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Alito No Longer Tries to Hide His Theocratic Worldview


1 week ago 30

Jesse Wegman

Updated 

June 11, 2024, 10:38 a.m. ET

June 11, 2024, 10:38 a.m. ET

Today’s Supreme Court may bear Chief Justice John Roberts’s name, but it is not his court, nor has it been for many years.

This was demonstrated once again this week, not in a formal public opinion but in a secret recording released by a woman who had infiltrated a private court event last week and surreptitiously taped her conversations with the justices.

Posing as a conservative Catholic, the woman, Lauren Windsor, asserted that America is a Christian nation and it is the court’s role to lead it on a “moral path.”

Roberts refused to take the bait. “Would you want me to be in charge of putting the nation on a more moral path?” he responded. “That’s for people we elect. That’s not for lawyers.” He also disagreed that America is a Christian nation.

This was, of course, the easy and correct answer. Roberts knows that the court’s legitimacy relies entirely on the trust of the American people. You don’t have to wonder if he’s a closet liberal (and he’s far from it) to expect him and his colleagues to approach the nation’s most fraught legal disputes with fairness, or at least with respect for the separation of church and state.

Justice Samuel Alito can’t be bothered with such earthly concerns. In response to Windsor’s claim that religious Americans “have to keep fighting … to return our country to a place of godliness,” he said, “I agree with you, I agree with you.”

“One side or the other is going to win,” he added.

In one sense, this is no surprise coming from the court’s leading culture warrior. Alito has long made clear his special solicitude for religious claims, whether before the court or on the flagpole outside his house. Still, it should shock us to hear him lay out his worldview so bluntly, and to a woman he’d never met before. It shows an utter lack of regard for the court’s delicate posture of neutrality in the constitutional system and American society.

For a long time, Alito seemed like an outlier on the court, lobbing his sour, grievance-filled dissents from the sidelines. He is now ascendant, writing the lead opinion in the decision striking down the right to abortion and many other precedent-breaking rulings. He is also in good company in the upper reaches of government. Recall that House Speaker Mike Johnson, an evangelical Christian, told an interviewer after he got the job, “Go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”

Perhaps we should be grateful that these aspiring theocrats have fully ripped off the mask. Why submit to the sinful compromises demanded by a pluralistic society when you can just impose your (and God’s) will by fiat? In that regard, this is really the Alito court.

Serge Schmemann

June 11, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ET

June 11, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ET

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French protesters against the far right gathered in Lyon, France, on Monday.Credit...Olivier Chassignole/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

That far-right parties made gains in the just-concluded elections to the European Parliament somehow doesn’t seem too shocking, though President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to hold snap elections to the French Parliament as a result was quite the coup de théâtre. Maybe it’s that the threatening cloud of the far right has become familiar over Western democracies, including the United States, as they cope with immigration, climate change, social change, culture wars, real wars and other sources of popular disquiet.

The European election has its own dynamics, and a few different reasons for the lack of panic over its results come to mind. One is that many of the 373 million voters in 27 member countries of the European Union don’t take the European elections as seriously as they do national elections, and often use them to sound off on domestic issues. That’s not to say they’re right to do so — the European Parliament does have considerable clout in setting Pan-European policy. But postelection analyses focused far more on the message for national governments — terrible for Macron or Germany’s Social Democratic chancellor, Olaf Scholz, great for Italy’s right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni — than any potential impact on the European Union.

Second, while the far right made major gains, they were less impressive than many analysts had feared. The centrist center of the European Parliament easily held, and Ursula von der Leyen, the German Christian Democrat (a conservative), was likely to retain her powerful position as president of the European Commission. Not much is likely to change in the European Union.

So why did Macron panic? Maybe he didn’t. According to French press reports, his decision to dissolve the National Assembly and call for immediate elections was quietly plotted before the European elections as it became evident that Marine Le Pen’s hard-right National Rally, a perennial nationalist thorn in the side of French politics, was likely to make big gains under its new star, the 28-year-old Jordan Bardella.

It does seem curious that Macron would saddle France with fateful parliamentary elections as it prepares for the summer Olympics. The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, called it “extremely unsettling.” But to dismiss the move as panic, a desperate gamble, is to underestimate Macron, whose own sweep to power as a 36-year-old wunderkind beginning in 2014 was deemed a stunning feat.

His Renaissance Party has not been doing well of late, and he apparently concluded that a quick election over the tangible threat of a resurgent right may be the boost he needs. French elections are held in two rounds — these will be on June 30 and July 7 — and Macron hopes that French voters will do what they have often done in the past, which is to vote their gripes in the first round, and their reason in the second. He, in any case, remains president for three more years.

David Firestone

June 10, 2024, 3:39 p.m. ET

June 10, 2024, 3:39 p.m. ET

Normally the “messaging bills” that each party regularly brings to a vote in Congress seem like huge wastes of time. The bills are meant only to put members of the opposite party in an uncomfortable position on a wedge issue when it comes time to run negative campaign ads. These days, it’s often what Congress does instead of actually working for the public.

But the latest Democratic effort on contraception may actually serve a useful purpose. Many people may not fully grasp the growing Republican effort to limit access to birth control. The bills in the House and Senate might at least help make it clear how serious that threat is.

