Monday, December 27, 2010

Obama, Clinton Lead List of Most Admired in U.S.

According to a new USA Today/Gallup poll

The poll, which was conducted earlier this month, found that 22 percent pf Americans said the president is the man they admire most. That is down from a high of 32 percent in 2008. But he still outranks second on the list, Former President George W. Bush, who was cited by 5 percent.

Two other former presidents also made the list - Bill Clinton at No. 3 (with 4 percent) and Jimmy Carter who was in a tie for 8th with Fox News host Glenn Beck at 2 percent. Gallup reports that sitting presidents have been at the No. 1 spot in 52 out of the 64 times they have asked the question since 1946.

The list of admired men also includes Nelson Mandela (2 percent), Bill Gates (2 percent), Pope Benedict XVI (2 percent), Billy Graham (2 percent) and the Dalai Lama (1 percent). Gallup notes this is Billy Graham's 54th time in the top 10, the most ever.

"It's all about power," Wesleyan University professor Richard Slotkin told USA Today. "When we think of importance, we think politically, that's really clear -- with religion a close second, though Bill Gates beats out Pope Benedict. It's almost like a register of power."

Not surprisingly, party politics also plays a part in who people name for most admired. Mr. Obama is the most admired by 46 percent of Democrats, but only 17 percent of independents and 6 percent of Republicans.A

As for the women rankings, Clinton led the field with 17 percent, with former Alaska governor Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin in second with 12 percent. Clinton has topped the poll for nine straight years, and this is Palin's second year in second place. Oprah Winfrey is in third, with 11 percent saying she is the woman they admire most.

Clinton is also among four first ladies who make the list. Michelle Obama came in fourth with five percent, and Laura Bush and Barbara Bush are in a three way tie for ninth with Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi (at 1 percent).

Also included in the list of women: Condoleezza Rice (2 percent), Queen Elizabeth (2 percent), Angelina Jolie (1 percent) and Margaret Thatcher (1 percent). Queen Elizabeth's 43rd time in the top 10 is the record for women.

However, it should be noted that not everyone lists someone famous as the person they admire -- about 10 percent named a friend or relative, according to USA Today. In addition, many people didn't name anyone -- 25 percent didn't name a man and 22 percent didn't name a woman.

FOX Pundit Says Sarah Palin Is Too Dumb To Take On Obama

Fox News analyst Juan Williams has never exactly been timid with his criticism of Sarah Palin but he took it to a new level this weekend on Fox News Sunday. Here's Williams' frank assessment of the 2012 GOP presidential field:

"This is such a weak field. It's too weak, even, to exploit Obama's considerable flaws...The only potential candidate who could match Obama in charisma is Sarah Palin and she can't stand on the intellectual stage with Obama."

Cue gasps from fellow panel members Dana Perino and Bill Kristol (naturally). Some might say Williams is picking up where Karl Rove left off and is merely voicing reality too many GOPer's are unwilling to speak up about.

Meanwhile, could anything be better for Fox News than a on-air contretemps between Williams, who was welcomed into the Fox family following his NPR debacle with open arms and a multi-million dollar contract, and Sarah Palin, their star contributor?

How did obesity become a partisan fight?

Is Elmo a Kenyan, too? Or maybe a Socialist? He is awfully red, after all.

I ask because the Sesame Street puppet recently visited the White House to support "Let's Move," first lady Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity. And that campaign has become, in one of the more striking political stories of the past year, the latest battleground in the left-right culture wars.

It's never easy for the spouse of a president, who so far has always been a wife, to settle on a signature issue. Choose something trivial, and she'll be accused of frothiness unworthy of strong and independent womanhood. Choose something more controversial, and people immediately demand, "Who elected you?"

In that context, the first lady's campaign would seem to have struck Goldilocks perfection. The obesity epidemic is a genuine public health emergency, with vast implications for the nation's well-being, economy and even national security. And yet, could anyone really be against children eating healthier food and getting more exercise? Could anyone really object to White House assistant chef Sam Kass trying to interest Elmo in a vegetable-laden burrito?

Well, yes, if Michelle Obama is for it, someone will be against it. Someone like Glenn Beck, for example, who was moved to rail against carrot sticks, or Sarah Palin, who warned that Obama wants to deprive us all of dessert.

