Fred Thompson Botches Script on Separation of Church and State

Americans United for Separation of Church and State find that Fred Thompson, despite being a lawyer (and playing one on television) misunderstands the Supreme Court’s rulings on separation of church and state:

In a recent speech to the Council for National Policy (CNP), former U.S. senator and presidential possibility Fred Thompson showed a remarkable misunderstanding of the Supreme Court’s church-state rulings.

Thompson chided the federal courts for overreaching their bounds and for distorting the intent of the Constitution.

“Our founders,” Thompson said, “established an independent federal judiciary to decide cases, not social policy. Yet more and more that is exactly what it is doing. Roe v. Wade is a classic example. And nowhere is it more apparent than with regard to the issue of church and state.

“Many federal judges,” he continued, “seem intent on eliminating God from the public schools and the public square in ways that would astound our founding fathers. We never know when a five-to-four Supreme Court decision will uphold them. They ignore the fact that the founders were protecting the church from the state and not the other way around.”

Now, Thompson is a lawyer — and he plays a lawyer on television (NBC’s “Law & Order”) — but he seems to have missed constitutional law class. Maybe he was studying acting that semester.

Here are the facts: There are no federal judges who are trying to “eliminate God” from the public schools or the public square. The Supreme Court’s decisions on religion and public education simply say that parents, not politicians or educators, get to decide what prayers children learn and what holy scriptures they study devotionally.

That’s keeping government out of our personal lives, a concept that ought to resonate with real conservatives as well as liberals. Far from being astounded, Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would be thrilled that the country is upholding freedom of conscience.

Former Presidential Aide Forfeits Law License to Avoid Testifying

This sure has the smell of a scandal. A former Presidential aide has voluntarily forfeited his license to practice law, with one newspaper speculating that this is being done to avoid “being cross-examined by the Board on Bar Counsel, where he risked further disclosure of specific details.”

Now, the newspaper is The Washington Times, and perhaps we can’t trust their speculation, but even though this former Presidential aide worked for Democrat Bill Clinton, questions remain. While I don’t buy some of the speculation which has gone on in the conservative blogosphere on this matter, I would still like to know exactly what Sandy Berger was up to when he removed those classified documents from the National Archive.

Bill Richardson, Business and Environmentally Friendly

Bill Richardson doesn’t get much attention in the blogosphere, but when he does it is generally favorable. Matthew Yglesias had the opportunity to see him recently and was impressed. He writes that Richardson “isn’t much of a lefty on domestic issues generally — he had a pretty conservative, business-friendly record in New Mexico.” That makes it more significant that he does share two views of the left which really matter–getting out of Iraq and acting to prevent damage from global warming now as opposed to waiting until it will be far more difficult. Yglesias wrote:

I particularly liked his insistence on the idea that most people underplay the role of transportation and land use policy in the energy puzzle. This was appealing because it’s what I already thought, but Richardson said it totally unprompted, and it’s true. More fuel efficiency is good, and more renewable energy is also good, but we’re also going to need people to drive less. And that’s going to mean that we’ll need policies that make it realistic for people to do so — mass-transit, but also transit-friendly, high-density constructions.

Yesterday, when discussing the talk of Michael Bloomberg running, I noted that the Democrats won in 2006 due to receiving many votes from independents and moderate Republicans. This includes upper income voters who were less likely to vote Democratic in the past. Such a business-friendly Democrat, who is liberal in areas where it is crucial, is the type of candidate who can keep these “Starbucks Republicans” in the Democratic Party. In contrast, an inexperienced candidate like John Edwards, who now seems to think that the way to win is to promise everything to everybody regardless of the cost, is just what the Republicans need to rebound and enjoy another long run in office.

Being able to apply the “business-friendly” label to a candidate is important for the Democrats to remain a majority party. The country doesn’t need candidates who are “business-friendly” in the sense of the Republicans where this often means corruption and corporate welfare, but Democrats must also avoid candidates such as John Edwards where it is not possible to use “business-friendly’ and their name in the same sentence with a straight face.

