From the US advancing to the knockout round of the 2014 World Cup and the growing crisis in Iraq to selfies with Queen Elizabeth and Batman’s California VIP appearance, TIME presents the best photos of the week.
Primary mission is to defend Americans on the ground
Armed U.S. drones are flying over the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, an American official said Friday, primed to defend U.S. troops and diplomats on the ground—or to attack insurgents challenging the Iraqi government if President Barack Obama orders such strikes.
“We have the necessary forces not only to protect our own forces, but to be prepared should the President make a decision to do something more,” a senior Pentagon official said Friday. “We’ve got both manned and unmanned over Iraq, and it shouldn’t surprise anybody that some of our drones have armaments.”
The drone flights don’t necessarily portend a change in policy from Obama, who has sent military advisers to help the struggling Iraqi army fight Sunni militants taking control of swaths of the country but has said they’ll only be involved in training, not combat.
“This doesn’t mean necessarily that were going to use them—the President hasn’t made a decision to use any sort of direct action—but could the armed ones be used for protection of our advisers on the ground, of course they could be,” the military official said of the drones. “They’re also there looking for targets of opportunities. If the President decides they merit striking, sure, they’re there for that, too, but the President hasn’t made any of those decisions.”
The official likened the drone deployments to “due diligence.” Likewise, the up-to-300 U.S. troops Obama has ordered into Iraq to help the tottering government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki “aren’t going into combat, but they sure are going in armed,” the official added.
MQ-1 Predators, outfitted with Hellfire missiles, have begun flying missions over Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq from an airbase in Kuwait, a military official said.
Manned and unmanned aircraft are flying “around-the-clock coverage” over Iraq, Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s top spokesman, said last Friday. They are flying between 30 and 35 sorties daily. “We’re not looking at the whole country,” he added. “We’re looking at parts of the country that are obviously of greatest interest.”
The President dismissed the Speaker’s planned legal action as a political ploy
President Barack Obama isn’t worried about a lawsuit House Speaker John Boehner plans to bring against him over his use of executive power, Obama said on Good Morning America Friday.
“I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something while they’re doing nothing,” Obama said. “The suit is a stunt.”
Boehner said Wednesday he plans to file a federal lawsuit against the President over what he calls “an effort to erode the power of the legislative branch” over the last five years. “I believe the President is not faithfully executing the laws of the country and on behalf of the institution and our constitution, standing up and fighting for this is in the best long-term interest of the Congress,” the House Speaker said.
Faced with a Republican-dominated Congress that has steadfastly thwarted much of his agenda, Obama has ramped up his use of executive actions to circumvent the House on matters like delaying implementation of parts of the Affordable Care Act, halting deportations of child immigrants and boosting the minimum wage and job protections for federal contractors.
“What I’ve told Speaker Boehner directly is: If you’re really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don’t you try getting something done through Congress?” the President said. “You’re going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority while you’re not doing anything?”
In the news: The partition of Iraq; Ukraine signs historic EU agreement; U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war; Supreme Court rules on presidential appointment powers and abortion clinic buffer zones; World War I centennial; Clinton's book and the Chinese market; U.S. advances to the next round of the World Cup
- “Over the past two weeks, the specter that has haunted Iraq since its founding 93 years ago appears to have become a reality: the de facto partition of the country into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish cantons.” [NYT]
- “Iraqi insurgents executed at least 160 captives earlier this month in the northern city of Tikrit, Human Rights Watch said Friday … ” [AP]
- “Ukraine signed on Friday an historic free-trade agreement with the European Union that has been at the heart of months of violence and upheaval in the country, drawing an immediate threat of ‘grave consequences’ from Russia.” [Reuters]
- “The Obama administration asked Congress on Thursday to authorize $500 million in direct U.S. military training and equipment for Syrian opposition fighters, a move that could significantly escalate U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war.” [WashPost]
- Scars of World War I Linger in Europe on Eve of Centennial [WSJ]
- “The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Massachusetts law mandating a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinics is unconstitutional because it limited speech on sidewalks and other ‘public fora.’ But in dozens of other decisions over the last 30 years, the court has held that buffer zones can be constitutional.” [TIME]
- “Handing a victory to those who fear the executive branch has overreached in recent years, the Supreme Court has reined in the President’s power to appoint officers of the government when Congress is in recess.” [TIME]
- “The best chance in three decades to rewrite immigration laws has slipped away just one year after the Senate garnered 68 votes for sweeping reform of the system, 20 months after strong Hispanic turnout for Democrats in the 2012 election sparked a GOP panic, and five years after Obama promised to act.” [Politico]
- Here are the 43,634 properties in Detroit that were on the brink of foreclosure this year [NYT]
- “Hillary Clinton’s new book will not be sold in mainland China, despite efforts by her publisher, Simon & Schuster, to sell the memoir there.” [BuzzFeed]
- “Bill Clinton has been paid $104.9 million for 542 speeches around the world between January 2001, when he left the White House, and January 2013, when Hillary stepped down as secretary of state…” [WashPost]
- “Unattractive, maybe, but not undeserved. The U.S. national men’s soccer team advanced to the knockout stage of the World Cup on Thursday despite losing to Germany.” [TIME]
Human rights groups are cautiously optimistic that the Obama administration will make the U.S. a signatory to the 15-year-old Ottawa Convention
The United States will take steps to join a 15-year-old global treaty banning the use of antipersonnel landmines, the Obama administration said Friday.
