Welcome back to the Surge, Slate’s weekly guide to who is—and is not—surging in the demimonde of politics. I’m Ben Mathis-Lilley, filling in for Jim Newell, and this week we’ve got a lineup jammed with wokeness, bribery, and—most enticingly—tax policy. But first, the Supreme Court gets to weigh in on how exactly our next civil insurrection should start.

By Ben Mathis-Lilley

Back in the distant past of 2023, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Donald Trump was not eligible to appear on the state’s presidential ballot because of the Civil War–era 14th Amendment’s prohibition on office holders who have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion.” This week, Trump’s lawyers appealed the ruling and asked the (U.S.) Supreme Court to expedite its consideration of the matter. On Friday, the high court announced that it will take the case, with arguments beginning on Feb. 8. It’s not a straightforward question, legally, given that the amendment doesn’t explicitly list the presidency as an office from which insurrectionists are prohibited. Some conservative lawyers support the Colorado judges’ expansive reading of the law, while some liberals—like Lawrence Lessig, writing in Slate—do not. (Lessig argues that there’s a logical reason that the amendment’s ban would apply to the legislative positions that it does explicitly list, like senator and representative, but not the leader of the executive branch.) There’s also the possibility that keeping Trump off the ballot could lead to political violence—but then again, so could putting him on the ballot, and neither potential consequence is really relevant, on the merits, to the legal question of whether the 14th Amendment provision applies to Trump given what happened on and before Jan. 6. Since Colorado kicked things off, Maine’s Democratic secretary of state also ruled that Trump was ineligible for the ballot on 14th Amendment grounds, and similar lawsuits have been filed in dozens of other states. Which is to say that it’s a pretty tricky situation, but at least we can have a chuckle about the fact that the burden of resolving it has fallen to Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts’ raison d’être as chief—from his statement as a nominee about just calling balls and strikes, to his brokering of a deal to avoid overturning Obamacare, to his failed attempt to do the same for Roe v. Wade—has been to prevent the court from being seen as a body that seeks to deliver political “wins” to one party or the other. With his 2020 election lawsuits and now this, though, Trump keeps putting Roberts under intense pressure to do exactly that, with no end in sight. LOL!

In December, Harvard’s Claudine Gay was one of three university presidents who demurred when Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik asked them if “calling for the genocide of the Jews” would violate their campus policies. (They said it would depend on the context, a response that was defended by some free-speech advocates but heavily criticized by other interested parties, including some major donors to their universities, for failing to acknowledge the danger presented to Jews by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and other instances of surging antisemitism.) One of those presidents, Penn’s Liz Magill, resigned soon after, while Harvard’s board of trustees—it’s called the Harvard Corporation because everything at Harvard has to have a uniquely pretentious name—said it still supported Gay. But at the time, her detractors, led by an outspoken hedge fund manager and alum named Bill Ackman, had already begun circulating accusations that she’d plagiarized material in her academic work. This week, with further plagiarism accusations continuing to emerge, Gay stepped down. (She has said she stands by the originality of her writing but is seeking to add citations to certain passages.) This result is also being celebrated by right-wing activists as a blow against the kinds of diversity, equity, and inclusion policies that Gay supported. In summary, in a kind of cultural-political Mad Libs situation, the president of Harvard was pressured into resigning by a Wall Street–MAGA alliance over accusations that she cut corners to get ahead but also because she supported diversity more than she supported Israel. The story also somehow features peripheral connections to Brad Pitt and Jeffrey Epstein. (Pitt, to be very clear, does not himself have connections to Epstein.) Speaking of which …

