There was a bit of news out of the Supreme Court this week, as you may have heard. And we got more messages about it than we've ever gotten in a single week. We've tried our best to pick a representative sample, and to organize the messages in a readable fashion. At the end of the post are some more standard comments, as well as another round of names and of comments on musicians, along with the usual gallimaufry. Those three can be the palate cleansers after the rather heavy-duty messages about Roe.
J.C. in Rockville, MD, writes: There will be many practical consequences to losing Roe that have not been discussed much:
- Women are sometimes threatened with murder if they don't abort. What will these women do now? Risk their lives in the back alley or try to get an often-futile restraining order?
- Women may need emergency dilation and curettage as a result of a miscarriage. Imagine yourself or a family member lying on a gurney and bleeding while the doctors try to find a lawyer to sign off on the D&C. How would she prove that it is a real miscarriage and not a stealth abortion?
I personally worked as a consultant—very briefly—for a payor in the era before Obamacare. This payor was implementing a plan to deny all coverage for D&C operations unless and until the patient could prove that they wanted to have the baby, that it was not an abortion.
The stress and grief of these families is compounded by this cruel approach. I can't even...
R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I think part of the problem with the Right's 50-year battle to end abortion rights is that part of their strategy has been to keep it in the shadows. Women are questioned about whether having one is what they really want to do and then shamed and told they should feel bad for doing it. Yet I've experienced that most of the women I know are perfectly capable of making any other decision, even the tough ones. And, anecdotally, I know of several who may have felt bad in the moment, but report that it was a relief and the best thing they could have done in a difficult situation. Most of the shame comes from opponents of abortion, who tell the world every day how wicked the practice is. Given that talking about shame has a way of making it go away (thank you Brene Brown), I think that abortion needs a #MeToo moment. Imagine thousands if not hundreds of thousands of women coming forward to tell the world that they had an abortion. The stigma would fall away and I'm sure that public opinion (already not in favor of striking Roe) would shift even further.
Men can participate too (without disclosing the woman involved, unless they have permission). Even though this is an anonymous forum, I'll start by owning that I am responsible for one pregnancy that ended in abortion and another that would have had she not had a miscarriage the night before her appointment. In both cases we were too young and not ready emotionally or financially to have children. It was the right thing to do. Those souls simply weren't ready for the world. I have since grown in my career, become financially stable, and had the joy of being a father to two amazing children, now young adults. I don't regret these decisions for a moment and I know that the women involved don't either. My heart goes out to people today who did not have our ease of obtaining these services back in the late 80's and early 90's.
F.J. in Houston, TX, writes: Someone very close to me had been married a couple of years. The couple had saved up and bought a house and began to make a home. They decided it was time to start a family. Months later came the good news. She was pregnant. Later it all went bad. "They tell me the baby may have a neural tube problem." More tests confirmed the problem.
She and her family—husband and both their sets of parents—went to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for a full day of tests and consultations. The worst was confirmed. A large part of the fetus's brain was outside the skull. The prognosis was terrifying. Most will die in the womb, some will survive birth and die after a few days. But the scariest was the few who survive, all of them brain damaged. Some live out their—hopefully—short lives in excruciating pain. Some have to be restrained from causing harm to themselves, some damage their own eyes. Imagine what this would do to a young married couple.
The consensus was a late term abortion. I say consensus, but the truth is that because of the law at that time, the doctors were not allowed to recommend abortion. One surgeon, as we left the room, whispered to me that abortion was the correct decision, but he was not allowed to say that. He said that if the baby were born he would just cut off the brain outside the skull and then you would find out what was missing.
It had to be done quickly for one reason: Laws passed by people who have no medical training gave them only days to make their decision (and even then, the doctors may have manipulated the records to make it in time for the barbarous laws). The fetus had to get to a certain stage for the diagnosis to be confirmed. Interference from the government was the last thing this young hopeful couple needed. Cruel laws passed by ignorant groups made this horrible situation worse.
I assume that soon, in what used to be called "America," the decision to get a late term abortion would be taken away.
Today this couple has two beautiful sons. The older just got his license and is a straight-A student and athlete. His little brother in on the same track.
So the abortion subject is one that I feel I know more about than Clarence Thomas and his ilk. I'm one of the grandfathers.
They call me "Pa"...
R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Complaining that the Supreme Court is anti-democratic is like complaining that wheels are round. The Court was designed that way by the Framers on purpose as a check against what conservatives (what became the Federalist Party) deeply feared: factional majoritarianism, a.k.a. rule by the mob (a not-unreasonable fear, as the Terror during the French Revolution proved a few years later). A factional majority enacts laws that unjustly oppress a minority, and the courts act as a balance to protect against that result, just as does the anti-democratic Senate and the power of the president to veto legislation, which then requires a two-thirds majority of the Congress to pass it.
Given that undisputable premise, the next question is: What minority is to be protected, and what constitutes unjust oppression? For most of the nation's history, the "minority" was the very rich, and the "unjust oppression" was any progressive legislation that interfered with their enrichment, such as limitations on slavery, an income tax, and protections of workers. The concept of "Substantive Due Process" was used to defend "liberty of contract," most famously in the 1904 Lochner case that struck down New York's restrictions on the hours bakers could work. Progressives like Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Louis Brandeis and Hugo Black inveighed against Substantive Due Process as the Court just inventing rights and acting as a super-legislature.
In 1937, however, the Court began rejecting broad application of Substantive Due Process, instead sustaining progressive New Deal legislation. The turning point came with the Brown decision in 1954, where the Warren Court began ruling in favor of disadvantaged individuals (the "minority" to be protected) from laws derogating their civil rights (the "unjust oppression" by the majority to be prevented). Judicial fiat integrated schools, permitted interracial marriage, gave poor defendants the right to counsel, excluded evidence obtained by law enforcement from coerced confessions or illegal searches, established a right to obtain contraception, limited the circumstances where the death penalty could be imposed, and permitted all sex acts between consenting adults and full marriage between two consenting adults.
And created a right to abortion. If you want unfettered democracy, or democracy fettered only by explicit prohibitions in the Constitution, you hate Roe v. Wade. That ruling struck down all state laws prohibiting abortion—laws that had been legislatively enacted (i.e., the majority's expression of will). Roe was a broadly anti-democratic decision with murky justification, but nonetheless commanded a 7-2 majority and reached, in my opinion, the right result: Although not specifically stated in the Constitution, the Government has to have a really good reason to regulate the most private aspects of people's lives, even if a majority (speaking through their elected representatives) wants to do so. This is the only realm where Substantive Due Process still exists, but now it is invoked (on the rare occasions when it is) to protect "fundamental" rights of people, not to protect wealth and power.