And when you look a little deeper, it's not surprising that a crusade seemingly beyond questioning would become a political battle. Interests that might feel threatened by Let's Move include the fast-food industry, agribusiness, soft-drink manufacturers, real estate developers (because suburban sprawl is implicated), broadcasters and their advertisers (of sugary cereals and the like), and the oil-and-gas and automotive sectors (because people ought to walk more and drive less).

Throw in connections to the health-care debate (because preventive services will be key to controlling the epidemic), race (because of differential patterns of obesity) and red state-blue state hostilities (the reddest states tend to be the fattest), and it turns out there are few landmines that Michelle Obama didn't trip by asking us all to shed a few pounds.

Insinuations from her critics notwithstanding, Obama has not endorsed nanny-state or controversial remedies such as ending sugar subsidies, imposing soda-pop taxes or zoning McDonald's out of certain neighborhoods. Instead, she is pushing for positive, voluntary change: more recess and physical activity, more playgrounds, more vegetable gardens, fresher food in schools and grocery stores, better education on the issue for parents and children.

All of this makes total sense, and historians will marvel (much as they will at climate-change deniers) that anyone could doubt it. The percentage of American adults who are obese more than doubled in the past 30 years, from 15 percent to 34 percent (with another 34 percent overweight); the share of obese children and teenagers more than tripled, from 5 percent to 17 percent. In fact, the astonishing acceleration of the epidemic (which may now have leveled off) might explain some of the skepticism; it takes a while for awareness to catch up to statistics.

But the statistics are scary. The implications for these children are heartbreaking, literally (obesity is associated with higher incidence of heart disease as well as diabetes) and figuratively. For the nation, it could be bankrupting. Obesity and its attendant ills already may add as much as $147 billion to health-care costs each year, one-tenth of the nation's medical bill, a figure that is certain to rise. And the Army reports that one in four young people is too fat to serve.

That's why obesity is not a Democratic or Republican issue. Obama has merely extended and amplified a campaign that began under President George W. Bush; Bush's last acting surgeon general, Steven K. Galson, made obesity a signature issue, calling it "a national health crisis . . . [that] is driving up healthcare costs and crippling the fabric of our communities."

The crisis won't be solved in one presidential term, either. "We're talking about changing habits that have been formed over generations," Obama has said.

You'll notice, if you watch the White House video, that Elmo never actually eats that red-pepper burrito, though he claims to be enticed. "Where's the sour cream?" he may be thinking. "And no melted cheese?"

"It's not going to be easy," Michelle Obama says. She's right - but also right to keep pushing.
Fred Hiatt Washington Post

On Forgiveness - What is forgiveness? When is it appropriate?

We are in a season traditionally devoted to good will among people and to the renewal of hope in the face of hard times. As we seek to realize these lofty ideals, one of our greatest challenges is overcoming bitterness and divisiveness.
We all struggle with the wrongs others have done to us as well as those we have done to others, and we recoil at the vast extent of injury humankind seems determined to inflict on itself. How to keep hope alive? Without a constructive answer to toxic anger, addictive cycles of revenge, and immobilizing guilt, we seem doomed to despair about chances for renewal. One answer to this despair lies in forgiveness.

What is forgiveness? When is it appropriate? Why is it considered to be commendable? Some claim that forgiveness is merely about ridding oneself of vengeful anger; do that, and you have forgiven. But if you were able to banish anger from your soul simply by taking a pill, would the result really be forgiveness?
The timing of forgiveness is also disputed. Some say that it should wait for the offender to take responsibility and suffer due punishment, others hold that the victim must first overcome anger altogether, and still others that forgiveness should be unilaterally bestowed at the earliest possible moment. But what if you have every good reason to be angry and even to take your sweet revenge as well?
Is forgiveness then really to be commended? Some object that it lets the offender off the hook, confesses to one’s own weakness and vulnerability, and papers over the legitimate demands of vengeful anger. And yet, legions praise forgiveness and think of it as an indispensable virtue. Recall the title of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s book on the subject: “No Future Without Forgiveness.”

If you claim you’ve forgiven someone then take revenge, you’re either dishonest or ignorant of the meaning of the term.
These questions about the what, when, and why of forgiveness have led to a massive outpouring of books, pamphlets, documentaries, television shows, and radio interviews. The list grows by the hour. It includes hefty representation of religious and self-help perspectives, historical analysis (much of which was sparked by South Africa’s famed Truth and Reconciliation Commission), and increasingly, philosophical reflection as well. Yet there is little consensus about the answers. Indeed, the list of disputed questions is still longer.
Consider: may forgiveness be demanded, or must it be a sort of freely bestowed gift? Does the concept of “the unforgivable” make sense? And what about the cultural context of forgiveness: does it matter? Has the concept of “forgiveness” evolved, even within religious traditions such as Christianity? Is it a fundamentally religious concept?

