Vote for Presidential Debate Question: Torture

The Commission on Presidential Debates is asking people to vote on questions to ask Clinton and Trump. We have proposed a question relating to the limits on the kinds of orders which a president can issue as commander-in-chief.

When should the generals refuse a direct order from the president?
Can the military disobey an order from the president if they believed a preemptive strike requires Congressional authorization or an interrogation technique violates the Geneva convention?

Vote here.

We believe this question is especially relevant since Donald Trump insisted at the Fox News Debate last March that he can bully the generals into following illegal orders.

FOX HOST BRET BAIER: Mr. Trump, just yesterday, almost 100 foreign policy experts signed on to an open letter refusing to support you, saying your embracing expansive use of torture is inexcusable. General Michael Hayden, former CIA director, NSA director, and other experts have said that when you asked the U.S. military to carry out some of your campaign promises, specifically targeting terrorists’ families, and also the use of interrogation methods more extreme than waterboarding, the military will refuse because they’ve been trained to turn down and refuse illegal orders.

So what would you do, as commander-in-chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?

DONALD TRUMP: They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me.

BAIER: But they’re illegal.

TRUMP: Let me just tell you, you look at the Middle East. They’re chopping off heads. They’re chopping off the heads of Christians and anybody else that happens to be in the way. They’re drowning people in steel cages. And he — now we’re talking about waterboarding.

This really started with Ted, a question was asked of Ted last — two debates ago about waterboarding. And Ted was, you know, having a hard time with that question, to be totally honest with you. They then came to me, what do you think of waterboarding? I said it’s fine. And if we want to go stronger, I’d go stronger, too, because, frankly that’s the way I feel. Can you imagine — can you imagine these people, these animals over in the Middle East, that chop off heads, sitting around talking and seeing that we’re having a hard problem with waterboarding? We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding. That’s my opinion.

BAIER: But targeting terrorists’ families?

TRUMP: And — and — and — I’m a leader. I’m a leader. I’ve always been a leader. I’ve never had any problem leading people. If I say do it, they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about.


Similarly, Trump promised to attack the Iranian navy if their soldiers make rude gestures.

And, by the way, with Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats, and they make gestures at our people, that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water.

Perhaps a reasoned discussion of the limits of presidential authority are in order before we get to a constitutional crisis where our military leaders have to choose to follow their commander-in-chief or the law. Heaven help us if they disagree on what to choose.

The moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz have agreed to consider the most popular questions, so please vote. Consider it practice for November 8.

Trump Is Unreliable for Israel, GOP National Security Officials Say

Continuing in the trend of widespread condemnation of Donald Trump from longtime GOP foreign policy and defense officials, a group of several current and former senior Republican officials on Thursday expressed significant concern over their party’s presumptive nominee and his positions regarding Israel. In a letter from GOP national security experts published earlier this week, signatories declared Trump would be “the most reckless president in history.”

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Getting Sets Quickly in Columbus

Available at the special price of $21 through 9/15/2016 with discount code EX097

Available at the special price of $21 through 9/15/2016 with discount code EX097

Hannah Gordon won the championship for the game Set in 2006 the one time it was held. She returned to Columbus, Ohio, this week with her parents Liz McMahon and Gary Gordon, for the Mathematical Association of America MathFest 2016. She challenged conference attendees to the game. In the unlikely event she were to be defeated, attendees would get a free copy of their book The Joy of Set.
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PA Veterans Find Trump’s Remarks Offensive

Ahead of Donald Trump’s event in Mechanicsburg on Monday, Pennsylvania veterans condemned Trump’s offensive remarks and called on Trump to apologize to a Gold Star family he personally attacked multiple times over the weekend.

Donald Trump has attacked the US Armed Forces repeatedly: Calling it weak and ineffective, accusing our soldiers of stealing reconstruction money from Iraq, and denouncing prisoners of war for being captured.

Congressman Chris Carney, a former Commander in the United States Navy Reserve:

Folks like me who have served this country honorably for many years are absolutely disgusted at Donald Trump and what he said about those who have sacrificed for this country. It is clear Trump has neither the temperament nor the experience to be Commander-in-Chief and to lead the forces of the United States – especially when we have such complex issues bedeviling the country and the world right now. It is unfathomable that a man like that would want to sacrifice the honor of the military for his ego. Anybody who looks at this objectively will realize that Donald Trump is as hollow as it gets when it comes to being Commander-in-Chief.

