New book on POTUS-SCOTUS


Staff & Wire Reports

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 1949, file photo, President Harry S. Truman, center, and Chief Justice Fred Vinson, right, congratulates Sherman Minton, left, outside the White House after Minton was sworn in by Vinson as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C. That relationship between the White House and the Supreme Court is being examined anew following the bitter confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh, who angrily denounced President Donald Trump’s political opponents during a Senate hearing. (AP Photo/John Rous, File)

FILE - In this Oct. 12, 1949, file photo, President Harry S. Truman, center, and Chief Justice Fred Vinson, right, congratulates Sherman Minton, left, outside the White House after Minton was sworn in by Vinson as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C. That relationship between the White House and the Supreme Court is being examined anew following the bitter confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh, who angrily denounced President Donald Trump’s political opponents during a Senate hearing. (AP Photo/John Rous, File)

Amid Kavanaugh fallout, book looks at presidents, justices


AP Washington Bureau Chief

Monday, October 8

WASHINGTON (AP) — Mired in the Korean War, President Harry Truman began plotting a federal government takeover of American steel companies to head off a strike. Before he followed through with his plan, he secretly asked Chief Justice Fred Vinson, his close friend and poker buddy, how the Supreme Court might react.

Vinson told his friend not to worry, and Truman proceeded with the takeover. A few months later, the Supreme Court found his actions unconstitutional.

The account is one of several instances of presidents and justices appearing to blur the constitutional separation of powers that appear in a new history of American presidents at war.

That relationship between the White House and the Supreme Court is being examined anew following the bitter confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh, who angrily denounced President Donald Trump’s political opponents during a Senate hearing.

Kavanaugh, who previously served in President George W. Bush’s White House, took the concerns about his appearance of partisanship so seriously that he wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed on the eve of his confirmation to assert his belief that “an independent and impartial judiciary is essential to our constitutional republic.” He blamed some of his partisan rhetoric on the intensity of his confirmation process, which was nearly derailed by sexual assault allegations.

Kavanaugh was narrowly confirmed on Saturday and will take his seat on the high court this week. He was advised closely on his handling of the misconduct allegations by Trump advisers, including White House counsel Don McGahn.

Historian Michael Beschloss, author of “Presidents at War,” said Kavanaugh “has been bound pretty closely to the Trump administration over the past few weeks.” And he said history provides examples of “why you worry about a justice who is not independent enough of the president.”

Beschloss writes about the relationship between President Lyndon B. Johnson and his close friend Abe Fortas, whom he nominated to the high court in 1965. After Fortas was confirmed, he “wound up quietly helping the president write speeches and choose Vietnam bombing targets,” Beschloss writes.

The close ties between Johnson and Fortas helped scuttle the latter’s nomination to be chief justice after they were revealed to the Senate.

Presidents have also more overtly called on Supreme Court justices to help them in moments of political peril.

After the World War II bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt feared that he would be blamed for the attack because he moved the U.S. Pacific Fleet from San Diego to Hawaii. Seeking to get ahead of a congressional investigation, Beschloss writes, Roosevelt tapped Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts to oversee a supposedly independent commission.

“Roberts was known to be unassertive, which made him subject to the president’s importuning,” Beschloss writes.

Roberts met privately with Roosevelt at least three times after the commission was announced. His report spared the president and pointed blame at local commanders, Gen. Walter Short and Adm. Husband Kimmel.

Trump White House officials have both praised Kavanaugh’s conservative record and argued he will be an impartial justice.

“He should apply the law, not make it up as he goes along,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” ”This country is sick and tired of people who make up the law as they go along to fit political agendas or to fit personal predispositions.”

Beschloss’ book, which will be released this week, examines how eight wartime presidents, from Thomas Jefferson to George W. Bush, dealt with their powers under the Constitution.