On almost all accounts, interpersonal forgiveness is closely tied to vengeful anger and revenge. This linkage was brought to the fore by Bishop Joseph Butler (1692-1752) in his insightful sermons on resentment (his word for what is often now called vengeful anger) and forgiveness. These sermons are the touchstone of modern philosophical discussions of the topic. Butler is often interpreted as saying that forgiveness requires forswearing resentment, but what he actually says is that it requires tempering resentment and forswearing revenge. He is surely right that it requires at least that much.
If you claim you’ve forgiven someone and then proceed to take revenge, then you are either dishonest or ignorant of the meaning of the term. Forgiveness comes with conditions, such as the giving up of revenge. What are other conditions?

If you seethe with vengeful thoughts and anger, or even simmer with them, can you be said to have forgiven fully? I would answer in the negative. That establishes another condition that successful forgiveness must meet. In the contemporary literature on forgiveness, the link between forgiveness and giving up vengefulness is so heavily emphasized that it is very often offered as the reason to forgive: forgive, so that you may live without toxic anger.

However, if giving up revenge and resentment were sufficient to yield forgiveness, then one could forgive simply by forgetting, or through counseling, or by taking the latest version of the nepenthe pill. But none of those really seems to qualify as forgiveness properly speaking, however valuable they may be in their own right as a means of getting over anger.
The reason is that forgiveness is neither just a therapeutic technique nor simply self-regarding in its motivation; it is fundamentally a moral relation between self and other.

Consider its genesis in the interpersonal context: one person wrongs another. Forgiveness is a response to that wrong, and hence to the other person as author of that action. Forgiveness retains the bilateral or social character of the situation to which it seeks to respond.
The anger you feel in response to having been treated unjustly is warranted only if, in its intensity and its target, it is fitting. After all, if you misidentified who did you wrong, then forgiving that person would be inappropriate, indeed, insulting. Or if the wrongdoer is rightly identified but is not culpable, perhaps by virtue of ignorance or youth, then once again it is not forgiveness that is called for but something else — say, excuse or pardon.
(One consequence: as philosopher Jeffrie Murphy points out in his exchange with Jean Hampton in their book “Forgiveness and Mercy,” “they know not what they do” makes Christ’s plea on the cross an appeal for excuse rather than forgiveness.) Moreover, it is not so much the action that is forgiven, but its author.
So forgiveness assumes as its target, so to speak, an agent who knowingly does wrong and is held responsible. The moral anger one feels in this case is a reaction that is answerable to reason; and this would hold too with respect to giving up one’s anger.
In the best case, the offender would offer you reasons for forswearing resentment, most obviously by taking a series of steps that include admission of responsibility, contrition, a resolve to mend his or her ways and recognition of what the wrong-doing felt like from your perspective.

Forgiveness is fundamentally a moral relation between self and other.
Of course, as the wronged party you don’t always get anything close to that and are often left to struggle with anger in the face of the offender’s unwillingness or inability to give you reason to forswear anger. But if the offender offered to take the steps just mentioned, you would very likely accept, as that would make it not only psychologically easier to forgive, but would much more perfectly accomplish one moral purpose of forgiveness — namely, restoration of mutual respect and reaffirmation that one is not to be treated wrongly.
A similar logic holds on the flip side: if as the offender you take every step that could reasonably be asked of you, and your victim is unable or unwilling to forgive, you are left to struggle with your sense of being unforgiven, guilty, beholden. Offered the chance that your victim would set aside revenge and vengefulness, forgive you, and move onto the next chapter of his or her life, you would very probably accept.

