The Fourth Estate, the 2016 United States of America Presidential election, and The United States Supreme Court

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“Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.” (Thomas Jefferson, Letter to P. S. Dupont de Nemours, Poplar Forest. April 24, 1816.)

The United States presidential election of 2016, scheduled for Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will be the 58th quadrennial U.S. presidential election. Voters will select presidential electors who in turn will elect a new president and vice president through the Electoral College. The term limit established in the Twenty-second Amendment to the United States Constitution prevents the incumbent president, Barack Obama, of the Democratic Party, from being elected to a third term. Pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment, the House of Representatives is required to go into session immediately to vote for president if no candidate for president receives a majority of the electoral votes (since 1964,  this has been 270 of the 538 electoral votes needed to win). The two major parties have spent approximately $737,447,652 as of today on the upcoming election.

I thought that prior to our 4th of July celebrations this year that we would take a look at where we are at in the process and also take a look at the history of The United States Supreme Court, while we are at it. I will start by going through the parties nominations for POTUS, in order of presumed ballot access, since there are three parties that look to have their candidate on the ballot in all states, I will start with Clinton first, just going by alphabetical order between the last names Clinton, Johnson, and Trump.

The Democratic Party Presumptive Nominee Hillary Clinton

The Democratic nominating contests are over and Hillary Clinton claimed victory a week ago. But Bernie Sanders has also refused to concede the race and the Democratic National Committee has yet to acknowledge Clinton as the party’s nominee. If Hillary Clinton is nominated by the party she will be the first woman nominated as candidate for potus by either the Democratic or the Republican parties. Businessperson Roque “Rocky” De La Fuente whom was running for the Democratic nod, has said that voter fraud has been rampant. Former Democrat, Lloyd Kelso, whom is still attempting to gather ballot access as an independent, says that he left the party due to the way that he was treated during the race. Bernie Sanders has stopped just short of  joining Rocky De La Fuente in calling out fraud. Clinton has recently met with both Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, however, she has not mentioned an official opinion on a running mate as of this time. Clinton is under investigation by the FBI because of her reliance on a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state, breaking multiple department rules on cybersecurity. At the center of a criminal probe involving Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information is a series of emails between American diplomats in Islamabad and their superiors in Washington about whether to oppose specific drone strikes in Pakistan.


The Libertarian Party Nominee Gary Johnson

Gary Earl Johnson is an American businessman whom served as the 29th Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003. He was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for President of the United States in the 2012 election. Ever since his first bid for President in 2012, Johnson has been emphasizing reducing the United States public debt and the implementation of a balanced budget, protection of civil liberties, and a promise to take on the Federal Reserve. While in college, Johnson earned money as a door-to-door handyman. His success in that industry encouraged him to start his own business, Big J Enterprises, in 1976. When he started the business, which focused on mechanical contracting, Johnson was its only employee. He eventually grew Big J into a multimillion-dollar corporation with over 1,000 employees. By the time he sold the company in 1999, it was one of New Mexico’s leading construction companies. During his time as Governor he cut the 10% annual growth in the budget: in part, due to his use of the gubernatorial veto 200 times during his first six months in office. Johnson set state and national records for his use of veto and line-item veto powers.  According to former New Mexico Republican National Committee member Mickey D. Barnett, “Any time someone approached him about legislation for some purpose, his first response always was to ask if government should be involved in that to begin with. Johnson has been a longtime advocate of legalizing marijuana and has said that if he were president, he would remove it from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act as well as issue an executive order pardoning non-violent marijuana offenders. Johnson has said that the War on Drugs was “an expensive bust”, he has also said that he would work towards concentration on harm-reduction measures for all other illegal drugs. He compared attempts to enforce the nation’s drug laws with the failed attempt at alcohol prohibition, stating, “Half of what government spends on police, courts and prisons is to deal with drug offenders.” He suggested that drug abuse be treated as a health issue, not as a criminal issue. In 2000, New Mexico was devastated by the Cerro Grande Fire. Johnson’s leadership during the fire was praised by Democratic Congressman Tom Udall, who said: “I think the real test of leadership is when you have circumstances like this. He’s called on his reserves of energy and has just been a really excellent leader under very difficult circumstances here.” Gary Johnson opposes censorship and regulation of the Internet, the Patriot Act, enhanced airport screenings, and the indefinite detention of prisoners. He has spoken in favor of the separation of church and state.


