John Edwards

Gravel/Edwards '08!

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HughHewitt.com is always better when it stows the Romneyganda and attacks the rest of the 2008 field. Here's an e-mail they got from the John Edwards campaign.

This is it— with 10 days left in the second quarter, we're about two-thirds of the way towards our goal of raising $9 million—double what we raised at this time in the 2004 race.

So from the start of April to now, Edwards has raised $6 million. From January through March, he raised $14 million. If FEC reports made a sound, this would be the sound of a kitten being tossed into a bag after the bag is tossed into a pond and the pond set on fire thanks to decades of environmental neglect and oil pollution. Don't pollute, everybody.

Also, Rick Perlstein chases down Mike Gravel, asks him about his idea to make the Iraq War illegal, and finds his Constitutional expertise… lacking.

I chased Gravel down as he was leaving, shoulder to shoulder with Ralph Nader. It gave me no pleasure to ask him, "Senator, isn't what you just described a 'bill of attainder'?"

I wasn't quite sure I quite got his attention (or perhaps, horrifyingly, he wasn't familiar with the phrase), so I elaborated. "Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution specifies that you can't pass a law to punish things that weren't against the law when the newly invented 'crime' was committed."

(I didn't add that this was the wisest stopgap to tyranny the framers of the Constitution devised—imagine, just imagine, if George W. Bush could suddenly have directed Trent Lott and Tom Delay to invent some ex post facto crime with which to incarcerate some inconvenient political enemy?)

Here's the exchange that ensued:

"Are you a Constitutional expert?"

"No, I'm a journalist."

"Well, Congress can do any goddamned thing that it wants."

This is untrue, of course: The presidency can do any goddamned thing that it wants. Separation of powers, people.

NEXT: Cemetery Civics in Poland

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  1. So now we know what the prevalant attitude towards the Constitution is in Congress! Thank you Gravel.

  2. “Senator, isn’t what you just described a ‘bill of attainder’?”

    “Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution specifies that you can’t pass a law to punish things that weren’t against the law when the newly invented ‘crime’ was committed.”

    The second statement, while true, relates to the Ex Post Facto Clause of Art. I, Sec. 9, not the Bill of Attainder Clause.

  3. How do you throw a kitten in a bag if the bag’s already in a pond which is on fire?

    “Well, Congress can do any goddamned thing that it wants.”

    I admire honesty in politicians. Wow.

  4. Why, oh why, don’t people see these tyrants for who they are?!?

    *pulls handful of hair from head, groans*

  5. “Well, Congress can do any goddamned thing that it wants.”

    Truly scary.

  6. anon is correct:

    Bills of attainder. . .are such special acts of the legislature, as inflict capital punishments upon persons supposed to be guilty of high offences, such as treason and felony, without any conviction in the ordinary course of judicial proceedings. If an act inflicts a milder degree of punishment than death, it is called a bill of pains and penalties. . . . In such cases, the legislature assumes judicial magistracy, pronouncing upon the guilt of the party without any of the common forms and guards of trial, and satisfying itself with proofs, when such proofs are within its reach, whether they are conformable to the rules of evidence, or not. In short, in all such cases, the legislature exercises the highest power of sovereignty, and what may be properly deemed an irresponsible despotic discretion, being governed solely by what it deems political necessity or expediency, and too often under the influence of unreasonable fears, or unfounded suspicions. The phrase “bill of attainder,” as used in this clause and in clause 1 of Sec. 10, applies to bills of pains and penalties as well as to the traditional bills of attainder. [citations omitted.]

  7. Rick Perlstein chases down Mike Gravel, asks him about his idea to make the Iraq War illegal, and finds his Constitutional expertise… lacking.

    Given anon’s correct observation above, is “his” referring to Perlstein or Gravel?

  8. What’s funny is that Dave’s remark is not so correct, either. Despite this current administration’s behavior, Congress, in our current barely limited system, is extremely powerful. The president can be roped in a lot more easily than Congress can. It’s only Congress’ strange apathy for battles with the Executive branch in recent years that has given the presidency the illusion of being “The” branch. That, and the equally odd willingness of Congress to improperly delegate its powers to administrative agencies.

    Just as a tangential thought, I wonder if we shouldn’t expand the number of people in Congress? Could that help make it a little less listless?

  9. Been a long time since I looked at this, but I’m pretty sure the jurisprudence on the Bill of Attainder clause does not limit itself to capital offenses. In any event this is not what Bill of Attainder is all about. A Bill of Attainder is a law that singles out a person or group as being guilty of something and punishes them for it, without benefit of a judicial proceeding. If Congress were to pass a law declaring that Rumsfeld was guilty of mismanagement of the DoD and fining him $10 million, that would be a Bill of Attainder.