The paradigm case of interpersonal forgiveness is the one in which all of the conditions we would wish to see fulfilled are in fact met by both offender and victim. When they are met, forgiveness will not collapse into either excuse or condonation — and on any account it is essential to avoid conflating these concepts. One of the several sub-paradigmatic or imperfect forms of forgiveness will consist in what is often called unconditional, or more accurately, unilateral forgiveness — as when one forgives the wrongdoer independently of any steps he or she takes.
Some hold that unilateral forgiveness is the model, pointing to the much discussed case of the Amish unilaterally forgiving the murderer of their children (for an account of this case, see “Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy,” by D. B. Kraybill, S. M. Nolt, and D. L. Weaver-Zercher).
I contend, by contrast, that the ideal is bilateral, one in which both sides take steps. I also hold that whether forgiveness is or is not possible will depend on the circumstances and reasons at play; not just anything is going to count as forgiveness. Establishing the minimal threshold for an exchange to count as “forgiveness” is a matter of some debate, but it must include the giving up of revenge by the victim, and an assumption of responsibility by the offender.

Other familiar cases of imperfect forgiveness present their own challenges, as when one seeks to forgive a wrong done to someone else (to forgive on behalf of another, or what is commonly called third-party forgiveness, as for example when the victim is deceased).
Another case concerns self-forgiveness. The latter is particularly complicated, as one may seek to forgive oneself for wrongs one has done to others; or for a wrong one has done to oneself (say, degrading oneself) by wronging another; or simply for a wrong one has done only to oneself. Self-forgiveness is notoriously apt to lapse into easy self-exculpation; here too, conditions must be set to safeguard the integrity of the notion.

Excuse, mercy, reconciliation, pardon, political apology and forgiveness of financial debt are not imperfect versions of interpersonal forgiveness; rather, they are related but distinct concepts. Take political apology, for example. As its name indicates, its context is political, meaning that it is transacted in a context that involves groups, corporate entities, institutions, and corresponding notions of moral responsibility and agency.
Many of the complexities are discussed by philosopher Nick Smith in “I Was Wrong: the Meanings of Apologies.” Apology figures into interpersonal forgiveness too. But in the case of political apology, the transaction may in one sense be quite impersonal: picture a spokesperson apologizing for a government’s misdeeds, performed before the spokesperson was born, to a group representing the actual victims. A lot of the moral work is done by representation (as when a spokesperson represents the state). Further, the criteria for successful apology in such a context will overlap with but nevertheless differ from those pertinent to the interpersonal context. For example, financial restitution as negotiated through a legal process will probably form an essential part of political apology, but not of forgiveness.

But, one may object, if the wrongdoer is unforgivable, then both interpersonal forgiveness and political apology are impossible (one can pronounce the words, but the moral deed cannot be done). Are any wrongdoers unforgivable? People who have committed heinous acts such as torture or child molestation are often cited as examples.
The question is not primarily about the psychological ability of the victim to forswear anger, but whether a wrongdoer can rightly be judged not-to-be-forgiven no matter what offender and victim say or do. I do not see that a persuasive argument for that thesis can be made; there is no such thing as the unconditionally unforgivable. For else we would be faced with the bizarre situation of declaring illegitimate the forgiveness reached by victim and perpetrator after each has taken every step one could possibly wish for. The implication may distress you: Osama bin Laden, for example, is not unconditionally unforgivable for his role in the attacks of 9/11.
That being said, given the extent of the injury done by grave wrongs, their author may be rightly unforgiven for an appropriate period even if he or she has taken all reasonable steps. There is no mathematically precise formula for determining when it is appropriate to forgive.

Why forgive? What makes it the commendable thing to do at the appropriate time? It’s not simply a matter of lifting the burden of toxic resentment or of immobilizing guilt, however beneficial that may be ethically and psychologically. It is not a merely therapeutic matter, as though this were just about you.
Rather, when the requisite conditions are met, forgiveness is what a good person would seek because it expresses fundamental moral ideals. These include ideals of spiritual growth and renewal; truth-telling; mutual respectful address; responsibility and respect; reconciliation and peace.

My sketch of the territory of forgiveness, including its underlying moral ideals, has barely mentioned religion. Many people assume that the notion of forgiveness is Christian in origin, at least in the West, and that the contemporary understanding of interpersonal forgiveness has always been the core Christian teaching on the subject. These contestable assumptions are explored by David Konstan in “Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea.”
Religious origins of the notion would not invalidate a secular philosophical approach to the topic, any more than a secular origin of some idea precludes a religious appropriation of it. While religious and secular perspectives on forgiveness are not necessarily consistent with each other, however, they agree in their attempt to address the painful fact of the pervasiveness of moral wrong in human life. They also agree on this: few of us are altogether innocent of the need for forgiveness.

