Cathy McMorris Rodgers
U.S. Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

The Rev­erend Franklin Gra­ham, chief shill for Don­ald Trump on the reli­gious right, spe­cial­izes in the tweet­ing of pas­sages about virtue and love from the Bible while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly bear­ing false wit­ness against his neighbor.

He has tak­en up the right wing’s par­ty line response to the leak of Supreme Court Jus­tice Samuel Alito’s draft opin­ion over­turn­ing Roe v. Wade, the Supremes’ 1973 deci­sion that legal­ized abor­tion in Amer­i­ca as a right.

Franklin Graham
Rev­erend Franklin Gra­ham greets atten­dees at a stop in Lin­coln, Neb. dur­ing his Deci­sion Amer­i­ca tour in 2016. (Pho­to: Matt John­son, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

The polit­i­cal right’s preach­ers, law­mak­ers and media mouths claim it’s all a left-wing plot to intim­i­date the Ali­to Court.

“It seems these activists will try to use any tac­tics to get their way,” Gra­ham tweet­ed, link­ing the Ali­to leak to pub­li­ca­tion of the jus­tices’ home addresses.

Our own Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, R‑Washington, blast­ed out a state­ment: “At this very moment, Democ­rats and the Left are using this breach of trust as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to spread fear and force their dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pro-abor­tion agen­da on every American.”

We don’t (yet) know the leaker’s iden­ti­ty. Chief Jus­tice John Roberts has ordered an inves­ti­ga­tion of what he describes as “a betray­al” and an “egre­gious breach of trust” of the Court’s pri­vate delib­er­a­tions. Pre­vi­ous leaks out of the Court have always come in books writ­ten after deci­sions came down.

But the right has moved quick­ly with three objectives:

  1. to define the unknown leak­er as com­ing from the “rad­i­cal left’;
  2. to get believ­ers to believe the leak is an attempt to intim­i­date the Court;
  3. to dis­tract the pub­lic from what is an attempt to strip a right from Amer­i­can women and begin roll­back of the Court’s pri­va­cy rulings.

“The left con­tin­ues its assault on the Supreme Court with an unprece­dent­ed break of con­fi­den­tial­i­ty, clear­ly meant to intim­i­date,” said Sen­a­tor Josh Haw­ley, R‑Missouri, best known for his clenched fist encour­age­ment of the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion­ists at the Unit­ed States Capitol.

The favorite aca­d­e­m­ic of Rupert Mur­doch’s FNC, George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty law pro­fes­sor Jonathan Tur­ley, has sniffed out what he describes as an effort “to pres­sure the Court and push the leg­is­la­tion in Con­gress on a fed­er­al abor­tion law before the midterm elections.”

Indeed, the pro-lib­er­ty camp – legit­i­mate­ly! — sees the Ali­to draft as a wake-up  call and warn­ing to Amer­i­cans. Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, D‑Washington, stood with Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer on the steps of the U.S. Capi­tol to call for Sen­ate enact­ment of House-passed repro­duc­tive rights legislation.

A Sen­ate vote on the leg­is­la­tion, like­ly to fail, will be held next Wednesday.

Demo­c­ra­t­ic House mem­bers in this Wash­ing­ton joined togeth­er to vocal­ly pro­claim their sup­port for repro­duc­tive rights.

Rally after the leaked Supreme Court opinion
Sign from a huge crowd at the Supreme Court the night after the release of Ali­to’s draft major­i­ty opin­ion over­turn­ing Roe v. Wade (Pho­to: Vic­to­ria Pick­er­ing, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Adam Schiff, D‑California, who chairs the House Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, deliv­ered this blunt mes­sage: “I don’t care how the draft leaked. That’s a sideshow. What I care about is that a small num­ber of con­ser­v­a­tive jus­tices, who lied about their plans to the Sen­ate, intend to deprive mil­lions of women of repro­duc­tive care.”

Two Repub­li­can law­mak­ers, Sen­a­tors Susan Collins, R‑Maine and Lisa Murkows­ki, R‑Alaska, have called out lies told to the coun­try by Trump-appoint­ed Supreme Court Jus­tices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gor­such dur­ing their con­fir­ma­tion process.

Both men described the Roe v. Wade deci­sion as set­tled law. So, for that mat­ter, did Ali­to when ques­tioned by Sen­a­tor Diane Fein­stein, D‑California, dur­ing his con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing before the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Committee.

The draft opin­ion, on which they have report­ed­ly agreed to join Ali­to in sign­ing their names to, “would be com­plete­ly incon­sis­tent with what Jus­tice Gor­such and Jus­tice Kavanaugh said in their hear­ings and in our meet­ings in my office,” Collins said in a state­ment. If the Court rules as Ali­to has writ­ten, added Murkows­ki, “it rocks my con­fi­dence in the Court right now.”

Such words are enough to bring tears to your eyes, if you hap­pen to be a croc­o­dile. We’ve seen it in a suc­ces­sion of Sen­ate bat­tles. Sen­a­tor Collins is an inde­pen­dent voice in Con­gress only so long as Sen­ate Repub­li­can Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t need her vote. Murkows­ki is made of tougher stuff, but needs Demo­c­ra­t­ic and inde­pen­dent votes to get reelect­ed this fall.

McConnell is clear­ly a brains behind the demo­nize/de­fine-the-leak­er strat­e­gy. I watched a news con­fer­ence at which he deflect­ed all men­tion of what Ali­to has writ­ten and is try­ing to do. Instead, he bore down on the leak, say­ing: “By every indi­ca­tion, this was yet anoth­er esca­la­tion in the rad­i­cal left’s ongo­ing cam­paign to bul­ly and intim­i­date fed­er­al judges and sub­sti­tute mob rule for the rule of law.”

The con­trary may be the case, a cam­paign by Ali­to and Clarence Thomas to pres­sure the jus­tices to aban­don a nar­row­ly writ­ten opin­ion – clear­ly Roberts’ pref­er­ence – and mount a full, frontal assault to the right to pri­va­cy. They’ve appeared spoil­ing for a fight and have sin­gled out Roe v. Wade in past opinions.

The assur­ance by Ali­to in his draft opin­ion, that over­turn­ing Roe is not a full-scale attack on pri­va­cy and stare deci­sis, is about as believ­able as Vladimir Putin’s descrip­tion of the Ukraine inva­sion as a “spe­cial mil­i­tary operation.”

Sem­i­nal rul­ings, e.g. recog­ni­tion of same-sex mar­riage, are in jeopardy.

Extrem­ist Sen­a­tor Mar­sha Black­burn, R‑Tennessee, has denounced as a “con­sti­tu­tion­al­ly unsound rul­ing” Gris­wold v. Con­necti­cut, the 1965 deci­sion by the Supremes that struck down a ban on con­tra­cep­tion and defined pri­va­cy rights.

If you dis­count the right wing’s definition/disinformation cam­paign, just check the opin­ion page of the Wall Street Jour­nal late last month. It hint­ed broad­ly of a leak out of the Supreme Court, with the goal of keep­ing Chief Jus­tice Roberts from try­ing to find a “mid­dle way” and pulling a col­league back to his side.

“We hope he (Roberts) doesn’t suc­ceed – for the good of the Court and the coun­try – it would pro­long the Court’s abor­tion agony – far bet­ter the Court to leave the thick­et of abor­tion reg­u­la­tion and return the issue to the states.”

Yeah, states that will sub­ject poor peo­ple to the agony of hav­ing to seek back-alley abor­tions in des­per­ate cir­cum­stances and suf­fer­ing the consequences.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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