Update: Text of Bill Richardson’s Energy Speech to the New America Foundation. Richardson pledges to be The Energy President. That sounds better than The Decider or The Commander Guy, but still sounds like Stan Lee is scripting our politics.

Culture of Corruption, Take 2?

If you are going to run to take control of Congress running against the culture of corruption, the response after taking power should be to eliminate the corruption, not engage in questionable behavior because the other party did it. Polictico reports, “Democrats are wielding a heavy hand on the House Rules Committee, committing many of the procedural sins for which they condemned Republicans during their 12 years in power.”

So far this year, Democrats have frequently prevented Republicans from offering amendments, limited debate in the committee and, just last week, maneuvered around chamber rules to protect a $23 million project for Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.).

On Wednesday, Democrats suggested changing the House rules to limit the minority’s right to offer motions to recommit bills back to committee — violating a protection that has been in place since 1822.

Much of this heavy-handedness is standard procedure in the House, where the majority has every right to dominate, but it contradicts the many campaign promises Democratic leaders made last year to run a cleaner, more open Congress.

Just last December, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) declared that Democrats “intend to have a Rules Committee … that gives opposition voices and alternative proposals the ability to be heard and considered on the floor of the House.”

If this sounds familiar, it is. Republicans made similar promises in 1994, only to renege when they took control of the Congress in 1995.

Roll Call reports that, “Republicans threw the House floor into procedural chaos Wednesday in a successful attempt to thwart what they decried as a Democratic ‘power grab’ to alter House rules in a way that would limit long-standing minority rights to offer alternative measures on the floor.”

Time Speculates on Gore Run

Those articles speculating on whether Al Gore will run just keep on coming, now from Time:

Despite what you may have read, there are no shadowy meetings in which Gore and his operatives plot his path to power. There is no secret plan. There’s only a vigorous draft-Gore movement that he has nothing to do with (two independent websites— and—have gathered almost 150,000 signatures so far) and, from time to time, social events at which old Gore hands get together and play a few friendly rounds of what-if.

Some people who know Gore assume he’s biding his time, waiting to pounce; since he’s at 12% in the polls—tied with John Edwards, without even being in the race—he would easily get on the primary ballots if he declared before the deadlines. He may not be rich enough to self-finance, but with his Apple and Google stock, Web following and Silicon Valley connections, money wouldn’t be a huge problem either. “He just has to say the word,” says a wealthy friend. But those who know him well would be very surprised if it happened. He hasn’t built a shadow organization. His travel isn’t calibrated to the primaries. And he’s just not thinking much about politics anymore. “He used to be intensely interested in political gossip—who’s up in the latest poll, and did you hear about so-and-so,” says Carter Eskew, an old friend and former media adviser. “I haven’t had a conversation like that with him since 2002 or 2003 [around the time he decided not to seek a rematch against Bush]. He’s moved on, at least for the time being.” In recent months, as Gore moneymen were recruited by other campaigns, they checked in with Gore. “I said, ‘If I’m raising money for the wrong person, please tell me,'” says one. “Everyone asked that question, and his answer was always the same: ‘Don’t keep your money in your pocket waiting for me.'”

People looking for signs that Gore has a secret plan often point to the fact that he has lost a few pounds and hopes to lose many more. They mention that he hasn’t asked the draft organizers to stop, the way he did before the 2004 election. They point out that in May, a group of former Gore fund raisers met at the Washington home of his onetime chief of staff, Peter Knight. (Someone handed out buttons that said al gore reunion 2007, but it was just a social event; Gore didn’t attend.) They cite October as a good time for him to get in, since that’s when the Nobel Committee announces its Peace Prize. Finally, they point to The Assault on Reason, the sort of book that could be a talisman of intent, since it takes aim at George W. Bush from multiple directions, diagnoses what’s wrong with our democracy and offers ideas for curing it. Why else would you write a book like that, they say, if you weren’t laying down a marker for 2008?

Time also has an excerpt from Al Gore’s book, The Assault on Reason