He writes extensively about Johnson, who he says became more paranoid and emotionally troubled as the Vietnam War unfolded. He was intently focused on those he viewed as rivals, saying on secret tapes that Martin Luther King, Jr. was “controlled completely” by communists and claiming that Robert Kennedy was paying King to stir up urban riots.

Beschloss also writes that Johnson still hoped Democrats would draft him for their 1968 presidential nomination, despite announcing publicly that he would not seek or accept the nomination. Johnson had planned to be in Chicago, site of his party’s convention, for a birthday celebration, but ultimately skipped the gathering after his advisers surmised that the party would not nominate him.

Johnson wound up watching the proceedings on television from his Texas ranch.

Follow Julie Pace at

Analysis: In Kavanaugh Fight, Democrats Embrace the ‘Maxine Waters’ Strategy

By Michael Graham

How is the “Maxine Waters” strategy working for Democrats?

In June, the California congresswoman exhorted an enthusiastic crowd of Democrats to confront Republican leaders “in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere!” she yelled.

“Already, you have members of your Cabinet that are being booed out of restaurants, who have protesters taking up at their house, who say, ‘No peace, no sleep. No peace, no sleep,’” Waters told the crowd. “God is on OUR side!”

Maybe He is. But what about swing voters?

The scenes of angry anti-Brett Kavanaugh activists shouting down senators on elevators, harassing them at airport terminals — even chasing them into the bathroom — are all over the media. Following the advice of Waters, passionate Democrats are pushing their way into the faces of public officials and pronouncing them as “pro-rape,” often at the top of their lungs.

“You’re seeing the headquarters of the #Resistance right here on Capitol Hill, lead by the Democrats!” a clearly frustrated Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said Friday morning.

The activists are certainly energized. More than 300 protesters were arrested by Capitol Hill police Thursday. But are they aware of the effect these images of screaming confrontations are having in living rooms and on laptops outside the Beltway? If the available data are any indication, the answer is: “Not good.”

“There’s been a wake-up call to the Republican base,” Lee Miringoff of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion told the Wall Street Journal. His polling found that July’s 10-point advantage among voters who said November’s election is “very important” in July is now down to two points.

This shouldn’t be surprising. A recent Harvard/Harris poll found that a majority of voters think the Kavanaugh confirmation process was mishandled, and 69 percent say it has devolved into “a national disgrace.” Democrats are on TV literally embracing that disgrace. Is that a smart, swing-state strategy?

Most of the political analysis has focused on the effect to each party’s base. “Pre-Kavanaugh, Democrats were at a 9.5 motivation level and Republicans were at a 6. Post-Kavanaugh, Democrats are at a 10 and Republicans are at a 9,” GOP strategist Andrew Surabian told the Daily Beast.

But there’s been little public discussion on how less-partisan voters perceive this fight. The Harvard/Harris poll seems to indicate that there’s a significant bloc of voters genuinely concerned about treating both Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Kavanaugh fairly. For example, 60 percent of voters said they would support Kavanaugh’s confirmation if the FBI investigation found no corroborating evidence.

And then there are these numbers: Marist shows the generic ballot among suburban women has gone from D+35 in early September to D+14 as of October 1. In Quinnipiac, the generic ballot numbers for all women have gone from D+14 in July to D +1 as of September 30.

Also, the Cook Political Report on Thursday moved the Montana U.S. Senate race from “Lean Democrat” to “Toss Up,” and the New Jersey race from “Likely” Democrat to “Lean.”

Sen. David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, was one of the senators hounded by angry activists at Reagan Washington National Airport. His wife was with him, and she had the anger inflicted upon her, too. When the senator stepped into an airport men’s room, the protesters shouted warnings at him: “You have to exit the bathroom at some point!”

Perdue took to the floor of the U.S. Senate afterward and called out some of his fellow senators, as well as Rep. Waters, for using “the tactics of the Brownshirts in Germany in the 1930s.”

“Unacceptable. Totally irresponsible,” Perdue said. “This is America.”

Rep. Maxine Waters doesn’t agree. We will get a final answer from the American people in November.


