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Sunday, May 29, 2022

Skelton: Newsom’s clever attack on fellow Democrats is good politics

Gavin Newsom was smart to attack fellow Democrats for being sneaky in the culture wars, including the fight over abortion rights—whether or not he was completely wet. It was good party politics.

That harsh rhetoric and much more could propel him on the national political stage, appeal to progressive Democrats who are impatient with the Biden administration and Congress — and begin to position themselves to run for the White House in the future.

Newsom and his advisers, of course, insist that his running for presidency has not been discussed and he is not even thinking about it.

Okay, but come on: It wouldn’t be human for the governor of California to look in the mirror and not see a future president.

Never mind that the California Democrat has never been nominated for president and his chances of being elected are faster than Rich Strike winning the Kentucky Derby 80 to 1. But that doesn’t mean Newsom won’t try to give half. Opportunity. Like if President Biden doesn’t run for re-election in 2024.

More likely, he could wait while holding another top position, such as the seat of U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein. She will definitely retire when her term ends in 2024, if not earlier. Newsom’s only 54.

When Newsom asked rhetorically at a news conference last week, “Where’s my party?” On the culture wars, he was probably opening the ears and eyes of rank-and-file liberal voters across the country. “Why aren’t we standing up more firmly?” he declared.

,[Republicans] Always these culture wars. Where is the counter-attack in the Democratic Party? Why are we not waking up to this?”

Newsom was referring not only to being on track to reverse the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade, a 1973 decision that allowed women to terminate pregnancies. He was speaking of all the states that have passed laws to strictly prohibit – if not practically outlaw – abortion pending a court decision.

And he was pointing to “all these other bills that are just cookie-cutter bills being spread across states… across a spectrum of issues. Where is the Democratic Party?”

nice touch. Newsom is trying to be seen as a national crusader in the culture wars, especially on abortion rights. But he should not stop here.

I have another suggestion for him: start a campaign to enforce term limits for US Supreme Court justices — in fact, all federal judges. They are now appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate for lifetime jobs. No accountability to voters or anyone.

This would probably require a constitutional amendment, although some legal scholars believe Congress could accomplish this by passing a bill. The constitution does not specify “lifetime”. It has only been interpreted that way. It only says that the judges “shall hold their positions in the course of good conduct.”

Either way – constitutional amendment or statute – is not going to happen. An amendment would require a two-thirds vote by each house of Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states. And any bill would need to survive a Senate filibuster in an institution that fears term limits for itself.

But that doesn’t mean the idea shouldn’t be promoted. I think the concept will appeal to many voters, especially when the court nullifies national abortion rights.

If there was an 18-year limit at present, conservative Clarence Thomas would have been long gone. He is in court for 30 years and is the poster justice for the term limit. No other member will be affected.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. – who wrote the draft opinion overturning Roe – will need to leave in two years.

Newsom could find an attentive Democratic audience to that prospect.

George Skelton is a Los Angeles Times columnist.

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