Last week, Senate Democrats tried to pass the Right to Contraception Act, which would prohibit any restrictions to birth control access at the federal, state and local level. It predictably failed to overcome a Republican filibuster, but it got 38 Republicans to go on the record as voting against it. In the House, Democrats are circulating a petition to force a vote on a similar bill, which will also fail, but the names of Republicans who don’t sign will be publicized in ads across the country by a group called Americans for Contraception.

Republicans claim there’s no need for these bills because contraception access is already protected by the 1965 Supreme Court decision known as Griswold v. Connecticut.

“Nobody’s going to overturn Griswold,” said Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri. “No way.”

But that’s exactly what many Republicans said about Roe v. Wade before it was tossed aside, and when that happened Justice Clarence Thomas openly called for Griswold to be reconsidered, too. In Hawley’s home state, where abortion is now banned, a bipartisan group of women in the legislature have tried to expand access to birth control by requiring insurance policies to cover a year’s supply. That effort has been blocked by Republicans who say that the contraceptives will cause abortions.

The false connection between abortion and contraception is behind most of the Republican opposition, and as The Washington Post recently reported, surveys show that most Americans don’t understand that emergency contraception agents like Plan B don’t cause abortions. Many right-wing groups like the Idaho Family Policy Center falsely claim that they do. Seventeen states have now blocked efforts to assure a right to birth control, and Donald Trump said last month that he was open to those kinds of state restrictions. (Later, after realizing that was a bad look, he backtracked.)

More voters need to know that Republicans, from the top down, are willing to let states deprive residents of their birth control.

Katherine Miller

June 10, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ET

June 10, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ET

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A frame from the Biden campaign’s new ad.Credit...Biden-Harris 2024 campaign

Every Monday morning on The Point, we kick off the week with a tipsheet on the latest in the presidential campaign. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

  • In terms of where everyone is: President Biden will be in Italy later this week for the Group of 7 meeting. Donald Trump will be in Washington on Thursday for an event with the Business Roundtable. The Supreme Court will also release opinions that morning.

  • During the N.B.A. finals that began on Thursday, the Biden campaign ran a TV ad titled, “Flag,” which really mirrors a strategy that senior officials described to The New Yorker earlier this year. It’s highly focused on “freedom” conceptually, through the prism of abortion, voting rights and a few other issues. While the issues are definitely longstanding Democratic priorities, if you watch it, the solemn patriotic tone of the ad feels a little old school Republican to me — it’s an interesting artifact of how things have changed. Biden is running to preserve rights and freedoms, or, through another lens, conserve the old ways.

  • Late last week, Fox News released a poll showing Biden and Trump even in Virginia (which Biden won 54-44 in 2020) and with Trump only up 4 points in Florida (which isn’t far off 2020, but still seems a little surprisingly close). A very tight result in Virginia in November would most likely reflect big problems elsewhere for Biden. I’m a little skeptical it’s that close, but The Washington Post took a good look at Virginia, and presented a wide range of expert opinions about what might be going on there.

  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is trying to get on the ballot in many states, which might account for a somewhat unusual schedule. (He’s been in Colorado and Tennessee recently.) He will be in New Mexico over the weekend, at an event focused on addiction.

  • This is fairly tangential to the presidential race, but Nancy Mace, the South Carolina Republican congresswoman, faces a primary challenge on Tuesday from a few candidates with the possibility of a runoff if nobody reaches 50 percent. Mace has had a sort of unusual congressional career, veering between criticizing Trump after Jan. 6 to endorsing him (and vice versa); Kevin McCarthy, still incensed that she voted to oust him, has helped her opponent.

  • If you’re interested in thinking about affordability and inflation, and then, secondarily, how people are processing these concepts politically, definitely check out Ezra Klein’s latest episode of his Opinion podcast with Annie Lowrey. The two, who are married, go really deep on all of it, including thinking about the economic politics of 2012 and today.

Gail Collins

June 7, 2024, 3:51 p.m. ET

June 7, 2024, 3:51 p.m. ET

Boy, Republicans can’t get enough of Hunter Biden and his drug-gun thing, right?

Well, it is a pretty juicy story. The son of the president, with a long history of substance abuse, is being prosecuted for denying he was using drugs when he bought a revolver.

But don’t you think the focus is kind of … narrow? Endless talk about how Hunter lied. Not much comment at all on the fact that just being asked whether you’re on drugs is a pretty modest approach to firearm safety.

All state laws are different. Delaware, where Hunter got his revolver, recently made some big changes. It will require anyone who buys a gun to first complete a firearm safety training program.

Don’t imagine Hunter would have made it through that one in his addict era. Yet many, many of the people doing the loudest howling about the president’s son are connected with the people who have challenged the reform law in court, arguing that it’s a violation of their civil rights.

As Jonathan Weisman pointed out in The Times, it’s “hard to make much of allegations that Hunter Biden lied about his drug use to purchase a handgun when your party is sponsoring legislation to ease gun-purchasing restrictions for veterans struggling with mental illness, not to mention the case before the Supreme Court that could allow domestic abusers to buy firearms.”

Just saying.

Daniel J. Wakin

June 7, 2024, 12:09 p.m. ET

June 7, 2024, 12:09 p.m. ET

For nonprofit organizations that depend on wealthy individuals and corporations for survival, naming rights are a coveted asset. Arts organizations, universities, hospitals and the like will happily slap your moniker on their walls for the right price. Egos are stroked, brands are promoted, and the lights stay on.