If you fetishize democracy, then the result indicated in the leaked draft Alito opinion for the Court should thrill you. It would put reproductive rights back where you think they belong, with the will of people in the several States expressed by their legislatures and by the Congress. I understand your thinking, and it is an intellectually defensible position, but my response to you is that what are generally considered the worst decisions in the history of the Supreme Court are those that found against individual rights: Dred Scott, The Slaughter-House Cases, Plessy, Buck v. Bell, Korematsu and Bowers. If Dobbs is decided as indicated in the draft opinion, I predict it will enter that Hall of Shame.
I'm going to respectfully disagree with V&Z's answer to P.R. in Arvada that "broadly speaking, Congress is able to pass any laws it wants to, assuming those laws do not run directly contrary to the Constitution and to the powers of the legislative branch..." It may seem that way, but every federal law has to be authorized by the Constitution, either explicitly or implicitly. State power is generally plenary; federal power is limited -- that's what the Tenth Amendment means in its effect. The laws on national holidays are authorized because they affect only the opening or closing of arms of the federal government, like the post office or other federal agencies or courts. States can choose, or not, to close their government offices on the same days or others. (Of course, national holidays also don't and can't require private businesses to close -- if they did, I'd never be able to order Chinese food on Christmas Day.)
Finally, thank you to M.M. in San Diego for the kind words. It's a privilege for me to be part of this community, and I am glad if anyone finds something I contribute to be worth his or her valuable time to read.
J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: Here's a non-R.E.M. attorney weighing in to agree with your answer to M.M. in San Diego. Yes, there are people on the right whose opposition to reproductive rights is motivated by their religious beliefs. There are also people on the left whose support for the social safety net (food stamps, etc.) is motivated by their religious beliefs. A government policy doesn't violate the Establishment Clause just because it comports with some religious doctrine.
I disagree, however, with your comment that abortion opponents carefully avoid religious language. Some of the Christofascists do call for banning abortion precisely because it "is very much a sin against God." Nevertheless, even that open advocacy doesn't make a ban an Establishment Clause violation.
V & Z respond: Note that we did not assert that anti-abortion is never couched in religious terms, merely that "the folks who write and pass anti-abortion laws" are careful to avoid doing so, so as to avoid this exact cause of action.
A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Regarding the question from P.R. in Arvada about Congress' powers, that's a very important issue. Congress derives much of its legislative power from the commerce clause—the power to regulate commerce among the several states. Civil rights legislation like the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed pursuant to Congress's power under the commerce clause. Similarly, the Violence Against Women Act was passed under this clause. So, any legislation legalizing abortion will use this power, arguing that a patchwork of laws impacts interstate commerce, forcing women to cross state lines to exercise their right to end a pregnancy.
But there's a wrinkle here. An activist Supreme Court, like this one, could resurrect the muscle of the Tenth Amendment. As (V) & (Z) pointed out, this is a recitation of the structure of the Constitution, that any power not specifically enumerated is reserved to the states. Some courts have given this amendment teeth and used it to strike down federal legislation. For example, in Lopez, the Court held that a federal law banning guns within a certain distance of schools violated the Tenth Amendment because, according to the Court, the law wasn't addressing an issue of interstate commerce.
So, one can easily imagine this Court striking down a federal law legalizing abortion as intruding on states' rights under the tenth amendment.
On the flip side, there's a doctrine called the Dormant Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from enacting laws that intrude or impacts interstate commerce, which is the sole province of Congress. Laws that try to prohibit people from traveling to other states where abortion is legal or that penalize assistance for that travel would likely be struck down as violating the Dormant Commerce Clause.
One thing is clear: This Court has invited wholesale challenges to anything that had been considered settled precedent. It's open season on the rule of law.
T.T. in Stillwater, OK, writes: Slate's Dahlia Lithwick writes: "...be equally afraid for the abstraction of an independent and principled judiciary. No matter what happens next, that's already lost."
Getting into the weeds a bit, but "an independent and principled judiciary"? I do family and anti-discrimination law for people living below the poverty line in a ruby-red state. It legitimately never crossed my mind that the judiciary was ever independent and principled. If anything, I've always assumed its principles are what stop it from being independent. Whether or not we like those principles seems to come down to whether or not we share them. In my state, most counties have a blanket ban on gender-marker changes. One only offers gender-marker changes to trans people if they've had bottom surgery. Another county gives it to anyone who asks, no surgery required. Our most liberal county is in the middle, where three of the four relevant judges will give one, no surgery required, but the fourth won't grant one under any circumstances whatsoever. He actually said from the bench, "You do not have a statutory right to this change under existing state law," and when he was questioned: "I'm Mormon. I do have rights. Take it up with appeals."
Morally bankrupt? Depends who you ask. From my perspective, sure, but plenty of people would applaud him for ruling the way he did—especially given the lack of statutory basis upon which we were requesting relief. I don't think anyone would pretend he or any of his fellows are independent. I just don't like that the things I'm dependent upon (strong beliefs in bodily autonomy and progressive ideology) are different than his (strong beliefs in statutory clarity and conservative ideology.) I think he has a moral obligation to grant someone's gender-marker change even if he doesn't have to. He knows he doesn't have to unless and until the law tells him otherwise. Neither of us are independent. Both of us are principled. I just hate that his "principles" screwed over someone else.
B.C. in Farmingville, NY, writes: I have been disappointed in the Democrats' response to abortion. While a lot of the left is rightfully upset, and there have been one-sentence statements from many leaders, the amount of outrage and protest seems minimal. I'd go on to say that, locally, the BLM and anti-mask rallies drew much, much larger crowds than this week's protests. The only large-scale thing that I have seen was a ton of fundraising e-mails.
What I would have liked to see is the Democrats pushing the boundaries to get some sort of rights passed, like do some sort of reconciliation bill and at least codify something into law protecting abortions. I would think Joe Biden, and maybe the House Democrats, would be able to throw something in somewhere that would prevent the Feds from arresting people for abortion. Even in the Senate, they should at least attempt to force a change of the filibuster. They really need to assume that the next GOP trifecta will try to outlaw abortions, as it is the red meat of the base. Of course, I know the Democrats will do nothing and just send me more e-mails for donations.
D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: The Bulwark's coverage of Justice Samuel Alito's ruling on abortion is why I cannot stand the Never-Trump Republicans. "What Trump and his cronies has done is terrible and don't you Democrats dare do anything to fix it!" And telling the blue team not to pack the courts is particularly rich. It was not court packing when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor chose the president she wanted to pick her replacement (the replacement being Samuel Alito, by the way)? It was not court packing when Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) denied Merrick Garland so much as a hearing for several months and then ramrodded Amy Coney Barrett through in the twilight of Trump's presidency? Just because the number of justices does not change does not mean there has not been court packing.
