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    Nominating Justices: A Political Tool?

    In early 2017, President Trump nominated conservative Neil Gorsuch for the empty seat left by Justice Antonin Scalia. The seat had been left empty for over 400 days, due to the GOP blocking Obama’s nomination for Judge Merrick Garland. Meanwhile, Obama had appointed two other judges to the Supreme Court—Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in 2009 and 2010, both in the Democratic party.

    Now, there are rumors flying that Justice Anthony Kennedy (a conservative, but crucial to swing votes) may part ways with his seat on the Supreme Court bench. If he were to retire, then President Trump will likely nominate another justice with conservative views and values.

    No doubt the Republican party can make progress in correcting fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution with appointments to the Supreme Court. But it is obvious on both sides of the aisle that nominating justices is just a political tool and that the needs of Americans are, once again, ignored.

    However, if you vote for me as president in 2020, I will not use my right to nominate justices as a political tool. It’s a sin of the past I have no intention of repeating. When the time comes, I’ll nominate whoever best suits the job—not whoever most agrees with me.

    Nominating SCOTUS justices for their politics is against my beliefs of bipartisanship and choosing the right person for the job. It would be just another example of the politicos in Washington getting caught up in partisan politics and ignoring the needs of Americans—an  example I am not interested in being a part of.

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    Interrogation Methods: Should We Use Waterboarding Against Terrorists?

    “[T]he law — has long been clear: Waterboarding detainees amounts to illegal torture in all circumstances. To suggest otherwise — or even to give credence to such a suggestion — represents both an affront to the law and to the core values of our nation.”

    Letter to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, November 2, 2007 from Rear Admiral Donald J. Guter, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 2000–02, Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, United States Navy (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Navy, 1997–2000, Major General John L. Fugh, United States Army (Ret.) Judge Advocate General of the Army, 1991–93, and Brigadier General David M. Brahms, United States Marine Corps (Ret.) Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant, 1985–88

    Waterboarding, mock executions, introducing hypothermia, and other forms of torture are forms of interrogation that are not within the federal guidelines for interrogating witnesses. But are these interrogation methods ones that the United States should consider using for terrorist detainees?

    As much as conventional politics may demand I consider these measures, I believe that they are barbaric and counterproductive in the same way that I cannot support the death penalty. It is also abundantly clear that those in the military who oversee proper policy on detained prisoners agree that waterboarding is illegal.

    That’s enough for me to conclude that, until someone gives me concrete evidence that such techniques like waterboarding work, I will not consider approving them. And even if such evidence were presented to me, I’m not at all certain I’d agree to allow them unless experts like the Generals and Admirals who wrote to Sen. Leahy in 2007 agree.

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    Is it time for a Constitutional Convention?

    There have been inklings of our government considering holding a constitutional convention. The last time that the United States of America had a constitutional convention was 1787. But is it time for one now?

    In order for a formal constitutional convention to form and propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution, two-thirds of the state legislatures—which totals to 34 states—must vote to do so.

    Calling a constitutional convention of the states into session is not a new idea. In 2016, political pundit and conservative radio show host Mark Levin suggested it in his book The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic. Levin knows how such things are done—he worked in the administration of President Ronald Reagan. But Levin’s movement failed to gain any traction under the Obama administration.  Nor is it likely to gain any momentum under President Trump.

    While some state governors endorse the idea to address issues of health care, immigration, and a balanced budget, too few take the suggestion seriously. Nor is Congress about to propose any amendments to the Constitution given the divisive, partisan manner in which it engages in the business and governing of America.

    According to the Washington Post in an April 2017 essay:

    “Many of us can point to one constitutional provision or another that we believe we could improve upon if given a chance. But a convention could do great damage to a charter that, on balance, has worked pretty well for a pretty long time. To take such a risk on behalf of a stupendously unworthy cause such as a balanced-budget amendment would be foolhardy in the extreme.”

    I believe that a constitutional convention is not what America needs. No sensible American—Democrat or Republican—can endorse the changes that have been proposed the last time the idea was suggested. A constitutional convention would be a disaster—especially now, when there is so much at stake for us and the world.  Instead, it’s about time the individuals elected to hold office in Washington started engaging in the compromise and leadership the Founding Fathers envisioned.

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    The First Amendment and Violence

    Violence silences the very people who need to be heard.

    Since the inauguration, America has seen an influx of violence from protestors. We have seen events like what happened in California, where the violence at a university caused a temporary shutdown of the streets. In nationwide riots, protestors have damaged or destroyed both public and private property.

