Monday, July 9, 2018

Sen. Collins' stance won't save Roe v Wade, experts say

President Donald Trump will announce his latest nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States in a few hours, a nominee who will need 51 votes to be confirmed by the Senate.

Those concerned that abortion rights will be overturned by the new court have been focused on two Republican senators who say they support reproductive rights: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Maine's own Susan Collins.

Collins' position on Roe and the confirmation process has been consistent, but easily misunderstood for to those who don't follow her and the court closely. It's central tenant: she will judge the nominee based on their fidelity to precedent, with the assertion that this will protect Roe v Wade because it's "settled law."

In this week's Maine Sunday Telegram, I asked several of the country's leading legal scholars what they thought of this reasoning. Most were unimpressed. Find the details here.

For more on Collins' position on this issue, start here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Talking American Nations on Wisconsin Public Radio, July 4th

For those of you in the Badger State: I'll be your Independence Day guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's morning program from 7 to 8 Central.

Appropriately enough, I'm talking about the ideas in American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America, and their implications for our history, politics, and shared stability.

For those further afield, I'll post a link to the podcast here when it's available. [Update, 7/6/18: Here's the audio link.]

I've appeared on WPR a couple of times in the past, including to talk about my POLITICO Magazine story on Milwaukee's 21st century reindustraliztion drive, and another on the sequel to American Nations, American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

For Sen. Collins, Roe v Wade won't be a line in the sand for Supreme Court confirmation

Senator Susan Collins, considered a critical potential swing vote for those hoping to protect women's reproductive rights in the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation process, will not be using support for Roe vs Wade as a criterion in her evaluation of the next nominee.

This clarification of her position -- which is that she will not use any "ideological litmus test" in the process, whether Roe or anything else -- is reported in yesterday's Portland Press Herald. It makes it far less likely that President Trump's nominee will fail to get the 51 votes needed to be confirmed to the lifetime position on the bench.

Details herein, with input from top officials at NARAL and the Planned Parenthood Foundation, AEI's Norm Ornstein, Maine Women's Lobby head Eliza Townsend and former Collins staffer Lance Dustson.

I last wrote about Collins in detail in December, in the aftermath of her divisive vote in favor of the Republican's tax cut measure. Read about her pattern of consistency here, and about her potential role as a check on presidential excess here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

11 Books That Will Make You Smarter About Politics

The folks at Business Insider have been kind to American Nations, re-upping their article on the paradigm a few times over the past couple of years, each time reaching a new cohort of readers previously unfamiliar with the book.

Today they've also included it in this "11 Books That Will Make You Smarter About Politics," in the company of some heavy hitters like David Halberstam, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Madeline Albright. So, thanks again BI!

Partly as a result of their June 18 re-up, for those in the Badger State, I'll be the guest on Wisconsin Public Radio's statewide morning show July 4, 7 to 8 am Central, talking about the American Nations framework and the lessons it brings us. Tune in if you're there!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Rep. Pingree tours child detention sites in Texas, Rep. Poliquin speaks out against practice

I've been covering the Maine delegation's stance and reaction to the Trump administration's separation of migrant children from their families and the effort to reunify them for the Portland Press Herald.

Two developments:

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-ME01, is in southmost Texas (where I once lived) to inspect child detention centers there. Here's my dispatch -- still updating at this hour as her tour continues -- on what she's found. [Update, 6/24/18: this story now includes latest information on what bills or legislative actions Pingree, Poliquin, Sen. Angus King, and Sen. Susan Collins are taking on the issue.]

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-ME02, who for a time avoided discussing the issue, has taken a strong stance for immediate reunification, backing a new bill to that effect. Details in my story yesterday.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

It not only can happen here, it's already started

My congressional representative here in Maine is heading to southmost Texas tomorrow to join a score of her colleagues touring federal detention centers where migrant children taken from their parents are being held. Her questions -- and the fact that they're all legitimate ones -- illustrate where we're at as a country: where are the detained girls? where are the detained babies? are reports that caregivers aren't allowed to touch or hug traumatized children true? Or that kids are being kept drugged to pacify them? how is the government going to reunite children -- especially babies -- with their families, particularly if the parents have already been deported? are they even going to?

The central message of American Character was that liberal democracies fail when the balance between the two pillars of freedom -- individual liberty and the maintenance of the common good -- gets too far out of whack. Written in 2015, before Trump was considered a serious candidate, it warned that the US was in danger of falling into authoritarianism for this reason, and that all the warning signs were present.

This week we learned that we're already there, replete with detention camps for babies and children, border agents effectively kidnapping children to terrorize migrants, and a stunning set of lies and reversals issued from the pulpits of the Trump administration on the issue.

The federation is at a crossroads, and its soul at stake. Let's hope we pass through in one piece.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Talking Maine's 1820 split from Mass. with KQED's California Report

This November, Californians will be asked if they want to split their state into three, a measure spearheaded by venture capitalist Tim Draper. I wrote about some of the problems Draper's borders present, in historical-cultural terms, over at Medium last month.

But this week, I got to talk about an entirely different aspect of historical background on KQED's statewide "California Report": the lessons and precedents set by Maine's split from Massachusetts in 1820.

Readers of The Lobster Coast are aware of the two entities were separate colonies back in the 1640s, when the English Civil War pit Royalist, Anglican, semi-feudal, West Country-dominated Maine against Puritan, Parliament-backing, East Anglia-settled Massachusetts. The execution of the King cleared the way for Boston to annex the Maine settlements, which they ruled as a colony -- the District of Maine -- for nearly 70 years. The War of 1812 -- when Massachusetts refused to defend eastern Maine or help the federal government rollback the British occupation of it -- was just the final blow to Commonwealth unity.

But I digress. Here's a link to the audio of our interview, and here's the web story. (KQED is the San Francisco NPR affiliate, and one of the nation's public radio "superstations."