And Alito's ruling is particularly frightening. He has essentially gutted the Ninth Amendment, leaving anything not stated in a document older than the steam engine up to the whim of elected officials at, especially, the state level. And the truth is nothing can be codified. It was thought the right to vote was codified, but the Voting Rights Act has been all-but-eliminated by a Supreme Court even less conservative than this one. Even if a law legalizing abortion was passed, this Court could just strike it down with five votes, claiming it should be up to the states.
There is a way to expand the Court that would make it more difficult to turn it into an arms race of adding justices. Pass a law stating the number of justices on the Supreme Court has be equal to the number of Courts of Appeals. This would just so happen to expand the bench to thirteen (the eleven numbered districts plus the federal and D.C. benches). By making it a number based on something real, future congresses and presidents would have to repeal the law, which would look bad, or create new Courts of Appeals, which would be complicated.
We are a backsliding democracy because the Republicans are doing everything they can to roll back the clock to when white men were on top by default and the Democrats are unable/unwilling to do anything more than try to stop the bleeding in the fleeting moments they have power to act. The Democrats need to take some real action to save our democracy and our country.
L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I guess I shouldn't be surprised by hypocrisy from the right, but Justice Alito's leaked opinion is brimming with it. He says that abortion regulation should be decided by the legislatures of the states, which represent the people who live there. Yet he was one of the strong proponents of the decision of the Court to fail to end political gerrymandering, thus guaranteeing that in many, if not most, of the states, the legislatures do not represent the will of the people at all, and even if the majority of the people are opposed to what the legislatures are doing, they have no ability to break their hold on power.
So really he's saying that this and other important issues should be decided not by the people of the United States, but by whatever group is most effective in twisting and distorting the rules to obtain and retain power.
H.F. in Pittsburgh. PA, writes: To all 2016 Bernie Sanders supporters in swing states who stayed home in November or voted for Jill Stein: You just overturned Roe and Casey.
P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: I abhor abortion. I believe it to be the murder of innocent life, and I fully agree with Catholic teachings about it. And while part of me is inwardly cheering at the leaked Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, which will result in many women having a much more difficult time in obtaining an abortion, I recognize that is an emotional response, not rational at all, nor is it in accordance with the principles which underlie this nation.
From where I sit, those who are passing these draconian laws to go into place in certain states once Roe is overturned are trying to impose a broad Christian view on sexual activity. According to those teachings, sexual intercourse is meant only for a married couple, and any children who result are a gift from God. Thus, an abortion is unnecessary—whatever happens is God's will, and intervening with that is not only obstructing the creation of life, it is in contravention of God's plans. As a devout Roman Catholic, I follow this teaching completely, and see nothing inherently wrong with it.
The problem? We do not live in a theocracy. The United States was founded on the principles of the Enlightenment, which promoted reason above all else. Part of those principles is that laws governing this nation are to be inherently irreligious by their very nature. Even though Christian notions have underlain a lot of our history, we are not a Christian nation. This is a point I constantly make to my conservative family members and friends, and it is a source of frustration to me—their inability to accept that faith and reason are separate is extremely annoying. And my friends are reasonable people for the most part, not the crazed-out QAnon-type folks.
I personally would be in favor of outlawing abortion, with an exception for certain medical cases, incest, etc. But I recognize my view is not that of the majority, and I am part of a larger society, which functions by following rules created by the majority, while still respecting the minority viewpoints. That is the way it is supposed to be, and I fear for the future of the nation, given the perverse streak of irrationality which is increasingly taking precedence over reason. I do not know how to fix the problem, but I do know that ways to fix it will involve constructive—and reasonable—dialogue with people from across the ideological spectrum.
B.M. in Birmingham, AL, writes: It is about time Roe was overturned. America can begin the process of returning to a moral high ground.
There are two legitimate reasons to take a human life:
- That person killed someone else
- That person is about to kill someone else
Any other reason is not a good enough one.
M.E. in Roanoke, VA, writes: There is no denying the clear link between the election of Donald Trump and the clear prospect that the Supreme Court imminently overturns Roe v. Wade. As someone who reluctantly voted for Trump, I've long responded to the criticisms of him and his abhorrent behavior and policy decisions with a single response: "Yes, but what about the Supreme Court?" By presumably overturning Roe, the Supreme Court has justified my decision to accept the failings of a man against what I hold as the greater good of taking a major step toward ending the evil of legalized abortion.
I understand that the readers of this site overwhelmingly do not see abortion as evil and oppose reversing Roe. While I hope that they would come to see that they are in error, my primary purpose is not to change opinions but rather to express my reaction to this news. It is this: Despite numerous failings, Trump's presidency and the political shenanigans of the Republican party have now likely fulfilled their key promise to me and in so doing have justified my loyalty to them. While Democrats have failed to enact many of their priorities (e.g. student debt relief, Build Back Better), Republicans stand poised to deliver on the single most important issue to me.
Simply stated, while costly, I got what I paid for when I held my nose and voted for Trump.
J.S. in Den Haag, NL, writes: Charlie Hebdo's take on Roe v. Wade:
Also, saw somebody on Twitter say this: "The same lawmakers who say gun laws won't stop gun violence believe abortion laws will stop abortion."
G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: That the laws giving men the "right" to force their wives to have sex with them and the laws ensuring that women did not have the "right" not to be pregnant were struck down within 5 years of each other seems to be being overlooked in the furor over the (so far potential) overturning of the law that gives women the right not to be pregnant.
Given the seeming propensity for the Supreme Court to give more weight to how long a course of action has been acceptable than to any other factor, I feel compelled to point out that: (1) husbands have been permitted to force their wives to have non-consensual sex with them for at least 100 times as long as they haven't, (2) people were allowed to own slaves for at least 100 times as long as they haven't, and (3) Dred Scott was "good law" when it was decided (because the Supreme Court said it was).
Bearing in mind that a decision of the Supreme court has exactly the same legal weight regardless of whether it was made by well educated, properly briefed, dispassionate, unbiased, experienced justices who have given full weight to the actual facts, the actual law, and the actual state of society or it was made by the winner of a drunken strip poker game whilst in a drug fueled state of total befuddlement and in a totally arbitrary and capricious manner, isn't it time that the members of the U.S. Supreme Court were appointed on judicial merit and skill rather than on "ideological purity"?
A.D.S. in Calgary, AB, Canada, writes: At last, the first phase of Canada's plan is reaching fruition. As I write this, 17 abortion clinics have officially broken ground within 10 miles of the Canada-U.S. border. The Canadian Prime Minister is on board and we should have the main infrastructure operating by December, 2022. Your country is doomed!
