From Court Packing to Leaking to Doxing: White House Yields to a National Rage Addiction

Below is my column in the Hill on the leak and the refusal of President Joe Biden to denounce such conduct. It is a defining moment for his presidency that, even in the face of such a disgraceful and unethical act, the President cannot muster the courage to condemn it. He then magnified that failure by refusing to condemn the doxing and targeting of justices and their families at their homes.

Here is the column:

Nearly 70 years ago, a little-known lawyer named Joseph Welch famously confronted Sen. Joseph McCarthy (D-Wis.) in defense of a young man hounded over alleged un-American views. Welch told McCarthy that “I think I have never really gauged … your recklessness” before asking: “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

It was a defining moment in American politics as Welch called out a politician who had abandoned any semblance of principle in the pursuit of political advantage. This week, the same scene played out in the White House with one striking difference: This was no Joseph Welch to be found.

After someone in the Supreme Court leaked a draft opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a virtual flash-mob formed around the court and its members demanding retributive justice. This included renewed calls for court “packing,” as well as the potential targeting of individual justices at their homes. Like the leaking of the opinion itself, the doxing of justices and their families is being treated as fair game in our age of rage.

There is more than a license to this rage; there is an addiction to it. That was evident in March 2020 when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stood in front of the Supreme Court to threaten Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh by name: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price! You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” Schumer’s reckless rhetoric was celebrated, not condemned, by many on the left, even after he attempted to walk it back by stating that “I should not have used the words I used … they did not come out the way I intended to.”

What occurred at the White House this week is even more troubling. When asked for a response to the leaking of a justice’s draft opinion, White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to condemn the leaker and said the real issue was the opinion itself. Then she was asked about the potential targeting of justices and their families at their homes, and whether that might be considered extreme. It should have been another easy question; few Americans would approve of such doxing, particularly since some of the justices have young children at home. Yet Psaki declared that “I don’t have an official U.S. government position on where people protest,” adding that “peaceful protest is not extreme.

In reality, not having an official position on doxing and harassing Supreme Court justices and their families is a policy.

Whether protests are judged to be extreme seems often to depend upon their underlying viewpoints. When Westboro Baptist Church activists protested at the funeral of Beau Biden, it was peaceful — but many critics rightly condemned the demonstration as extreme; some even approved of Westboro activists being physically assaulted. When the church brought its case before the Supreme Court, some of us supported its claims despite our vehement disagreement with their views, but 42 senators filed an amicus brief asking the court to deny free-speech protections for such protests. The court ultimately ruled 8-1 in favor of the church.

In this case, the Biden administration and the Justice Department have condemned the court’s leaked draft — but not the threatened protests at justices’ homes, even though those arguably could be treated as a crime. Under 18 U.S.C. 1507, it is a federal crime to protest near a residence occupied by a judge or jury with the intent to influence their decisions in pending cases, and this case remains pending. (Ironically, prosecution could be difficult if the protesters said they had no intent other than to vent anger.)

Even if protests at justices’ homes are constitutionally protected, that does not make them right, any more than the lawful Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 were right.

In 1954, the left was targeted for its political views; today, it is the left which is calling for censorshipblacklisting and doxing. In such moments of reckless rage, presidents often have become calming voices, tempering extremist passions in their own parties. When they have failed to do so, history has judged them harshly, as in the case of President Eisenhower’s belated condemnation of Sen. McCarthy, something he reportedly regretted for the rest of his life.

President Biden has repeatedly shown that polls, not principles, guide his presidency. He showed integrity as a senator by denouncing court packing as a “bonehead … terrible, terrible” idea. However, he has stayed silent as today’s Democrats have pushed to pack the court with an instant liberal majority, a demand that increased this week. Biden long supported the Senate’s filibuster rule and said efforts to eliminate it would be “disastrous” — but when today’s mob formed, he flipped and denounced the filibuster as a “relic” of the Jim Crow era.

Even on abortion, Biden has shifted with the polls. He once opposed Roe v. Wade and supported an amendment that would negate the decision. At the time, he declared that “I don’t think that a woman has the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” Now President Biden has switched his position without really switching his logic. He recently declared that he supported Roe because “I’m just a child of God; I exist” and thus can decide what happens to his body. Accordingly, he denounced the Supreme Court’s draft opinion as “radical” and affirmed the right of a woman “to abort a child.