  10. Pro Lib:

    George Will suggested doubling the size of congress in a column several years ago, as a mechanism to dilute the power of special interest groups and money in federal politics.

  11. power forward,

    You are correct. That’s explained at the end of what I posted above (“The phrase “bill of attainder,” as used in this clause and in clause 1 of Sec. 10, applies to bills of pains and penalties as well as to the traditional bills of attainder”). That’s why I posted that whole mess rather than something short and sweet.

    biologist,

    Very well, then. Let’s call it an even thousand? Shall we increase the Senate, too, say to four Senators per state? And, um, abolish the 17th Amendment?

  12. Pro Lib:

    even thousand, sure.

    doubling the “congress” would include the senate, so 4 per state, sure.

    I’m not sold on abolishing the 17th amendment, but let’s abolish the electoral college. Americans don’t really view themselves as citizens of states anymore, so federalism is pretty much dead.

  13. Americans don’t really view themselves as citizens of states anymore…

    They often regretfully do on April 15th.

  14. J sub D: not sure what you mean, unless states with states income taxes make them due on the same date as the feds. my state doesn’t have an income tax, so I’m just guessing.

  15. From Section 2 of the Constitution:

    The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative

    If we’re generous and say that you don’t split a district until it reaches a population of 60,000, that would leave 5,000 representatives minimum.

    That’s seems like a much better number than 435. At one per 60,000, they’re getting closer to deserving the title “representative” too.

  16. “Well, Congress can do any goddamned thing that it wants.”

    Gravel is a goddam ignorant schmuck. The problem almost everyone in congress thinks this way.
    What is the solution?
    I repeat, the Libertarian militia. If anyone of you thinks we are going to get back our rights or the politicians are going to stop infringing on ours DAILY, you are a real shit for brians.
    To quote Jefferson,
    “The tree of liberty, must be, from time to time, fertalized with the blood of tyrants and patriots.”

  17. biologist – Michigan and California do. Others, we’d have to open up the floor. Anyone live in a state with a different filing date than the Feds?

  18. Sorry Pro Lib–

    I didn’t read your post as carefully as I should have.

  19. As long as we’re proposing changes in the federal electoral mechanism, here are my favorite:

    1. The House is chosen by affirmative petition or proportional vote nationwide. No districts. Note that states are free to do this today, but it would be effective only in larger states. Also note that, since this would in fact be more “representative”, there is less of a need to jack up the number of representatives to levels where proceedings become difficult.

    2. The Senate is once again chosen by the respective state legislatures. Riffing off biologist’s proposal, it might be interesting to double the number of senators per state and have 2 directly chosen by the populace while 2 are chosen by the state legislature.

    3. The President is still chosen by the Electoral College, but the two extra electors per state are eliminated. The number of electors per state is exactly the number of representatives per state.

  20. Anyone live in a state with a different filing date than the Feds?

    Iowa is two weeks after the feds . . April 30 — slides into May for weekends and holidays

  21. 3. The President is still chosen by the Electoral College, but the two extra electors per state are eliminated.

    I would like to see the winner-take-all at the state level go away. Whoever carries a congressional district takes one electoral vote. Whowever carries the state gets the two electoral votes of the senators.

  22. carrick:

    states have the option of being winner take all or not. Maine doesn’t do it, even though they only have 3 electoral college votes. I agree with you, though. If we have to have the electoral college, let’s make it proportional nationally.

  23. ProLib: “What’s funny is that Dave’s remark is not so correct, either.”

    I’m not sure Dave wasn’t being sarcastic (how’s that for a lawyerism).

  24. states have the option of being winner take all or not. Maine doesn’t do it, even though they only have 3 electoral college votes. I agree with you, though. If we have to have the electoral college, let’s make it proportional nationally

    California is a great example. It is far from homogenous — some of the most liberal communities in the country as well as some of the most conservative. But winner-take-all says one presidential candidate gets all their electors.

    However, Californians benefit from the fact that a candidate cannot, in practice, win the national election without carrying the state. So there is no incentive to change to proportional allocation.

    If I recall, the federal government cannot impose an allocation scheme on the states, so as long as one big state benefits from winner-take-all, they are all going to do it.

  25. However, Californians benefit from the fact that a candidate cannot, in practice, win the national election without carrying the state. So there is no incentive to change to proportional allocation.

    But, to take the 2004 election as an example, Bush could simply ignore California because he wasn’t going to win it. If, on the other hand, doing 5% better in California, while still losing the whole state, could get him five more electoral votes, he might spend more effort and promises there.