In all seriousness, from my comfortable perspective in a country that sorted out this nonsense 34 years ago—without any significant pushback since that time—the American predilection with abortion is simply baffling. The positions taken, the irrational resolve of far too many citizens, represents a cruelty and threat to life that challenges all patience. I can't begin to hate Americans as much as these aggressive, irrational people who dwell in your country and pretend to respect its principles and laws. "General welfare" and "pursuit of happiness" are thrown casually to the gutter in the pursuit of mass criminalization for people who are fundamentally not criminals.
And for what? As in Ireland, the experiment will be tried, it will produce troubles and misery, it will tear a generation apart, and when the present "fixers" of the system are dead and in their graves it will be their descendants who fight with bottles and sticks in the streets like the Ghibellines and the Guelphs. This is infantalistic government on the worst level. No doubt, it will pour into my country and others, justifying the rhetoric of others who are just as ignorant, just as indifferent to pain, just as cold-fisted about their own quest for power.
G.S. in New Plymouth, TKI, New Zealand, writes: Dear female readers: Welcome to Immigration New Zealand.
That is all.
D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: It gives me no pleasure to say this but I feel I have to. Back in the distant past of 2021, I asked a question about what you thought was going to be the next target that the Republicans would focus on after they overturned Roe. I predicted they would go after gay marriage and gay rights; but you wrote:It is unlikely that LGBTQ+ rights are the next front in this particular war. The religious folks used to care passionately about divorce, and keeping it illegal. They also had very strong feelings about Blue laws, which forced most or all businesses to close down on Sundays so everyone could attend church. However, these positions became wildly unpopular, even among some adherents, such that the fight was abandoned. We would suggest the same is true of LGBTQ+ rights—some religious folks may have strongly-held views, but most of the rest of society, including many other religious folks, are not buying it. So, that ship has sailed in terms of influencing public policy. Trans issues may be the exception, but we doubt that has the salience to become a "signature" issue.
This week, you wrote:Certainly, Alito is being a bit cavalier in his claim that abortion is "fundamentally different" from those other things (women and Black suffrage, sodomy, interracial and gay marriage), and in his implication that this decision won't lead to assaults on other rights rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment. How can he possibly know that? In fact the odds are that the opposite is true and that something like gay marriage is next.
Sigh. My "I told you so" is being said in a manner less like the bully Nelson Muntz and more like a perennially disappointed Lisa.
At the time, I thought about sending an impassioned rebuttal to your prediction but I guess the Christmas spirit possessed me enough to hope I was wrong and you were right. With over 200 proposed state anti-LGBTQ+ bills this past year, the Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) "Don't say Gay" bill and Justice Alito doing his best/worst Br'er Rabbit impersonation of not wanting to be thrown into the briar patch (an analogy I'm sure he would be proud of), the Court is all but begging the Republican state legislatures to "Please, please, pretty please, send us some laws that go against Obergefell v. Hodges, Lawrence v. Texas, Griswold v. Connecticut , and even Loving v Virginia, and we'll overturn them as quick as you please." The reality is what I predicted, and I'm the world's worst Miss Cleo!
I think part of the problem is a tendency I've seen in myself and some other readers of E-V.com. We tend to live in our isolated bubbles of reality, separated from the warped fanatacism of the ultra-right. I, for a long time, lived in liberal Washington, DC; (Z) in Southern California and (V) in international Amsterdam. It's easy when you live in cosmopolitan and progressive areas to assume that LGBTQ+ rights are a sealed deal. It wasn't until I moved to this Godforsaken land of dyed-in-the-wool Republican Bible-thumpers of Southeast Pennsylvania that I had the barrel full of the icy-cold water of reality thrown in my face. Here in God's country, they are salivating at the idea of starting to call gays "predators" and "abominations" again. There are no rights that we believe our Constitution gives us that these rural snake handlers don't view as fungible. This is what happens when you believe in a vengeful, wrathful God that nitpicks laws with the fervor of a sophist.
Once Roe and Casey are completely destroyed, the preachers will ascend to their pulpits to declare that America needs to move back to God by banning gay marriage, sodomy, contraception, racial justice, etc. And oh, don't worry, if given a chance, I'm sure that one day they'll get back around to reinstating prohibitions on divorce and re-enacting the Blue laws. Have faith. The list of sins will be long because the end goal will never be realized even if the preachers have to rail about how America is going to hell in a handbasket because it wears clothing made from two different threads. There's always one more sin to be conquered in their quest to be a Godly nation because the ideal is by nature unreachable and by the fact that if we ever reached that state the preachers would be without a job, and God forbid we have that! The same thing can be said about the Republican Party in their quixotic quest to find that perfect time in America's past when we were truly great in their warped vision of what makes America exceptional. For them, there has to be something—anything—and sometimes it doesn't even matter what it is, as long as it's something to keep the peons riled up.
Also, color me pessimistic in that I don't think that the overturning of Roe and the threat of other rights quickly vanishing will do a damn bit in making the Democrats vote in the midterms. After all, I'm sure there will be plenty of cute cat videos to distract them away from voting between now and then. Or they'll be in a snit because Joe Biden didn't show enough support about some obscure cause, "How dare Biden not publicly flagellate himself on the White House South Lawn in observance of Indigenous Multiracial Vegan Transgendered Crustaceans with AIWS Day. I'll show him by not voting and boy he'll learn his lesson in keeping his priorities!" Whatever the case, they will keep up the tradition of not wanting to be bothered with voting in the midterms because they've fallen out of love with the President and then spend the next [X] amount of years wondering just how it got this bad. I hope that I'm wrong, but fear that I'm not.
One last postscript: I read that Justice Thomas was bemoaning the fact that Americans are losing confidence in the nation's institutions. And where on Earth do you think they got that from, Mr. Sulky? You, your party and its media lapdogs have done nearly everything possible to subvert and destroy our institutions and now you're worrying about how we got to this place? If you doubt me, just ask your wife what she's up to of late. Better yet, if you're so concerned about the sanctity of our institutions you might have thought about withdrawing your name from nomination when you were accused of putting your pubic hairs on Anita Hill's Coke can instead of declaring yourself a victim of a high-tech lynching. Oh Clancy, the bill comes due. Always. Or, as the great 80's band the Eurythmics—to be inducted this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—sang, "I could give you a mirror to show you disappointments!"
R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: All the rhetoric from the right around Roe revolves around "ending abortion," but that is transparently hogwash. We know what the world was like without Roe and it was not an abortion-free utopia. All repealing Roe will do is add grown women to the list of potential victims of abortion. We all should know that making something illegal doesn't end it. Reduce it maybe, but not end it. Speed limits don't stop people from driving too fast. Drunk driving laws don't stop people from getting behind the wheel when they are impaired. Hell, Moses outlawed murder thousands of years ago and we still have people killing other people. This is just one more example of how tackling a problem from the supply side won't (and can't) work. The way to end abortion is to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place and that can't happen without good comprehensive sex education and access to birth control.