Michael Graham is political editor of NH Journal. He’s also a CBS News contributor. You can reach him at

The Conversation

‘Bystander effect’ and sexual assault: What the research says

October 5, 2018


Heather Hensman Kettrey

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Clemson University

Robert Marx

Ph.D. Student, Vanderbilt University

Disclosure statement

Heather Hensman Kettrey received funding from The Campbell Collaboration to conduct the research reported here.

Robert Marx does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


Vanderbilt University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

Sexual assault, pushed into public conversation by the #MeToo movement, once again dominates the U.S. news cycle. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh faces allegations that he sexually assaulted professor Christine Blasey Ford, a former high school classmate.

The allegations have led to a number of important questions regarding victim testimony, the veracity of memory and the justice system in America.

However, as social scientists who study sexuality and violence, we found ourselves asking a different question: Where were Kavanaugh and Ford’s classmates during this alleged incident?

The role of bystanders

Based on Dr. Ford’s testimony, party guests failed to notice this incident, let alone intervene to stop it. In fact, key witnesses have submitted affidavits stating that they did not see or that they have no recollection of the event. Whereas some politicians have used these affidavits to cast doubt on Dr. Ford’s allegations, we believe these affidavits are in line with research concerning bystanders’ behavior in potentially dangerous situations.

Over 50 years of research has documented a “bystander effect” in which witnesses fail to intervene in emergency situations, often because they assume someone else will take action. Recent research applying the bystander effect specifically to sexual assault has revealed that witnesses fail to intervene for a number of common reasons: They fail to notice the assault; do not believe it is their responsibility to intervene; do not believe they have the skills to intervene; or are inhibited by the belief that those around them will negatively judge them for intervening. Witnesses to sexual assault often fail to intervene for one – or a combination of – these reasons.

Under mandate of the 2013 United States Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act college campuses across the United States have begun implementing bystander training programs. These programs strive to sensitize young people to the warning signs of sexual assault, like a young man leading a young woman into an isolated place, and provide them with skills so that they will know how to intervene when necessary. For example, these programs might teach young people to walk a friend home when he or she has had too much to drink, start a conversation with a young woman who appears to be uncomfortable with her date, or call the police.

Bystander training appears to help

We were curious about the effects that these bystander programs have on the behavior of young people. So in a just-published study, we analyzed data from over 6,000 college students across the United States and found that programs designed to prevent sexual assault by increasing onlookers’ interventions do have a meaningful effect on bystander behavior. Compared to peers who did not participate in a bystander program, college students who did participate reported a greater ability to intervene and greater intentions to intervene, should a situation require it.

Most importantly, those who participated in a bystander program reported actually engaging in more bystander intervention behaviors than those who did not participate in a program. On average, these participants reported two more instances of bystander intervention in the months following the bystander program than their peers who did not attend a bystander program. Simply put, bystander programs are successful at encouraging bystanders to intervene when witnessing sexual assault or its warning signs.

These findings are especially important considering that research indicates that traditional sexual assault programs, which target the behavior of potential victims or of potential perpetrators, are not particularly effective at preventing assault. Thus, the power to prevent sexual assault may lie in the hands of bystanders.

The fact that allegations of sexual assault have entered into the process of appointing a Supreme Court justice reminds us that sexual assault affects us as a community and that its prevention is a communal responsibility.

As researchers who study sexuality, violence and prosocial behavior, we believe that bystanders need to keep their eyes open and speak up on behalf of potential victims. Our research demonstrates that having been educated about bystander strategies leads to greater intervention, which should lead to fewer sexual assaults. If a vigilant bystander noticed every time a young woman was led away to an isolated place at a party, then our world would be safer for all of us. We, as a society, should strive to become better bystanders by noticing the warning signs of a potential assault, knowing strategies to intervene, and remembering that we have a collective responsibility to prevent sexual assault.

