Opinion: Destined to be a lame duck

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Republicans couldn’t defeat President Franklin D. Roosevelt when he ran for a third and fourth term. But in 1947, two years after the Democratic president died of a stroke at his Warm Springs, Ga. retreat, the GOP-led Congress passed a resolution to make sure a three-term presidency never happened again.

“Too long occupancy of the Presidential office always makes for danger of dictatorship,” said Senator Alexander Wiley of Wisconsin. Rep. Adolph Sabath, an Illinois Democrat, was quoted in the New York Times as saying Republican backers of the two-term limit had privately called it “an anti-Roosevelt resolution.” During the debate over the resolution, Sabath said, “My God, can’t they let the man rest in peace?”

The resulting 22nd Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1951, begins simply, “No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.”

So whoever wins in November — President Joe Biden or former President Donald Trump — will by the end of his term be a lame duck, constitutionally unable to run again in 2028. In most elections, voters have the option of choosing at least one major party candidate with a longer time horizon. This time the two oldest contenders for the White House are slugging it out over their last hurrah.

When Biden and Trump meet in a debate on CNN Thursday, expect part of the audience to be wondering exactly who and what will come next. Trump’s vice presidential pick is still a mystery, expected to be announced at next month’s GOP convention.  Biden, who’s battling low approval ratings, is sticking with Vice President Kamala Harris, whose polls are also bleak.

In 1987, Ronald Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, disparaged the idea of needing “the vision thing” as he considered running for president. That awkward phrase did get at a truth about elections: many voters want a sense of what each candidate stands for and where they will lead the nation.

Will we hear that Thursday? Biden and Trump are so well known to the US public that little about them can surprise us, “but when they get in the debate studio, side by side, the way they aim zingers at each other, and any verbal stumbles that result, will stand out,” wrote Julian Zelizer. Each candidate will be looking to land the punchline that becomes a viral moment on social media.

Biden will want to “convey he is a leader who understands how to govern, who brings stability to the government and who respects the sanctity of democratic institutions,” Zelizer observed. “Without playing into the hands of Republicans who charge that the multiple prosecutions of Trump have been politically motivated, Biden will want to remind the electorate that Trump is a convicted felon. But it’s not only the words, it’s the way Biden will deliver them, aiming to avoid perceptions that he is too old to serve another term, that will be crucial.”

“Trump, who brings to the stage the ferocity of a UFC fighter, will likely concentrate on his opponent, unleashing a barrage of accusations that President Biden is not capable of handling the responsibilities of the office and that he is a pawn of the ‘radical left.’ Trump may focus on the conviction of Hunter Biden on gun charges, to raise questions about corruption in the White House.”

Terry Szuplat, who served as a speechwriter for former President Barack Obama, will be watching the debate with several hundred Republicans, Democrats and independents attending the convention of Braver Angels, a group that seeks to decrease partisanship and encourage civil debate.

“I admit that, at times, I’ve probably been guilty of overwrought rhetoric that’s contributed to our divisions,” wrote Szuplat. “I’ve seen it in my own family too. I’m a liberal who wrote speeches for President Obama. My Uncle Dan was a staunch conservative who loathed Obama. Our ‘conversations’ at Thanksgiving could get heated. More than once, I wish I had chosen my words more carefully. We all need to do better.”

How to do better? Szuplat suggests, “Have some humility….If you want to persuade, don’t condemn…Don’t otherize, demonize or dehumanize…Don’t ‘fight’ for your country…Appeal to common identities…Remember the values we share.”

For more:

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Clay Jones
Clay Jones

Billion-dollar disasters

The US broke the record last year for the most weather and climate-related disasters that inflicted at least a billion dollars in damage. There were 28, and we’ve had 11 so far this year, Bridget Johnson noted in the first of a CNN Opinion series about America’s preparedness.

The number of tornadoes in May also broke a record and, Johnson noted, “we’re barely into what multiple storm prognosticators warn should be an ‘extremely active’ Atlantic hurricane season — with the first named storm of the season impacting the western Gulf Coast this week and more potential storms on Alberto’s heels.”

The pace, size and scope of disasters used to be more episodic,” noted Richard Serino, former deputy director of FEMA. “We had big disasters though they were more discrete.”

