Analysis and Commentary on Politics

“Bridgegate” Or “Bridgetgate”? And Other Unanswered Questions

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the serious and building scandal that New Jersey Governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie has on his hands, regarding allegations that he and/or his staff knowingly used their power for political reasons—specifically to allegedly close two toll booth lanes onto the George Washington Bridge as an act of political retribution.

Some Political and Constitutional Questions Raised by Tim Draper’s “Six Californias” Plan to Split Up California

Justia columnist and U.C. Davis law professor Vikram Amar comments on Silicon Valley billionaire investor Tim Draper's proposed plan to divide up California into six separate states, on the ground that California’s diverse population and economies currently render the state nearly ungovernable. In this column, Amar spots and preliminarily analyzes some of the major issues that may arise regarding Draper's plan. (If and when the proposed measure successfully moves through various stages of the political process, Amar will likely offer a more detailed analysis of many of the questions that the plan raises.)

President Obama Should Not Put the Fed in the Middle of 2014’s Debt Ceiling Madness

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan argues that, in the inevitable 2014 debt-ceiling fight, unless President Obama changes his approach, the Fed will be forced to spend enormous political capital defending the financial system. The damage that would then ensue, Buchanan notes, could take decades to fix, if it could be fixed at all.

The Next Debt Ceiling Crisis Can Be Prevented If Democrats Learn From Filibuster Reform

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan describes a way in which America can avoid another debt-ceiling crisis in 2014. Indeed, Buchanan points out that there is now a clear political path by which the Democrats could neutralize that threat. Moreover, the Constitution, he points out, is on the Democrats’ side, and their recent experience with the fight over the Senate’s filibuster rules should give the Democrats the confidence they need to move forward.

Who Benefits From Filibuster Reform?

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf explains the politics behind filibuster reform, in the wake of the elimination of the rule requiring a supermajority vote to end debate—and thus to move to a merits vote—on presidential nominations to the lower federal courts and executive offices.

Will Extreme Conservatives Ever Break With Ultra-Extreme Conservatives?

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on possible fault lines within the Republican party, specifically affecting extreme and ultra-extreme conservatives. Buchanan also asks an interesting question: What would it take for supposedly “reasonable” conservatives finally to give up on the extreme modern Republican Party? And, on a personal note, Buchanan describes the changes in political leanings in his own family as they related to changes in the Republican Party.

Is Republican Obstructionism Criminal?

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on whether current Republican obstructionism could be charged as a federal crime. In particular, Dean questions whether Section 371 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which prohibits conspiracies to defraud the government of the United States, applies here. Dean concludes, however, for interesting reasons, that, even if Section 371 could apply, no criminal charges ought to be brought.

If the Debt Ceiling Is Reached, the President Will Be Forced to Go It Alone, But the Fed Could Save the Day

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan clarifies how many people’s—including many journalists’—failure to truly understand the context of the impending debt ceiling disaster causes them to misunderstand both the President’s choice between defaulting and not defaulting, and his possible strategies if he chooses to avoid default. Buchanan also explains how the Federal Reserve could play the ultimate savior’s role in the crisis. He also offers a driving metaphor to explain the situation that President Obama faces, and why he may legitimately need to break the rules to solve it.

The Republican War Against Women

Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton contends that Catholic and evangelical leaders are waging a new war against the use of contraception, enlisting public relations experts, lobbyists, and lawyers, despite the fact that very large majorities of Americans support contraception. One strategy, Hamilton notes, involves “conscience clauses” that would, for instance, allow pharmacists not to hand over contraceptives if it violates the pharmacist’s own anti-contraception beliefs.

Who Won, Vicki Iseman or The New York Times? And What About the Debate?

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on a 2008 New York Times story and its continuing fallout. The story insinuated that lobbyist Vicki Iseman had a romantic relationship with John McCain, who was then emerging as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. But even The Times’ own ombudsman noted the story’s lack of proof. While McCain had no real remedy based on the story, Iseman sued The Times for defamation. Dean comments on the Iseman lawsuit, on a defamation suit filed by Barry Goldwater, and on American defamation law more generally. Dean also warns readers that their social-media activities may make them vulnerable in defamation suits, and draws on relevant advice from defamation experts Coleman Allen and Rodney Smolla.

The Next Debt Ceiling Debacle: The Republicans Are Setting an Impeachment Trap, and the Democrats Continue to Misunderstand What Is Happening

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan offers a primer on the debt ceiling; describes the trilemma that Washington faces; and explains how the Republicans are setting an impeachment trap, and the Democrats are playing along. Buchanan also comments on how far the Republicans will take this, and spells out some of the possibilities.

New Accusations by a Nixon Apologist Based on Recently Discovered Information Regarding the Watergate Cover-Up Trial

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on Watergate revisionism, and, in particular, Geoff Shepard’s recent piece in The Atlantic claiming that Nixon’s top advisers did not get justice when they were convicted for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury. Dean strongly differs with Shepard’s account, and explains precisely why. Among other points, Dean rebuts Shepard’s claim that former Watergate Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski and Judge Sirica held secret ex parte meetings which were unlawful.

The Obama Administration Has Temporarily Cut Military Aid to Egypt, But Still Won’t Call the Coup a Coup: Why Modern Presidents Evade the Law

Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf comments on the situation in Egypt, arguing that President Obama’s dubious legal position with respect to Egyptian aid fits a recent pattern of American presidents acting as though they are not constrained by law when it comes to American foreign policy. To support his thesis, Dorf cites choices made by Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush.

The IRS “Scandal” Turned Out to Be a Non-Scandal, But It Might Not Matter: Why It Is Not Just the Right-Wing Echo Chamber That Will Perpetuate the Myth of Political Manipulation of the IRS

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan comments on a number of “scandals” that, more closely examined, did not prove to be genuine scandals at all. Buchanan focuses in particular on what we know now about the alleged IRS scandal, which he deems a non-scandal in the end that is only being perpetuated to gain partisan advantage—given the fact that the IRS, it turns out, used not just right-wing labels, but left-wing labels, too in its searches. Yet Buchanan notes that false claims tend to have a life of their own, and cites several reasons why that is the case.

Republicans Choose the Dark Ages Over the Enlightenment: The Right’s Agenda Is Even More Reactionary Than It Had Seemed

Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan argues that Republicans’ current positions are so extreme and cruel that they shock the conscience, and that one must go deep into history—indeed, earlier than the Enlightenment—to find an appropriate comparison. To support his thesis, Buchanan cites the recent vote to eliminate Food Stamps, on which many children depend; the move to support cuts to financing for student loans for poorer students, the decision to slash spending on community block grants to cities for housing and social programs; and the choice to take a broad anti-regulation stance even when regulation is plainly sorely needed. Modern Republicans, like pre-Enlightenment thinkers, Buchanan argues, are perfectly happy with the idea that the powerful cannot be stopped from imposing their will on workers, customers, the environment, and more.

Will Director of National Intelligence James Clapper Be Prosecuted for Lying to Congress Regarding the NSA’s Surveillance?

Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the testimony of DNI James Clapper regarding NSA data-gathering, testimony which appears to be false. Dean explains why, despite the apparent falsity of the testimony, it is highly unlikely that Clapper will be prosecuted. Some of the reasons why that is so, Dean notes, include the difficulty of successfully invoking laws that penalize lying to Congress. Dean describes the key three statutes that might be invoked, and explains why, over American history, there have been so few prosecutions for lying to Congress.

Meet our Columnists

Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois Co... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington U... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in con... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Befo... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has w... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of L... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavi... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record... more

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior... more