The administration has previously said it was merely studying the Ottawa Convention, much to the dismay of human rights advocates for whom Washington’s unwillingness to sign the document has been a stain on the country’s record. While the U.S. still has yet to actually sign the treaty, Friday’s announcement signals a shift wherein the country will begin allowing its antipersonnel landmines to expire without then being replaced.
National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement Friday that the U.S. is “diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with and that would ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention.”
The announcement came at the Third Review Conference of the Ottawa Convention in Maputo, Mozambique.
Human rights groups welcomed the policy change with restrained optimism. “The new thing here is the intent to join the treaty,” Stephen Goose, executive director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times.
The effort to ban the use of antipersonnel landmines has been a major goal of the disarmament movement. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines says about 10 people lose a limb or are killed by a landmine or other similarly-explosive “remnant of war” every day. Landmines litter parts of 60 countries around the world, the group says.
Several world powers besides the U.S., including Russia, China and Iran, still have yet to sign the Ottawa Convention, which took effect in 1999.
Since childhood, the former Secretary of State's Methodist beliefs have inspired public service and private devotion
This originally appeared in TIME’s book Hillary: An American Life, available on newsstands everywhere June 27.
Hillary Clinton once described her faith as the background music of her life. Whether she hears it as Chopin, Bach or even U2, she did not say, but the tune, she said, never fades away. “It’s there all the time. It’s not something you have to think about, you believe it,” she said in an interview with the New York Times. “You have a faith center out of which the rest flows.”
It can be easy to tune out background music, especially amid the political cacophony that has so often dominated Clinton’s public life. But the former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady is, and has always been, a Methodist. Her faith is at once public yet personal, quiet yet bold. She is part of the second-largest Protestant group in the country, but her brand of faith has never been mainstream: Methodists make up about 6% of the total U.S. adult population, according to the Pew Research Center.
If Methodists are known for one thing, it is, as the old church saying goes, that they are always looking for a mission. Clinton is no exception. Her sense of purpose has guided her from Wellesley to Washington, and may push her to seek the White House again come 2016. Certainly political aspirations have motivated her career. But her faith has also driven her, if not equally, at least consistently, to give her life to the pursuit of a higher calling.
Step By Step
Methodism knew Clinton even before she was born. Family lore has it that John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, converted her great-great-grandparents in the coal-mining villages of Newcastle, in northeast England, in the 19th century. Clinton grew up attending First United Methodist Church of Park Ridge in Chicago, where she was confirmed in sixth grade. Her mother taught Sunday school, and Clinton was active in youth group, Bible studies and altar guild. On Saturdays during Illinois’s harvest season, she and others from her youth group would babysit children of nearby migrant workers. As the Wesleyan mantra instructed them, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
One man in particular had a strong influence on her young faith: Donald Jones, who came to Park Ridge as the new youth minister when Clinton was a high school freshman. A Drew University Seminary graduate, Jones’s own theology had the imprint of theological heavyweights like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Reinhold Niebuhr, and he made it his mission to give the youth a strong and broad theological training. He created a “University of Life” for his youth-group students and introduced Clinton and her peers to the great works of T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, Dostoyevsky and Picasso. Faith, he argued, must be lived out in social justice and human rights. Jones ensured that students connected these ideas to life in their own communities, arranging exchanges with youth groups at black and Hispanic churches in Chicago’s inner city so that his students became aware of life beyond Park Ridge. Most important, he introduced Clinton to Martin Luther King Jr. when he came to Chicago in 1962. “Until then, I had been dimly aware of the social revolution occurring in our country,” Clinton recalled in her memoir Living History, “but Dr. King’s words illuminated the struggle taking place and challenged our indifference.”