Analysis: Anecdotes and Evidence Point to ‘Brett Bounce’ in the Midterms

By Michael Graham

At the left-wing website, a warning for their readers: “New poll shows Supreme Court fight is motivating Republican voters.”

In purple New Hampshire, Republican state senator Sharon Carson says about a GOP gathering in Londonderry on Tuesday night: “We had a surprisingly large crowd — a lot bigger than I was expecting, and they were all talking about one thing: ‘Kavanaugh.’”

In Atlanta, local radio talk host Erick Erickson tells about a rally for GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp in a small, south Georgia community. The Kemp campaign was expecting around 100 people, and were taken aback when more than 300 showed up. “All they wanted to talk about was how badly Kavanaugh was being treated. Anecdotes aren’t data, I know, but people are fired up over this in ways nothing else has fired them up,” Erickson said.

Erickson is right: Anecdotes aren’t data — but polls are. And from Quinnipiac to Marist to Fox, polls across the board show a surge in GOP voter enthusiasm and interest as the midterms approach — after months of lagging behind their more-energized Democratic counterparts.

“In our polling since last Thursday, I’m seeing a Kavanaugh effect in our races that is energizing Republicans like nothing I’ve seen this entire cycle,” pollster Chris Wilson of WPA Intelligence said Thursday.

The new NPR Marist poll finds that the 10-point Democratic enthusiasm advantage of July is now down to 2 points — a statistical dead heat. The Democrats’ “generic ballot” advantage was plus 12 just three weeks ago. Now it’s down to plus 6 —within the range Republicans need to have any hope of holding onto the House of Representatives.

Similar generic-ballot numbers were in the new Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday. Democrats were up 52-38 percent in mid-September, but now has the margin at 49-42 percent. The margin dropped in half since the Kavanaugh controversy began.

Fox News has a new poll that is more limited in scope but, perhaps, more significant. Fox looked at five battleground U.S. Senate races — Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and Tennessee — and found GOP enthusiasm up in every state. “The number of Republicans feeling ‘extremely’ interested in the upcoming election is up by 2 points in Arizona, up by 9 points in Indiana, up 8 points in both Missouri and North Dakota, and up 11 points in Tennessee,” Fox News reports.

“In each state, Republicans are now just as likely as Democrats to say they are extremely interested — erasing an edge Democrats had in several states last month.”

In Missouri, Sen. Claire McCaskill has been showing a remarkable resilience in a state Donald Trump carried by 20 points and whose voters overwhelmingly support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation. The incumbent Democrat came out against Kavanaugh early — before the sex assault allegations became public — and yet has maintained a narrow lead.

But now Axios reports that the GOP super PAC Missouri Rising Action just got numbers back Thursday showing Republican Josh Hawley with a 52-44 lead — a huge swing from the 46-42 McCaskill lead the same poll found in June.

This is all good news for Republican campaigns who’ve struggled to find ways to match the passion across the aisle. As Democratic whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said Thursday: “The women of America are very energized — and they started to be energized on the 21st of January 2017. It has not dissipated. And while I believe there’s some energy on the other side as well, I don’t think it matches the energy that was created on our side, which was already at a high level.”

Erickson agrees: “One of the unintended consequences of the Kavanaugh story is that it’s helping solve the problem Republicans were having with their base. Republican voters simply didn’t believe the media reports about the bad polling, and they weren’t motivated to show up, knock on doors, etc.”

“Now these voters suddenly find themselves back on the front lines of the culture war, and they are ready to march,” Erickson said.


Michael Graham is political editor of NH Journal. He’s also a CBS News contributor. You can reach him at


Point: Don’t Destroy an Innocent Man

By Inez Stepman

On Friday, the Senate will vote on whether the disgraceful new chapter in confirmation hearings that America has been living through for the past few weeks will become the new normal. If it does, we will all — women and men, victims and the accused — be worse off. We will have abandoned an objective standard of justice in favor of a reputation-destroying public firestorm.