On Saturday the Philadelphia Orchestra will buck the trend. Its home auditorium, Verizon Hall, will be formally renamed Marian Anderson Hall, after one of the great contraltos of the 20th century and definitely not a titan of industry. How refreshing that a nonmogul — a beloved artist, to boot — is being honored that way in a world where so much of our civic life is saturated by corporate and personal promotion.

The logic is unassailable. Anderson, who died in 1993, was a Philadelphia native who struggled to break through racial barriers. Many Black classical musicians have honored her for opening doors — including her nephew, the prominent conductor James DePriest. His widow, Ginette DePriest, who represents the Anderson estate, happily gave permission for the name change.

But there was one problem. “You can’t just give these rights away,” said Matias Tarnopolsky, the orchestra’s president and chief executive, in an interview. “There has to be meaning — and money.”

Richard B. Worley — a major donor, board member and former chairman of the orchestra — and his wife, Leslie Ann Miller, said Tarnopolsky came to them with the idea of tying a large donation to the name change. They gave $25 million to keep Anderson’s name on the hall in perpetuity. Verizon’s foundation gave $13 million in 1996 for naming rights in a deal that expired in January.

Worley made his money in investment banking, and Miller is an influential lawyer. They have put their names on museum galleries and endowed professorships. But in this case, Worley said, the couple wanted to honor Anderson’s “grit, her determination and graciousness” in facing down racism. They also hoped a Marian Anderson Hall would draw more support over the long haul from proud Philadelphians. Worley acknowledged that a donation tied to Anderson “doesn’t hurt” their reputation.

“We just thought that it would be preposterous to put our name on,” he added. “Not to mention boring,” Miller said.

The renaming also has a calculated benefit for the orchestra at a time when arts organizations are desperate to broaden their appeal, especially to Black audiences.

And for concertgoers, there is something special about holding a ticket with an artist’s name on it and not that of a captain of industry or a phone company.

Frank Bruni

June 7, 2024, 5:05 a.m. ET

June 7, 2024, 5:05 a.m. ET

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Credit...Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Who might provide an emotional counterpoint to Donald Trump, with a personality that complements his?

Who might help him win votes from women? Or Latinos? Or Black Americans?

Those sorts of questions, typical when a presidential candidate is choosing a running mate, are reportedly factors in Trump’s deliberations, which received an uptick of attention over the past few days, as many news organizations disclosed a list of contenders who had received requests for vetting materials from the Trump campaign.

But let’s get real. There’s an even more important qualification in play, one that speaks to Trump’s egomaniacal essence: Who’s the champion flatterer?

Is it J.D. Vance? His frequent appearances on television news shows, where he repeats the Trump talking points and lavishly praises the former president, amount not to commentary but to courtship. They’re the oratorical equivalent of batting his eyes.

How about Tim Scott? He set a speed record for the transition from rival to suitor, suspending his own campaign for the Republican presidential nomination one moment and gazing adoringly at Trump the next. His coquettishness peaked on the NBC News show “Meet the Press” in early May, when he repeatedly refused to say whether he’d accept the 2024 election results if Trump lost. He was performing for — or, rather, blowing kisses at — an audience of one.

As recently as two weeks ago, Marco Rubio stood out for not staging a slobbering audition, as Michael C. Bender and Patricia Mazzei noted in an article in The Times. Then came Trump’s felony conviction, which Rubio denounced as furiously and hyperbolically as any other Trump lackey. He seemed to be making up for lost time.

According to news reports, Vance, Scott and Rubio are on a list that also includes Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota (who made a pilgrimage to the Manhattan courthouse where Trump awaited the jury’s verdict), Representatives Byron Donalds and Elise Stefanik, Ben Carson and Senator Tom Cotton. They’re contestants in a sycophancy sweepstakes unlike the selection processes conducted by other presidential nominees over the past decade.

In 2020, Joe Biden of course picked Kamala Harris, who had savaged him on the issue of school busing in a debate only a year earlier. While Vance and Rubio once attacked Trump, that was a long time ago, in a political galaxy far, far away.

They’ve adjusted to a new world, and they understand its rules. To the groveler go the spoils.

Mara Gay

June 6, 2024, 3:08 p.m. ET

June 6, 2024, 3:08 p.m. ET

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Credit...Karsten Moran for The New York Times

It’s hard to understand why Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York would agree to cripple the lifeblood of her own state’s economy. Yet her last-minute move to block the rollout of congestion pricing has done exactly that, leaving the nation’s largest transit system $15 billion in the hole, gutting it of the revenue it needs to perform basic maintenance and grow.

Congestion pricing, set to have begun June 30, would have raised $1 billion annually for the region’s subway, commuter rail and bus systems by charging drivers to enter the busiest part of Manhattan.

Hochul is trying to replace the revenue by increasing the payroll mobility tax on New York City businesses, including small businesses, by $1 billion, which would give commuters and businesses in New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island and the northern suburbs a free ride.

The State Legislature should reject this tax outright. It’s regressive and will almost certainly end any chance of reviving congestion pricing. It will put further pain on city residents who already fund a disproportionate share of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget compared to suburban voters. Over the past decade, they also helped pay for the $12 billion East Side Access project, which overwhelmingly benefited Long Island residents.