J.C. in Binan, Laguna, Philippines, writes: As a pro-life Democrat, I am appalled at the upcoming SCOTUS decision. That's because I am pro-choice.
Here, here, here, and here are links that indicate that when abortion is illegal, abortion rates increase. People who believe that human life begins at conception should condemn this decision—if they actually care about the unborn.
S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: I'm a lawyer, but this is not about Roe. Or the law, for that matter. It's about the political consequences of the long-term geographic redistribution of educated people and the jobs that require them, as you discussed with D.H. in Peoria.
You point out that this has been going on for a long time, so you don't know if it will make the political landscape radically different. But maybe we already know that it has made the political landscape radically different, and it will continue to do so. The reasons, of course, are: (1) the historical accident that our country originally comprised multiple former colonies that thought they ought to be "free and independent states," (2) the constitutional design that resulted and (3) the further historical accidents of how territorial boundaries were defined and how many states were carved out of them—all at a time when populations were smaller and the disparity between populations in urban and rural areas was magnitudes less.
The trend you and D.H. describe will only make things worse. If we assume that jobs and people—and in particular, educated people and the jobs they want and that want them—continue to flow from "red states" to "blue states," we can predict that on a national level, the control of policy by a minority of the population will become more and more entrenched. This will happen unless the constitutional design is somehow altered (unlikely), or national policy becomes so bad that it obliterates the interstate differences that help drive peoples' geographic preferences (fairly likely to occur, but unlikely to be decisive), or technology untethers work from residence while social forces alter peoples' preferences (in progress—might coders prefer fly-fishing and hiking to traffic jams and Lakers games?).
A.H. in Columbus, OH, writes: I just finished reading the response to D.H. in Peoria, who asked about people leaving red states for blue or bluer (is that a word?) ones due to all the restrictive laws being passed. In your answer, you mentioned Ohio specifically. I am writing to chime in as a life-long Ohioan.
I was born in Ohio and have lived here all my life. Went to college here, got married here, raised a family here, etc. It's actually been quite nice. It used to be the politics weren't terribly misaligned with my views. We used to be a swing state, and I used to be what some might call center-right on some issues and center-left on others, so I fit right in. But by today's standards, I guess I'm an extreme commie leftist and don't really fit in at all. When Trump ran for president and won, I watched most of the people I thought were friends (including family) veer hard right and barrel straight into crazy-town.
Anyhow... I work entirely from home. My current employer is based in Texas and doesn't even have an office in Ohio. My youngest child is a senior in high school and will graduate soon. And I don't talk to most of my family much anymore because all they want to talk about is the latest garbage from Tucker, OAN, Breitbart, RT, etc. As for friends, they are few and far between and my best friends don't live in Ohio anyway, having left ages ago.
What I'm saying is, there's not much to keep me here and I'm done with Ohio. My wife and I would like to move someplace warmer and sunnier than here. We are not retirement age but are about to become empty-nesters. So we're looking for the perfect state to move to for the next phase of our lives. Of course, a lot of the obvious places are out for reasons D.H. mentioned. But places like Southern California and Hawaii are too expensive or cause other logistical problems. There's Phoenix, but is Arizona even that much better than Ohio politically? Also, I melt when it gets over 100F, which it does there regularly.
I'm open to suggestions on where to go once we leave Ohio behind, but we're thinking North Carolina. It's a little warmer than Ohio, but they still have some winter, which I'd like. It's got a coast and mountains. And politically, it is more of a purple state. Sure, if we move someplace rural, we'll be surrounded by "conservatives" but that's true just about everywhere. And Charlotte is nice, as is the Research Triangle area.
Lastly, I would just add that states on both sides lose people all the time for various reasons. I've met a lot of people who have left California for Texas because of their politics (and the lower cost of living and tax burden). Here is an interesting page put together by The New York Times showing population in/out-flow between states since the early 1900s. Unfortunately, the latest data they have is for 2012. I'd love to see this updated with data through this year. I expect the increase in both remote work and crazy politics over the last few years to cause a big spike in state-to-state migrations.
V & Z respond: If readers have suggestions, we'll run some next week.
P.N. in Austin, TX, writes: This was my fellow Austinites' response to Ohio's attempt to lure them:
As I was born and raised in Michigan, I couldn't be prouder of my fellow citizens!
D.G. in Jupiter, FL, writes: For many years now, I have been upset about the branding on abortion. If we who value women's freedom want abortion to be a legal part of health-care we need to change our case. "Pro-life" is a lie as long as the only interest pro-lifers have is in fetuses. Let's call it what it is, loud, clear and consistently: PRO-BIRTH. As long as people against abortion don't care if children die from starvation, don't care if they get a proper education so they can earn enough money to not turn to crime and support their families, then they are only PRO-BIRTH and we should all be using this terminology all the time.
C.J. in Burke, VA, writes: I can't see any reason for Joe Biden to go to the mats to kill the filibuster—he doesn't have the votes to make it happen. Making the filibuster a high priority just sets him up for a big fail and highlights divisions in the party going into an election. There is no upside for doing that. I wish Americans in general were able to better understand what is possible and what is simply not possible given the representatives "we the people" have sent to Congress.
R.V. in Pittsbugh, PA, writes: Instead of having a symbolic abortion vote in the Senate this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) should bring all judicial nominees to the floor for a vote, as well as the six who first need discharge votes out of committee.
Confirming people to lifetime positions would be a far better exercise of the Senate's time than conducting symbolic votes.
T.B. in Leon County, FL, writes: I'd love to see a constitutional amendment that forbids the nominating of Supreme Court justices by any president who did not receive a majority of the popular vote in the last presidential election, unless there are three or more vacancies in the court (whence the president may nominate jurors but leaving two vacancies in the court). This would have (potentially) affected Gerald Ford (appointed, not elected), Bill Clinton (plurality but not majority, both times), George W. Bush and Donald Trump. This would accompany rules to prevent the Senate from performing a "Garland." Yup, it'll never come to pass, but I can dream!
J.A. in Redwood City, CA, writes: The actual decision on abortion hasn't even been issued yet, and already Republicans are starting to talk about enacting a nation-wide ban. So much for their contention all along that this was a states' rights issue.
Beyond that—and I fervently hope to be proven wrong on this point—I am not yet convinced that outrage over the loss of abortion rights will sufficiently galvanize the electorate to favor Democrats in the upcoming mid-term elections. For an equal or greater number of Republican voters, the contests will be their victory laps on abortion. Plus, they're still raging angry over the presidential election they believe was stolen from them in 2020. And for the swing voters who may decide many of those races? They'll need to choose which personal circumstance poses a bigger concern: A possible future in which terminating an unwanted pregnancy of their own may, depending on the state, be more difficult than it is now; or the actual present where every trip to the grocery store or gas station costs noticeably more money than it did before Democrats took over.