The stakes are high: in Judge Brett Kavanaugh we have before us a man whose decades of model public service are in danger of being wiped out by a bare allegation, made about events that took place when he was 17 years old, and contradicted by the only named witnesses.

While Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony was plausible and sympathetic, it did nothing to bring forward new evidence, nor alleviate the gaps in her story. Those inconsistencies — the changing number of people she claims were at the gathering, multiple revisions to the time and place of the assault, and no way to explain how she arrived home — are what led sexual assault prosecutor Rachel Mitchell, who questioned Dr. Ford at the hearing, to declare Ford’s testimony “even weaker” than “he said, she said.”

Mitchell reports that that no reasonable prosecutor would bring the case to a civil trial, where the standard is that the allegation must merely be more likely than not.

Those claiming to be the victims of sexual assault should always be listened to, and their allegations should always be fairly investigated. But to say we should uncritically believe all women dangerously upends a long-held tenet of both our law and culture: those accused are presumed innocent.

Many in the media would have you believe that women are united against Kavanaugh, making him the stand-in for the many perpetrators of sexual violence who evade justice. But women care about fairness and the presumption of innocence as well as the pain of victims; they see in Kavanaugh their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers. Instead of the entitlement of privilege, many women saw in his righteous anger the anguish of a man whose reputation and family are being unfairly dragged through the mud.

In fact, 60 percent of Americans want to see Kavanaugh confirmed if this FBI investigation turns up no new evidence to corroborate Dr. Ford’s testimony. The divide over his confirmation is breaking down along partisan lines rather than gender, with conservative women furious at the way sexual assault has been wielded as a political club. Americans across the political spectrum are disappointed with the way that Democrats have handled these sensitive matters and turned them into a political circus.

Perhaps that’s why the goalposts for Kavanaugh’s unfitness have been moved so many times, away from the very serious charges in Dr. Ford’s plausible narrative, to the outlandish and sensational.

The national conversation — and what was once the world’s most august legislative body — have been reduced to litigating fart jokes in a high school yearbook and an incident in which Kavanaugh allegedly threw ice at another student in college. Lord help my generation, whose youthful experiences are documented online, if scrutinizing teenage hijinks becomes the norm for career advancement.

More worryingly, if Kavanaugh is not confirmed, the new standard will be set going forward: any accusation of sexual impropriety, no matter how many decades ago and with how little evidence, will be enough to drum a man out of public life if political circumstances are right. This political weaponization of the #MeToo movement will make things worse for victims coming forward, thrusting them immediately into a political melee depending on the party registration of the accused.

When predators like Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby were brought down by their victims — and a mountain of corroborating evidence — women across the political spectrum could cheer. If the “Kavanaugh standard” is ratified by a down vote, the common ground between left and right over #MeToo will vanish, leaving in its wake a more difficult task for survivors and a climate of fear for innocent men.

At the end of Dr. Ford’s emotional hearing, the American people were left with two compelling narratives that cannot be reconciled. That’s exactly why the Anglo-American tradition has always demanded some form of evidence and placed the burden of proof on the accuser. If we abandon those long-held standards, we will always be left with the undesirable task of guessing between two injustices: disbelieving a potential victim or destroying an innocent man.


Inez Stepman is a senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Forum. She wrote this for

Counterpoint: Men Like Kavanaugh Always Enjoy the Presumption of Innocence; Others Aren’t So Lucky

By Karen Dolan

The “presumption of innocence” isn’t a right enjoyed by all in the United States.

Ask any black man who scans his surroundings on the sidewalks, in stores, on the roads, to find out where the cops are and mentally assess if there’s anything — about his appearance, his clothes, what he’s carrying, how he walks, what he drives — that may turn the constant presumption of his guilt into a dangerous situation.

The tragic list of Trayvon Martins, Kalief Browders, LaQuan MacDonalds, Philando Castilles, Tamir Rices and Emmet Tills is long. It is the brutal history of this nation.

Ask a black woman who enters a place of business and has the audacity to raise her voice or complain or contest her bill, or to change lanes on a quiet road without using a signal. The presumption of her guilt may get her arrested, or worse.

