Sandra Day O’Connor Says She Has Dementia, Withdraws From Public Life : NPR
Sandra Day O’Connor Says She Has Dementia, Withdraws From Public Life Facebook
Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor says she has been diagnosed with “dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease.” She’s seen here in 2012. Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor says she has been diagnosed with “dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease.” She’s seen here in 2012. Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images
Updated at 8:14 p.m. ET
Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor says she has been diagnosed with “the beginning stages of dementia, probably Alzheimer’s disease,” in an open letter that was released Tuesday.
O’Connor, 88, is the first woman to serve on the high court and has remained active since retiring in 2006. She left the court to care for her husband, John, after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Now, O’Connor says, her condition is forcing her to withdraw from public life.
“While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life,” she writes in a letter released by the Supreme Court’s public information office.
“As this condition has progressed, I am no longer able to participate in public life,” O’Connor says. “Since many people have asked about my current status and activities, I want to be open about these changes, and while I am still able, share some personal thoughts.”
In her letter, O’Connor then describes the importance of encouraging the growth of Americans’ civic learning and engagement — a key goal of iCivics, the organization she started after retiring from the federal bench.
Concluding the letter, O’Connor writes, “While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life.”
O’Conner’s dementia diagnosis is a cruel echo of her reason for leaving the court. She retired in 2005 because of her husband’s Alzheimer’s and her desire to be with him while the two were still able to enjoy each other. But he deteriorated far more rapidly than expected, was unable to remain at home, and died in 2009.
O’Conner has for several years limited her public appearances and, to those who knew her, it was clear that she was having difficulty walking and sometimes remembering. This summer her sons packed up her Supreme Court office, which she maintained in retirement, to allow Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in July, to move in.
Responding to O’Connor’s letter, Chief Justice John Roberts writes, “I was saddened to learn that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, like many Americans, faces the challenge of dementia.”
He adds, “But I was not at all surprised that she used the occasion of sharing that fact to think of our country first, and to urge an increased commitment to civics education, a cause to which she devoted so much of her time and indomitable energy.”
Calling O’Connor “a towering figure in the history of the United States,” Roberts says, “She broke down barriers for women in the legal profession to the betterment of that profession and the country as a whole.”
The former justice has been “a role model not only for girls and women, but for all those committed to equal justice under law,” he says, adding that “no illness or condition can take away the inspiration she provides for those who will follow the many paths she has blazed.”
Sandra Day O’Connor, seen here testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1981, served for 24 years on the Supreme Court. Don Carl STEFFEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images hide caption toggle caption Don Carl STEFFEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images Sandra Day O’Connor, seen here testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1981, served for 24 years on the Supreme Court. Don Carl STEFFEN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
The other justices, especially those who served with her, issued statements remarkable in the warm and personal way they talked about O’Connor. Justice Clarence Thomas calls her “the embodiment of kindness, dignity, and civility.” She is, he says, “truly a wonderful person.”
Justice Ginsburg says O’Connor “has done more to promote collegiality among the Court’s members and with our counterparts abroad, than any other justice, past or present.”
“I miss your warmth, your sense of humor, that Western touch, and of course your legal mind,” writes Justice Stephen Breyer. “You, my friend, will take your place in history, not just as the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court, but also, as one of its greatest justices.”
When President Reagan nominated O’Connor to the court in 1981, it was the fulfillment of a campaign promise. In an era when few women were judges, and even fewer were conservative judges, Reagan reached down to the intermediate-level state appeals court in Arizona to find the woman he would select to fill the vacancy left by retiring Justice Potter Stewart.
Describing what it was like to be the first woman on the Supreme Court, O’Connor told NPR’s Terry Gross in 2013 that she felt “a special responsibility” to perform at a level that would keep the door open for more women to follow her.
For nearly a quarter century, O’Connor served on the nation’s highest court, casting votes so pivotal on controversial issues that she was often called “the most powerful woman in America.”
