Friday, March 6, 2020
This is a rush transcript. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
It's Friday, March 6th, 2020. I'm Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Desperate, Despicable, and Dangerous: Chuck Schumer Threatens Supreme Court Justices Over Abortion Case
Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court of the United States undertook oral arguments in a case from Louisiana that is the first major challenge to abortion before the nation's highest court since the confirmation of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the court. There are numerous issues that make this case extremely important, but the entire context grew only more important later in the afternoon when the Supreme Court of the United States in the name of the Chief Justice of the United States, John G. Roberts, Jr., released a one paragraph statement.
The Chief Justice stated this, "This morning, Senator Schumer," that meaning Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senate, "spoke at a rally in front of the Supreme Court while the case was being argued inside. Senator Schumer referred to two members of the court by name and said he wanted to tell them that ‘You have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You will not know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.’” The Chief Justice went on to say, "Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous. All members of the court will continue to do their job without fear or favor from whatever quarter."
It was a remarkable statement from the Chief Justice of the United States and it was a statement of judicial outrage. Outrage at the fact that the Democratic leader in the United States Senate had dared actually to threaten at least two justices by name concerning a case that was even then being heard before the nation's highest court. You'll recall that not only is Washington built on a certain set of norms and expectations, but the entire constitutional system of the United States is based upon a constitutional separation of powers. That separation of powers requires the respect of each of the branches for one another. What happened on Wednesday outside the Supreme Court when Senator Schumer delivered a threat to two members of the court then sitting in session, it was unprecedented in American history. It was outrageous. It was desperate and it was despicable. It is worthy of a great deal of our attention.
As I posted to a tweet late on Wednesday, what this demonstrates is that even if the pro-life side does not understand the significance of this case before the Supreme Court, the pro-abortion side certainly does. Senator Schumer was speaking to a group of activists who had gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court even as the court was hearing oral arguments in the case. In his statement, he went on to say, "I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price." He went on to say, "You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions."
Now by these awful decisions, he meant any decision with which he is in disagreement. He means any decision in particular that sustains the right of states to intervene on behalf of the right to life of unborn children. He means any case before the Supreme Court, or for that matter, any other court that would dare to infringe upon the great idolatrous source of worship on the far left, which is a woman's right to abortion. At this point, it is as if abortion has become the central sacrament of liberal society and in particular now of the Democratic party. You're not just talking about a Democrat, you're not just talking about a United States Senator.
You are talking about a United States Senator who is also the Democratic leader of his party in the United States Senate. Now even when you consider the distinction between the United States House and its culture in the United States Senate, the Senate is the upper chamber. The Senate is made up of 100 members. It is often referred to as the most exclusive club in the world. The Senate follows decorum. That's not to say that the House does not, but the Senate more so. The House was where those who established our constitutional order understood that political passions may be more demonstrated. The Senate was to be the cooling chamber as one founder said, "The saucer in which the tea is cooled." Lest those political passions run all the way across the government.
But what you were looking at when Senator Schumer made those statements on Wednesday was a serious attack upon the independence of the judiciary, the role of justices, and yet there is far more there and that's why this particular incident attracts so much of our attention. Because as I said in that tweet on Wednesday, it does demonstrate a certain sense of desperation on the pro-abortion side. Now, why you might ask, are they desperate? After all, they have Roe v. Wade from 1973. After all, they have the Casey decision from 1992. After all, they appear to be in the driver's seat in this culture, especially when you look at states like Illinois and New York and Rhode Island and others that have passed the most liberal abortion laws imaginable. In the state of New York, absolutely decriminalizing abortion, so that even if a murderer now murders a pregnant woman, he cannot be found guilty of two murders but only of one. Basically legalizing abortion for any reason or no reason all the way up until a baby draws his first breath outside the womb. But even now you see this desperation that is settling in.
Now, the desperation has very long roots. The roots go back, especially to Roe v. Wade in 1973. The majority of the Supreme Court then that was arguing for a pro-abortion position that is represented by Roe v. Wade thought that when the Supreme Court acted in 1973, the nation would move on, abortion would be legal in all 50 states without any meaningful restrictions, and the society would simply get over it when it comes to pro-life sentiment, but of course that didn't happen. Indeed the prolife movement, it can be argued, has grown in influence every year in at least some sense since 1973.
