10 co-chairs of Cruz’s anti-abortion group, argued in a book published in the early 2000s that a society following the wishes of God would execute abortion providers.
And, although he didn’t recommend any specific punishment for women who obtain abortions — and suggested that bringing women to “repentance” was the answer — Newman made it clear that he saw these women as just as culpable in the supposed crime, comparing a woman who has an abortion to a “contract killer” who hires a hitman to take out her husband:
By comparing abortion directly to any other act of premeditated contract killing, it is easy to see that there is no difference in principle. However, in our society, a mother of an aborted baby is considered untouchable where as any other mother, killing any other family member, would be called what she is: a murderer.
He wrote that although anti-abortion activists might be inclined to treat women who seek abortions as “victims,” there should be “no comfort” for those women until they admit to themselves that they have committed “murder”:
Those responsible for innocent bloodshed should not be excused or comforted in their sin, yet, as a society, women who have abortions are treated as victims and those who support them in the decision to kill are considered heroes who were willing to stand by their friends or family members during a time of crisis. In reality, the woman is the same as a contract killer, hiring out the murder of her defenseless child, and the supporter is a co-conspirator, aiding and abetting the crime. They believe that their charitable act of lending support will some how make up for their participation in murder. Until they can both face the fact that they bear responsibility for the murder of an innocent child and own up to it, there should be no comfort for them.
Newman won his spot on Cruz’s team after playing an integral role in creating the Center for Medical Progress’ smear of Planned Parenthood.