    The actions of the violent have drowned out the voices of those who want to exercise their right under the First Amendment.

    This is not about whether we like or dislike what someone might say. It’s about a core right in our Constitution to let people speak their minds freely, regardless of how offensive we might find a person’s views. Violent protestors only serve to suppress a person’s right to exercise free speech.

    Those who were peacefully protesting also had their rights stifled. The violent protestors made the nationwide news and caused the police to shut down the streets, ruining the ability for the peaceful protestors to continue or for their issues to be discussed in a reasonable forum.

    The Constitution shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or the right of the people peaceably to assemble. Nowhere in the Constitution is the right to violent assembly. I condemn any side of the aisle that resorts to violence or suppresses free speech in any way, whether it’s a march or a display of art in the Capital; I will always abide by the undeniable fact that the First Amendment is your Constitutional right.

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    Ten Sentences. 462 Words.

    Two debates in today’s headlines are deeply concerning. In one, the underlying investigation is very important while in the other it is entirely irrelevant. So at first blush, they may seem unrelated. But in truth, they have a common and disturbing theme – disrespect of fundamental Constitutional rights that some believe frustrate justice or the search for the truth.

    In Congress, important hearings are being held to determine if the IRS targeted conservative groups by delaying or denying them non-profit status. Amid these hearings, a Congressional Committee found Lois Lerner, an IRS employee, in contempt of Congress after she asserted her Constitutional right not to testify.

    In the media, some question Hillary Clinton’s integrity because in 1975 she successfully represented an accused rapist as his court appointed attorney.

    Under media pressure, Secretary Clinton responded to critics by saying, “When you’re a lawyer you often don’t have the choice as to who you will represent and, by the very nature of criminal law, there will be those you represent that you don’t approve of but, at least in our system, you have an obligation, and once I was appointed I fulfilled that obligation.” In a CNN interview, the prosecutor in the case, Mahlon Gibson, defended Secretary Clinton more bluntly – “If you are appointed by the court, you damn better do everything you can do to defend them.”

    The fundamental underpinning behind Ms. Lerner’s refusal to testify and Secretary Clinton’s defense of a man many thought guilty, is the very fabric of America – our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. In their entirety, these Amendments are a mere 462 words. Yet there are no more powerful words than those contained in the ten sentences that comprise the Bill of Rights. At issue with Ms. Lerner and Secretary Clinton are the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. They read in part:

    Fifth Amendment

    No person shall be … compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law…

    Sixth Amendment

    In all criminal prosecutions … the accused shall have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense…

    Our Founding Fathers did not ratify these out of thin air. In adopting the Bill of Rights, they wanted to assure that the oppression and suppression that caused America to fight its revolution for freedom would never be repeated. When anyone invokes these protections, it is not for use to be critical or judgmental. Indeed, it is reason to celebrate and remember that such inalienable rights do not exist elsewhere and are a blessing we must never forget.

    So to Ms. Lerner, I applaud her right to assert the Fifth Amendment. Exercising that right is not for me – or Congress – to judge. It may make the job of Congress harder. It may delay the investigation and finding of some of the facts. But in a contest between efficiency and the Constitution, the Constitution must win.

    As for Secretary Clinton’s successful defense of an accused rapist, I can only look upon that with the deepest appreciation of her role in not only defending someone accused of a crime, but also defending the Constitution by assuring the accused received an effective defense. As a former prosecutor, I can assure you that I admired no criminal defense lawyer more than those who understood the Constitution and defended it and their clients to the utmost of their ability. That’s what makes our system of justice work.

    So my advice to Congress is to stop looking for scapegoats and get on with your job and for media to stop giving ink to critics who ought to be thankful that there are people like Hillary Clinton ready to defend them and preserve Constitutional freedom. Secretary Clinton and I differ on many issues, but on this one, we’re in complete alignment.

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    Gun Control — Perception vs. Reality

    In one day, street gangs killed three in Houston, five in New York, and seven in Chicago. In every instance the victims, many of them innocent bystanders, died from gunshot wounds inflicted by unregistered guns. Now some want to ban handguns. Those who would have us legislate a ban are convinced such a solution will keep weapons outside the hands of gangs. They claim these murders are evidence that laws requiring the registration of handguns don’t work. They demand a complete ban. They are wrong. It is not the registration requirement that increases or decreases the number of unregistered guns. It’s the lack of hope for so many of inner city youth. If they want guns, they’ll get unregistered guns.  Registration laws will not change that. We must show them that if they are caught with an unregistered gun, they will go to jail. No deals, no pleas, and no mercy.

     

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