The M.T.A. needs congestion pricing to bond the projects, already underway, that would provide a significant benefit to New York.

Without these funds, the Second Avenue Subway cannot be expanded from 96th Street to Harlem. Plans to build an electric bus fleet, which would improve air quality across the city, are dead until further notice. So is the campaign to make the subway system’s 472 stations accessible to riders with disabilities. About one-third of them are accessible now.

Also at risk are the basic service improvements the M.T.A. has made in recent years, reducing delays by updating ancient signal systems and restoring century-old stations that were literally crumbling beneath the city’s feet.

Canceling these projects just because some Democrats are worried about criticism from Donald Trump is just the kind of timorous, small-minded thinking that has sapped the Democratic Party of big ideas and enthusiasm, and left so many voters in the party’s base unmotivated to head to the polls.

Hochul should have stood up for the interests of her state. She should have stood up for the 5.5 million people who ride the transit system every day, and the businesses who rely on it. She could have reminded Democrats in Washington that the best, boldest public policies, from Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act to the former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s smoking ban, have always required political risk.

When in the years to come subway delays snarl commutes and harm businesses, Hochul will be to blame. When the city streets continue fill with traffic and the air with smog, Hochul will be to blame.

Paul Krugman

June 6, 2024, 1:24 p.m. ET

June 6, 2024, 1:24 p.m. ET

Monetary policymakers around the world are beginning, cautiously, to edge off the tight-money policies they imposed in an effort to cool inflation. Most important, the European Central Bank just cut the interest rates it controls by a quarter of a percentage point — a small number in itself, but a signal of future normalization. And the E.C.B. is a major player, setting policy for an economy around four-fifths as large as America’s.

But few people expect the Federal Reserve, which will hold a policy meeting next week, to follow suit. And that poses a puzzle. By the numbers, the case for rate cuts in America and Europe is almost identical. So either the Fed or the E.C.B. is getting it wrong.

I think the E.C.B. is right, and the Fed is wrong. Why?

First, the case for declaring inflation yesterday’s problem is equally strong on both sides of the Atlantic.

This point can be obscured by the fact that we measure consumer prices somewhat differently. Normally the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases its own version of Europe’s Harmonized Index of Consumer Prices, but the B.L.S. is, at an inconvenient moment, having some kind of technical difficulties. The big difference between Europe’s measure and ours is that theirs doesn’t include “owner’s equivalent rent,” which is most of the shelter cost component of the C.P.I. So we can get a more or less apples-to-apples comparison by using a number the B.L.S. is still releasing, consumer prices excluding shelter:

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Credit...Bureau of Labor Statistics; Eurostat

U.S. inflation has generally led inflation in Europe, both rising and falling sooner, but both cumulative inflation since 2019 and current inflation are similar — maybe somewhat above the long-run target, but central banks are supposed to get ahead of the curve. It’s hard to see any clear reason the Fed and the E.C.B. should be following different paths now.

But who’s right? So far the U.S. economy has remained remarkably strong despite high interest rates. But there are signs of softening in various data. Notably, the ratio of unfilled job openings to the number of unemployed, which was widely cited as evidence of an overheated economy, is now all the way back to its prepandemic level and may be trending lower:

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Credit...The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Central banks are supposed to get ahead of the curve. And it looks to me as if the E.C.B. is doing that, but the Fed isn’t.

Michelle Cottle

June 6, 2024, 7:12 a.m. ET

June 6, 2024, 7:12 a.m. ET

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Credit...Brian Snyder/Reuters

Republicans were so very pleased with themselves when, in February, Larry Hogan, the former Republican governor of Maryland, announced his run for the Senate seat being vacated by Ben Cardin, a Democrat. Maryland is a very blue place. But Hogan was a very popular governor — all the more so because he was often critical of the man once again running to be the party’s standard-bearer.

There is no love lost between Hogan and Donald Trump, but the former president was persuaded to stay out of the primary fray by Republicans who argued that Hogan could put Maryland in play, at the very least forcing Democrats to burn resources there. Now the nominee, Hogan has good early poll numbers, and his candidacy has indeed had Democrats reaching for the Xanax. Big score for the red team!

Then came Trump’s felony conviction. True to Hogan’s brand, shortly before the jury announced its verdict, the former governor urged Americans to accept the result, whatever it was, and praised “the rule of law.”

And true to its brand, MAGA world responded by going absolutely berserk.

“You just ended your campaign,” Chris LaCivita, the Trump minion now effectively running the Republican National Committee, snarled on social media.

The committee’s co-chair, Lara Trump, huffed that Hogan “doesn’t deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point, and, quite frankly, anybody in America.” She also declined to say whether the committee would help his campaign after this.

Some Senate Republicans, sensing a possible catastrophe, swiftly called on their party to give Larry the space to be Larry.

Maybe. But as truces go, this one sure seems to be proving flimsier than one-ply toilet paper.

To win in Maryland, Hogan needs to run a near-perfect, drama-free campaign. As always, Trumpworld is going to make that painfully difficult. This is what happens when one’s party gets hijacked by a leader who demands absolute fealty to himself, all other interests be damned.