This socially active current remained the lifeblood of her faith as her political career began to take shape. At Wellesley, Clinton regularly read the Methodist Church’s Motive magazine, and she credited it with helping her to realize that her political beliefs were no longer aligned with the Republican Party and that she should step down as president of the Young Republicans. During her Yale Law School years, she worked for anti-poverty activist Marian Wright Edelman, who is now president of the Children’s Defense Fund, and researched the education and health of migrant children she had known earlier. When she finally decided to marry a young Southern Baptist named Bill Clinton in Oct. 1975, it was local Arkansas Methodist minister Vic Nixon who married them in their living room.
Clinton became the first Methodist First Lady in the White House since President Warren Harding’s wife, Florence, who followed Methodist First Ladies Ida McKinley, Lucy Hayes, Julia Grant and Eliza Johnson. She soon brought issues like health-care reform and women’s rights to the national spotlight (even though faith alone could not make what came to be known as “Hillarycare” succeed). The Clintons regularly attended the Foundry United Methodist Church, a socially active church that today is an advocate for gay and lesbian rights, not far from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. “As a Christian, part of my obligation is to take action to alleviate suffering,” she told the United Methodist News Service not long after her husband was elected. “Explicit recognition of that in the Methodist tradition is one reason I’m comfortable in this church.”
While Clinton’s faith has always emphasized public service, it also has a private side that runs deep. Prayer and reflection have been at the core of her spiritual life, and she has been known to carry a small book of her favorite Scripture verses to reflect upon in quiet moments. “My faith has always been primarily personal,” she once told the New York Times. “It is how I live my life and who I am, and I have tried through my works to demonstrate a level of commitment and compassion that flow from my faith.”
At times, she would let the public catch a glimpse of this inner faith. When George H.W. Bush called Bill on election night in 1992 to concede, Hillary recalled in Living History, “Bill and I went into our bedroom, closed the door and prayed together for God’s help as he took on this awesome honor and responsibility.” Her words are an unmistakable echo for anyone who knows the Bible well. Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, preached, “But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
It is a reminder that Clinton is keenly aware that in America the Bible can often be a political tool. Early in 1993, she joined a women’s prayer group through the National Prayer Breakfast organized by conservative evangelical Doug Coe. Clinton called the women her “prayer partners,” in the long spiritual tradition of having people of faith pray consistently for you throughout your life. The group, however, was more than just spiritual—each woman had strong political affiliations, many of which served to help Clinton win allies across the political aisle. It included Susan Baker, the wife of President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of State, James Baker; Joanne Kemp, the wife of future vice-presidential candidate Jack Kemp; and Holly Leachman, a Christian speaker who even faxed Clinton a daily Scripture reading or faith message throughout her time in the White House. Whether the group served a primarily political or spiritual purpose is difficult to sort out, but Clinton did say that she valued their prayers. “Of all the thousands of gifts I received in my eight years in the White House, few were more welcome and needed,” she wrote.
Clinton had plenty of raw personal moments that thrust her faith into the public spotlight. Her second year in the White House was particularly grief-stricken: she lost her father, her mother-in-law and her friend Vince Foster in the short time since Bill Clinton had been president. Two friends gave Clinton a copy of a book by Catholic priest Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son. One sentence, Clinton said, struck her like a lightning bolt: “The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”
The biggest test of faith came in 1998 with her husband’s personal indiscretions. To the public, Clinton’s response was short and direct. “This is a time when she relies on her strong religious faith,” Marsha Berry, Clinton’s press secretary, said in a statement when the Monica Lewinsky news broke. But as she often did in times of personal trial, Clinton turned back to her former minister Don Jones for counsel. He pointed her to a sermon by theologian Paul Tillich called “You Are Accepted” that he had taught her youth group growing up and encouraged her to choose grace. “Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness,” Tillich wrote. “It happens or it does not happen.” Clinton explained in her memoir that she made a decision to choose grace. She also turned to Nouwen for advice on forgiveness. Prayer, Nouwen argues, takes you into the arms of God and deep into yourself to find the ability to forgive. “Do I want to be not just the one who is being forgiven, but also the one who forgives; not just the one who is being welcomed home, but also the one who welcomes home; not just the one who receives compassion, but the one who offers it as well?” he reflected in his book’s conclusion.