Libertarian nomination for Vice President, William Weld

William Floyd Weld was born in Smithtown, New York. His ancestor Edmund Weld was among the earliest students (Class of 1650) at Harvard College. He would be followed by eighteen more Welds at Harvard, where two buildings are named for the family. General Stephen Minot Weld Jr. fought with distinction in many major battles of the Civil War. Weld’s mother, Mary Nichols Weld (1913–1986), was a descendant of William Floyd, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1981, William Weld was appointed as the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. During Weld’s tenure, the Attorney General’s office prosecuted some of New England’s largest banks in cases involving money laundering and other white-collar crimes. In 1985, the Boston Globe said Weld “has been by far the most visible figure in the prosecution of financial institutions.”Weld gained national recognition in fighting public corruption: he won 109 convictions out of 111 cases. In 1983, the Boston Globe stated: “The U.S. Attorney’s office has not lost a single political corruption case since Weld took over, an achievement believed to be unparalleled in the various federal jurisdictions.”

In 1986, President Reagan promoted Weld to head of the Criminal Division of the Justice Department in Washington, where Weld oversaw 700 employees. Weld was responsible for supervising all federal prosecutions, including those investigated by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration, as well as the work of the 93 U.S. Attorneys (who by then included Rudy Giuliani in Manhattan). During this time, Weld worked on some of the Reagan administration’s most significant prosecutions and investigations, including the capture of Panama’s Manuel Noriega on drug trafficking charges. In March 1988, Weld resigned from the Justice Department, together with United States Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns and four aides, in protest of improper conduct by U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese. In July 1988, Weld and Burns jointly testified before Congress in favor a potential prosecution of Meese for his personal financial conduct, following a report by a special prosecutor investigating Meese. Meese resigned from office in July 1988 shortly after Weld’s and Burns’ testimony.

William Weld was Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. In July 1997, Weld was nominated to become United States Ambassador to Mexico by President Bill Clinton. His nomination stalled after Senate Foreign Relations committee Chairman Jesse Helms refused to hold a hearing on the nomination, effectively blocking it. Helms was also a Republican and their party held the majority in the chamber, but Helms objected to Weld’s moderate stance on social issues such as his support for gay rights, abortion rights, and the legalization of medical marijuana. This refusal to hold hearings was also rumored to be at the request of former United States Attorney General and friend of Helms, Edwin Meese. Meese reportedly had a long-standing grudge against Weld stemming from Weld’s investigation of Meese during the Iran-Contra affair. Weld co-chaired the Independent Task Force on North America under the Council on Foreign Relations, which studied the liberalization of markets and free trade between the USA, Canada, and Mexico.

The Libertarian presidential ticket will receive international exposure when it participates this week in a CNN town hall. Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld, will sit down with anchor Chris Cuomo in this prime-time event on Wednesday, June 22. The town hall will take place at 8 p.m. CT from the Time Warner Center in New York City and air on CNN, CNN International and CNN en Espanol, while also being live-streamed via CNNgo.


The Republican Party Presumptive Nominee Donald Trump

Donald Trump, was recently endorsed by Paul Ryan and has recently met with Karl Rove. He has not mentioned his opinion on a running mate as of this time. There is some debate amongst Republicans as to whether the convention will be a smooth event for Mr. Trump. It is common knowledge that Donald Trump grew his name as a businessperson out of J. Edgar Hoover’s New York circles. These circles included fellow businesspeople like Lewis Rosenstiel, along with Cardinal Spellman of the New York archdiocese, and various Wall Street establishment and media figures, many of which were presided over by lawyer Roy M. Cohn. Cohn was Trump’s lawyer and best friend throughout most of Trump’s formative years—his mentor, according to Trump. Roy Cohn was deployed by J. Edgar Hoover and Joseph McCarthy during the “Red Scare”.


The Green Party Presumptive Nominee Jill Stein

In 1973, Jill Stein graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she studied psychology, sociology, and anthropology. She then attended Harvard Medical School and graduated in 1979. Jill Stein received 469,501 votes in 2012 —more than any other female potus candidate to date. Stein wants to cut U.S. military spending by at least 50%. Stein has argued that the United States “helped foment” a coup in Ukraine. She maintains that any support to the Ukraine should be neutral and that the United States should not arm the Ukraine. Regarding disputes in the South China Sea, Stein has said that “it is wrongheaded for [the United States] to deal with territorial rights on the borders of China.” Stein has claimed that the United States “pursued a policy of basically encircling Russia–including the threat of nukes and drones and so on.” Stein wants “a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe. Stein has been highly critical of the political leadership of Israel. Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s campaign has just announced that she has secured enough delegates to secure the Green Party’s nomination. After winning the majority of Green Party delegates in California, New York and Maryland, Stein has the support of 203 delegates, enough to secure the nomination at the party’s convention in August. Stein says a recent poll shows her with 5 percent support nationally. She has called for opening up the upcoming presidential debates to include third-party candidates. Via her social media Jill Stein has recently asked her party whom they would like to see as her running mate.