Whether it is court leaking, packing, doxing or other tactics, many Democratic politicians and pundits continue to follow the mob rather than risk its ire.

Our national addiction to rage is captured in three indelible images. In June 2020, there was the White House surrounded by security fencing after nights of arson and rioting; in January 2021, Congress was surrounded by the same fencing after rioting that momentarily halted the certification of the presidential election. Now the set is complete with photos of the Supreme Court encased in the same fencing.

All three branches, having to be protected from enraged citizens on the left or the right.

Schumer’s 2020 pledge that justices would “pay the price” has been realized as they and their families are now bunkered in their homes. Despite the shocking image of a court system under attack, President Biden has not mustered the courage to dissuade these protesters. He appears to be following the lead of French revolutionary Abbe Sieyes, who watched as his 1789-99 revolution spun out of control; asked what he had done during “the Terror,” he replied: “I survived.”

President Biden is now in survival mode, too. It seems he does not lack decency, just the courage to defend it.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

330 thoughts on “From Court Packing to Leaking to Doxing: White House Yields to a National Rage Addiction”

  1. Anger can feel pretty darn good, particularly when that anger fuels self-righteousness. Amp it up to rage and you can just party on in a state of perpetual pique.

    Of course, you will not be able to think.

    And that is the idea.

    Witless rage-a-holics are just the kind of peons the ruling class wants. They can be sicced on the enemies of the elite at the drop of the hat. Or they can fight among themselves or against other peons. As charming now as it was two millennia ago.

  2. Why would they care about young children of the Justices, or neighbors? The whole issue is over being allowed to KILL babies!

  3. My not provable but possible opinion about what has happened is that with the Democrats in dire need of an election issue because they see themselves as losing the female vote as a result of economic issues had the timing of this decision was pushed forward. Does the conservative majority or John Roberts the chief justice control the timing of cases ? I don’t know but someone at the SC certainly does since they don’t occur at random. The leak also could have been part of an intentional political maneuver. Not only that but some supposedly conservative justices who have recently voted with the Left and who were inclined to do so again and not topple Roe V Wade may have activated as sleeper agents once again. This time to vote with the Right for the benefit of the Left. So it is possible that this decision was manufactured by the Left for the express purpose of creating displeasure among certain female voters..

  4. Man it’s so easy to hate and loathe Democrats… they’re so disgustingly filthy and un-American it blows my mind.
    Democrats are literally the cancerous rot on our country

    1. How fitting that Big Guy Joe is the ostensible ‘leader’ of the America-hating filth party.

  5. Stop smearing McCarthy. Hindsight is 20/20.
    We are currently in the throes of a full on Communist attack from within and Turley like the rest of his worthless overpaid colleagues still cling to their historic revisionism like Lionel from the Peanuts on his security blanket.

    1. From what I gather, though his methods were uncouth, his sounding the alarm of communist infiltration into our govt was accurate at the time.
      Imagine what people would have said back then, if we told them that a future CIA director was a card carrying Communist in his earlier life? McCarthy’s paranoia would have been vindicated.

      While I surely disagree with the civil life blacklisting of people who chose to flirt with communism or socialist viewpoints, foreign govt influence on our sovereign intra-governmental administration is something that cannot be tolerated.
      It actually really feels like that now, as Biden/Obama 2.0 seem to be doing everything they can to disempower the United States, its sovereignty, economic prosperity, and social stability, etc., on all fronts.

    2. I agree. Imagine if our country had heeded McCarthy’s warnings. It’s no wonder they tried to shut him down and make him an outlier. All part of the insidious plan to take over our country, only to destroy it.

  6. Thank you for sharing your columns, Mr. Turley. I don’t agree with all of your opinions, but I admire your ability to construct and offer your arguments.

  7. Jonathan: According to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll confidence in the SC has collapsed since the conservatives have taken control–particularly since Trump packed the Court with 3 ultra-conservatives. The leak of Alito’s draft opinion is curiously not the problem. Back in Sept. 2020, shortly after Ginsburg died, 70% of registered voters had “some” or “a lot” of confidence in the Court. Now 53% have no or little confidence in the Court. The conservative ideological shift in the Court is the main culprit. 74% now think the court has become “too politicized”. Alito’s opinion has confirmed this perception of the Court. Even 31% of Republicans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. All 5 of the conservative justices are viewed unfavorably compared to their liberal counterparts on the Court.