Clinton also developed a close relationship with evangelist Billy Graham in the months leading to and after the crisis. In 1997, at the dedication of the George Herbert Walker Bush Presidential Library, Clinton pulled Graham aside and asked him to talk with her. “She grabbed my head in her hands and held it there like that and looked right into my eyes and said, ‘I want to tell you about Bill,’ ” Graham later recounted in The Preacher and the Presidents. Graham, who forgave Bill Clinton as quickly as he had Nixon decades prior, encouraged Hillary to forgive her husband. Clinton held Graham’s hand the entire time during their private meeting at Graham’s New York City Crusade in 2005. “She was just so sweet,” Graham recalled. “She is different from the Hillary you see in the media. There is a warm side to her—and a spiritual one.”
There’s a strain of Christian theology that believes self-sacrifice to be the highest form of faithful living. It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who famously said that when Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. Bonhoeffer took this literally—he was eventually executed by the Nazis for his role in the political resistance movement. God’s grace should mean something, he argued, and it should bring about justice on earth. “Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church,” he wrote. “We are fighting today for costly grace.”
It can be said that Clinton knows this personally all too well. Few people in politics today know costs as closely as she does, be they political, marital, or the costs of being the first woman poised to become president. They have followed her time and again throughout her career. But she keeps on going. As she told a gathering of Methodist women in April, “Even when the odds are long, even when we are tired and just want to go away somewhere to be alone and rest, let’s make it happen.”
In a way, the costs are just the price for doing the Lord’s work. And it makes politics, and whatever her future therein is, more than just her career: it makes it her calling.
Chinese publishers have declined to distribute Hillary Clinton’s new book, which includes anecdotes that are critical of Asian superpower
Hillary Clinton’s new memoir, which focuses on her tenure as U.S. secretary of state, will not be sold in mainland China, according to her publisher in an interview with BuzzFeed.
Simon & Schuster said they were not able to secure translation rights with Chinese publishers and that one of the nation’s leading import agencies, Shanghai Book Traders, has refused to distribute the English-language version.
Jonathan Karp, president of Simon & Schuster, said that China’s reaction to the book is an “effective ban.”
Clinton’s memoir is seen as critical of the People’s Republic. She wrote how the country is “full of contradictions” and the “epicenter of the antidemocratic movement in Asia.”
Ironically, she also wrote of her address to the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, where she “felt the heavy hand of Chinese censorship when the government blocked the broadcast of my speech.”
"A serious counterterrorism strategy needs to consider carefully… the potential unintended consequences of increased reliance on lethal UAVs"
A bipartisan group of former senior intelligence and military officials broadly criticized the Obama Administration’s program of targeted drone strikes Thursday and called for the U.S. to reassess the practice.
Their critique, in a report published Thursday by the Washington think tank Stimson Center, represents the latest challenge to the use of armed drones for targeted killings, days after courts forced the release a legal memo justifying the killing of alleged American terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki in a strike in Yemen. The report warns that armed drones create a “slippery slope” that could lead to continual wars, as the relative low-risk associated with their use could encourage the U.S. to fly more missions.
Among other recommendations, the panel called for the U.S. to conduct a strategic cost-benefit analysis of the their use, provide greater transparency in the process, and shift the authority over the program away from the Central Intelligence Agency and to the military.
“We are concerned that the Obama administration’s heavy reliance on targeted killings as a pillar of US counterterrorism strategy rests on questionable assumptions, and risks increasing instability and escalating conflicts,” the report says. “While tactical strikes may have helped keep the homeland free of major terrorist attacks, existing evidence indicates that both Sunni and Shia Islamic extremist groups have grown in scope, lethality and influence in the broader area of operations in the Middle East.