It's almost certainly too late now to tame inflation in time for voters to forget about it by November, and independent voters are much more inclined to base their vote on practical economic concerns rather than on abstract principles regarding the loss of a civil right that they hope they'll never actually need to exercise in the first place. So, at least for now, I still expect Republicans to take control of both the House and Senate, and by larger-than-expected margins. Boy, I hope I'm wrong about this.
J.P. in Lancaster, PA, writes: If I were a journalist, which I am not, right now I would be looking into the life of every anti-choice politician and judge, especially Republican ones, and look for abortions for which they paid. I am certain that they are there somewhere and probably easy enough to find. The easiest one to find is probably TFG, because the chances that he paid for one and that it would be easy to find are pretty high despite any non-disclosure agreements.
W.S. in Austin, TX, writes: Of John Roberts's jurisprudence, you wrote: "From where we sit, it looks like 'protecting the reputation of the Court' is foremost, and 'my own personal political agenda' is second, with the law a distant third."
Scratch out "Court," write in "FBI," and now the same sentence explains Comey's appalling and unethical conduct in the second half of 2016.
Men with zero formal training in PR, whose jobs are not about PR, should perhaps stop focusing on PR.
J.S. in Las Vegas, NV, writes: I wouldn't normally write. I have read your site every day for years and there's much smarter people than me on here. But this is really bothering me.
What if this whole leak thing is just a political ploy? They get everybody all riled up now, then make the decision to use Mississippi's law at 15 weeks, and everybody thinks they accomplished something by making them back down and then relax before the election? And the Republicans, once again, are the strong favorite to take the House, and maybe the Senate. Although I do have hope for the Senate.
S.C-M. in Scottsdale, AZ, writes: According to TPM, the leak came from the right. Roberts' investigation could be really awkward if true since it goes against the conventional wisdom.
The key in the TPM report are these sentences:It's very clear that the jockeying among the six Republican appointees has been shared in the elite GOP legal circles that have a direct line into [The Wall Street] Journal op-ed page. Clear as day. And that tells you pretty much to a certainty what was already seeming fairly clear: that the leak came from determined anti-Roe advocates trying to lock in Alito's take-no-prisoners elimination of Roe. Clear as day.
So the conservative Supremes are in constant communication with the elite GOP legal circles. They likely had a copy of the Alito draft. No wonder the right is trying to deflect blame for the leak—it came from their own extreme partisans!
R.D. in San Diego, CA, writes: As soon as Chief Justice Roberts verified that the leak was accurate in his statement, my strong suspicion was that the source was the Chief Justice himself. If the publication had been followed by a statement "It can't be accurate, it hasn't been written yet, nothing is final, etc." then the current outrage would have been easily minimized and dismissed as premature hysteria. However, by affirming that it was a legitimate semi-final draft, and provoking the expected outrage, he may find himself forced to reassign the writing of the majority decision to someone else (Brett Kavanaugh?) who can compose a narrower ruling more in-line with Roberts' personal beliefs. Why the games, though? It's got to be a 5-4 decision with Roberts in the minority, so he can't write it himself, and he can't justify the combo of switching to the majority, overriding stare decisis, blatantly displaying the partisanship of the court, and ruining its reputation. Since Samuel Alito's draft was shooting for the moon in trying to set up future stripping of rights, Roberts got surprised and wanted a do-over. Classic spineless middle-management move of "Ordinarily I wouldn't do this, but someone else is forcing me to make these changes I really really wanted in the first place."
D.E. in Grand Rapids, MI, writes: Having read the numerous theories being bandied about with regards to who leaked the Supreme Court document, there are 2 theories that I have not heard mentioned:
- The leaker is a lowly employee of the Supreme Court who came across the document from sloppy document handling internally. Did a cleaner pick up the photocopy after it was left on a copier's out tray?
- The document was actively sourced by an external party. Break-ins at the court by physical, or cyber, means. If so, by whom? A left-leaning operative, or a right-leaning operative, or our dear friends in Moscow who would love to get America talking about other things than Ukraine?
P.N. and N.H. in Austin, TX, writes: The most surprising part of the news from Politico is not the court's judgment, but the fact it was leaked early.
My wife and I were discussing who may have leaked the information. We both agreed it seemed likely it was a liberal clerk or some such, possibly with the knowledge of a liberal justice. And then my wife had the most brilliant observation. Why this week? What does this exact timing gain someone? What is... oh, Mother's Day.
Six in ten women who have abortions are already mothers. Roughly 60% of Americans were against overturning Roe v. Wade according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. I suspect we are in for an interesting weekend, one in which we may see Republican political aspirations take a hit.
P.R. in Arvada, CO, writes: I read with interest your item about how Democrats can win back rural voters.
I completely agree they can be won back and I think it would be easier than Democrats think, so long as they listen to these people.
An easy option would be to offer grants to farmers so they can change the crops they grow. In the Southwest and even in large parts of the Midwest they are very aware that the climate is changing. Give them help to combat these changes but leave it to them to decide what they need and how to do it. Republicans will naturally either vote against it and the people who support them, or there will be a nice Democrat-led bipartisan solution for them.
They can also win on gun control pretty easily if they were to delegate powers to the local sheriffs. The needs of someone in New York are not the same as someone in rural areas. Admit that one size doesn't fit all and they can decide more locally what is needed. A simple thing like implementing controls where the problems are and not where there isn't one fits what people want.
Liberal policies are popular but not when people think they are rammed down their throats. Implementing policies that have more local or personal control will win people over.
J.M. in Sewickley, PA, writes: You wrote: "Democrats in those states have no chance to elect a Democrat statewide unless the Republicans blow it, but by voting in the Republican primary they may be able to force the Republicans to nominate the least-bad candidate for every office. The same holds for Republicans in blue states."
I agree, it is possible, but I'm not sure that many Americans think this way. I think people might be more inclined to try to ratf**k the Republicans by voting for the most bad candidate, hoping that will help the blue team to win the general election.
I believe most Americans would go for a long-shot with big payoff vs. a lower-odds bet with marginal payoff. Witness PowerBall.
M.C. in Oak Ridge, TN, writes: D.E. in Lancaster suggests asking those thinking of voting for the Republicans in the midterms what the Party plans to do about inflation. There would be ready answers, probably related to smaller government, as if the American Rescue Plan somehow caused the rise in gasoline prices.
Those blaming inflation mostly on Joe Biden are bottle-fed fantasies by their right-wing media of choice. They don't know what was funded or how, nor of similar inflation in other countries, they don't know about the relevant base effects, and they sure don't understand how investing in universal access to nutrition, education, healthcare, etc., would eventually improve the federal balance sheet. They have been misled for years about so much, even including 9/11 being motivated by jihadis "hating our freedoms" rather than concrete issues like the U.S. condoning apartheid in Israel and stationing forces in Saudi Arabia.