Donald Trump has called for the military to violate the Geneva Convention’s ban on torture and conduct reprisal killings of the family members of enemy soldiers and terrorists: “We’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable.”

However, as retired Army Major General Gale Pollock pointed out, our soldiers have all taken an oath to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” and are required to refuse illegal orders.

We asked Pollock what protocol troops and officers are trained to follow if they are given an illegal order. She responded that you are supposed to raise the issue with the person who gave the order and explain why you believe the order to be illegal. If this does not solve the problem, then the issue must be brought up the chain of command. This is why the question of illegal orders issued by the commander-in-chief is especially problematic. To whom could our military appeal to countermand such illegal orders? This would raise the specter of a constitutional military-civil crisis where our military leaders were forced for the first time in US history to ignore the orders of its civilian leadership.

“After 36 years in the Army, I believe very strongly in the values we share in the military. Loyalty duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity, and personal courage,” said I think we have seen a trend of the military being insulted, whether it’s our prisoners of war, men who sacrificed their lives, or veterans. I am just really troubled by this, and I think it’s important we recognize that these behaviors, these accusations are unacceptable for a leader in America. Pennsylvanians respect the men and women who serve. And I would hope that many of us would be offended by the continued insults against our military that Mr. Trump has offered.


Last week, Mr. Khizr Khan the father of a Muslim American war hero gave a moving speech at the Democratic National Convention. He also called out Donald Trump’s offensive and divisive religious discrimination that would have prevented their son – an Army captain who gave his life to save other soldiers in his unit – from even entering the United States of America.

Fmr. Navy Lt. Commander Manan Trivedi was the battalion surgeon with the first units to cross the Iraq border in 2003.

Frankly, I find Donald Trumps latest rhetoric disgusting, disgraceful and reprehensible towards veterans. It’s just one more piece of proof that he lacks any kind of judgement to be our Commander-in-Chief. Unfortunately, I have seen first hand the ultimate sacrifice that people like Captain Khan and so many others have made. For Donald Trump to denigrate his family and service is beyond the pale.

For him to attack a mother who is still grieving for her son. It’s shameful.

This is not the first time for Trump. Remember his comments about Senator John McCain. Time and time again, Trump has insulted our veterans, and our men and women in uniform deserve better.

Meanwhile, Trump’s most vitriolic supporters are praising him for refusing to apologize to the Khans including Trump’s advisor Roger Stone who called Khizr Khan a “Muslim Brotherhood agent”. Similarly, the white nationalist video blogger Ramzpaul and the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer spouts hatred:

So, an Islamic terrorist from Pakistan infiltrates the US military, with the intent of getting high-quality training to use in his jihad against Whites, and also perhaps for the purpose of sabotage, and accidentally gets his dumbass killed.

And now, the Jews tell us we’re supposed to celebrate him as a hero? Just because he’s dead? […]

I am hereby calling for the Khan family to be immediately deported to Pakistan. What’s more, I want their terrorist son’s body dug up and shipped back with them.

This terrorist filth has no more right to rot in our ground than he had to walk on it.

Trump’s comments on the Khan family are the latest in a series of his disrespectful rhetoric and record aimed at American veterans and military families such as lying about donations to veterans’ charities, firing employees because of their military service and verbally attacking prisoners of war.

At Democratic National Convention the Sky is the Limit

People have come to Philadelphia from all over the country to attend the Democratic National Convention (DNC). In addition, the international press has followed our election, and the delegates from Democrats Abroad represent American expats who voted in over 140 countries.

_87569069_c0097730-international_space_station,_2009-splWhile interest in the convention spans the globe, the DNC may be having an additional observer pass overhead. The International Space Station (ISS) will be flying 249 miles over Philadelphia at 9:20 pm, from West-Southwest to Northeast, rising to 19° from the zenith, probably around the time that Chelsea will be getting ready to introduce her mother, Hillary Rodham Clinton, as the first woman to be nominated for president of the United States by a major political party.
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Meet the Most Senior PA Delegate: Benjamin Franklin

Ralph Archbold as Benjamin Franklin at the National Museum of American Jewish History

Ralph Archbold as Benjamin Franklin at the National Museum of American Jewish History

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice bumped into Pennsylvania’s most senior delegate at the National Museum of American Jewish History, before the Bend the Arc reception during the Democratic National Convention. To our delight, Benjamin Franklin took the opportunity to chat with us about the convention and his relationship with the Jewish community. [Read more…]

Live Blog: The Democratic National Convention Begins

The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is on site this week at the Democratic National Convention. Publisher Dan Loeb, President Bonnie Squires, Vice President Ken Myers and writer Jessica Weingarten will be providing reports, photos and updates. Follow below from most recent to earliest.

