Church and State

John Kennedy broke through a barrier in 1960 when he became the first Roman Catholic elected president, but his election came only after he assured Protestants that he would not take orders from the Pope in Rome. His Sept. 12, 1960, speech to Protestant ministers in Houston, where he affirmed his belief in the separation of church and state, was a turning point in the campaign.

After Kennedy's election, discrimination against Catholics waned as their political and economic power grew.

Republican leaders made a choice in the 1980s and '90s to appeal to fundamentalist Christians and Catholics with opposition to abortion and promotion of government payments to church-related social welfare organizations. That appeal apparently paid off as evangelicals mobilized for Bush's 2004 re-election. Now it's the GOP's turn to affirm its belief in the separation of church and state.

Right wingers recently made news by debating whether godless judges who don't follow the Right Wing agenda should be impeached or "otherwise removed" (wink).

After federal courts declined the opportunity offered by Congress to revisit the Terri Schiavo case, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was moved to say "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior." Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, wondered if a perception that "unaccountable" judges making political decisions could build up to the point where people to "engage in violence."

These comments followed recent murders of a state court judge in Atlanta and the husband and mother of a federal judge in Chicago. Florida Judge George Greer, who ordered the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube, remained under police guard after many death threats. Phyllis Schafly drew applause at an April 8 conference in Washington, D.C., on "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny" with her statement that "The people who have been speaking out on this, like Tom DeLay and Senator Cornyn, need to be backed up."

Schlafly said Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's recent opinion forbidding capital punishment for juveniles "is a good ground of impeachment."

But lawyer-author Edwin Vieira took the prize for inflammatory rhetoric, telling the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."

As reported by Dana Milback in the April 9 Washington Post, Vieira said his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,'" Vieira said.

The full Stalin quote is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem," Milbank noted. She added, "Presumably, Vieira had in mind something less extreme than Stalin did and was not actually advocating violence. But then, these are scary times for the judiciary. An anti-judge furor may help confirm President Bush's judicial nominees, but it also has the potential to turn ugly."

The conference was organized by the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration, which Milbank noted "was no collection of fringe characters. The two-day program listed two House members; aides to two senators; representatives from the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America; conservative activists Alan Keyes and Morton C. Blackwell; the lawyer for Terri Schiavo's parents; Alabama's 'Ten Commandments' judge, Roy Moore; and DeLay, who canceled to attend the pope's funeral."

Max Blumenthal wrote for TheNation.com that as he approached Michael Schwartz, the chief of staff of Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., at the conference, Schwartz exclaimed, "I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist. I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!"

Gary Cass, director of Rev. D. James Kennedy's lobbying front, the Center for Reclaiming America, explained that the threatening tenor of the conference speakers was a calculated tactic, Blumenthal wrote. They were arousing the anger of their base in order to harness it politically. The rising tide of threats against judges "is understandable," Cass said, "but we have to take the opportunity to channel that into a constitutional solution."

Cass proposes the "Constitution Restoration Act," a bill that authorizes Congress to impeach judges who fail to abide by "the standard of good behavior," which requires judges to acknowledge "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government" and to eschew international law in their rulings. "In essence, the bill would turn judges' gavels into mere instruments of 'The Hammer,' Tom DeLay, and Christian-right cadres," Blumenthal wrote.

DeLay has been pushing to impeach "liberal" judges since Republicans took over the House in 1995. "The judges need to be intimidated," DeLay told reporters in 1997.

We take some comfort that public support for Bush and the GOP dropped sharply after the Schiavo debacle. A Gallup poll showed Congress' approval rating sank to 37%, lower than any time since Republicans impeached President Bill Clinton in 1998. A March 23 CBS News poll found 66% thought Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed. And Bush's approval rating dropped to 44% in early April, the lowest of any president at this point in his second term.

That hasn't stopped many pundits from insisting that Bush is still a popular president. But Americans are getting a good look at today's GOP and they don't like what they see.

Bush's Trust Fund Swindle

How low will George W. Bush go in his attempt to undermine public confidence in Social Security? After Bush went to the Bureau of Public Debt in Parkersburg, W.V., on 4/5/05 and said the Social Security Trust Fund didn't exist and Treasury notes that make up the trust fund won't be paid back, economist Max Sawicky worked up the numbers and reported at MaxSpeak.org that Bush has passed $639 billion in "worthless IOUs" to the Social Security Trust Fund since 2002. "Over the next five years, our president proposes to add another $1,061 billion to this crime spree," Sawicky noted. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the projected 10-year total Trust Fund swindle (2006-2015) is $2.5 trillion.

Josh Marshall of TalkingPointsMemo.com noted that for two decades the Social Security payroll taxes of working people have been used to offset the cost of upper-income tax cuts. The money is supposed to be paid back, with interest. "That's what bonds are," Marshall noted. "But now the president stands there holding on to one of these notes and jokes that they're not worth anything."

Foreigners hold quite a bit of US government debt. Wealthy Americans do too. In fact, most of Bush's personal wealth is in the form of US government debt. "Is he going to get his money paid back?" Marshall wondered.

Marshall also wondered if the president violated his oath of office in which he swears to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." The 14th Amendment, Section 4, states: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned."

Bush, to put it simply, is lying and he ought to be impeached. Republicans are shameless in this Social Security debate. Unfortunately, we doubt they've hit bottom yet. -- JMC

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