She cast votes to uphold the rights of women to have abortions, the right of Congress to regulate campaign finances, the rights of states in some conflicts with the federal government, and the rights of enemy combatants to challenge their detentions. Her colleagues frequently noted that O’Connor had, what one justice called a “pitch perfect” political ear, a sense for how far the court could go and retain the public’s confidence. That may well be because O’Connor, prior to being a judge served as an Arizona state senator, including a term as Republican Senate leader, before being appointed a state judge. ‘Out Of Order’ At The Court: O’Connor On Being The First Female Justice
In her first years on the job, O’Connor has acknowledged, she was forced to deal with both the high court’s tough workload and the intense public scrutiny of being its only woman.
When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg arrived in 1993, “it was just night and day,” O’Connor told NPR’s Nina Totenberg in 2003. “The minute Justice Ginsburg arrived, the media pressure was off — I think for both of us. And we just became two of the nine justices. It was just such a welcome change.” Listen to an extended version of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s interview with NPR’s Nina Totenberg Only Available in Archive Formats. Windows
O’Connor rose to the heights of the legal profession despite an extra hurdle upon graduating from Stanford Law School: None of the more than 40 law firms she called would talk to her because they didn’t hire women.
“And it just came as a real shock because I had done well in law school, and it never entered my mind that I couldn’t even get an interview,” she said on WHYY’s Fresh Air .
As a justice, O’Connor was often called a “swing vote” — a label she viewed with distaste.
“I don’t think any justice — and I hope I was not one — would swing back and forth and just try to make decisions not based on legal principles but on where you thought the direction should go,” she told NPR in 2013.
Like it or not, O’Connor was seen as having cast the decisive votes in a number of important cases, ruling on matters from the Bush v. Gore case to the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law and colleges’ use of affirmative action in admissions policies.
Toward the end of her letter announcing her condition, O’Connor writes:
“I will continue living in Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by dear friends and family. While the final chapter of my life with dementia may be trying, nothing has diminished my gratitude and deep appreciation for the countless blessings in my life. How fortunate I feel to be an American and to have been presented with the remarkable opportunities available to the citizens of our country. As a young cowgirl from the Arizona desert, I never could have imagined that one day I would become the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.”
In 2009, O’Connor was awarded the highest civilian honor in the U.S. — the Presidential Medal of Freedom — by President Barack Obama.
Trump at the top of his dangerous game as midterms loom – CNNPolitics
(CNN) Donald Trump fixed reporters with a hard gaze and declared: “I’m a very nonpolitical person, and that’s why I got elected President.”
Like much of what Trump says, his comment required a large helping of salt, since it came in a session in which his considerable, instinctive and often cynical political prowess was on full display 14 days before the midterm elections. With reporters and lawmakers huddled around his Oval Office desk Tuesday, Trump floated conspiracy theories, boasted about his achievements, bent facts, teased future announcements and dipped into a well of racial and cultural prejudice. Such behavior is more often displayed by autocratic leaders who rule in personality cults than by more cautious and conventional politicians who operate in democratic systems, but it also explains how Trump has bullied much of Washington into submission. With a chatty intimacy that tempted his audience into his confidence, Trump dominated the Oval Office, coming across as a president increasingly bullish about himself and at ease in wielding his power. Read More “I’m not worried about anything,” he said. Including a later photo-op at a meeting with military leaders, Trump has now chewed the fat with reporters 12 times in 11 days, and conducted a blizzard of interviews with radio and television stations. With his spokeswoman Sarah Sanders and political strategists confined to the wings, the President has seized control of the midterm election campaign, and it looks as if the GOP will rise or fall depending on how voters react. Trump’s virtuoso flexing of his significant but often diabolical political skills came on a day when he had no campaign rally. So he just manufactured a moment to add more fuel to the rhetorical blaze he has ignited over immigration. ‘No proof of anything’ The caravan of desperate migrants from Central America might be more than 1,000 miles and many days from the US border in Mexico, but that is not stopping the President from whipping it into the perfect political storm. The caravan could be weeks away from the US border The