Please refresh this page frequently or follow our twitter feed for updated content.
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SCOTUS 101: Tie Vote Brings Open Seat Into Focus

Spanish sign reads "Listen SCOTUS!"

Spanish sign reads “Listen SCOTUS!”

Though technically not a decision at all, the ruling in United States v. Texas is one of the most important in the Supreme Court’s recent cases — and it will have reverberations on the November election.

Often opinions are abstract legal documents full of arcane language spanning dozens or hundreds of pages. Accordingly, many Americans do not feel directly connected to the workings of our land’s highest court.

In contrast, although the ruling in United States v. Texas is only nine words long, its impact will be keenly felt by millions in our country. Here is the ruling in full:

The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.

This case concerned President Obama’s policy of deferring deportation and allowing employment for four million undocumented immigrants. These include immigrants with American children and the so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to the United States as children and attended school here.

Since Antonin Scalia passed away in February, the Supreme Court has been left with only eight justices on the bench. While the ruling in United States v. Texas is unsigned, it can be assumed that the four liberal justices (Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg) wanted to overrule the lower court, while the four conservative justices (Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito) wanted to affirm its ruling that Obama’s deferred action policy constituted an unconstitutional expansion of presidential authority.

Today, the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision. This is part of the consequence of the Republican failure so far to give a fair hearing to Mr. Merrick Garland, my nominee to the Supreme Court. It means that the expanded set of common-sense deferred action policies — the ones that I announced two years ago — can’t go forward at this stage, until there is a ninth justice on the Court to break the tie.

Republicans refuse to even consider any possible replacement for Scalia until January when the next president takes office.

While many Americans seemed unconcerned that our country’s highest court will be short-handed for an unprecedented length of time, while this split decision sets no legal precedent, and while (according to the United States Circuit Court for the Fifth Circuit’s earlier ruling) the secretary of Homeland Security’s ability to marshal and deploy department resources is not enjoined or impaired, it is painfully obvious that the ruling in this case will have enormous consequences: Millions of families are now in an uncertain legal situation; they may fear deportation if picked up on an unrelated matter; and they will have difficulty obtaining legal employment.

"[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court..."

“[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court…”

One does not have to be a legal scholar or a political pundit to intuit how this 4-4 split would have been avoided had the Senate filled its constitutional duty to provide its “advice and consent” and consider the president’s judicial nominees.

This election provides a stark contrast that will be easily understood by voters, especially those with friends or family at risk of being deported or forcefully separated from a loved one.

On one side, we have a party whose senators refuse to meet Obama’s nominee, Justice Merrick Garland; whose representatives refused to consider “Dreamer” legislation; and whose presidential nominee wants to build a wall on our borders, doubts the qualifications of Hispanic judges and advocates banning immigrants of certain faiths.

While on the other side, we have a presidential candidate who stands up for “Dreamers.”

I’m going to do everything I can so you don’t have to be scared. And you don’t have to worry about what happens to your mom or your dad or anyone else. I feel really, really strongly, but you’re being very brave and you have to be brave for them too. Because they want you to be happy. Let me do the worrying. I’ll do all the worrying. Is that a deal? I’ll do everything I can to help, OK?

As president, who would these candidates appoint to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court? And how would their judicial nominees break this deadlock when this issue is inevitably re-litigated before the Supreme Court?

If anyone doubted that the fate of the Supreme Court would weigh heavily on the presidential and congressional elections this November, I think this 4-4 non-decision puts the case to rest.

Win One State and Become President

tckThe 2016 presidential election has been unprecedented already in so many ways, but it may be holding its biggest surprise for last, and by “last,” I mean January 2017.

Political analysts are focused on the Republican nominating contest. Some believe that Donald Trump may amass 1,237 delegates and win the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Others believe that no one will win a majority on the first ballot and in subsequent ballots the “Trump” delegates (who in many cases are not chosen by the Trump campaign) would coalesce in support of a Republican more palatable to the establishment.

Riot-control gear being acquired by Cleveland in preparation for the RNC.

Riot-control gear being acquired by Cleveland in preparation for the RNC.

I think either outcome is fairly likely. In any case there are likely to be a large number of unhappy campers at the Republican National Convention.
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