“The hurricanes of 2017 were the marker of the change. A series of strong hurricanes in quick succession overwhelmed the system — hurricanes Harvey (Category 4), Irma and Maria (both Category 5) cost more than $335 billion and hit within the span of a month and a half. By the time we got to Hurricane Maria, which left 3.7 million Puerto Ricans without power, the system was spent — FEMA stockpiles were strained and an already understaffed workforce was exhausted.”

“We can expect more of this. This is not just a US problem — we are seeing this occur worldwide.”

The extreme heat that covered large swaths of the US last week is less dramatic than storms and wildfires, but it is a killer too, energy economist Mark Wolfe wrote. “Weather-related deaths from extreme heat are more common than from those from hurricanes, floods, extreme cold and other natural disasters.”

He argued that “current US strategies for keeping families cool, including access to cooling centers — temporary shelters during heat waves — may have worked when temperatures were lower and the duration of heat waves was shorter, but in today’s climate, these outdated cooling methods are inadequate.”

Drew Sheneman/The Star-Ledger/Tribune Content Agency
Drew Sheneman/The Star-Ledger/Tribune Content Agency

For more:

Anna Bershteyn and Michael Diamond: Amid deadly heat, why is critical climate research being halted?

Supreme Court

Two years ago, the Supreme Court issued blockbuster rulings overturning Roe v. Wade and New York State’s restrictions on carrying guns. Critics of those rulings feared the court would follow up this year by striking down both the FDA’s approval of an abortion bill that is in wide use and regulations denying guns to people subject to domestic violence restraining orders. But in opinions released last week and Friday, the court decided not to tamper with the status quo in either case. Still, reproductive rights and gun safety laws will be issues in this fall’s election.

“Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” wrote Karen Finney, “voters have overwhelmingly used their voices at the ballot box to send a clear message that reproductive freedom is an American value. Trump and the GOP’s true agenda is clear: they cannot be trusted to stand with the majority of Americans who support access to contraception.”

“Between now and November, we must continue to force politicians to articulate their comprehensive positions on reproductive rights, including access to abortion, IVF, and contraception. The outcome of the fall election will literally determine the future of reproductive rights and bodily autonomy for future generations to come. Will we be the ones who lose these fundamental freedoms we’ve had for decades?”

Friday’s ruling was pivotal, Jennifer Tucker observed. “The Supreme Court’s willingness to uphold the ban on access to firearms for domestic abusers will save many hundreds, if not thousands, of lives … Amid dueling visions of firearms rights, and the battle over ‘history and tradition,’ in a country plagued by gun violence, it is important to remember that the Declaration of Independence gave Americans a right to ‘life, liberty, and happiness.’ People arguably also have a ‘right not to be shot.’”

Schumer’s food fail

Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer probably thought it was a low-risk move to post a Father’s Day photo of himself grilling hamburgers at his daughter’s house. Followers soon noticed though that the burgers, including one with a slice of cheese on top, appeared to be raw, and Schumer took the post down.

“Americans were horrified at the thought of anyone eating the bacterial burger, but Schumer can take solace in knowing he’s just the latest in a long line to fall victim to a political food fail,” said SE Cupp. “The mother of all political food fails somehow always revolves around pizza — a favorite food of practically all Americans, and yet oddly hazardous for campaigning candidates.”

“Ohio Governor John Kasich, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio, Donald Trump, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, all got caught eating pizza with a fork and knife — like psychos.”

“Why is food so hard for politicians? We eat food every day. We can’t live without it.”

Pro-family immigration move

Two weeks after Biden announced tough new restrictions on migration across the southern border, he unveiled a plan that protects some undocumented immigrants from deportation and offers a pathway to citizenship. Biden’s move applies to spouses of US citizens who have been living in the country for more than a decade.

By any definition, this policy is pro-family and pro-child,” wrote Jill Filipovic.

“And it doesn’t increase immigration, as it only applies to people who are already in the country and have been for many years — roughly 500,000 adults and some 50,000 children, all of whom are currently living in limbo.”

“It’s basic and humane: Imagine the stress of knowing your spouse of many years, and perhaps the parent of your child, could be picked up and deported in an instant — along, even, with your stepchild.”

“And so of course many ‘pro-family’ Republicans are criticizing the action, even after they torpedoed a restrictive and bipartisan immigration bill that offered them a slew of concessions earlier this year.”