There's another reason for pro-abortion angst when it comes to the Supreme Court. That has to do with the 1992 Casey decision. Casey basically upheld Roe even at a time when many pro-lifers were hoping that it would not do so, but it did. But at the same time, the majority in Casey in 1992 ruled that states did have some latitude in adopting restrictions on abortion. That decision, though it upheld Roe, did open the door for states to move in with creative, innovative, pro-life legislation. We have seen that happen in state after state. In just the last two years, an avalanche of restrictions on abortion at the state level and that is why so many of these issues are now arriving at the Supreme Court.
But make no mistake, the highest intensity concern on the part of the pro-abortion movement is the fact that this is a different court than considered even a similar issue just a few years ago. This is now a court that has two justices appointed by President Donald Trump, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. At this point by any current arithmetic, there are five conservative justices and four liberal justices, and since the Supreme Court only takes the cases it wants to take, the very fact that the Supreme Court has taken this case, it points to the reality that it's unlikely that the pro-abortion judges would have decided to take it. They would have no need to take it and every reason not to take it. So we can only assume that it's the more conservative justices who've decided to take the case and they wouldn't have decided to take the case unless they intend to do something with it.
That explains the desperation and it explains the context into which Senator Schumer spoke those words. But the words he spoke really did break precedent. There's a sense in which other presidents and other norms had been violated by others. One of those would have been President Donald Trump himself, who in 2018 issued a challenge questioning the credibility of a federal judge in California who had a case before him that concerned the President, and the Chief Justice of the United States responded with criticism back to President Trump saying that his comments were out of line. The Chief Justice at that point responded especially to a statement made by President Trump that the judge was an Obama judge. The Chief Justice came back saying, "There are no Obama judges. There are no Bush judges." Instead arguing that judges are nonpartisan. Now, of course there is a classic sense in which what was said by the Chief Justice is true, but it's also true that at this point you can virtually predict where justices will come down on most controversial issues by just finding out the identity of the president who nominated the justice to office. The Supreme Court as it is now is not nearly so nonpartisan as some might claim or imply.
That was not the way the founders intended it, but of course the founders—and this is a huge point for our consideration—the founders did not intend the Supreme Court to be settling the kinds of issues that the Supreme Court now attempts to settle. Roe v. Wade and the issue of abortion being front and center. Once the court decided to stray into that territory in what is rightly called the judicial usurpation of politics, then it made itself a political instrument and thus it remains today.
But the Chief Justice criticized the comments made by the president, but the president did not threaten sitting justices, but that's exactly what Senator Schumer did. He later said that his words weren't intended to be a threat. But let's go back to the words themselves: "I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions."
In a statement made after the Chief Justice's criticism, Senator Schumer said that his words were not intended to be a threat but rather were reflective of the fact that he grew up in Brooklyn and spoke strongly. Senator Schumer said this, "I should not have used the words I used yesterday. They didn't come out the way I intended them to. I'm from Brooklyn. We speak in strong language. I shouldn't have used the words I did, but in no way was I making a threat. I never, never would do such a thing." Except if we have any understanding of the English language, that is exactly what Senator Schumer did. There's simply no way you can speak to two justices outside the Supreme Court of the United States saying, "You've released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions." There is no way to construe those words but as a threat, but you will also note that Senator Schumer had to back off the threat even if he later denied that the words even constituted a threat.
Trying to explain it, he said this, "Republicans are afraid here in the Senate to confront this issue directly, so they try to accomplish through the courts what they'd never accomplish in the court of public opinion and they leave women out in the cold. So yes, I'm angry. The women of America are angry and yes, we will continue to fight for a woman's right to choose."
I will admit when I read that statement, I had to rise from my seat. I was furious. There is such historical irony and dangerous irony in what Senator Schumer said. He was making the criticism that pro-lifers in this case, Republicans by his identification, are attempting to limit abortion through the courts when they have been unable to limit abortion through national congressional legislation, even, or perhaps especially in the United States Senate.
What's the irony? I would simply say to Senator Schumer, where is your congressional authorization for abortion? Where is your legislation that made abortion the law of the land in all 50 states? Senator Schumer, there is no such legislation. The only reason we are talking about a woman's right to choose as what you claim is a constitutional right is because the pro-abortion movement that could not get pro-abortion legislation to the United States Congress instead went to the courts. The fact that pro-lifers are now going to the courts is simply a matter of correcting a wrong. It is the pro-abortion movement that decided to take this to the courts because they could not win in the court of public opinion and they certainly could not win in the United States Congress. We need to note that even now in the year 2020, the pro-abortion movement could not win on any major legislation in the United States Congress now.