And ask any woman or girl who experiences sexual harassment or assault.

She may tell you that she reported the incident and was presumed guilty of the attack against her because of her clothing, attitude, untrustworthiness, wild imagination, shameful desire or her femininity itself. Or she’’ll tell you that she didn’t report the assault because she’d either internalized the presumption of her guilt or was deeply aware that others had.

By contrast, white males with higher economic status are almost always presumed innocent.

A wealthy male — especially a white, wealthy male like Brett Kavanaugh — not only expects and receives the presumption of innocence. He also feels entitled to violate the standards and laws the rest of us must live by because he knows he’ll be protected by his privilege. The laws are made and executed by people like him. It’s a club.

In the wake of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s credible allegations of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, the conservative Weekly Standard published a piece boldly headlined “Brett Kavanaugh Needs no Defense.” In it, his presumption of innocence is assumed as the allegations are presumed false.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham’s indignation that one of his own should be questioned raged through the Senate hearing, screaming that Kavanaugh had been “put through hell,” his good name besmirched. Faced with serious allegations of violent and unethical behavior by Kavanaugh, Graham unflinchingly declared, “I hope you’re on the Supreme Court. That’s exactly where you should be.” On Sean Hannity’s show after the hearing, he said, “Ms. Ford has got a problem, and destroying Judge Kavanaugh won’t fix her problem.”

Even Republicans who bothered to ask questions showed an almost comical lack of rigor. “None of these allegations are true?” Louisiana Republican senator John Kennedy asked Kavanaugh. “Correct,” Kavanaugh answered. Kennedy followed up: “You swear to God?” Kavanaugh: “I swear to God.”

Kennedy, satisfied: “That’s all I have, Judge.”

Despite credible testimony against Kavanaugh, and evidence that he wasn’t truthful under oath, never did it occur to the GOP senators that Dr. Blasey might be presumed innocent of slander. The presumption of innocence is sometimes reserved for her privileges as an upper-income and white woman, but not when it challenges the privilege of an upper-income white male. Never then. (“Lock her up!” chanted Trump supporters at a rally.)

Finally, this was a job interview. Kavanaugh wasn’t being prosecuted in the criminal legal system, he was being interviewed for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

Not only is the legal standard of criminal guilt inappropriate here, but the stakes aren’t at all the same. In a worst-case scenario, Kavanaugh settles for being the federal judge he already is. Black people not afforded the presumption of innocence end up incarcerated or dead, while women and girls of any race end up living in a society that systematically excuses assault against them.

The courage and credible testimony of Dr. Ford comes at a time when the #MeToo movement has begun a cultural shift in favor of believing women like Ford. At least in sexual-assault allegations from prominent women, the conversation is shifting from “he said, she said” to #IBelieveHer.

It isn’t yet enough to hold more than a handful of powerful men to account. And it’s many years away from granting a presumption of innocence to black and brown people. But make no mistake: It’s shifting.


Karen Dolan directs the Criminalization of Race and Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She wrote this for

FILE – In this Oct. 12, 1949, file photo, President Harry S. Truman, center, and Chief Justice Fred Vinson, right, congratulates Sherman Minton, left, outside the White House after Minton was sworn in by Vinson as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C. That relationship between the White House and the Supreme Court is being examined anew following the bitter confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh, who angrily denounced President Donald Trump’s political opponents during a Senate hearing. (AP Photo/John Rous, File) – In this Oct. 12, 1949, file photo, President Harry S. Truman, center, and Chief Justice Fred Vinson, right, congratulates Sherman Minton, left, outside the White House after Minton was sworn in by Vinson as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C. That relationship between the White House and the Supreme Court is being examined anew following the bitter confirmation fight over Brett Kavanaugh, who angrily denounced President Donald Trump’s political opponents during a Senate hearing. (AP Photo/John Rous, File)

Staff & Wire Reports