Alan Dershowitz was once famous for being a Harvard Law professor and attorney-at-large who was renowned, if not quite respected, for his intellect and ability. These days, he’s had a bit of a Giuliani arc in that his appearances in the press often involve something unfortunate, embarrassing, and tangentially related to Donald Trump. This week, for instance, Dershowitz appeared on Sean Hannity’s show to try to justify his personal and professional relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, the late money manager and sexual abuser who was once a Palm Beach social acquaintance of Trump’s, after documents related to a lawsuit filed by one of Epstein’s victims were unsealed. That victim, Virginia Giuffre, once alleged that she was coerced into having sex with Dershowitz but has since retracted the allegation; the new documents include filings that refer to two members of Epstein’s household staff who are said to have testified that Dershowitz had gotten massages and been in the presence of “young girls” at Epstein’s Florida mansion. (Neither of the latter activities is alleged to have involved a crime.) In the course of discussing all of this with Hannity, Dershowitz argued that Epstein’s associates are being unfairly singled out by women on the left, ultimately asking, “Where are all those radical feminists when it comes to the Hamas rapes of young Jewish girls?” Technically speaking, Dershowitz is correct that not every woman involved in prosecuting, accusing, or condemning Epstein during the investigations into his behavior, which began when a 14-year-old girl accused him of sexually abusing her in 2005, has used their platform to speak out about a different set of crimes that took place in a different country 18 years later. But even more technically speaking, who cares?

In September, 70-year-old Democratic New Jersey Sen. Robert “Bob” Menendez was indicted on federal charges that, among other things, he exerted official influence in ways that were favorable to the Egyptian government in exchange for bribes paid to him by a trio of New Jersey businessmen with connections to Egypt. Menendez denied the allegations and has refused to resign from office or concede that it would be unwise for him to seek reelection this year. The state’s Democrats, though, are trying to move on: New Jersey’s other senator, Cory Booker, has called on Menendez to step down, while Gov. Phil Murphy’s wife, Tammy, is running for Menendez’s seat, which is a pretty funny move as far as unsubtle attempts to nudge someone toward retirement go. This week, Menendez’s uphill battle for survival got even uphill-ier when prosecutors filed a superseding indictment that accuses him of making public statements supporting Qatar’s government in order to help convince Qatari officials to invest in an enterprise that one of the aforementioned Egypt-connected businessmen launched. (Menendez’s attorney says the new allegations are without merit.) In return, the feds say, Menendez received items of value that included tickets to a Formula 1 race in Miami. Will our politics ever be free of the scourge of race car–related Qatari corruption?

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has premised his presidential campaign on the idea that Iowa’s Republican voters, who are known as a right-leaning bunch even by GOP primary standards, will ratify him as the true conservative’s choice when they participate in the state’s caucuses on Jan. 15. At the moment, though, those voters appear much more interested in ratifying whatever it is Donald Trump is going on a tirade about at any given moment. (Recent CNN headline: “Trump Augurs Divisive Year in Angry Christmas Rant.”) DeSantis badly needs buzz, and on Thursday at an Iowa town hall, he grasped for some of it by declaring that he wants to abolish the IRS and institute a flat tax. The flat tax concept is so-called because it would set every American’s income tax rate at the same level; it appeals to fiscal conservatives because that would mean a big tax cut for those who are currently in the highest brackets. It’s also not a politically practical idea because using a flat tax to raise enough money to fund the government would accordingly mean raising taxes a ton on everyone else, and while it’s been proposed many times in Republican primaries by candidates trying to win over conservative wonks, no one who’s supported it has ever won. (Ted Cruz came the closest; others include Steve Forbes, Sam Brownback, and Rick Perry.) And now DeSantis is trying it out, and he will also not win.

As Politico wrote Thursday, this has not been a good series of days in the Middle East. The war in Gaza has not slowed, and related violence has arisen in a number of other countries. Houthi rebels in Yemen, who have declared war on Israel, are attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea; Hamas says Israel assassinated one of its commanders in Lebanon, while a U.S. drone strike killed an Iranian militia leader in Baghdad. (Iran is a longtime supporter of Hamas and its Lebanon-based ally Hezbollah.) And on Thursday, the Islamic State group—yes, them; the gentleman named above is said to be their current leader—claimed responsibility for a bombing that killed 84 people in Iran. The Islamic State group considers Iran’s Shia Muslims to be apostates and, according to U.S. officials, likely sees Iran’s involvement in attacks against Israel to be a distraction that leaves the state open to attacks like this one. So, now that’s something to watch out for as well.