    Against this backdrop where do you direct your ire? Not at the Court. You condemn the Biden administration and Democrats for refusing to “condemn the doxing and targeting justices and their families at their homes”. Poor Alito. He and his family should not have to endure almost nightly peaceful protests outside his home. I know how Donald Trump would have reacted. He would have told Mike Esper to send in federal troops to beat up and jail the protesters. That’s how mister “law and order” would have responded. You apparently think it should be federal crime to protest in front of a justice’s home. As a “free speech” purist one would think you would support the 1st Amendment right of citizens to protest. Nope. That right is reserved for conservatives. And why have you so far not taken the time to actually discuss Alito’s decision? I doubt it’s because it is just a “draft”. It’s probably because a close examination of Alito’s opinion would reveal Alito is driven by a disdain for women’s rights based on Catholic teachings and reliance on a misogynist 17th century English jurist. Well, what did you expect in the “age of rage”?

    1. Polls polls and more palls…bah humbug. Any leader that runs by polling is weak at best and slithering being the dark horse. There is zero win here for dems or gummi puppet potus. That Gummi puppet defacto endorses violence against SCOTUS judges shows how small minded and partisan he and his handlers are. The simple fact ROE vs Wade was incredibly poor law and is now going to be corrected and kicked back to the states seems to escape knee jerk emotional and critical thinking vacant minds of the gimme gimme left. Gummi potus has always been morally and ethically challenged…even more so now in his few coherent days a week he may have. Stick a fork in him , he’s done and so is this bad law.

    2. The court is not packed. There are still 9 justices. Abortion is not and will not be illegal. Just stay in a state that it is legal in. Colorado is legal until the moment of birth which seems to be the lefts preference these days.

    3. Dennis McIntyre wrote, “You apparently think it should be federal crime to protest in front of a justice’s home.

      As Mr. Turley noted in the article, under 18 USC 1507, “Whoever, with the intent of interfering with, obstructing, or impeding the administration of justice, or with the intent of influencing any judge, juror, witness, or court officer, in the discharge of his duty, pickets or parades in or near a building housing a court of the United States, or in or near a building or residence occupied or used by such judge, juror, witness, or court officer, or with such intent uses any sound-truck or similar device or resorts to any other demonstration in or near any such building or residence, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

      It is a crime, punishable by a fine, one year in jail, or both. I admire your attempt at making it into a free speech argument but misogyny and anti-papal bigotry? You do wax poetic in your final sentences – lots of dramatic hyperbole but not a lot of evidence for the claims. “Age of rage,” indeed.

    4. Notice how Yahoo states “Trump packed the court with conservatives”? Talk about a false statement, but you can see how the media likes to rewrite history and use language to manipulate our country.

      You are spot on about the behavior of Democrats. They give their approval to this horrific intimidation tactic to the justices, instead of acting for the rule of law.

      This is “mob rule”. They use Antifa, BLM to do their dirty work. You can be assured they are being paid out by the taxpayers just like Occupy Wall Street was in 2010. Same people, different t-shirts.

      I think communities are going to have to be prepared to take on these groups or we will lose this war. As for the Justices, I read this morning in American Greatness that Roberts is pressuring one of the justices to change to “not overriding” Roe V. Wade. He is clearly a traitor and should be removed from his post.

      1. Roberts is a disgrace. His opinion on Obama care proved it. And he continues to this day to prove what a POS he is.

        1. I saw a poll months back that said Robers was rated one of the most popular public officials in Washington DC. When I read that I thought, yep, he’s controlled by the left. That is the ONLY reason he would ever be touted as ‘most popular’ among the public. What a load of garbage. Roberts is despised by most people paying attention.

      2. The most significant thing you can do is laugh – laugh at them.

        The left has no sense of humor.

        Most of the left posters here are hilarious.

        They are so puffed up with self righteous rage and anger – over hurt feelings. Over not having total control over the lives of others.

        They have gained power – the whole federal government by the skin of their teeth and critical state executives
        And yet they have failed. They are running around trying to find someone else to blame – yet it is obvious who failed.

        They rant about hatred – but the rest of us do not hate blacks or gays or transexuals, anger, hatred is reserved for those on the left seeking to control everyone and everything.

        When we talk of Make America Great Again – that means making it a country where each of us beleives we can go out and overcome our faults limitations, and whatever has befallen us in the past and accomplish something.

        Whether it is go to mars or raise a family, do the best that we can, no matter how great or small.