The panel, which was jointly led by retired General John P. Abizaid, the former head of United States Central Command, and Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown University, also called for President Barack Obama to create an independent commission to regularly review the use of lethal drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles.
“A serious counterterrorism strategy needs to consider carefully… the potential unintended consequences of increased reliance on lethal UAVs,” the report says.
Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokesman, told the New York Timesahead of the report’s release to the public that the Administration would review the findings on the use of armed drones but added that the U.S. needs to preserve “the ability to continue those operations.
“The administration is exploring ways we can provide more information about the United States’ use of force in counterterrorism operations outside areas of active hostilities, including information that provides the American people with a better understanding of U.S. assessments of civilian casualties,” she told the Times.
Five years after the end of the Great Recession, America's young adults are still facing economic challenges.
For many millennials, the future looks bleak. “We don’t just face dreams that are deferred, we face dreams that are destroyed,” Emma Kallaway, executive director of the Oregon Student Association, told the Senate Subcommittee on Economic Policy Wednesday. But if they were hoping for answers from Congress, Kallaway and other young adults across America facing frustrations with student loan debt and the sluggish job market will have to wait.
Senate Democrats convened the subcommittee hearing entitled “Dreams Deferred: Young Workers and Recent Graduates in the U.S. Economy” to highlight youth unemployment and heavy student loan debt after Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) student loan bill stalled in the Senate earlier this month. Warren’s bill would have allowed an estimated 25 million people with long-existing student loan debt to refinance at lower interest rates.
Just 63.4% of youth aged 18-29 are employed, Keith Hall, senior research fellow at George Mason University, reported in his testimony. The unemployment rate of workers under the age of 25 is 13.2%, more than twice the overall rate of unemployment.
As joblessness remains high, the cost of college continues to rise, compounding already hard-to-manage debt levels for many young Americans. Student debt in the U.S. now tops $1.2 trillion, according to Rory O’Sullivan, deputy director of the non-profit group Young Invincibles.
“It sounds like perfect storm in a way,” said subcommittee chair Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) of the snowball effects of the Great Recession on young adults.
Youth unemployment also affects overall spending in the broader economy because young adults cannot afford to move out of their parents’ house, buy big items like cars and homes, and get married. Taxpayers bear some of that burden. Youth unemployment deprives the federal government of over $4,100 in potential income taxes and Federal Insurance Contributions Act taxes per 18-24 year old every year, and almost $9,900 per 25-34 year old, according to a recent study by Young Invincibles. That translates into an additional $170 of entitlement costs per taxpayer in the federal budget.
If the problem is clear, the solution is not. Witnesses at the hearing variously suggested state disinvestment in higher education, simplifying the federal aid application and repayment process, offering relief for existing borrowers, and holding institutions more accountable for providing affordable, quality credentials to graduating students.
Merkley asked the panel for their opinions on the merits of the “Pay It Forward” Guaranteed College Affordability Act, which would allow students to go to college without paying up front. Instead, students sign a contract to join an income-based repayment plan for a designated period of time after graduation. Several states are considering versions of the grant plan; Oregon signed one into law in 2013.
Although Kallaway and O’Sullivan said the plan would possibly circumvent the debt-to-income trap, both agreed it was not a long term fix. Kallaway believes the solution is to tackle the problem at the root, in high education costs, and not at the repayment level. “More affordable education upfront is what’s right,” Kallaway said. “Federal student loans should not be a form of income for the government.”
Hall believes that student debt and rising tuition are just symptoms of a larger disease. High unemployment numbers aren’t just an issue for young adults, he pointed out. The problem, he said, is a poorly functioning economy. “Until you solve this labor market problem […] this problem is not going away,” he said. “You’re going to have these continuing symptoms.”
A Supreme Court ruling raises questions about what's allowed, and what's not
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Massachusetts law mandating a 35-foot “buffer zone” around abortion clinics is unconstitutional because it limited speech on sidewalks and other “public fora.”
But in dozens of other decisions over the last 30 years, the court has held that buffer zones can be constitutional. Even if they’re outside medical facilities. And even if they encroach on public fora. So what gives? How’s a protester supposed to know where it’s constitutional to protest and where it’s not?
