The next president of the United States will nominate a pivotal justice to the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s a critical factor for those voting for the lesser of evils.
I make it a point not to wade into politics on These Stone Walls, but the current U.S. political scene casts its shadow on everything. Sometimes my resolve to avoid it seems like a refusal to acknowledge the elephant in the room. The last time I waded into the Orwellian fate of our political choices was a 2012 post with the unfortunate, but accurate title, “Electile Dysfunction: Accommodations and the Advent of 1984.”
We have arrived at the vigil of the advent of 1984, a society described by author George Orwell in a book of the same name. 1984 was Orwell’s foreboding account of a dystopian state in which every aspect of life is controlled by Big Brother. The first liberties to be sacrificed in Orwell’s telling of the story are freedom of conscience and religious liberty, the hardest won and the most fundamental.
The recent Supreme Court rebuke of the Obama Administration to settle its contraception mandate in a way that satisfies the religious liberties of the Little Sisters of the Poor is a small ray of light and hope that we have not yet crossed the Orwellian point of no return. But then came the White House mandates about transgender bathrooms, and Orwell’s 1984 is back in print.
There is a lot at stake in this presidential election, a lot more than just who lives in the White House for the next four years. For an example of the ever creeping advance of Big Brother’s agenda invading freedom of conscience and religious liberty, take a moment to read an excerpt of the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s 5-4 dissent in Obergefel v. Hodges. It’s easy to find in my post, “The Dying of the Light: Religious Liberty in America.”
Two weeks ago in these pages, I presented another example of the threat to freedom of conscience. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio abused his political office to call for a boycott of a restaurant chain simply because its Evangelical founder voiced his religious conscience when asked if he personally would opt to cater a same-sex wedding. In California, a small bakery was put out of business and fined $135,000 for simply referring a same-sex couple to another business to bake their wedding cake.
On the day I decided not to venture any further into the current election year, I received in the mail a printed copy of “Seasons of Donald Trump, Bill de Blasio, and Pope Francis.” As I unfolded the printed post, an audible gasp could be heard from several people standing around me. The source of the gasp was the photograph of Donald Trump just below the headline of that post. In fact, I gasped myself. No one would look upon that image as a resounding endorsement of a Trump presidency. Nor can you read that post and rightly conclude that I endorse his presumptive opponent. I do not endorse anyone at all, but several readers – an alarming number – have contacted me with serious questions about that post and about this election.
Some judged only from the Trump photo that I am not a fan and would not consider voting for him. Part of that is true. I am not a fan, and I doubt very much that those who ARE Trump fans are reading These Stone Walls. You might have noticed that, to date anyway, that post was shared far fewer times on Facebook than most of my recent posts. Who, other than maybe Donald Trump himself, would look upon that image and click “like?” It does not exactly scream out “PRESIDENTIAL!”
But to say that I am not a fan gives no indication one way or another of how I would cast a vote in this election. According to the most recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls, 52% of Hillary Clinton’s supporters say they are far more interested in keeping Donald Trump out of the White House than putting Hillary Clinton in it. And 54% of Trump’s supporters say their primary interest is defeating Mrs. Clinton, not electing Mr. Trump. As it stands for many maybe even most – this election is no longer about choosing a president or a platform. It’s about choosing – on one side or the other – the perceived “lesser of evils.”
THE BURDEN OF A VOTE
Other readers who contacted me seemed to appreciate my captive audience analysis of the “how and why” of Trump’s nomination, and they have urged me to write something similar about Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy. By “something similar” I suppose they mean a simple commentary on the underlying issues and not an endorsement one way or the other. The largest number of contacts I have received are from readers who simply don’t know what to do. Their vote suddenly feels more like a burden than a Constitutional right.
Many feel that in conscience they cannot vote at all in this election. They feel that their only real choice is to be conscientious objectors and stay home on Election Day, or to write in the name of a candidate who doesn’t stand a chance. Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has voiced that same resolve, referring to Trump as having revealed “a character and temperament unfit for a leader of the free world.” Mr. Romney has said that he cannot vote for either candidate, and will either “find a name I can support, or write in a name.”
One TSW reader challenged me to give some equal time to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. “It’s clear what you think of Trump,” she wrote, “but could you support Hillary?” It’s a scary question. A lot of politicians have entered into a sort of tortured distinction between “supporting” a nominee and “endorsing” a nominee. I’m not going to do either, but I can lay out some facts, and then add a factor to this election that most people may not consider with enough weight.
CLINTON ON CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Mrs. Clinton, on several occasions, has referred to one aspect of the presidency of Bill Clinton as “a mistake” that she “regrets in hindsight.” In the 1990s, President Clinton pushed through Congress what has come to be known as the Clinton Crime Bill which harshly enhanced criminal sentences, limited rehabilitation and education opportunities for offenders, eliminated Pell grants, and made it much harder for wrongly convicted defendants to have access to the courts. He also endorsed the Republican’s “Contract with America” calling for harsh limits on appeals.
