Heather Cox Richardson | Letters from an American
August 9, 2023
“Good Lord, Who Among Us Hasn’t Paid For A Clarence Thomas Vacation?” David Kurtz of Talking Points Memo asked this morning. Kurtz was reacting to a new piece by Brett Murphy and Alex Mierjeski in ProPublica detailing Justice Thomas’s leisure activities and the benefactors who underwrote them.
Those activities include “[a]t least 38 destination vacations, including a previously unreported voyage on a yacht around the Bahamas; 26 private jet flights, plus an additional eight by helicopter; a dozen VIP passes to professional and college sporting events, typically perched in the skybox; two stays at luxury resorts in Florida and Jamaica; and one standing invitation to an uber-exclusive golf club overlooking the Atlantic coast.”
The authors add that this “is almost certainly an undercount.”Thomas did not disclose these gifts, as ethics specialists say he should have done. House Democrats Ted Lieu (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and Hank Johnson (D-GA) have said Thomas must resign.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has led the effort to extricate the Supreme Court from very wealthy interests for years, commented: “I said it would get worse; it will keep getting worse.
”Thomas’s benefactors, Murphy and Mierjeski noted, “share the ideology that drives his jurisprudence.” That ideology made Trump lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, who has been in the news for the release of his December 6, 2020, memo outlining how to steal the 2020 presidential election, speculate that Thomas was the Supreme Court justice the plotters could count on to back their coup.
“Realistically,” Chesebro wrote to lawyer John Eastman, “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress, is from Thomas—do you agree, Prof. Eastman?” Last Saturday, Republican leaders in Alabama illustrated that their ideology means they reject democracy.
After the Supreme Court agreed that the congressional districting map lawmakers put in place after the 2020 census probably violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a lower court ruling that required a new map went into effect. But Alabama Republican lawmakers simply refused. Alexander Willis of the Alabama Daily News reported that at a meeting of the Alabama state Republican Party on Saturday, the party’s legal counsel David Bowsher applauded the lawmakers, saying, “House Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy doesn’t have that big a margin, that costs him one seat right there. I can’t tell you we’re going to win in this fight; we’ve got a Supreme Court that surprised the living daylights out of me when they handed down this decision, but I can guarantee you, if the Legislature hadn’t done that, we lose.”
Paul Reynolds, the national committeeman of the party, went on: “Let me scare you a little bit more; Texas has between five and ten congressmen that are Republicans that could shift the other way,” he continued. “How could we win the House back ever again if we’re talking about losing two in Louisiana, and losing five to ten in Texas? The answer’s simple: It’s never.”
Alabama attorney general Steve Marshall added: “Let’s make it clear, we elect a Legislature to reflect the values of the people that they represent, and I don’t think anybody in this room wanted this Legislature to adopt two districts that were going to guarantee that two Democrats would be elected…. What we believe fully is that we just live in a red state with conservative people, and that’s who the candidates of Alabama want to be able to elect going forward.”
The determination of Republican officials to hold onto power even though they appear to know they are in a minority is part of what drove even Republican voters in Ohio to reject their proposal to require 60% of voters, rather than a simple majority, to approve changes in the state constitution. Meanwhile, today’s July consumer price index report showed that annual inflation has fallen by about two thirds since last summer, a better-than-expected number suggesting that measures to cool the economy are working without hurting the economy. Real wages have outpaced inflation for the last five months, and unemployment is at a low the U.S. hasn’t seen since 1969.
At the same time, the country is ending one of the last pieces of the social safety net put in place during Covid: the rule that people on Medicaid could remain covered without renewing their coverage each year. That rule ended in April, and states are purging their Medicaid rolls of those who they say no longer qualify. In the last three months, 4 million people have lost their Medicaid coverage, mostly because of paperwork problems. (Texas dropped an eye-popping 52% of beneficiaries due for renewal in May.)
Biden officials have tried to pressure states quietly to fix the errors—including long waits to get phone calls answered and slow processing of applications, as well as paperwork errors—but yesterday released letters it had sent to individual states to warn them they might be violating federal law. Thirty-six states did not meet federal requirements.