D.E. may be correct that business will move out of states that ban abortion. However, many Republican voters will again not be given the full picture. Ignorance and "alternative facts" will remain a tragic drag on American policymaking until somebody figures out how to wedge sufficient habit of critical thinking and research into public education without the parents complaining that their children show alarming signs of thinking for themselves.
(A chip or two on my shoulder? Me?)
D.K. in Chicago, IL, writes: R.S. in Pullman and D.M. in Manhattan write about the Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) interview with Church Militant and her comment about the Catholic Church being led by Satan. If people are wondering why there wasn't more of an uproar over that comment, there is one explanation that I have not yet seen published here: A considerable number of Catholics agree with her (to some extent) and will quote the words of Pope Paul VI, who said that "The Smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God."
The right-left divide is present in the Catholic Church in America as well.
E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: Rudy was never going to show up for the committee. He's still enough of a lawyer to know how much he's at criminal risk here. Waiting until the 11th hour to make an unreasonable demand (that he be permitted to record his testimony) he knew would never be allowed was just his clumsy way of dragging out the process. His only hope is to keep delaying until after the Democrats lose their majority in the House, and the GOP shuts down the committee.
B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: You wrote about Chloe Maxmin, a Democrat who has won two elections from an entirely rural district with an older population by knocking on doors. I was there for that, here in "Walpole, Maine," which isn't actually a place; it's a post office that is so small, you have to go back outside to change your mind. Ms. Maxmin did in fact knock on our door, which isn't an easy door (or street) to find. She was charming. She also followed up with other mailings and e-mails, and she even answers e-mail. She gives one hope.
R.N. in Cleveland, OH, writes: The huge push by us Democrats in Ohio to get J.D. Vance through the primary was quite successful. It will be much easier to defeat him in November than the other candidates.
D.K. in Cincinnati, OH, writes: I must say I am flummoxed by the narrative that Trump supporting J.D. Vance was anything but a marginal assist at best. In a three way race, I concede it probably helped put him over the top.
However, let's call a spade a spade here. Vance got 32% of the vote in a three-way race. That means that 68% voted for other candidates. Hardly a ringing endorsement by Republican voters. Trump's endorsement helps in a crowded field, but if this was a two-way race, does Vance win when almost 70% of voters voted for someone else?
What this shows is that even Republican voters have Trump fatigue at this point, and I believe Trump's days of having big influence on the party are waning.
B.H. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: Please do not spread disinformation to voters about Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman (D). He does not ride a motorcycle. He drives a Jeep.
R.H. in Macungie, PA, writes: M.R. in Acton and M.S in Brooklyn wrote about Jewishness. I, too, had four Jewish grandparents, but I wasn't raised in any religion. My parents had a Christmas tree with Santa Claus and presents when I was little because they didn't want me to miss out (and they probably didn't want me asking questions that would require explanations). As an atheist, I still feel close to my Jewish roots. According to 23andMe, I'm 99.4% Ashkenazi, so that's how I identify. I'm not Jewish (because to me that is a religion) but I'm Ashkenazi through-and-through and proud of it.
P.S.: I married a (former) Catholic. She says she's "Jewish by injection" and that makes our kids "Cashews," but I just think they're nuts.
M.K. in Sacramento, CA, writes: To M.S. in Brooklyn, who is bemoaning the no-exit clause in Judaism, let me note that kvetching is a major tenet of the faith, so perhaps they have not strayed as far as they think!
V & Z respond: If complaining about things makes one a member of the tribe, doesn't that suggest the name of the cable channel should be changed to Fox Jews? Because all those folks do is complain.
L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: I must take issue with the assertions from C.J. in Redondo Beach about Aaron Copland. C.J. writes that Copland has been imitated for a century and also that Copland invented what C.J. considers the American sound.
First, a century ago, Copland was an unknown 22-year-old. The works that C.J. cites ("Appalachian Spring," "Rodeo," "Billy the Kid") were all written in the 1940s.
Second, it's not possible to define an "American sound" even within the European musical tradition in which Copland functioned. What makes Copland's orchestral music more "American" than Scott Joplin's ragtime or Louis Moreau Gottschalk's piano music? I note that it's a matter of association only that people think that open fourths and fifths are somehow inherently an "American" sound.
Third, there were other American composers whose music has a similar sound, contemporaneous with Copland's music. They are just less known to the general public than Copland. I can tell you that my eyebrows left my head when I heard an orchestra piece by Elliot Carter from the late 1930s in that style. For comparison, readers could take a few minutes to check out more typical, later Carter, perhaps his "Third String Quartet" or the great piano work "Night Fantasies."
Lastly, if what you're looking for is wide cultural influence, how about the founders of the New York Philharmonic? Founded in 1842, it's the oldest continuously operating orchestra in the country. Or how about the founders of Boston's Handel & Haydn Society, established in 1815 and the oldest continuously operating musical organization in the U.S.? Both organizations have had immense impact by setting the template for musical organizations in this country.
L.S. in Warsaw, IN, writes: Two musicians were talking over lunch and one said, "Have you heard Copland has written a new piece?" The second man wanted to know, "What is he calling it this time?"
I.K. in Olympia, WA, writes: The letter from K.D. in San Jose dug up an old memory for me. A few years ago, I visited the tomb of Aaron Copland in Massachusetts. While I was there, I heard a strange noise coming from the grave. There was a groundskeeper nearby so I called him over, and he could hear the noise too, so he decided to disinter the grave. Upon opening the coffin, we saw Copland erasing a musical score. "Aaron, what are you doing?" we cried. He replied: "I'm decomposing."
H.R. in Jamaica Plain, MA, writes: In terms of impact on the world, I think one has to consider Paul Robeson. He was a singer of immense breadth, a renowned actor, civil rights activist and internationalist. He recorded and released 276 songs and performed all around the world. One of my favorite stories about him is the concert organized by labor unions in the U.S. and Canada that took place at the International Peace Arch on the border between Washington state and British Columbia in May 1952. This was an act of defiance against the U.S. State Department refusing to issue him a passport in 1950. His passport was restored in 1958 as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court's 5 to 4 decision in Kent v. Dulles where the majority ruled that the denial of a passport without due process amounted to a violation of constitutionally protected liberty under the Fifth Amendment. In addition to wide ranging impact across the world, Paul Robeson has had a big impact on me, personally.
R.L. in Chicago, IL, writes: Little Richard. He was, in his own correct words, "The Godfather" and "The Architect" of rock and roll. He spent his career fighting against racism, primitive social mores, and censorship. He thrilled us by informing us that Miss Molly sure liked to ball and Uncle John and Long Tall Sally were gonna do it in the alley. He is also listed as major influence by more rock and R&B artists than, perhaps, any other person.