Neel V. Patel

June 5, 2024, 4:28 p.m. ET

June 5, 2024, 4:28 p.m. ET

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Credit...Joe Raedle/Getty Images

NASA astronauts jetting off to the International Space Station is standard stuff. But on Wednesday, two astronauts went into space aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft for the first time and are en route to a rendezvous with the space station a little after noon Thursday.

It’s a win for the company’s battered reputation. Never mind the plunge in public trust for the company’s airline division after two Boeing 737 Max crashes in 2018 and 2019 (killing 346), faulty plugs causing an aircraft door to burst open during a fight in January and malfunctioning landing gear affecting a cargo plane in May. Starliner itself has been trapped in development hell in the decade since NASA selected it and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to be the vehicles that send astronauts into space.

SpaceX managed to launch astronauts in the summer of 2020 and has been regularly transporting people to and from the space station since. Starliner’s first demo flight in December 2019 ended in embarrassing failure because of a software glitch. It didn’t take off again until 2022.

Starliner’s achievement on Wednesday should be celebrated. It’s a good thing for the country that there’s another American-made spacecraft that can take people into space. But Starliner also feels like the last hurrah of an era of American space that is on its way out.

For decades, aerospace and defense manufacturers like Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and United Launch Alliance were the go-to contractors for NASA’s needs. Then, SpaceX crashed the scene, with reusable rockets and cheaper architecture. It superseded the old guard to become the company of choice for much of the U.S. space program. Other newcomers like Blue Origin, Sierra Nevada and Rocket Lab are competing to meet other transportation and hardware needs.

Starliner won’t be able to repair Boeing’s reputation by itself. And it certainly won’t be able to restore the space industry’s old guard to its former glory. In the skies and in space, it seems as if Wednesday’s launch signaled the twilight of one of the most important American success stories of the past century.

A correction was made on 

June 6, 2024

An earlier version of this article misstated when the landing gear of a Boeing cargo aircraft malfunctioned. It was in May, not March.

How we handle corrections

Mara Gay

June 5, 2024, 12:57 p.m. ET

June 5, 2024, 12:57 p.m. ET

Americans didn’t need a reason to feel more cynical about politics. But Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York has delivered one.

Just weeks before New York was scheduled to finally begin a landmark program, decades in the making, to improve the nation’s largest transit system by charging drivers a premium to enter the busiest part of Manhattan, Hochul, bowing to purely political concerns about the plan, announced on Wednesday that she would indefinitely delay it.

She said she had become concerned that the program could hurt Manhattan’s economic recovery from the pandemic. But Hochul is the one who has been issuing glowing news releases about how New York State has already achieved “full economic recovery,” including Manhattan, and any economic effects of the pricing plan are nothing new, having been hashed out for years.

The more likely reason, as Politico reported, is that Democratic officials, including the House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, are worried that starting the program now could hurt Democratic chances in competitive House races this November.

Congestion pricing has always faced opposition, and now, in an election year, Hochul has apparently lost her political backbone. Instead of knuckling under to the usual critics, she and other Democrats should forcefully defend the concept.

The program was scheduled to go into effect on June 30 and was expected to provide a critical $1 billion revenue stream for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Under the plan, drivers of passenger cars would be charged $15 for entering Manhattan at or south of 60th Street; commercial trucks would be charged more.

That was always going to bring some sticker shock for commuters used to driving into the city from New Jersey or New York City’s suburbs. But it’s sound public policy in New York, a region with a strong public transit system in need of steady investment and used by roughly 5.5 million people every day.

It’s also likely to improve the quality of life in the city, where concerns about air quality, traffic congestion, pedestrian safety and noise have become paramount. Cities around the world, from London to Singapore, adopted similar plans years ago.

To replace the lost revenue stream, Hochul is reportedly considering raising taxes on businesses in New York City instead. That’s a regressive tax that would actually hurt the city’s economy and could risk $15 billion in capital improvement bonds for the transit system.

Hochul and the State Legislature should have found the political courage to stick with what they promised, since this delay (if it’s really a delay and not an end to the program) is a terrible development for New York. They might also recall that congestion pricing was enacted into law in 2019 after it became clear that allowing the city’s aging subway system to collapse was unacceptable to voters and would make the region’s economy grind to a halt.

The legislature doesn’t have to go along with this weak-kneed reversal. Congestion pricing should begin without delay.

Daniel J. Wakin

June 5, 2024, 11:59 a.m. ET

June 5, 2024, 11:59 a.m. ET

In the struggle against oppression, kinship matters deeply.

While plenty of international organizations fight on behalf of political prisoners, it is often spouses and children who are the most galvanizing — and sometimes effective — champions on behalf of individuals crushed by tyranny.

It was an unexpressed theme at the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual conference by the Human Rights Foundation that highlights the struggle for democracy and freedom. The three-day conference presented individual stories of bravery and oppression, along with workshops on A.I. deep fakes, spyware protection, how to fight kleptocracies and other practical matters. It has also become a nexus for potential donors and activists.

On Monday, Sebastien Lai, an outspoken advocate for the freedom of his father, Jimmy Lai, a jailed Hong Kong newspaper publisher and critic of the Chinese Communist Party, took his turn on the stage. Lai, speaking at the Oslo Concert House on Tuesday, told of his father’s arrest in 2020.

