Take President Joe Biden. He has been walking a tightrope, trying to please both the progressives and moderates in his party, hoping Democrats will unite to launch the biggest expansion of social spending in nearly 60 years. He risks disaster if he can’t get the two sides to make a deal.
“This is a time like no other,” wrote Frida Ghitis. “But Democrats in Congress seem to be blind to what’s at stake.” As they battle over the size of the budget reconciliation bill, they are forgetting the threat posed by President Donald Trump’s effort to delegitimize Biden’s victory in the 2020 election — and game the system for the 2022 and 2024 votes.
Biden spent the week on the defensive — lambasted by voices in his own party and by Republicans for his handling of a humanitarian crisis over migrants in Texas, seeing his plans for widespread Covid-19 booster shots get brought down to size by some scientists and government regulators, grappling with the fallout from the US deal to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia.
Addressing the UN General Assembly Tuesday, Biden promised America would play an expansive role in tackling the world’s problems, Aaron David Miller wrote, but he “is an embattled president with dropping approval ratings and a hugely ambitious domestic social and economic agenda hanging in the balance.”
Justices, prove it
When the nine members of the court begin their fall term October 4, they will have a chance to prove Barrett and Breyer right — or wrong.
“The last time it was in such danger was 1992, when the Supreme Court took up the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a Pennsylvania case focused on how and when a state may regulate abortion. At the time, abortion rights advocates feared the court would overturn Roe. But as is well known, one of the junior justices on the Court, David Souter, secretly struck an alliance with Justices Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor to rescue Roe.” Prager obtained a copy of a law clerk’s pivotal memo that helped tip the scales in favor of saving the Roe precedent.
“If Roe is overruled,” the law clerk wrote, “the public will understand that the Court’s reversal is explainable solely by reason of changes in the composition of the Court.” Thus, he concluded: “The damage to the public understanding of the Court’s decisions as neutral expositions of the law … would be incalculable.” The same argument could apply today, given Barrett’s appointment to the court as a replacement for the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, which McConnell expedited in the closing months of President Donald Trump’s term.
The law clerk’s reasoning proved influential. In a joint opinion partly read aloud by Justice Souter, members of the court warned that reversing precedents could be seen as “a surrender to political pressure” and “subvert the Court’s legitimacy beyond any serious question.”
The Gabby Petito mystery
Last Sunday, police found the body of missing “van life” blogger Gabby Petito, and this week authorities began a search for her fiancé. As Holly Thomas noted, a huge online community followed every step of the mystery: “The couple’s August 12 encounter with the police in Utah during which Petito described a fight between herself and Laundrie that morning. The TikTok-er who claimed that she and her boyfriend gave Laundrie a ride on August 29 in Wyoming. The odd text message from Petito’s phone on August 30, which her family doubts was written by Gabby herself.”
Thomas noted that “everything has been combed over again and again, the public obsessing over theories, the media racing to deliver each new tidbit of information. It feels impossible that something horrific could have happened to a young woman whose life and relationship — documented on her beautiful Instagram grid — appeared to be perfect.”
As Jill Filipovic wrote, there were “families, some with young children, desperately waiting in squalor for help — only to find that their imagined safe harbor refuses to welcome them and is instead sending them back to homelessness, instability and a bleak future.” By week’s end, some of the thousands camped under the bridge in Del Rio had been deported to Haiti, with others released into the US to await asylum hearings.
Not exactly news from the Ninjas
In another embarrassment for the supporters of Donald Trump, a report ordered up by the GOP-controlled Arizona Senate essentially confirmed the obvious: Joe Biden won in Maricopa County.
The US has one of the highest Covid mortality rates– “shockingly high,” wrote Sachs, “considering that the US mass produces Covid-19 vaccines that prevent most deaths. Instead of an orderly lifesaving response to the epidemic, the US response has been unruly and disorderly from the start. Many lives would have been saved if the US had only implemented basic public-health protections until mass vaccine coverage was possible: mask mandates, physical distancing, testing-tracing-isolation procedures and closing large events. Once the vaccines arrived, continued use of precautionary actions would have helped to keep the virus at bay. (Vaccines save lives but only partly prevent infections and transmission.)”
From the moment he lit the Olympic cauldron in the 1996 Atlanta Games, Muhammad Ali “became a virtually sanctified figure, embodying the movements for civil and human rights that he came to symbolize in America and around the world,” Peniel Joseph observed. Now a new Ken Burns documentary is giving viewers a much fuller account of Ali’s extraordinary life, including his brash entry to the world of sports, his athletic achievements and all of the controversy around his social and political stances.
“This documentary’s greatness lies in how it reminds a new generation of audiences that Muhammad Ali’s athletic excellence and political rebellion mutually defined not only his time, but also our own era of racial and political reckoning.”