Since 1989, there have been 1,773 exonerations of wrongly convicted people – the vast majority men who were poor and/or in a racial minority – in the United States. Barring the Policies of President Clinton, the numbers of exonerations of the wrongly convicted might logically be exponentially higher.
Despite all the limits to relief from a wrongful conviction that became part of the legacy of the Clinton presidency, 1,773 men managed to claw their way to freedom after years or decades of wrongful imprisonment through grueling, frustrating court proceedings with no rights to legal representation. As Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights described:
“Many of those poor people… [were] no more prepared to file and litigate a postconviction challenge without a lawyer than a passenger can be expected to fly the Concorde to Paris without a pilot.”
Those 1,773 men who somehow managed to reverse their unjust convictions served an average of more than twenty years in wrongful imprisonment. Most of the cases were overturned only because DNA evidence proved they had nothing to do with the crimes for which they were in prison. The wider result of the policies of the Clinton Administration was that there are thousands more wrongfully convicted in prison in which either no DNA or other evidence ever existed, the wrong person was convicted, or no crime was ever actually committed. Those men, and for full disclosure I am one of them, remain in prison because the legal limits endorsed and promoted by the Clinton presidency and Clinton’s Supreme Court appointments removed all access to judicial relief resulting in the unbelievable practice today that “actual innocence” is not a reason to release a man from prison.
ENTER KENNETH STARR
In fairness, the presidency of Bill Clinton should not reflect on the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Presuming otherwise would be very unjust. However, in an attempt to obtain and maintain the support of minorities who were most affected by those policies, Mrs Clinton – and only when asked directly – has acknowledged that some of the policies endorsed by her husband’s presidency were in hindsight “regretful.” However, her platform has offered only vague acknowledgments and little to correct those mistakes.
On the heels of adopting those draconian measures against the rights of prisoners, President Clinton was himself embroiled in suspicions of criminal wrongdoing. In an appearance on the Today Show on January 27, 1998, Hillary Clinton described the investigation of the Clintons as a “vast right-wing conspiracy that has been conspiring against my husband since the day he announced for president.”
The investigation of the Clintons (both Bill and Hillary) began when they attempted to profit from a development project in Arkansas called Whitewater. Along with friends, James and Susan McDougall, the Clintons invested in the Whitewater Development Company which subsequently failed. The Clinton’s lost a lot of money, but there was not sufficient evidence to investigate further according to a 2000 CNN report.
The Clintons’ role in Whitewater began to look more suspicious in 1993 when White House Deputy Counsel Vince Foster committed suicide. Mr. Foster had assisted with the Clinton’s Whitewater business when he and Mrs. Clinton were partners at the Rose Law firm in Arkansas In 1994, President Clinton’s Attorney General, Janet Reno, appointed a special prosecutor to review the Whitewater affair in which both of the Clintons were subpoenaed. Later in 1994, the investigation was assigned to Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr who indicted the McDougalls and Webster Hubbell who pleaded guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion at the Rose Law firm. Bill Clinton himself was found guilty of submitting a false statement to a federal court.
Kenneth Starr was then directed by the Attorney General to investigate an unrelated matter, a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against the President by a former Arkansas state employee, Paula Jones. Mr. Clinton claimed executive privilege in his defense against the lawsuit, but in 1997 the Supreme Court denied that claim and Clinton settled with Paula Jones for $850,000. Kenneth Starr’s investigation revealed other similar claims by other women including Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick. These claims combined with allegations of suborning perjury and obstruction of justice, charges which resulted in the impeachment of President Clinton.
By that time, a new scandal had surfaced in the infamous Monica Lewinski affair which the main stream media covered up. The story broke on the Matt Drudge site, the DrudgeReport.com on January 17, 1998. Ten days later, Hillary Clinton appeared on the Today Show to declare that this was all part of a “vast right-wing conspiracy.”
In the end, when President Clinton became only the second sitting U S president to be impeached by Congress, he was also given a contempt-of-court citation for submitting a false statement, was forced to surrender his Arkansas law license, and suspended from the practice of law before the Supreme Court. He was also fined $90,000.
It’s a fascinating aside that Kenneth Starr was vilified by the mainstream press as being “puritanical” and “obsessed with sex” in his investigation even though the actual sexual exploits had little to do with the impeachment. A week ago, Kenneth Starr was in the news again. He faced a censure at Baylor University for not being aggressive enough in his discipline of members of the football team accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
It is highly likely that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will become President of the United States for a four year term in the general election of November 2016. I am sorry to disappoint the many people who have implored me for some advice on how best to satisfy both their consciences and their Constitutional right to cast a vote. I simply cannot oblige.
But I can add this one consideration. One of the two nominees will, as president, appoint a pivotal nominee at a most crucial time to replace the irreplaceable Antonin Scalia on the United States Supreme Court. Only one person asked me if I thought this changes anything. It changes everything!
So I feel, at least, that I have given equal time to both candidates without recommending, commending, or condemning either. My only suggestion is that you not just stay home that day, for your vote will determine far more than just who sits in the Oval Office for four years.
And may the Lord be with you in this burden of a vote.