Here’s a quick-and-dirty guide on when and where (constitutional!) buffer zones still apply:
Outside some local abortion clinics…
While the court’s decision Thursday will almost definitely lead to legal challenges to existing buffer zone laws, cities and counties from San Francisco to Pittsburgh to Buffalo will probably keep them on the books. Because many of these local laws are narrowly written and target specific clinics or medical facilities, they may not be affected by today’s ruling, in which the justices primarily objected to the broadness of the Massachusetts law—the only state-level statute in the country. In Portland, for instance, protesters cannot come within 39-feet of the entrance to one specific Planned Parenthood building.
Outside hospitals and other medical facilities…
In 2000, the Supreme Court upheld a Colorado law mandating a 100-foot buffer zone around the entrance of a “health care facility.” The law also banned protesters from “knowingly approach[ing] within 8 feet of another person” in order to hand her a leaflet or handbill, or “engage in oral protest.” This is an interesting case because it’s very similar to the case that the court decided today, and the justices came to the opposite conclusion, and yet they did not overrule it. Why? It’s not entirely clear. The legal differences between the two cases have legal scholars scratching their heads.
On or Near Military Bases…
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that it was perfectly legal to shoo an anti-war protester away from a military base in California that he’d already been kicked out of once. It didn’t matter, the justices said, if the protester stood within a clearly marked “designated protest area.” In that case, the court decided on statutory grounds that all the land owned by the Air Force was considered “the base,” and the protester had been kicked off “the base.” So even though the protester now wanted to stand within an easement designed for public protest, he was out of luck. The court left the question of whether that violated the First Amendment to the lower court.
At Military Funerals…
The Supreme Court decided in 2011 that the Westboro Baptist Church was allowed to protest military funerals on the grounds that “even hurtful speech” got First Amendment protections. The court, however, gave legislatures explicit permission to pass buffer zone laws restricting people from protesting outside cemeteries and funeral homes. At least 41 states took them up on the offer, and last year, U.S. Congress passed a sweeping law on veterans’ rights, one part of which prevented demonstrators from picketing a military funeral within two hours before or after the service, and from coming within 300 feet of grieving family members.
Outside Places of Worship…
While there hasn’t been a Supreme Court case on the matter, many states have laws on the books restricting protestors from getting too close to all kinds of religious sanctuaries, including mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples. Those buffer zones range in size from a few feet to shouting-distance.
At Polling Places…
In 1991, the Supreme Court upheld a Tennessee law restricting protesters, campaign staff or others from coming within 100 feet of the entrances to polling stations to solicit votes or display campaign material. In that controversial 5-3 decision, the court found that since the Tennessee law didn’t block out political messages entirely—just within a narrow buffer zone—it passed muster under the First Amendment.
When the President is Nearby…
At a campaign event in Oregon in 2004, President George W. Bush’s Secret Service agents forced anti-Bush demonstrators, who had gathered on a public sidewalk, to stand farther way; however, they did not move a group of pro-Bush demonstrators—much to the chagrin of the American Civil Liberties Union, which took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Just last month, the justices decided that the lawsuit could not go forward because the agents themselves could not be held liable. That anti-climactic decision left open the question of what rights protesters have in demanding proximity to the president.
At Political Conventions…
Every four years, the Republicans and Democrats hold their big, glitzy conventions and every year, hordes of protestors are herded around by police, prevented from coming within a few hundred feet of the entrances, and otherwise treated like chopped liver. In light of today’s court decision, do those impromptu buffer zones violate protesters’ First Amendment rights? Erwin Chemerinsky, a top lawyer on matters of free speech, calls that “a really interesting question,” but concedes that “we just don’t know yet.” Challenges to those laws have never made it to the Supreme Court.
Outside the U.S. Supreme Court itself…
Last year, the Supreme Court issued a new regulation banning demonstrators from doing their thing on the marble plaza in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC. The new regulation was in response to a federal judge’s decision last year that a previous regulation barring protests on the plaza was unconstitutional. He cited previous Supreme Court rulings that laws barring demonstrations on court property are unconstitutional, but the court’s marshal says the new regulation is necessary in order to ensure “unimpeded ingress and egress of visitors to the court” and maintain the appearance that SCOTUS is a “body not swayed by external influence.”