A crowd of police came to Jimmy Lai’s apartment and took him away, but not before he turned around to his family and smiled, saying, “There’s no need to be afraid,” his son recounted. Then the police took him to his paper, Apple Daily, and paraded him through the newsroom.

Leonardo Gonzalez, a supermarket worker in Venezuela, was shot dead by security forces during a protest in 2017 while trying to flee. His wife, Olga, ran to the scene, which was near their home. Twenty-one bullets hit the car. “That’s what I counted,” she said. “One of those bullets went through my husband’s back.” In his pockets were four candies, she added. “Those were his weapons.”

Olga Gonzalez became an activist. She relentlessly pushed prosecutors to pursue her husband’s killers, fought bureaucracy, sat through 100 hearings and three trials that ended in convictions and then founded an organization for other families of victims of extrajudicial killings. “His case remains open,” she said.

Zhala Bayramova spoke of the arrest of her father, Gubad Ibadoghlu, on trumped-up charges in Azerbaijan. He was a thorn in the side of the country’s repressive president, Ilham Aliyev. While later passing out leaflets about his case, she told me of her exhausting search for international support to free him from prison — or at least get him medical care.

“I cannot imagine my dad dying,” she said. “We just want our loved ones to be alive.”

Mara Gay

June 5, 2024, 5:06 a.m. ET

June 5, 2024, 5:06 a.m. ET

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Credit...Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Leave it to Albany to let a good idea wither on the vine of political dysfunction.

Among the most flummoxing measures left unresolved by New York lawmakers in the session that ends this week is a bill that would allow undocumented immigrants to take professional licensing exams in New York State, allowing them to work in needed professions.

One might think Democrats in New York, grappling with a migrant crisis in an election year in which immigration is shaping up to be a major issue, would move quickly to pass the bill to help get migrants out of shelters and into jobs. Instead, for the third year in a row, the legislation has gone nowhere.

The bill, cosponsored by Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz of Queens and State Senator Gustavo Rivera of the Bronx, would allow people who live in New York to seek state licenses as teachers, nurses and other professionals without regard to immigration status.

That’s a common-sense measure in New York. Not only does the state have among the largest populations of undocumented immigrants in the United States, including an estimated 384,000 who are 34 or younger, it also faces looming worker shortages. New York is expected to need an additional 40,000 nurses by 2030. It also needs more teachers. “We have high-skilled folks who are ready to work,” Ms. Cruz told me recently, stating the obvious.

The legislation is also critical to protect the future of thousands of immigrants who came to the United States as children but aren’t so-called Dreamers covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which began under the Obama administration.

This kind of legislation is likely to face opposition from New York Republicans, who have adopted a hard-line approach toward the migrant crisis and early this year introduced legislation that would require state and local law enforcement to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. But Republicans are in the minority in Albany.

If Democrats in Albany are feeling up to it, maybe they can take up the immigrant licensing bill when they return to session in January. If they need extra motivation, they can consider that states including Illinois, California and Colorado have already enacted similar laws. So has New Jersey, the state Gov. Kathy Hochul recently snubbed as simply “west of Manhattan.”

David French

June 4, 2024, 5:11 p.m. ET

June 4, 2024, 5:11 p.m. ET

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Credit...Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times

I’ve long been a skeptic of Alvin Bragg’s prosecution of Donald Trump. As a legal matter, I think it’s the weakest of the four criminal cases against Trump, and there is a very real chance the conviction will be overturned on appeal. At the same time, however, the MAGA argument that Trump’s trial and conviction are somehow proof that America is now a banana republic is absurd.

A case can have weaknesses without being an affront to the rule of law. And in Trump’s case, even the weakest elements are supported by prior prosecutions brought by Democrats and Republicans.

For example, the Obama Department of Justice prosecuted former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards for accepting campaign contributions intended to cover up an affair with a woman named Rielle Hunter. The case ended with an acquittal on one count and a hung jury on five others.

The Trump Department of Justice prosecuted Michael Cohen for his specific role in the same hush-money scheme at issue in Trump’s trial. That case ended with a guilty plea. While it is absolutely true that the Biden Department of Justice didn’t choose to prosecute Trump for his role in the hush-money scheme, it remains rather interesting that the department didn’t charge the principal after it convicted Cohen, the lower-level employee who acted on his behalf.

Neither the Edwards nor the Cohen case definitively establishes the validity of the election-law elements of the case against Trump. Cohen’s guilty plea isn’t a court precedent, and since the Edwards case ended without a conviction, there was never a chance to test the prosecution’s legal theory on appeal.

But if you think that Bragg was completely out on a limb tying Trump’s bookkeeping fraud to a federal campaign finance violation, remember that prosecutors from two different administrations have filed federal cases using the same legal theory. Bragg did not make up his argument. He was riding the coattails of prosecutors who came before him.

At the same time, the debate over the Manhattan hush-money case is playing out at the exact same time as Hunter Biden, the president’s son, is standing trial for serious federal crimes in a case brought by his father’s Department of Justice. That’s a strange way to run a banana republic.

Farah Stockman

June 4, 2024, 3:55 p.m. ET

June 4, 2024, 3:55 p.m. ET

There’s no denying that the executive order President Biden signed on Tuesday — significantly curtailing the number of asylum seekers allowed into the country — is a head-spinning reversal for a president who promised to undo Donald Trump’s policies at the border. It’s worth remembering that Biden wasn’t alone on that front. Eight out of 10 Democrats running in the presidential primaries said in 2019 that they would make walking across the border without permission a civil infraction, like a traffic ticket, instead of a criminal offense.