To the delight of Democrats who’d brought attention to the role that the decline of unions played in widening American income inequality, U.S. organized labor has been on the march in recent years. Union membership is rising again, and in 2023, the UAW and Teamsters respectively won major raises for workers at the Big Three automakers and UPS. On Thursday, though, the New York City teachers union alienated a big chunk of the left when its leader, Michael Mulgrew, announced that it was filing a lawsuit against New York City’s plan to discourage driving in Manhattan by charging “congestion” fees on vehicles entering the borough. It’s a relatively small issue in the scope of things, but it’s been frustrating to environmental activists that a no-brainer like “preventing the country’s most pedestrian-heavy and public transit–friendly city from being besieged 24 hours a day by carbon-emitting vehicular traffic jams” has been such a hard policy to get through, and an influential political entity’s opposition isn’t going to make it easier to do so. It’s also a reminder that unions’ only job is to doggedly represent the interests of each and every one of their members—teachers that commute to work by car, for example—and that when you are not one of said members, this can sometimes be annoying. On the other hand, as a voting member of the Writers Guild union, the Surge gets to watch movies for free every winter because the studios send out free awards-season DVD screeners. Tonight we’re making spaghetti Bolognese and watching Killers of the Flower Moon! Have a good weekend, everyone.

QOSHE - John Roberts Has Entered His Own Personal Hell - Ben Mathis-Lilley
menu_open
Columnists Actual . Favourites . Archive
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

John Roberts Has Entered His Own Personal Hell

23 1
06.01.2024

Welcome back to the Surge, Slate’s weekly guide to who is—and is not—surging in the demimonde of politics. I’m Ben Mathis-Lilley, filling in for Jim Newell, and this week we’ve got a lineup jammed with wokeness, bribery, and—most enticingly—tax policy. But first, the Supreme Court gets to weigh in on how exactly our next civil insurrection should start.

By Ben Mathis-Lilley

Back in the distant past of 2023, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Donald Trump was not eligible to appear on the state’s presidential ballot because of the Civil War–era 14th Amendment’s prohibition on office holders who have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion.” This week, Trump’s lawyers appealed the ruling and asked the (U.S.) Supreme Court to expedite its consideration of the matter. On Friday, the high court announced that it will take the case, with arguments beginning on Feb. 8. It’s not a straightforward question, legally, given that the amendment doesn’t explicitly list the presidency as an office from which insurrectionists are prohibited. Some conservative lawyers support the Colorado judges’ expansive reading of the law, while some liberals—like Lawrence Lessig, writing in Slate—do not. (Lessig argues that there’s a logical reason that the amendment’s ban would apply to the legislative positions that it does explicitly list, like senator and representative, but not the leader of the executive branch.) There’s also the possibility that keeping Trump off the ballot could lead to political violence—but then again, so could putting him on the ballot, and neither potential consequence is really relevant, on the merits, to the legal question of whether the 14th Amendment provision applies to Trump given what happened on and before Jan. 6. Since Colorado kicked things off, Maine’s Democratic secretary of state also ruled that Trump was ineligible for the ballot on 14th Amendment grounds, and similar lawsuits have been filed in dozens of other states. Which is to say that it’s a pretty tricky situation, but at least we can have a chuckle about the fact that the burden of resolving it has fallen to Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts’ raison d’être as chief—from his statement as a nominee about just calling balls and strikes, to his brokering of a deal to avoid overturning Obamacare, to his failed attempt to do the same for Roe v. Wade—has been to prevent the court from being seen as a body that seeks to deliver political “wins” to one party or the other. With his 2020 election lawsuits and now this, though, Trump keeps putting Roberts under intense pressure to do exactly that, with no end in sight. LOL!

In December, Harvard’s Claudine Gay was one of three university presidents who demurred when Republican New York Rep. Elise Stefanik asked them if “calling for the genocide of the........

© Slate


Get it on Google Play