Here we're facing a situation in which the Democratic leader of the United States Senate is speaking on behalf of the pro-abortion movement and it's basically as if he is speaking as a bank robber accusing pro-lifers of being shoplifters. So this incident stands at the intersection of so many powerful and profound worldview concerns, concerns about government, about the separation of powers, about the norms that are necessary for a functioning government, about ordered liberty, about the role of the United States Senate, about the role of justices of the United States Supreme Court. But a far more powerful worldview issue that we meet at this intersection is the worldview imperative of biblical Christianity to speak up for unborn life indeed to declare that every single human life at every point of development at every age and under every condition is a life that bears dignity and sanctity because it is God's creation and that life is God's gift.
But speaking of the case itself of the oral arguments that were taking place inside the Supreme Court, as Senator Schumer was speaking outside, it became clear that there is no clear indication of how the court is going to rule other than the simple mathematics of how the court came to take the case in the first place. Sometimes in oral arguments, all nine of the justices give some indication of how they may eventually vote, but when it comes to the oral arguments on Wednesday, that was not so clear. What does that tell us? Well, it doesn't necessarily tell us anything. For one thing, we need to remind ourselves of why the Supreme Court holds these oral arguments. They are not held primarily in order for the facts of the case to be heard. All of that comes in initial pleadings and in briefs. All of that has been well-researched.
Instead, it has two purposes. The first is to allow both sides in the case to make the side's best argument before the nation's highest court. But the second reason is even more important. It allows the justices to ask questions of attorneys who are acting on behalf of those two parties. Those questions are really the most important function of the oral arguments, but the court doesn't vote in public. The court won't even vote for a matter of weeks or months and the court will meet in absolute privacy in what is known as the conference of the Supreme Court of the United States.
There is no one in that room but the nine justices, and that even means that the most recently confirmed justice, the junior justice on the court, has to do the dirty work of getting up from the table every single time and going to answer the door if there is any kind of incident or question that comes to the court. You can understand why there is no one who wants to hold that junior position for long. There are other less dignified responsibilities that come with being the most junior justice of the United States Supreme Court.
But in that conference, once the justices make their case to one another and there is a count of how the decision will come down, if the Chief Justice of the United States is in the majority, he may decide to write the opinion for the majority himself or he may assign it to any of the other justices who are on his side in the argument. If the Chief Justice is not on the winning side of a decision, then the senior justice who is on that side of the argument can decide to write the majority opinion himself or herself or to assign that to any other justice on the same side of the argument.
The majority opinion becomes just that. It becomes the official statement of the court concerning its ruling, but those justices who were also in agreement with the decision but may not have written the majority opinion can write concurring opinions, and any justice on the losing side of the argument can write a dissenting opinion. Interestingly, on a big case like this, it is likely that amongst themselves, the justices know how the vote on this case will go, but nonetheless, the oral argument was an important event in American judicial history and especially for those who care about the sanctity and dignity of human life, it was an important milestone in that battle as well. How the court rules, only time will tell, but we'll be watching along with Senator Schumer.
This Isn’t the Diversity the Democrats Envisioned in 2020: After the Exits of Bloomberg and Warren, the Race is Down to Sanders and Biden
But next, we started out with more than twenty individuals running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. That crowd was narrowed to the teens, but yet as we arrive at the end of this week, there really are only two. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Joe Biden, the veteran United States Senator and former vice president of the United States who won not only a stunning victory Saturday last week in the South Carolina primary, but won so many of the primaries on Super Tuesday that he has built up what appears to be a monumental political energy.
But then you have Bernie Sanders who just days before was thought to be just about to clinch enough delegates and momentum to claim the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination himself. Well, what happened? Well, a lot of things happened already on The Briefing. We have talked about the exit of Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar from the race. By the time we arrive at The Briefing this morning, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg is out, and so also is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. This had to be a very difficult week for her. Not only did she see her primary hopes dashed, but she came in third in the primary in her home state of Massachusetts. But her withdrawal from the race basically makes it clear that this is a two man race. I did not choose that word just generically. It's not just two human beings. It's not just two candidates. It is actually two men, both of them nearing 80 years old, as one editorial in a liberal paper, unhappy with the state of events, put it, we're looking at two near octogenarian white, cisgender men now running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
That is not how Democrats thought or at least said they thought this was going to turn out. That is certainly not how they were presenting the party to the American people just months ago when they were declaring themselves to have the most diverse group of candidates ever in American history running for a major party's political nomination. They were able to point to their debate platform and say, ”Look at all the women.” At one point there were at least four sitting women United States senators on that platform. Now there are none. They were able to point to African American candidates. They were able to point to others representing other ethnic and minority identifications and, of course, perhaps most famously in terms of American history, they were able to point to the first major openly gay candidate to make it so far as to, at least at times, being described as a front runner in the race.