Since then, the welcoming tone and policies of the Biden administration have attracted more migrants from around the world than American voters want to absorb. The number of people crossing the border has more than doubled — from one million in 2018 to 2.5 million in 2023, according to the Migration Policy Institute. As they arrive by the busload in cities like New York, Boston and Chicago, they have strained budgets and social services upon which vulnerable Americans depend.

Welcoming newcomers with dignity is important, but our capacity to do so is not infinite. For that reason, I don’t fault the Biden administration for trying to turn down the spigot. My biggest question is why it took so long.

As Border Patrol agents have long said, if asylum seekers were held in humane and family-friendly settings while their asylum claims were reviewed, instead of allowed in, the numbers at the border would quickly drop, since the main reason most come is to work.

But the administration ignored that recommendation and — thanks to cynical opposition from Trump — Congress failed to pass a bipartisan proposal that would have helped tackle the problem. Now the problem has gotten so bad that the asylum system itself is basically broken.

The executive order Biden signed on Tuesday allows for expedited deportations in a matter of hours or days, which can be harsh. It is not clear, however, whether the administration has the resources to detain and deport many thousands of people per day, although administration officials say that once the deportations begin, the number who try to come will dwindle. It’s also possible that the administration is banking on the courts striking the order down.

It is not fair, however, to say that Biden is just like Trump now on immigration. Biden has rightly done a lot to expand legal pathways for asylum seekers and other migrants. The asylum claims of people who manage to make an appointment through an online app — roughly 1,500 per day — will continue to be processed.

Those on the left who are sure to criticize this action as a betrayal should reflect on whether their advocacy has sent the Democratic Party down a political blind alley. If we want to protect the right to asylum, we can’t ignore the widespread abuse of that system.

Julie Ho

June 3, 2024, 4:15 p.m. ET

June 3, 2024, 4:15 p.m. ET

Claudia Sheinbaum, the first woman and the first Jew to be elected president in Mexico, won in a blowout on Sunday. Nearly half of Mexico’s 32 states are also expected to be governed by women. In a country where women die violently at staggering rates, where machismo reigns and antisemitism permeates, Sheinbaum’s rise is a symbol of women’s empowerment.

“I do not arrive alone. We all arrived,” she said in her victory speech, invoking “our mothers, our daughters and our granddaughters.” But her feminist statements have felt disconnected from the country’s women’s rights movement. That’s in part because her underlying message is less about social progress and more about protecting the Morena party’s promise of progress, as envisioned by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, her mentor and predecessor. For all their stylistic differences, what Sheinbaum shares with López Obrador, known as AMLO, is a core populist worldview.

That approach can champion women’s issues, but it often antagonizes women. Even as he has embraced gender parity and women’s rights, AMLO has failed to address the violence against women, and he derides feminists as being conservative and contrary to his leftist agenda.

Sheinbaum, 61, and AMLO, 70, both represent a new era of Mexican politics that follows generations of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party. AMLO decisively won the presidency in 2018 by promising to break with the corruption that party came to represent — a victory that resonated decades after the 1968 student massacre at Tlatelolco in which Mexicans confronted one-party rule en masse for the first time. Sheinbaum has presented herself as a member of that resistance, talking proudly about having parents who supported the protests and hosted student leaders at their home.

“She has a populist conviction that history is divided between a subject against its enemies, and democracy consists of the people taking control of institutions,” the Mexican writer and political analyst Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez said in a video interview this year.

That narrative binary defines Sheinbaum’s thinking, outside of AMLO’s shadow. The criticism that she is merely his puppet discounts her own commitment to his party.

But what gave Sheinbaum an early and commanding lead over another woman who was her closest competitor, Xóchitl Gálvez, ironically, is her kinship with AMLO, and everything that made him polarizing but popular. She may have claimed a victory for women, but she probably didn’t need feminism to win.

Katherine Miller

June 3, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ET

June 3, 2024, 5:04 a.m. ET

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President Biden speaking last week about the verdict against Trump and a cease-fire plan for Gaza.Credit...Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Every Monday morning on The Point, we kick off the week with a tipsheet on the latest in the presidential campaign. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

  • President Biden will travel to France this week to meet with President Emmanuel Macron of France but also to speak at an event commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

  • In terms of events with real-world consequences that may also have political ones: On Thursday, the Supreme Court will release opinions again, and we await, among others, how the court will rule on a set of Jan. 6-related cases and a set of abortion cases, particularly one that focuses on emergency situations in Idaho.

  • Hunter Biden’s trial also starts in Delaware on Monday over felony charges related to the purchase of a gun. (The trial over his taxes has been delayed until the fall.)

  • This week, we’ll probably also continue to get polling of how voters see the Trump verdict. The Trump campaign says it raised wild amounts of money on Thursday and Friday. But the things that power small-dollar fund-raising or reaffirm a politician’s existing support are not always the same things that have broad-based appeal.

  • Here’s a helpful thread of initial polling results from various firms, which generally found no movement or modest movement in Biden’s direction after Donald Trump’s conviction. Very quickly after the verdict, Echelon Insights did an interesting thing, which was to re-poll the people they’d reached in the months before the verdict (and found modest movement toward Biden). Any movement in polling, as Nate Silver noted — even a 1-point movement if it were sustained — would be notable since the race is close and so little has moved the polls.