now-famous column is becoming the 2018 equivalent of then-FBI director James Comey’s late reopening of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, which dominated the final few weeks of the 2016 presidential race. Then, Trump used the issue to hammer home his theme — that his Democratic foe was corrupt, a liar and unfit for office — in the process papering over his own character liabilities and drowning out her attacks. Two years on, Trump is using the caravan in a similar shock and awe assault on the airwaves, bolstering his dark claims that a human tide of outsiders from Central America is laying siege to US borders, bringing crime, violence and even terrorism. Pictures of massing migrants bolster his theme, even though he rips them out of context and ignores reporters on the ground who are able to show that his claims that the column includes “Middle Easterners” are likely false. Many in Clinton’s camp believe, in retrospect, that the blanket coverage of the email issue stalled her momentum and helped Trump’s late surge to victory. It’s unclear if the caravan holds the same potential for Trump this time around. But it helps him reach voters who sincerely believe that other politicians have done nothing as their wages are undercut by undocumented migrants and their jobs have disappeared. And the spectacle of the march means the President will likely have the opportunity to loudly tout his extreme take on immigration, an issue on which he has built his political career, every day until the midterms November 6. It also allows him to fold in other themes that animate the Republican base, which he needs to come out in near 2016 numbers to stave off Democratic gains. That’s one reason why he has stoked fear and played into prejudice about “Middle Easterners” — code for Muslims — who he hints, without providing evidence, are in the crowd, coming America’s way and may be bent on terrorism. Ever eager to please, Vice President Mike Pence appeared at the President’s shoulder, explaining that it was “inconceivable” that such people were not in the column, placing the burden of proof on those who doubt the claim. But pressed by CNN’s Jim Acosta, Pence was not quite as adept at shading truth as the President, who jumped in and said some “real bad ones” from the Middle East had been intercepted at the border recently. Pence, who has spent the last two days defending Trump’s claims on the caravan, then got a reminder of how treacherous life can be on the President’s team. The vice president was promptly crushed as Trump reversed a rhetorical bus over him. “There’s no proof of anything. There’s no proof of anything. But they could very well be,” Trump said, before deftly switching the conversation to a debate about the size of his crowd at a rally in Texas on Monday night. Sticking a knife in with a smile The President also unsheathed another skill common to other accomplished politicians: his use of humor to twist a knife, in this case in the unfortunate Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat who had effectively been held captive after a photo-op to sign a water infrastructure bill. After Pence said the caravan was financed by leftists, Trump turned to Carper and teased: “And the Democrats maybe?” On Trump’s face was the grin of a man who knows he has power over others and can make outrageous claims and get away with it. If his rising approval rating and dominance of the agenda in the days running into the midterms with a campaign based on fear and untruths help Republicans hang on to the House and perhaps increase their Senate majority, a comment by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, at the CNN CITIZEN conference in New York on Monday will look prescient. “The more time I spend with him working with him, the more I realize I don’t bet against his instincts,” Kushner said, despite polling and historical data that suggest Trump could be heading for a bloody nose in two weeks. “He’s a black swan. He’s been a black swan all of his life,” Kushner said, suggesting there was something unpredictable and unexplainable about his father-in-law’s talents. However, despite dominating his immediate circle and delighting his base, Trump is a politician with an approval rating in the mid-40s who could end up constrained by a Democratic-led House next year, a scenario that could have been brought on largely part by his extreme behavior and fear-based leadership. Former Vice President Joe Biden, one Democrat who’s itching to take on Trump, hinted Tuesday at the possibility that Americans will reject the President when he said: “This President is more like George Wallace than George Washington!” — referring to the late populist firebrand and former Alabama governor. Biden says Trump is ‘more like George Wallace than George Washington’ “We have to choose truth over lies. We have to choose a brighter future for Americans over this desperate grip of the darkest element of our past in our society,” Biden said in Florida. Still, Democrats running for president might wind back Trump’s performance on Tuesday afternoon for a reminder of what a dangerous opponent — ready to go low and relishing his own power — the President could be in two years.