Charles L. Griswold is Borden Parker Bowne Professor of Philosophy at Boston University.

The week's top 10 quotes in American politics:

"Many of us in the Democratic Party are going to take some pleasure watching [Republicans] try to figure out who they want to be when they grow up." - Rep. Anthony Weiner, offering his vision of the future in a GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

"Harry Reid has eaten our lunch." - Sen. Lindsey Graham, noting the majority leader's success during the lame-duck session.

"I'm short only two things: a calling and a groundswell." - Rep. Steve King, being realistic about his presidential chances in 2012.

"No, you're not interrupting anything." - University of Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma, fielding a phone call from President Obama after his women's basketball team broke the NCAA's record for consecutive wins.

"We don't get ourselves dry-cleaned, we tend to take showers." - Rep. Barney Frank, dismissing a question about whether gay soldiers showering together was problematic.

"It does not scare me because I believe in the intelligence of the American public." - Oprah Winfrey, staying cool and calm about a potential 2012 presidential run by Sarah Palin.

“As MC Hammer would say, ‘You can’t touch this.’" - Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, boasting that the FCC can't get at him, being on private airwaves.

"Oh, happy day." - Rep. Nancy Pelosi, on the president signing the repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

"We have a gay guy in the unit. He’s big, he’s mean, he kills lots of bad guys. No one cares that he’s gay." – President Obama, quoting a soldier's take on gays in the military.

"Robert, as a former Eagles fan, are you suggesting that getting START through the Senate is a bit like scoring four touchdowns in seven minutes?" - CBS's Chip Reid, drawing a parallel between the nuclear arms reduction treaty and the Philadelphia Eagles’s stunning come-from-behind victory.

© 2010 Capitol News Company

In ‘Daily Show’ Role on 9/11 Bill

In ‘Daily Show’ Role on 9/11 Bill
Echoes of Murrow

Did the bill pledging federal funds for the health care of 9/11 responders become law in the waning hours of the 111th Congress only because a comedian took it up as a personal cause?

And does that make that comedian, Jon Stewart — despite all his protestations that what he does has nothing to do with journalism — the modern-day equivalent of Edward R. Murrow?

Certainly many supporters, including New York’s two senators, as well as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, played critical roles in turning around what looked like a hopeless situation after a filibuster by Republican senators on Dec. 10 seemed to derail the bill.

But some of those who stand to benefit from the bill have no doubt about what — and who — turned the momentum around.

“I don’t even know if there was a deal, to be honest with you, before his show,” said Kenny Specht, the founder of the New York City Firefighter Brotherhood Foundation, who was interviewed by Mr. Stewart on Dec. 16.

That show was devoted to the bill and the comedian’s effort to right what he called “an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11.”

Mr. Specht said in an interview, “I’ll forever be indebted to Jon because of what he did.”

Mr. Bloomberg, a frequent guest on “The Daily Show,” also recognized Mr. Stewart’s role.

“Success always has a thousand fathers,” the mayor said in an e-mail. “But Jon shining such a big, bright spotlight on Washington’s potentially tragic failure to put aside differences and get this done for America was, without a doubt, one of the biggest factors that led to the final agreement.”

Though he might prefer a description like “advocacy satire,” what Mr. Stewart engaged in that night — and on earlier occasions when he campaigned openly for passage of the bill — usually goes by the name “advocacy journalism.”

There have been other instances when an advocate on a television show turned around public policy almost immediately by concerted focus on an issue — but not recently, and in much different circumstances.

“The two that come instantly to mind are Murrow and Cronkite,” said Robert J. Thompson, a professor of television at Syracuse University.

Edward R. Murrow turned public opinion against the excesses of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Mr. Thompson noted that Mr. Murrow had an even more direct effect when he reported on the case of Milo Radulovich, an Air Force lieutenant who was stripped of his commission after he was charged with associating with communists. Mr. Murrow’s broadcast resulted in Mr. Radulovich’s reinstatement.

Walter Cronkite’s editorial about the stalemate in the war in Vietnam after the Tet Offensive in 1968 convinced President Lyndon B. Johnson that he had lost public support and influenced his decision a month later to decline to run for re-election.

Though the scale of the impact of Mr. Stewart’s telecast on public policy may not measure up to the roles that Mr. Murrow and Mr. Cronkite played, Mr. Thompson said, the comparison is legitimate because the law almost surely would not have moved forward without him. “He so pithily articulated the argument that once it was made, it was really hard to do anything else,” Mr. Thompson said.

