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Caseythoughts It seems that events of note are piling up in my 'clipping file' (otherwise known as the newspaper pile on my kitchen table) so I'll prioritize these and speak of them in this 'order' this week:

1) Mr. Trump, Mr. Jackson and the Constitution 2) Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Biden and Ms. Clinton 3) Fear and Loathing in St. Louis and the Methodists

The Senate is heading to a vote of disapproval for the President's declaration of a national emergency and there's no doubt that that Senate vote will earn the President's first veto, probably sustained. It will also probably end up as an article in the coming impeachment resolution, but not because of the emergency declaration, per se.

Let's start with the incontrovertible fact that the executive branch has the absolute right and authority to declare a national emergency, though doing it for domestic reasons is rare. It's been done frequently in our history, and we can question its reasoning but not its constitutionality. It's the other part of the declaration that should be troubling to Americans and our shared history.

The Constitution specifically states that the legislative branch, Congress, controls the 'purse strings', and specifically states that all money bills must have their origin in the House of Representatives. In our history there have been plenty of instances of the President deciding not to spend money allocated, sequestering funds, etc. But the President may not legally or constitutionally decide to switch funds allocated for one purpose to another purpose, no matter the reason. Doing so is a violation of the principle of separation of powers, eloquently explained and enumerated by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist papers.

Should it go to the Supreme Court (the third 'power' as it were, and we can bet it will go there sooner rather than later) Trump could conceivably be handed a 9-0 decision. Think of that. I wonder if that has happened in recent memory. Plus, the effort to bypass the Constitution might be considered by the House Judiciary Committee as an impeachable offense, whether he abides by the decision or not. Imagine the six 'conservative' justices all voting against a so-called 'conservative' President.

Now, here's what I would invite you to contemplate. It seems every time I see a photo of Trump in the Oval Office, there's a portrait of Andrew Jackson in the background. Turns out Trump admires Jackson, and that would be to his favor, assuming he knew what Jackson was all about, historically. I need to point out two elements of the Jackson story/legacy that our current President seems not aware of.

Jackson was a 'strict constructionist' in constitutional parlance. The current Supreme Court is of the same mind-set and judicial temperament. 'Literalists' are very suspicious of any wide interpretation of the 'original' words of the Constitution, and Jackson was a wielder of a mighty sword in this respect. A 'National Bank'? Not in the Constitution. Tariffs to protect domestic industry? Sorry, they are openly mentioned by the Founding Fathers as a method to raise money, not protectionist in nature. Nullification?? Not during Jackson's watch, thus promulgating one of the first secession crises in the early days of the republic.

Admiring Jackson while poking holes in the separation of powers and a 'literal' translation of the Constitution has Ol' Hickory turning in his grave at the Hermitage. Trump is in trouble, here. And should be. One other note on Jackson and Trump. Turns out that some historians are questioning Jackson's American birthright, possibly being born at sea, thus not an American citizen. Funny, considering Trump's 'birther' credentials prior to the election concerning Obama's birthplace.

So, the headline trumpeted that Andrew Cuomo might run for president if Joe Biden decided not to run. Well, you read my prediction two months ago in this column, right? Now, our esteemed governor tells the Atlantic Monthly that his progressive credentials would qualify him to run against Trump in 2020 IF Joe Biden decided not to run. To quote Cuomo "If, if, if, me when you get to the fifth 'if'."

Now, Biden leads the Democratic field of almost twenty candidates without even saying he's in. Or is he already 'in'? He apparently has a staff and organization already in its 'up and running' stage. Curiously, the same weekend that Cuomo said 'IF', Biden was at the University of Delaware saying "The most important people in my life want me to run." And, again, on the same weekend (how coincidental) Hillary Clinton is telling a TV station that she's not running. Big surprise there, but can we see what's happening here?

Biden is sending the signal to the really 'big money' to hold on and while the other minor far-left candidates are stumping in New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, etc., and he's going to sit on his political front porch and 'think about it'. Not a bad position while you're leading in the polls, huh?

This closes off a lot of political money to other candidates while he and Cuomo quietly decide how to capture a more 'centrist' audience and donor base. Biden has strong ties in the Midwest and is Trump's closest contender in states where Clinton lost in 2016. Think Texas and Colorado. Should Biden run in the first primaries, Cuomo can still bide his time. Or, should Biden decide to vamp, Cuomo might benefit from Biden's tacit endorsement as the centrist and progressive standard bearer. Not to mention Biden's potential donor list and staff. Biden can count, too, on most forgetting his plagiarism in the 1988 presidential primaries which doomed him to closing his campaign early in embarrassment. This allows the other dozen candidates to slash each others' throats, while Cuomo and Biden hold their cards closely, with experience in hardball politics and the rough and tumble of the primary season to their advantage. Keep your eye on Biden's pronouncements. Cuomo sure is.

Finally, the Methodists. You may know that in St. Louis the United Methodists held a special General Conference to decide how to deal with the question of LGBTQ membership, ordination, and same-sex marriage. The results of that conference and its attendant votes were demoralizing and devastating to many. 53% of the voting delegates (clergy and lay members) voted to 'double-down' (media parlance) on penalties for performing same-sex marriages and prohibiting ordination of openly gay candidates for ministry. Congregations here in upstate New York are, for the most part, shocked and saddened. Heartbroken is the word for several of my close Methodist friends, including members of the clergy. If you have driven past St. Paul's on Aurora Street in downtown Ithaca, a rainbow flag is now covering their sign in front; only St. Paul's is still showing, 'Methodist Church' covered by the flag, perhaps foreshadowing the schism and potential breakup of the third largest American Protestant denomination..

Many, many people I know in the Methodist Church, and this includes me, joined it because of its 'big tent' attitude and philosophy that came over from its founder, John Wesley, who basically implied that although we may not agree on all points of belief, we can worship and love one another. Holding out our hands and opening our arms to the 'last, the least and the lost' has been a widely understood by-line of the Methodists who firmly rejected slavery well ahead of America's conscience and Civil War, and has been in the forefront of the rejection of apartheid and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict., as well as other social justice issues. I've preached in United Methodist churches and know that the mainstream Methodists are good, caring and loving people who believed in the phrase that has been on their billboards in front of Methodist churches for years: "Open minds, open hearts, open doors".

The language that prohibited (and, let's be honest, restricted membership) gay ordination and same sex marriage was only adopted by the United Methodist Church in 1972, and has been a bone of contention and potential schism-maker for a generation. The vote to continue to deny full participation in the Methodist Church (and many of us are convinced that is a denial of full participation) reminds me of other civil rights movements where a certain group or groups of people were told 'This far, but no further'.

Denying full rights to any member of a church or denomination denies my rights, too. Does 53% of the United Methodist Church have a right to decide who can be a full member with all rights and privileges? I have to admit they do, even when they seem to have placed a gatekeeper on that big tent that would be called 'intolerance'. But I would like to suggest that the phrase 'Open minds, Open hearts, Open doors' be removed from Methodist billboards. It seems it was only a Madison Avenue slogan, and false advertising is considered a violation in legal parlance. In some quarters, though, it might be viewed more darkly, if that phrase is seen or translated as 'false witness'.

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