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Good government is worth preserving

Peter Goodman


Right-wing office-holders keep blowing up the norms of good government and democracy.

Just this month, consider Jim Jordan using a congressional committee to try to sabotage the Donald Trump “hush-money” trial, revelations of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s secret acceptance of millions of dollars in fun and travel from a rich Texas conservative, and a Texas judge’s bizarre decision that his political preferences can take an FDA-approved drug off the market.

Justice is blind. Ideally, judges and justices are independent, and maybe somewhat honest. Thus, they’re supposed to report gifts they receive.

Clarence Thomas has accepted millions of dollars of gifts – for example, a $500,000 trip one year, taking the donor’s jet to Indonesia and then island-hopping on the donor’s huge yacht, and other such trips – from billionaire Harlan Crow.

Thomas’s ethics are minimal. He’s declined to recuse himself from cases his wife is directly involved in and cases on issues she gets paid to lobby for. He reported only one gift from Crow, many years ago. Usually Thomas ignores complaints; but this one worried him enough that at least he offered a lame excuse, that, early on, someone said he didn’t have to report gifts from close friends. Crow is an influential conservative Thomas met as a justice, and the gifts are huge.

By comparison, when I started writing Sunday columns I refused to let anyone buy me lunch or coffee except friends I’d known for decades.

The Senate will belatedly try to tighten the rules, and Thomas says he’ll report future gifts; but will Chief Justice John Roberts do anything?

Federal District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk gave the judiciary system another jolt while undermining the FDA’s reliance on science to approve drugs.

Our safety depends on the FDA basing decisions on science, not politics and ideology. I’m sure there are some close calls; but consider mifeprestone. The FDA studied scientific data and reached a conclusion that experience has validated. In 23 years on the market it has proved extremely safe and more than 99% effective.

However, Judge Kacsmaryk doesn’t approve of abortions. Mifeprestone can be used to end pregnancies. Therefore he’s suspended sales, although the order is stayed pending appeal. The same day, a a judge in Washington State reached the opposite conclusion.

Meanwhile, as we all know, a Manhattan grand jury has indicted former president Donald Trump on 34 felony counts related to paying Stormy Daniels to keep quiet. Since Trump reimbursed Donald Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” what Cohen paid Daniels, and Cohen was convicted criminally for his role in the fscheme, Trump’s indictment is legally reasonable. Maybe he’s not guilty of any criminal conduct. There’s a well-known way to establish that: litigate the case and, if you can’t get it dismissed on pre-trial motions, let a jury decide. That used to be called “the American Way.”

Instead, a congressman known for evading subpoenae from congressional committees, Jim Jordan, has (a) subpeonaed a former prosecutor, (b) sought secret grand jury materials, and (c) wasted a bunch of money holding hearings in New York City designed to undermine Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg’s credibility. Jordan is flagrantly placing a fat thumb on the scales of justice. And we’re footing the bill.

Even the conservative 5th Circuit appellate court won’t uphold Kacsmaryk’s dangerous ruling. Public pressure reversed the Tennessee Legislature’s unprecedented expulsion of two Black progressives. But give these termites a chance, they’ll eat what’s left of our democracy.

Peter Goodman's opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of KRWG Public Media or NMSU.