The Dec. 16 show focused on two targets. One was the Republicans who were blocking the bill; Mr. Stewart, in a clear effort to shame them for hypocrisy, accused them of belonging to “the party that turned 9/11 into a catchphrase.” The other was the broadcast networks (one of them being CBS, the former home of Mr. Murrow and Mr. Cronkite), which, he charged, had not reported on the bill for more than two months.

“Though, to be fair,” Mr. Stewart said, “it’s not every day that Beatles songs come to iTunes.” (Each of the network newscasts had covered the story of the deal between the Beatles and Apple for their music catalog.) Each network subsequently covered the progress of the bill, sometimes citing Mr. Stewart by name. The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, credited Mr. Stewart with raising awareness of the Republican blockade.

Eric Ortner, a former ABC News senior producer who worked as a medic at the World Trade Center site on 9/11, expressed dismay that Mr. Stewart had been virtually alone in expressing outrage early on.

“In just nine months’ time, my skilled colleagues will be jockeying to outdo one another on 10th anniversary coverage” of the attacks, Mr. Ortner wrote in an e-mail. “It’s when the press was needed most, when sunlight truly could disinfect,” he said, that the news networks were not there.

Brian Williams, the anchor of “NBC Nightly News” and another frequent Stewart guest, did not comment on his network’s news judgment in how it covered the bill, but he did offer a comment about Mr. Stewart’s role.

“Jon gets to decide the rules governing his own activism and the causes he supports,” Mr. Williams said, “and how often he does it — and his audience gets to decide if they like the serious Jon as much as they do the satirical Jon.”

Mr. Stewart is usually extremely careful about taking serious positions for which he might be accused of trying to exert influence. He went to great lengths to avoid commenting about the intentions of his Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington in October, and the rally itself emphasized such less-than-impassioned virtues as open-minded debate and moderation.

In this case, Mr. Stewart, who is on vacation, declined to comment at all on the passage of the bill. He also ordered his staff not to comment or even offer any details on how the show was put together.

But Mr. Specht, the show guest, described how personally involved Mr. Stewart was in constructing the segment.

After the news of the Republican filibuster broke, “The Daily Show” contacted John Feal, an advocate for 9/11 victims, who then referred the show producers to Mr. Specht and the other guests.

Mr. Stewart met with the show’s panel of first responders in advance and briefed them on how the conversation would go. He even decided which seat each of the four men should sit in for the broadcast.

For Mr. Stewart, the topic of the 9/11 attacks has long been intensely personal. He lives in the TriBeCa area and has noted that in the past, he was able to see the World Trade Center from his apartment. Like other late-night comedians, he returned to the air shaken by the events and found performing comedy difficult for some time.

But comedy on television, more than journalism on television, may be the most effective outlet for stirring debate and effecting change in public policy, Mr. Thompson of Syracuse said. “Comedy has the potential to have an important role in framing the way we think about civic life,” he said.

And Mr. Stewart has thrust himself into the middle of that potential, he said.

“I have to think about how many kids are watching Jon Stewart right now and dreaming of growing up and doing what Jon Stewart does,” Mr. Thompson said. “Just like kids two generations ago watched Murrow or Cronkite and dreamed of doing that. Some of these ambitious appetites and callings that have brought people into journalism in the past may now manifest themselves in these other arenas, like comedy.”

A Proposal to Let the States Override Congress

Re “Proposed Amendment Would Enable States to Repeal Federal Law” (news article, Dec. 20):

The proposed constitutional amendment to allow two-thirds of the states to overturn any federal law or regulation turns James Madison’s original proposal on its head.

Madison favored granting Congress the power to overturn state laws. The framers thought better of Madison’s proposal and adopted the balanced federal system we now have. Both Madison’s and the latest proposal would gradually unbalance the federal structure in favor of either the central government or the states.

The proposed “repeal amendment” would also undermine the rationale for the Supreme Court as we now know it. What happens to the Supreme Court as the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution if two-thirds of the states may repeal a federal law or regulation for any reason or no reason? The Constitution eventually becomes the plaything of political expediency and whimsy.

Michael J. Polelle
Chicago, Dec. 20, 2010

The writer is a professor of law at John Marshall Law School.