Constitution Party Nominee Darrell Castle

Darrell Castle is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving for four years and attaining the rank of first lieutenant. He cites his military service as fostering his belief that war should not be entered into capriciously nor without congressional approval. After his discharge, he returned to ETSU and began his graduate study of history. He then attended the law school at University of Memphis, then known as Memphis State University, and earned his Juris Doctor in 1979. Darrell Castle has vowed, if elected, to get the United States out of the United Nations and NATO. “Our borders are worth defending. If we can secure the borders of Korea and Germany, then we can secure the borders of the United States,” said Castle.


Now, I would like to take a look at the history of the The Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States (sometimes colloquially known as “SCOTUS”) is the highest federal court of the United States. Established pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution in 1789, it has ultimate (and largely discretionary) appellate jurisdiction over all federal courts and over state court cases involving issues of federal law, plus original jurisdiction over a small range of cases. In the legal system of the United States, the Supreme Court is the final interpreter of federal constitutional law, although it may only act within the context of a case in which it has jurisdiction.

The Court normally consists of the Chief Justice of the United States and eight associate justices who are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, justices have life tenure unless they resign, retire, or are removed after impeachment (though no justice has ever been removed). In modern discourse, the justices are often categorized as having conservative, moderate, or liberal philosophies of law and of judicial interpretation. Each justice has one vote, and while many cases are decided unanimously, the highest profile cases often expose ideological beliefs that track with those philosophical or political categories. The Court meets in the United States Supreme Court Buildingin Washington, D.C.  The ratification of the United States Constitution established the Supreme Court in 1789. Its powers are detailed in Article Three of the Constitution. The Supreme Court is the only court specifically established by the Constitution, and all the others were created by Congress. Congress is also responsible for conferring the title “justice” upon the associate justices, who have been known to scold lawyers for instead using the term “judge”, which is the term used by the Constitution. The Court first convened on February 2, 1790. Article III of the United States Constitution leaves it to Congress to fix the number of justices. The Judiciary Act of 1789 called for the appointment of six justices, and as the nation’s boundaries grew, Congress added justices to correspond with the growing number of judicial circuits: seven in 1807, nine in 1837, and ten in 1863. In 1866, at the behest of Chief Justice Chase, Congress passed an act providing that the next three justices to retire would not be replaced, which would thin the bench to seven justices by attrition. Consequently, one seat was removed in 1866 and a second in 1867. In 1869, however, the Circuit Judges Act returned the number of justices to nine, where it has since remained.

Section 2 of Article Three of the United States Constitution outlines the jurisdiction of the federal courts of the United States: The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls; to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party; to Controversies between two or more States; between a State and Citizens of another State; between Citizens of different States; between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects. The jurisdiction of the federal courts was further limited by the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, which forbade federal courts from hearing cases “commenced or prosecuted against [a State] by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.” However, states may waive this immunity, and Congress may abrogate the states’ immunity in certain circumstances (see Sovereign immunity). In addition to constitutional constraints, Congress is authorized by Article III to regulate the court’s appellate jurisdiction. The federal courts may hear cases only if one or more of the following conditions are met:

  1. If there is diversity of citizenship (meaning, the parties are citizens of different states or countries, including foreign states), and the amount of damages exceeds $75,000.[122]

  2. If the case presents a federal question, meaning that it involves a claim or issue “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States”, assuming that the question is not constitutionally committed to another branch of government.

  3. If the United States federal government (including the Post Office) is a party in the case.

No matter what other members of the press may try to tell you, the U.S. Constitution states that the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Judges of the Supreme Court.”  Because the Constitution sets no qualifications for service as a justice, a president may nominate anyone to serve, subject to Senate confirmation. The court currently has eight justices and one vacancy after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on February 13, 2016. On March 16, 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama nominated Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit Merrick Garland to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, to fill the vacancy created by Scalia’s death. Garland is yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Regardless of what comes to pass between the checks and balances, few could argue the importance to the decision to confirm a Justice that will honorably preside over the rights and liberty of us all.

Let us take a look as of press time at what may be in store if the Senate does not confirm Garland. Donald Trump has provided a list of 11 judges he would consider nominating to fill the seat of late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, an unusual move for a presidential candidate. The list includes: Steven Colloton of Iowa, Allison Eid of Colorado, Raymond Gruender of Missouri, Thomas Hardiman of Pennsylvania, Raymond Kethledge of Michigan, Joan Larsen of Michigan, Thomas Lee of Utah, William Pryor of Alabama, David Stras of Minnesota, Diane Sykes of Wisconsin and Don Willett of Texas. In a statement, Trump said he planned to use the list “as a guide to nominate our next United States Supreme Court Justices” and said the names are “representative of the kind of constitutional principles I value.” Five of the 11 names were floated in March by the conservative Heritage Foundation, which Trump said was assisting him in compiling a list of potential nominees. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, meanwhile, called Trump’s list “impressive” in a statement. Six of the 11 picks are federal judges on U.S. courts of appeal, all of whom were nominated to their current positions by former President George W. Bush. The five other candidates sit on the benches of state supreme courts.