Getting Out The Youth Vote With A Dash Of Snark
ACRONYM YouTube As midterm elections approach, politicians and activists are urging people to get out and vote, especially in places where races are close. One of the demographics they’re most worried about getting to the polls are young voters, who are often seen as uninvolved and/or apathetic.
That’s why the “Knock the Vote” project was created earlier this year by ACRONYM, a DC-based organization that uses social media and targeted digital media programs to push for progressive candidates.
“We try to reach people where they are,” says ACRONYM’S co-founder and CEO Tara McGowan. Where they are, increasingly, are on their cellphones or tablets, so ACRONYM’S videos are designed to be brief online bites that make you think.
Flipping the (racial) script
The company’s current campaign runs through election day and features quick (30 seconds or so) videos that aim to grab the millennial imagination. And maybe get skinny jeans-wearing behinds out of their bean bag chairs and off to the polls. It’s called Call the Cops, and it has an interesting twist: in these videos, it’s black people calling the cops on white ones who are behaving in a socially irresponsible manner: They’re not voting.
The first video dropped last week and shows a hipster with a laptop on the patio of a café. He’s staring balefully into his (recyclable) cup:
“The coffee here sucks,” he mutters.
Enter a beautiful black woman who seats herself opposite him.
“You know what else sucks, Todd?” she asks crisply. “Voter suppression!”
She goes on to ask Todd if he’s going to vote. Todd says no. The parties don’t represent him, he tells her. “The system’s broken, am I right?”
Quickly she whips out her cell and calls 911 and informs the police Todd doesn’t plan to vote.
(Todd responds by asking her to be in his movie.)
ACRONYM’S Tara McGowan agrees the racial profiling we’ve seen in a lot of real-life videos posted online is nothing to laugh about. “But I do think that tying that to specific engagement, and using your vote to really make a stand about what kind of country you want to live with, and the direction you want this country to go in? I think that can be really powerful.”
The company approached director Malcolm D. Lee ( Night School , Girls Trip, The Best Man movies), and it turned out the timing was right. Lee says he’d been thinking about how to become more involved politically. He’d called his elected officials and vented on social media, but wanted to do more. The idea of a clever plea to young people to vote appealed to him.
Although ACRONYM does have a distinctly leftward lean, McGowan says they are not advocating for specific candidates. “We are not telling you to vote for somebody in particular. … But you gotta vote, you gotta get involved in the process.”
Lee sat down with ACRONYM’S creative director, Vince Murphy, who is black and originally suggested the call-the-cops idea. There’s the coffee-swilling hipster, a suburban mom and a worried black man, played by The Daily Show’s Roy Wood Jr. , who calls the cops on a group of self-portraitists.
“Excuse me, have y’all made plans to vote in November?” Wood asks.
“Nope,” the young women tell him. They also loftily inform the shocked Wood that not voting isn’t illegal.
So he calls 911 to report an emergency. “Three white women taking selfies —triple-selfie in progress! Using filters, emojis, same picture over and over again.”
Seduce people with laughter — then slip in the truth
Tara McGowan says most of the responses they’ve received are positive. But even if she gets some negative feedback, she says getting people’s attention is half the battle: “If we elicit an emotional response, we think we’re doing a pretty good job.”
Director Malcolm Lee is convinced humor is the portal for getting people to think seriously about going to the polls. “Once you get people laughing, their mouths are open — you can slip the truth in.”
And the truth, Lee says, is that midterm elections count.
“There’s not enough people who vote in the midterms,” he said. “And those that do get their person in.”
Which maybe explains the success of an earlier Knock the Vote campaign, where older voters shrugged off the potential political power of millennials : young people don’t vote , they smile. But we do: Every. Single. Election . The message is clear: you want change? Then go to the polls and vote for it.