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Yesterday, former acting CIA Director Michael Morrell resigned his position at Harvard to protest the school’s Institute of Politics’ fellowship offer to former Army Private First Class Chelsea Manning, who as PFC Bradley Manning, was troubled by actions of military personnel in Afghanistan and thus passed along secret military information to WikiLeaks.  Late word has come down that Harvard has rescinded that disputed fellowship offer.  I think the school  belatedly made the right decision.

If Harvard is looking to have a transgender fellow for its Institute of Politics, surely the number of transgender individuals is such that Harvard can look a little harder and do better than to hire someone who gave confidential military information to WikiLeaks.  If Harvard is looking to have a Fellow with ground-level knowledge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there are literally thousands of former Marine and Army squad leaders who led troops and interacted with the native population in both peace and war – black, white, male, female, liberal, conservative, gay, straight, etc.  It’s a population large enough that if Harvard looks hard enough, it can pretty much find exactly what it wants ideologically without resorting to someone who gave away secrets.   Plus, they could offer a more granular level of knowledge of what it’s like to be front-line soldier.  Former Private First Class Manning manned a computer at an operations center; it’s relevant, but it’s not front-line knowledge.

I understand PFC Manning’s deep concerns about some ways in which the war was being conducted.  But that’s why there’s an Inspector General in each Army division.  There was a legal way to raise a red flag and it would have been well within PFC Manning’s rights and responsibility to do so.  But PFC Manning chose a path that was illegal and potentially dangerous for fellow American servicemembers.  And that’s just not okay with Director Morrell and the vast majority of American soldiers.

-1TF

 

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For the past ten months following Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court has been at eight members. The Republicans refused to even hold a hearing for Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee. Now that the election is over, Garland’s nomination appears dead and the Republicans are eagerly awaiting President-elect Trump’s new choice for the ninth position. But Trump should actually consider making three nominations and calling for Congress to authorize and appropriate funding for eleven spots on the bench.

Mr. Trump should look at this action for three reasons.  First, it would give the Democrats something. Two of the nominations could be Republicans – one a red meat conservative pleasing the right, the other a moderate conservative. The third, could be an olive branch the Democrats – Merrick Garland himself. Republican opposition to Garland was never about Garland himself. He is a distinguished, moderately liberal, well-respected jurist that Senate Republicans had previously said they could support.

Second, it gives Trump something – the appearance as a powerful reformer not beholden to the way things have been done in the past. There would be predictable accusations of Czar Trump court-packing a la FDR, but that criticism is misplaced and could be handled, especially if one of the three nominees is Garland. First, FDR sought to add six justices, and it was clearly for ideological reasons. In this case, Trump would be looking to add just two, and if one was Garland, the ideological complaint falls apart. Instead of a 5-4 advantage, the justices would have a 6-5 advantage.

Third, it acknowledges and deals with the fact that this is an increasingly diverse country, and that for such a heterogeneous populace, nine members may not be enough. There are more than 300 million people in this country of all races, ethnicities, religious beliefs and ideological leanings. Yet look at our court. Racially, the court is six non-Hispanic whites, one Hispanic white, one black, no East Asians, no South Asians, no Arabs, no Slavs, etc. Religiously, it is five Catholics (three practicing/two cultural), and three Jews (two practicing/one cultural), no mainline Protestants, no evangelical Protestants, no Muslims, no Hindus, no open agnostics, deists or atheists (although there has been some indication there may be one or more quiet ones.) Educationally, four justices graduated Harvard Law School, three graduated Yale, one graduated Columbia, none graduated Stanford, Northwestern, Duke, Virginia or any of the other eight elite law schools, not to mention any of the other 300 law schools. There is a lack of diversity in life experience in the justices.

For these reasons – extending an olive branch to the Democrats, doing something clearly bold for his legacy and compensating for the increased diversity of the electorate – President-elect Trump should look at making three nominations to the Supreme Court.  Yes, some will justifiably express concern about increased cost, but that cost (a few offices, a handful of clerks, a tighter fit around the table, etc.) is modest and can be offset by cuts in less important parts of the government.  Few parts of the federal government are more important than the highest-level of its third branch.  Some will also, unjustifiably say this is unconstitutional.  However, tradition and statute, not the Constitution, have fixed the number of justices on the Supreme Court, and those can be changed more easily.  By giving both sides something and preparing the Court to serve an increasingly diverse and complex populace, President-elect Trump can make a bold step toward healing the political wounds opened by Justice Scalia’s untimely passing.

1TF

 

 

 

 

 

 

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