TPM Cafe: Opinion

In August 1983, a year after the Lebanon War ended not-as-planned, Israel’s then-Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, retired from politics and, in effect, was not heard from again; many accounts described him as having sunk into a deep depression, which hardly abated until his death. The reasons for a collapse of this kind are never just political: Begin’s beloved wife Aliza had died; he was then put on a regimen of steroids to cope with a heart condition, which exacerbated his shattering grief. He had always been tortured by having left his family behind in Warsaw at the start of the war, by memories of the Gulag, by the bloody work of the Irgun underground in Palestine. He earned great sadness honestly.

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This post was originally published at Election Law Blog.

Justice Antonin Scalia has died in Texas at the age of 79. Let me begin with condolences to his family, friends, and former clerks who were fiercely loyal to him (and he to them). Whatever you thought of Justice Scalia’s politics and jurisprudence, he was an American patriot, who believed in the greatness of the United States and in the strength of American courts to protect the Constitution’s values as he has seen them. He also wrote the most entertaining and interesting opinions of any Justice on the Court.

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I just cast an absentee ballot for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). His grumpiness reminds me so much of Irving Howe on a bad day that not voting for him would be more or less unthinkable. I am grateful to him, if only for making the name Bernie less uncool. But everyone from my wife to The Washington Post has been trying to talk sense to me. I owe them an explanation.

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Very few things are able to bring together the left and right in contemporary American politics, but Donald Trump’s proposal to halt all Muslim immigration (and tourism) to the United States seems to have done just that.

Every presidential contender on both sides of the aisle condemned the proposal immediately and absolutely. Jeb Bush tweeted that “Donald Trump is unhinged.” Martin O’Malley argued that the proposal “removes all doubt” that Trump “is running for President as a fascist demagogue." Carly Fiorina called the proposal “a dangerous overreaction.” Hillary Clinton said it was “reprehensible, prejudiced, and divisive."

New Hampshire GOP chair Jennifer Horn called the proposal “un-Republican, unconstitutional, and un-American.”

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A small but dangerous group of Islamic extremists, operating out of the shadows of brutal dictatorships and striking out at the international community. Multiple undeclared wars over more than a decade that entangle the United States against this group and its allies and occasion rhetoric about the clash of religions and civilizations—rhetoric that a presidential administration is quick to counter with clarity and force. Refugees fleeing these war-torn Muslim nations in search of a new start and better life in America. The turn of the 19th century sure sounds familiar—and has a great deal to teach us here in the 21st.

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Just hours after claiming victory in a GOP presidential undercard debate in Wisconsin, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie found himself at the center of a new set of legal filings in the seemingly never-ending federal Bridgegate case involving three of his former top aides and appointees.

Among the revelations found in discovery motions filed by attorneys for former Port Authority deputy executive director Bill Baroni and onetime Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly are that David Wildstein, the government’s chief witness against the two, took a hard drive from Baroni’s Port Authority computer with him when he left the agency in December 2013. He subsequently turned it over to prosecutors in the office of U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Paul Fishman.

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During the last month the long-awaited, heavily-promoted decline in Donald Trump’s standing in the Republican presidential nominating contest has finally begun to occur. But aside from a small reshuffling of the order in the “lanes” (e.g., Rubio moving past Bush among Establishment Republicans and Cruz moving past Huckabee, Santorum and Jindal among experienced Christian Right candidates) to which the candidates have been assigned by the punditocracy, the big beneficiary of softening support for Trump has been another candidate with no experience in elected office, Dr. Ben Carson. He is running either first or a strong second in virtually every national poll, and is now routinely leading polls of Iowa as well. His approval ratings, moreover, are extremely high, and best in the field. It’s safe to say he is almost universally admired by GOP voters.

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On Monday afternoon in the atrium of the law school on the Newark, N.J. campus of Rutgers University, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would no longer allow most federal agencies to ask job applicants about their criminal backgrounds during the early stages of the federal hiring process. That change, called ‘ban the box’ by growing ranks of supporters, was announced by the president following a visit to a residential drug rehabilitation center and a roundtable with several former inmates who had been assisted by judges, prosecutors, and parole officers in making transitions to more stable circumstances.

For the crowd of about 150 who had been mingling in the room for several hours before the president’s late afternoon remarks, the ‘ban the box’ portion of the speech may have been Mr. Obama’s best line. As Donald Trump would have noticed, it got the biggest applause. That’s not surprising given that some of the New Jersey state legislators in the room had supported a state-level law banning inquires into many public and private sector job applicants’ criminal records. Signed in 2014 by N.J. Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, the law took effect earlier this year.

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