M.S. and S.A. in Brooklyn, NY, write: We think you should include Irving Berlin. "God Bless America" has been called the "second national anthem" and it was sung on the Capitol steps after the September 11 attacks. Woody Guthrie was so annoyed by the song that he wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in response, with the original sarcastic title being "God Blessed America for Me." Berlin wrote many hits, including "White Christmas," "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," "Easter Parade," and other iconic songs that have permeated our culture, evoking nostalgia, patriotism, and American values.
D.S. in Newark, OH, writes: You seriously missed one. The man who influenced both Elvis and the Beatles and created a whole new musical genre. As NPR put it, "One of the most influential and important figures in the history of American music in the 20th century": the father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe.
M.S. in Alpharetta, GA, writes: J.K. in Silverdale asked: "Esteemed E-V.com readers, here is a question of the utmost importance: As fans of this site, what should we call ourselves?"
My answer is "E-Vegans."
J.P.R. in Westminster, CO, writes: "The Upshots."
E.S. in Maine, NY, writes: "The V & Z Brigade"? The little donkey in Russia has made 'Z' problematic.
C.A.K. in Louisville, KY, writes: How about the "E-VOTE-cateurs"?
To 'evoke' means to summon, as in spirits. Our group seeks to summon (and understand) the current spirit of U.S. politics and the potential of electoral votes to come.
M.U. in Seattle, WA, writes: What do (V) & (Z) do best, and what are we all here for... the snark! Therefore I offer up for your consideration that we heretofore be known as the "S.N.A.R.K.S." And depending on the day and the tenor of our letters we can be either (V) & (Z)'s:
Take your pick!
C.K.S. in Berkeley, CA, writes: "E-Vertonians." Up the Toffees!
C.G.B. in Milwaukee, WI, writes: Definitely "EVers." It's easy to remember, promotes my favorite up-for-reelection governor, and, ya know, it just sounds so lasting.
J.A. in Brisbane, QLD, Australia, writes: I certainly hope we call ourselves "Voters."
M.C.A. in San Francisco, CA, writes: Let May the Fourth pass without making a Star Wars reference, I knew you couldn't. Let me down, you didn't. Done well, it was!
D.F. in Norcross, GA, writes: I enjoyed the item that included the jokes told by former Presidents. I'm not sure it quite qualifies as a joke per se, and there has been some dispute that it actually happened. But if it did, I think the famous story about Calvin Coolidge and this exchange between him and Dorothy Parker would qualify as perhaps the most understatedly funny moments in Presidential history:Parker: Mr. President, I made a large bet that I could get more than two words out of you.
Coolidge: You lose.
R.R. in Nashville, TN, writes: You've probably heard this, but it's still a good, though possibly apocryphal story.
Dwight D. Eisenhower was driving with Nikita Khrushchev around D.C., showing him the city. At every monument, like the Lincoln Memorial or the Jefferson Memorial, and every building or statue, Ike would tell his guest the history of the place and how long it took to plan and build it. And every time, Khrushchev would shake his head and say, "Grand glorious Soviet Republic could build that in week and it would be more beautiful and majestic than this."
So they got to the Washington Monument and both men stared at it, but Ike didn't say a word. Finally, Khrushchev said, "Well?"
Ike shrugged and said, "Damned if I know, it wasn't there yesterday."
C.J. in Redondo Beach, CA, writes: I don't have it in front of me, but I remember hearing or reading a pretty hilarious Truman-ism a few years ago: "The reason the Senate has the Committee on Foreign Relations while the House of Representatives has the Foreign Affairs Committee is because senators are too old to have affairs."
Even back then, making fun of the age of the Senate was a winning hand.
S.T. in Glen Rock, NJ, writes: Thanks for the relief, and I'm sure you will get many follow-ups. One of the wittiest leaders, of course, is Winston Churchill:Woman to Churchill: Sir, if you were my husband, I would put arsenic in your tea.
Churchill: Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it.
V & Z respond: The woman in that story was, reportedly, Lady Astor. And, again reportedly, it was also she who criticized Churchill for being drunk, and who received the response: "Madam, I may be drunk but you are ugly. And I'll be sober in the morning."
N.E. in San Mateo, CA, writes: Back when we were dating, my wife was a student at the University of San Francisco. During that time, USF changed its phone prefix away from 666. This, needless to say, got a lot of jokes for a Catholic university, including a write-up in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Also, some folks unfamiliar with it may find it interesting that just like 13 is sometimes avoided in Christian-influenced cultures, the same applies to the number 4 in Chinese and Japanese culture, because of the similarity of the word for the number to the word for death.
D.M. in Spokane, WA, writes: You mentioned that (Z) stayed in a hotel room on the 13th floor, which most hotels don't have, and once lived in Room 666 while in college. The security code on the back of one of my credit cards is 666. Last fall, I ordered some pecans by telephone from a Texas company. When I gave the clerk the security code, she said, "Oh my! Do you have another card?" I said that was the card I wanted to use, and she said she'd have to ask her boss if she could take that card. Then another person came on the phone, and said it was all right, that "Lisa" was just a little over-cautious.
D.S. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: I am often amused by numerological beliefs, if for no other reason that the expression of a number depends on the base, or radix, that is chosen, nearly always equal to the count of digits on most humans' hands.
So in the octal notation, the offending hotel floor would be 15, and the number of the beast would be expressed as the totally uninteresting 1232. In the hexadecimal notation, your hotel would be avoiding floor D, and the poor beast's sobriquet would be 29A. In "God's radix," we're talking 1101 and 1010011010. Absolutely terrifying.
F.H. in St. Paul, MN, writes: Every morning at 6:00 a.m., I start the day at McDonalds. While I eat a Sausage McMuffin with egg and a Coke, I stare out the window into the darkness at another cold Minnesota spring morning with the wind blowing the ever-present rain/sleet/snow sideways though the parking lot.
In the lobby, so brightly lit that it would blind Mr. Spock, the muffled sound of the local news plays on the televisions hung on the garish colored walls, warning those viewers: "Oh hey, and those bridge decks could be slick don't ya' know so, be careful!"
This announcement is ignored by five old guys (always the same guys) who are all sitting alone chewing on their hardtack-like muffins and drinking senior coffees. They don't need to be warned about slippery bridge decks because "Uff Da, I've been driving for 50 years, I know what I'm doing dammit."
As I finish the Sausage McMuffin with egg and my third Coke, I again check to see if (V) and (Z) have uploaded today's post. But as is common this time of year, it's late.
I sigh, realizing that without my E-V.com read in the morning, my life is boring and empty.
At home, as my wife still sleeping soundly in a warm bed surrounded by two dogs and a cat, I order a Sausage Biscuit and my fourth Coke refill and refresh the screen on my iPhone 6.