But now they are left with two old men with white hair running against another man also in his seventies. So at this point we can be pretty sure that the individual sitting in the Oval Office, say mid-year in 2021, is going to be a white, straight man nearing the age of 80.
Michelle Cottle writing an editorial that had the lead point in the print edition of the New York Times yesterday. The article came with the headline, “Maybe Next Time, Ladies.” Cottle asked all kinds of questions, but there is clear disappointment here in the sense that none of the women on the platform were able to make it to the end of the process. We're talking here just days after Super Tuesday. This is fairly early in the actual voting, but that tells us also something about how presidential campaigns actually work out in the nomination process. If you don't gain an adequate momentum and delegate count early, you're never going to be able to catch up. That dawned on several of those candidates over the course of the last seven or eight days.
We'll be talking a lot more about what this means, but Cottle's point comes down to this, "After all the tumult, the Democratic race has come down to this: two straight white septuagenarian men fighting over the soul of the party, whatever that turns out to be." We'll be talking a lot about the “whatever that turns out to be.”
Why Are Beards Back? A Sign of the Creation Order Showing Up in an Age of Confusion
But finally, I promised that we would take a theological and historical worldview perspective about beards, and we arrive at that point today. The prompt is an article that ran a few days ago in the front page of the Wall Street Journal about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He is declared here to be “a champion of women's rights, the environment, and refugees,” as the Wall Street Journal says, “with varying degrees of success.” He just won, although rather narrowly, re-election as the Prime Minister of Canada by the victory of his party. But now he has all of a sudden started showing up with a beard and people are asking, what does this mean?
Well, for one thing, it is something of an innovation in Western politics over the course of the last century. The last president of the United States to have facial hair was William Howard Taft. He had a mustache, but he's actually more remembered for being too large to fit the White House tub. So why all of a sudden in an age in which we are told that gender binary is gone and millennials, the coming political generation, are very resistant to the idea of male and female as fixed categories, they're all in on the LGBTQ revolution, we're told, why are beards back?
Well, the biblical worldview just reminds us of the basic fact that God made human beings as male and female and it matters. It even matters when it comes to facial hair. Whether a man has that facial hair as a beard and wears it or shaves it off in any regard, it points out that a man is a man and a woman is a woman. Now, of course you can try to interfere with that by pharmaceutical means or hormones, but the basic fact is a man's going to show up as a man in the face and the same thing is true of a woman. But there's something else that's true here and that is that even as in the Bible, sometimes men took a vow not to shave, it is also clear that a beard says something.
Now, what exactly does a beard say? That might vary individual by individual. Why does Justin Trudeau have a beard? Well, I guess you'd have to ask Justin Trudeau, but here's something I think we need to recognize. Often on The Briefing, I talk about the fact that the creation order eventually shows. I think it's not an accident than in an age of gender confusion, it's especially the case that many younger men are growing beards. Why are they growing beards? Well, it is at least one way of saying if not with words than with the face, I'm a man. I know I'm a man. That creation order is actually showing, and it shows up in other ways as well.
It shows up, as I saw decades ago when I was the beneficiary of fabled Arab hospitality, and I saw the Arab boys who were the servers doing their very best as fast as possible to grow just a few hairs on the chin or under the nose so that they could no longer be servers but instead eat with the men.
Whether to have or have not a beard is a matter for individual male decision with a good deal of input, I would add, from the significant women in their lives. But the reality is that there is meaning behind this. There's more to a beard than a beard. There's more to facial hair than facial hair. It is a sign of creation order showing up even in a world of confusion. It's right in every way for boys to want to grow up to be men. It's right for men to know they're men.
Even in a world in which it's dangerous in the cultural context to make many of those arguments out loud, even amongst a generation where you see so many saying that they're so excited about gender fluidity. When it comes to a resurgence of facial hair, the creation order shows up anyway on a man. Some men have a little facial hair, some men have a lot of facial hair, some cut off the little or much that they have. But in any sense, the important thing for us to recognize is how the creation order shows itself even, perhaps especially, in an age of confusion, and why a beard is not just a beard. It's actually, rightly understood, a form of an argument, an argument that shows up on the face.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
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