April Politics Update

Heather Cox Richardson
April 16, 2023

There is more news about Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his misreporting of his financial connections. This morning, Shawn Boburg and Emma Brown of the Washington Post reported that for twenty years, Thomas has reported rental income totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a real estate firm that was shut down in 2006.

The misstatement might be dismissed as a problem with paperwork, the authors note. “But it is among a series of errors and omissions that Thomas has made on required annual financial disclosure forms over the past several decades, a review of those records shows. Together, they have raised questions about how seriously Thomas views his responsibility to accurately report details about his finances to the public.”

The cascade of stories about Thomas threatens to continue to undermine the legitimacy of this Supreme Court.

Last night, the nation suffered one mass shooting in Dadeville, Alabama, that killed four people and wounded twenty-eight others, and another in Louisville, Kentucky, that killed two and wounded four. On Friday, Republican hopefuls for the 2024 presidential nomination courted members of the National Rifle Association, the NRA, at the organization’s 2023 annual convention, promising looser gun laws.

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem complained about liberals who “want to take our guns,” and boasted that her granddaughter, who is not yet two, has a shotgun and a rifle.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to focus on rebalancing the Indo-Pacific to counter China. Just two weeks after the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam and nearly thirty years after the restoration of diplomatic ties in 1995, the U.S. has broken ground on a new $1.2 billion embassy compound in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh yesterday and vowed to “broaden and deepen” relations between the two countries.

Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai, U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Samantha Power, and members of Congress have all visited Vietnam recently as part of a long-term strategy to help area friends and allies counterbalance China in the Indo-Pacific region.

Yesterday, Blinken emphasized how the U.S. and Vietnam, working together, “can advance a free and open Indo-Pacific, one that is at peace and grounded in respect for the rules-based international order.” But, as Vietnam has a one-party communist government, he explained, “When we talk about ‘free and open,’ we mean countries being free to choose their own path and their own partners and that problems will be dealt with openly; rules will be reached transparently and applied fairly; and goods, ideas, and people will flow freely across land, the seas, the skies, and cyberspace.”

Vice President Harris spoke yesterday at a march for reproductive rights in Los Angeles, where she emphasized how deeply our international standing depends on our commitment to freedom at home. “I’ve been traveling around the world as your Vice President,” she said. “When we, as Americans, walk in those rooms around the world, we have traditionally walked in those rooms, shoulders back, chin up, having some authority to talk about the importance of rule of law, human rights.

“But here’s the thing we all know about what it means to be a role model: People watch what you do to see if it matches what you say. So let us understand that what is happening in our nation right now, by extension, can impact people around the world who dare to say, ‘I want my country to be like the United States and protect rights.’ And those autocrats and those dictators might look at those folks and say, ‘What are you pointing to as the example?’”

“We are seeing, around the country, in a myriad of ways, those who would dare to attack fundamental rights and, by extension, attack our democracy,” Harris said. “Around our country, supposed so-called extremist leaders…dare to silence the voices of the people.”

“A United States Supreme Court, the highest court in our land, that took a constitutional right that had been recognized from the people of America.

“We have seen attacks on voting rights; attacks on fundamental rights to love and marry the people that you love; attacks on the ability of people to be themselves and be proud of who they are.

“And so, this is a moment that history will show required each of us, based on our collective love of our country, to stand up and fight for and protect our ideals…. [W]e have been called upon to be the next generation of the people who will help lead and fight in this movement for freedom and liberty based on our love of our country…. [W]e stand for our democracy. And we stand for foundational and fundamental principles that have everything to do with freedom, liberty, and equality for all people.”