After Judge Garland Merrick’s nomination, Clinton immediately came out in favor of his nomination and demanded the Senate vote on him. I was unable to find word on if Jill Stein or Darrell Castle have weighed in on this matter, however, the Johnson camp has hinted via social media that he would nominate Judge Andrew Peter Napolitano. Napolitano is a well-known libertarian who is a strong advocate of constitutional protections against government encroachment on natural and legal rights, as well as a strong advocate of broad constitutional liberties themselves. Napolitano is noted for stalwartly disagreeing with conservatives on questions of personal freedom, national security, and equality, while also engaging in full-throated defense of more conservative ideas of economic freedom and scope of government. With respect to both Presidents Bush and Obama and their handling of civil liberties in the War on Terror, Napolitano is a strong critic. In both his recent scholarly work, appearing in the New York University Law School Journal of Law and Liberty, and in his book Suicide Pact, Napolitano delivered detailed criticisms of the actions of both Presidents and their parties with respect to torture, domestic spying, unilateral executive action, and encroachments on political power.

I believe that the press and the average citizen currently put entirely too much power, too many fed notes, and much too much stock into the position of President. Most people can tell you who is running for President from the two current major parties but they are unable to name their closest local government representatives. In this country, when the United States first established their independence from England in 1776, some people wanted to make General George Washington America’s first king. Washington would not have it. Together with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and America’s other founding fathers, a constitution was created by which the government of the United States would be established. America was created a nation by, for, and of the people with a representative government – a constitutional republic. Power rests with the citizens who are presided over by an elected official known as the President. Washington had no desire to be a monarch and in fact he often expressed his concerns with one person or one or two parties, congress, or the supreme court becoming too powerful. He and the other founding fathers understood the danger of putting too much power in the hands of one person or entity. The constitutional republic they formed is based on a system of triple checks. That’s why America has a President, Congress, and a Supreme Court. Ideally, this system works to give the President just enough power to govern the nation without so much he forgets his position as a servant of the people.

On February 22, 1789, George Washington turned 57, knowing he had won a unanimous election as his nation’s first president — indeed, the first popularly elected president in world history. His election, however, presented him and the rest of the nation with an unexpected problem. He was to take his oath of office before the First Congress in, but 10 weeks — on April 30, 1789 — and no one knew what to call him. During the Revolutionary War, Americans called him “Your Excellency” or, more simply, “General,” in keeping with customs the world over. But there were no precedents for addressing an elected president. No other nation had ever elected a president. President Adams had been infatuated by the pomp of European courts he had visited as an American minister during the Revolutionary War, and he suggested addressing Washington as “Your Highness” or “Your Most Benign Highness.” One senator suggested calling Washington “His Exalted Highness.” Another scoffed at the suggestion as too aristocratic and insisted that “His Elective Highness” was far more appropriate. With that, the Senate debate fell into disorder. “Most Illustrious and Excellent President,” shouted one Senator. “His Majesty the President!” another called out. Fed up with the arguing, a third senator barked, “Why not call him George IV?” Other senators were less oblique, stating that the President was neither a king nor an emperor and entitled to no title but “George.” Vice President Adams urged the Senate and House to name a special committee to resolve differences. Adams then proposed calling Washington, “His Highness, the President of the United States, and Protector of the Rights of the Same.” After a few more days of debate, one congressman re-examined the Constitution and reminded his colleagues that it prohibited titles. After murmurs of surprise diminished, members finally adopted the Republican simplicity of “Mr. President” — setting the standard for generations of American presidents to come. Washington himself was relieved, telling his son-in-law, “Happily the matter is now done with, I hope never to be revived.”

This journalist would like to see peaceful revolution in this country and around the planet. I believe that breaking up the “two party system” will allow us to have a functioning Republic once again.  I ask that you consider joining me in peaceful revolution by registering no party, Libertarian, Constitution, or Green Party. Aside from caucuses and primaries, you would still be allowed to vote for people from any party that you would like to support. I feel like the majority of current American citizens can align with one of the three mentioned parties without compromising their morals or their principles. Please talk to your coworkers, friends, family, parents, and grandparents about the other active parties in this country and their alternative options in Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Darrell Caste, or NOTA (none of the above). A total of 494 Electoral Votes are in play for write in candidates. Currently, 43 States allow Write In Ballots for President of the United States. Most States require a candidate to register, however; Vermont, Wyoming,Oregon, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Iowa, Delaware, and Alabama do not require registration.  It is a shame to me that you will not hear this on your nightly local news, nor your “public” news source. No one in this country has to feel like they are choosing between a lesser of two evils and no one in this country has to feel like their vote does not count!

“Burke said that there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate, more important far than they all.“ Thomas Carlyle

Marco Battaglia writes for the Iowa Free Press and is a proud member of The Fourth Estate