  • What has changed this week is: Trump now has lots of free time. How will he use it? Next weekend, he’ll be in Las Vegas for a rally, though presumably he’ll do something publicly between now and then. How he responds to the verdict, and what he chooses to focus on, might be just as important as the initial reaction from voters. On that front, if you missed this article by Maggie Haberman and Jonah E. Bromwich last week looking at Trump’s embrace of others accused of crimes, it’s worth reading.

Serge Schmemann

June 1, 2024, 7:00 a.m. ET

June 1, 2024, 7:00 a.m. ET

The “comprehensive new proposal” made by Israel for the Gaza war, announced by President Biden on Friday, is essentially a six-week cease-fire that would include the withdrawal of Israeli troops from populated areas of Gaza, the release of most Israeli hostages and a massive relief effort for two million battered, hungry Gazans. The stages beyond that — a permanent end to hostilities, release of all remaining hostages, the reconstruction of Gaza — are left to future negotiations.

That leaves a lot of open questions down the road, all heavily laden with polarized politics, animosities and unknowns. Yet if the plan Biden described on Friday is accepted by Hamas, which looks likely, the cease-fire alone would be a huge achievement for the United States and its mediating partners, Egypt and Qatar — and a desperately needed dollop of food, medicine, shelter and hope for Gazans.

Despite a deafening international outcry against the vast carnage and destruction in Gaza, including heated protests on American campuses and arrest warrants (albeit largely demonstrative) for top Israeli and Hamas leaders from the International Criminal Court, along with considerable pressure from the Biden administration, a cease-fire seemed always just beyond reach.

The reasons are many and varied: The Hamas terrorist attack of Oct. 7 left many Israelis hungry for the eradication of Hamas, cost be damned; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right nationalist government showed little interest in ending the fight, especially as that would most likely lead to the end of his fragile government and leave him facing criminal charges; the Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar, insisted that the fighting must end before any hostage release or deal with Israel.

At the same time, the war put growing political pressures on Biden. There was always a threat of the conflict spreading to northern Israel and beyond, and the use of American ordnance against civilians in Gaza was feeding a swelling fury among American liberals, Biden’s constituency in a critical election year.

The president acknowledged some of the opposition the full proposal would confront in Israel. Responding to the longing for the destruction of Hamas, he claimed that the organization was no longer capable of an attack like the one on Oct. 7. Aware that some on the Israeli right wanted total victory, he argued that this would not bring hostages home, not bring an “enduring defeat” of Hamas and “not bring Israel lasting security.”

That is the message the president will have to relentlessly drive home over the six weeks the cease-fire is meant to last, if it starts and holds. All the obstacles to peace will still be in place as negotiations turn to a permanent end to hostilities. And Biden admitted that six weeks may not be enough. But for now, any respite is welcome.

Jesse Wegman

June 1, 2024, 7:00 a.m. ET

June 1, 2024, 7:00 a.m. ET

Donald Trump is not your average felon. That creates a devil of a dilemma for Juan Merchan, the New York trial judge who by July 11 must decide on an appropriate sentence for Trump after his conviction on 34 counts of falsifying business records. Send him to prison? Fine him, put him on probation, order him to perform 300 hours of community service?

It’s not a straightforward question. Unlike the federal system, New York has no formal sentencing guidelines, but decades of case law help judges weigh several familiar factors including age, criminal record, and the severity of the offense — in determining the right punishment.

“So much depends on the individual,” Michael J. Obus, who sat on the New York State Supreme Court bench for 28 years, and alongside Merchan for more than a decade, told me. “There’s just no precedent for this particular individual that makes this an easy decision. Everything pulls you in different directions. On the one hand, you’ve got a man who’s 77 years old and is convicted of the lowest-level, Class E felony. On the other hand, he’s been held in contempt 10 times and is not showing any remorse.”

As I followed the trial over the last several weeks, and then absorbed the jury’s verdict on Thursday evening, I found myself torn. Trump is a uniquely malign, and uniquely powerful, figure in American life. He mocks the notion of equal justice even as he squeals endlessly about his own mistreatment. He considers himself above the law even as he threatens to wield it against his enemies if given the chance. He poses an extreme danger to the rule of law and the future of democracy that no workaday carjacker could dream of.

And yet if no one is above the law, no one is below it either. Trump can’t be given an unusually strong sentence simply for being a bad president, or an immoral lout, or for any other reason not directly related to the specific crimes in this case and the usual factors judges consider.

Orange-jump-suited liberal fantasies aside, most people convicted of low-level, nonviolent felonies in New York are not sentenced to prison. At the same time, Obus pointed out, several of Trump’s crimes “took place while the defendant was in the White House. You can’t say that about most defendants.” (Trump may yet talk his way into the lockup if he keeps testing the limits of Merchan’s gag order.)

I don’t know the right answer and can’t predict Merchan’s decision. What I do know is that in a healthy country, a nominee for president would not come anywhere near the line of criminality — certainly not so close that reasonable people can debate whether he should spend time behind bars.

This is the situation we are faced with. That this candidate may yet prevail in November is the biggest predicament of all.

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