Warning label

Walt Handelsman/The Times Picayune/The Advocate
Walt Handelsman/The Times Picayune/The Advocate

When US Surgeon General Luther Terry issued a report on the dangers of smoking in 1964, it led to warning labels on cigarettes and the start of a nationwide campaign to alert people to the dangers of tobacco use. Last week the current Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy wrote in a New York Times opinion piece that “It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents.”

Kara Alaimo wrote, “It would be easy to dismiss his call as insufficient, given the nature of the problem and the fact that the warning labels aren’t guaranteed to be implemented, or even visible. Congress will need to pass the labelling mandate, and after that, since social media apps aren’t tangible products, it could be easy for social networks to bury the warning in lengthy terms of service agreements that most people probably don’t read.”

But the warning should still serve as a huge wakeup call for parents, Congress and indeed our whole society that we need to act to protect our kids’ wellbeing on social networks.”

Dolly Parton

As Allison Hope wrote, Dolly Parton “has somehow managed to appeal to both ultra-conservative and ultra-liberal fans without keeping entirely quiet about the issues that matter to her and without alienating either extreme. She has long been the unscathed centrist hero of American entertainment. As the country has sharply split along primary red and blue lines with nearly every public figure choosing sides every public figure choosing sides, Parton has long remained the last standing vibrant purple.”

Dolly Parton is Switzerland. Until now.”

Hope noted: “Conservative writer Ericka Andersen wrote earlier this month in the Federalist that Parton’s support of the LGBTQ community was ‘false gospel.’ Andersen specifically said that Parton’s invoking her Christianity as the reason she is inclusive, is wrong (the writer refers to being LGBTQ as ‘immoral sexual behavior’ and ‘unaligned with God’s vision for humanity’).”

“The mudslinging against Parton has been so fast and furious, in fact, that even the writer of the shameful article herself wound up apologizing, saying she regretted spewing epithets at Parton,” Hope wrote.

Andersen went so far as to say: “Dolly is one of the few people who is beloved by all and who loves all. The world is lucky to have her.”

A mystery solved

US Army 1st Lt. Nathan B. Baskind landed on the beaches of northern France on D-Day in 1944. Weeks later, he was seriously wounded by machine gun and rifle fire while on a reconnaissance mission and taken prisoner by German troops in Normandy. While he was believed to have died in German custody, for 80 years, the whereabouts of his body were unknown, wrote his niece Samantha Baskind, an art history professor who teaches the Holocaust and studies Jewish-American art.

“Last spring I learned the unthinkable,” wrote Samantha Baskind. The body of Uncle Nate, who was Jewish, was buried in mass grave “under three gothic stone crosses in that French region’s German Military Cemetery.”

The French and German governments agreed to disinter the grave and among the thousands of broken bones was one that a DNA match showed belonged to Nathan Baskind. “On June 23rd, the 80th anniversary of Nate’s death, I will be at Normandy’s American Military Cemetery,  burying him with full military honors, under a Star of David with a rabbi presiding,” Samantha Baskinshe noted.

We cannot assume antisemitism is no longer a threat and we cannot just sit by and hope everything will turn out okay. Uncle Nate fought for our freedoms, and his death reminds us that freedom is never free.”

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Willie Mays

Bill Bramhall/The New York Daily News
Bill Bramhall/The New York Daily News

Willie Mays, who died Tuesday, retired from baseball 50 years ago. “It’s a measure of his hold on American society that he’s still revered a half-century later,” wrote Frederic J. Frommer. “For many who played in the 1950s and 1960s, he was simply the best.”

Of course, “trying to name the best baseball player of all time is a fraught exercise, requiring comparing stars across different eras, some of which excluded huge chunks of the population.”

“But for my money,” Frommer added, Mays “is the clear choice, for his superhuman combination of speed and power, his incredible defense, his hitting prowess — and his grace on the baseball diamond.”

Mays will always be remembered for “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series when Vic Wertz hit a ball to deep center field. The score was tied, and Wertz’s team, the Cleveland Indians, had two runners on base.

“With his back to home plate, Mays sprinted like a wide receiver trying to catch a bomb from his quarterback, then made an over-the-shoulder catch — before quickly whirling around and throwing the ball back to the infield. It’s considered one of the most iconic catches of all time.” Mays’ team, the New York Giants, won the game and the series.

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