  26. Bills of attainder declare people guilty of a crime without benefit of a trial.

    Clearly the journalist is neither a constitutional expert nor familiar with Wikipedia.

  27. As above, “bill of attainder” is wrong.

    Ex post facto (after the fact) laws are those which criminalize an act after it takes place.

    OTOH we’re on a slippery slope here as well. The Lautenberg Amendment made it illegal for anyone previously convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor to possess a firearm. Persons convicted of “sexual” offenses decades ago now have their ID published on a sex abuse registery, and laws prohibiting them from living in certain areas are being written. And so forth.

  28. Californians benefit from the fact that a candidate cannot, in practice, win the national election without carrying the state.

    But, to take the 2004 election as an example, Bush could simply ignore California because he wasn’t going to win it.

    Internet rule #37456: Never, make general statements when it is so easy to refute them in a single post 😉

    The republican’s lock on the deep south and mountain west has certainly allowed them to ignore california recently. But it is not clear that the mountain west is going to stay an easy victory for republicans in the near future.

    If all the big states shifted to proportional allocation, then the candidates would probably narrow their campaigns to the major TV markets (big metropolitan areas). Which would hopefully get them out of my TV market.

  29. “Well, Congress can do any goddamned thing that it wants.”

    Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
    Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man.
    But will they come when you do call for them?

    William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Henry IV, Part 1, act 3, sc. 1, l. 52-4.

  30. WHERE IS THE URKOBOLD’S MINION VM? HE WILL SOON POST ON BILLS OF ATTAINTER.

  31. I’m not sure URKOBOLD qualifies as a “spirit from the vasty deep.”

  32. Well, Congress can do any goddamned thing that it wants.

    We can fly like a bird in the sky.
    Hey, and we can buy anything that money can buy.
    We can turn a river into a raging fire.
    We can live forever if we so desired.

    Unimportant are all the things we can do. ‘Cause we can’t get next to you.

  33. THE URKOBOLD IS MENTIONED FREQUENTLY BY SHAKESPEARE, WHO THE URKOBOLD USED TO CALL FRANCIS BACON:

    Thou makest me merry; I am full of pleasure:
    Let us be jocund: will you troll the catch
    You taught me but while-ere?

    Shakespeare, Tempest, III, ii, 126.

  34. I’m a little embarrassed here. Arensen quotes the immortal bard and I’m reduced to ripping off a Smokey Robinson penned top 40 jingle.

    Oh well…

  35. Make that Aresen.

  36. “Well, Congress can do any goddamned thing that it wants.”

    can congress make a rock so large that even congress couldn’t lift it?

  37. biologist,

    Yes, but only if the rock had been goddamned, first.

  38. ‘This is untrue, of course: The presidency can do any goddamned thing that it wants. Separation of powers, people.’

    This is a joke right? How would separation of powers give the presidency the ability to do anyhting it wants? Its bound by the constitution which frankly gives it fairly limited powers.
    Why would the folks who overthrow a king create an all powerful executive?
    The term you need to keep in the front of your brain is not ‘separation of powers’ it’s ‘checks and balances’. There are no unchecked powers granted to anyone or any branch of government by the constitution.

  39. jg: yes, it’s a joke. stay calm.

  40. You are all blowing smoke. Gravel’s plan calls for the Democratically controlled House and Senate to pass a bill ending funding for the war. If they can’t do that Bush can keep this up forever, and would. After the bill is vetoed as expected it comes back to the House and Senate where Pelosi and Reid call for cloture every day at noon, 6 days a week, to override the veto. As public attention is riveted on who is for this increasingly unsupportable disaster, supporters of the war will be twisting in the wind in full view of an angry public. Once the veto over ride occurs it will no longer be lawful to continue this war. If Bush does so, he can be arrested and tried. Gravel’s solution is of course not illegal, it is a very strong, no nonsense, completely valid strategy. The only one profered so far

  41. This just in—-Looks like some Dems would like to put Gravel’s plan into action…
    source, [VotersForPeace] Digest Number 446

    *HOUSE LOOKS TO A HOT JULY ON IRAQ*

    In an effort to maintain pressure on Republicans over the Iraq War,
    House Democrats are readying another series of votes on the
    issue—including a motion to deauthorize the war — that could come to
    the floor as early as July. “This is an approach that has a good deal of
    potential to change Iraq policy,” said Rep. David Price, the sponsor of
    one of several deauthorization measures introduced in the House…
    http://democracyrising.us/content/view/967/164/

    ———————————————————-

  42. @Biologist

    Glad you’re not a psephologist. Maine has four EC votes (hence their allocation by congressional district theoretically could matter, though so far the two Maine CDs have always gone to the same candidate.

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