        The land of opportunity does not give you what you need to succeed. It pisses all over you, fires, floods, accidents, violent crimes, all manner of bad things are possible in the land of opportunity like everywhere else. Though we are in the least racist moment in history it is still possible that you might have to overcome people who would rather work with people of the same race, the same class, the same church, the same civic group. That’s life – the land of opportunity is not “fair” – no where in the world is fair.

        The left seeks to wallow in victimhood.

        A few months after I was married, my wife was walking to her job as a church organist, and she was abducted off the street, she was violently assaulted for 4 hours before she was released. We were on the front page of the news for 4 weeks. This stole years of our lives.
        But ultimately – the only way to get our lives back – was to take them back. No one else was going to give back what was taken.
        We could spend the rest of our lives as victims – arguably justifiably, or we could take ownership of our lives.
        My wife decided to go to law school. Two months before starting University of Pennsylvania law school she was diagnosed with cancer – likely associated with her prior assault. While trying to start law school as an adult, she had to fit in cancer surgery and recovery.
        Then on the first day of law school in the very first class the very first case the professor started was Our lawsuit against the owners of the building she was assaulted in.

        My wife graduated from UofP law – with honors. She was a law review editor, and published articles. she won several legal competitions,
        and she very nearly received a federal clerkship with a “feeder judge” – a judge whose clerks go on to be supreme court clerks.
        She still ended up with a federal clerkship, and another after that. She went to work for the public defenders office, and has been there for almost 20 years. She is the head of the criminal appellate division in our county, one of the most respected criminal appellate lawyers in the state, and she has two clients on the innocence projects “exonerated list”. She will be retiring in a few years and is almost complete a masters degree in restorative practices.

        She has gone from a victim to an advocate for the very people who harmed her.

        This is only a small part of our lives. It is not the worst or the best that has happened to us.

        This is what the left does not understand. This is what the land of opportunity means, this is what MAGA means.

        No one else is going to fix your life.
        Whether the mess you are in was caused by others or your own actions or some combination.
        Only you can make your life better.
        No government program will fix whatever is wrong in your life.

        No matter what bad thing has ruined your life – someone else has a worse story – and has overcome.

        If you want to dwell on the evil in the world – there is plenty to keep you angry resentful.
        If you want to fixate on victimization – true or not, that will just leave you miserable.

        Your life belongs to you. There is nothing others can do to you that you can not overcome.
        But you can never overcome anything if you fixate on victimization.

        1. Your wife is Ultra MAGA. Remarkable story.

          “Won’t you help to sing
          These songs of freedom?
          ‘Cause all I ever have
          Redemption songs
          Redemption songs

          Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
          None but ourselves can free our minds”

    5. …”in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.” Abigail Adams to her husband John on writing the laws for the new nation.

      Are we to remain silent, Mr. Turley, as we watch the forced birthers violently protest abortion clinics, bomb them, shoot at and murder doctors? Are we not even to stand quietly in front of the house of an individual who seeks to strip away the preeminent right which recognizes fully the individual body of a female citizen?

      A long and bloody war was waged against states’ righters who claimed the right to own a person, own his bodily autonomy. The war rejected nullification, freed the southern slaves and gave the male slaves full rights of citizenship. Women over centuries have gained by law more rights, but the woman’s right to bodily autonomy, gained 49 years ago, is to be erased (nullified?) and sent back to the states. How is this logical? Is it that women are still considered not quite full citizens? Women were never mentioned in the constitution or bill of rights – is that the logic? Is it possible to engage with me how you would counter my argument?

  8. Boy, you pack a lot of nonsense into one post. First, you practically accuse the Biden and the Dems of participating in the leak of Alito’s draft opinion. and then of not condemning the so-called “doxing” of justices who “have young children at home”. You don’t know who leaked the opinion. Only the leaker knows. It could have come from either side of the court’s political spectrum. There were motivations on both sides. The real scandal is not the leak but the substance of Alito’s meanspirited opinion that will set back women’s rights for decades. Taking away hard won rights of reproductive autonomy is just the first of many rights we have come to accept that the court’s conservative majority intends to abolish under the new minority Christian nationalism. Never mind that a majority of Americans support Roe. The Christian right wants to impose its concept of where life begins on all of us and it now has the support of the court’s majority.

    You say that peaceful protests outside the homes of some justices “could be treated as a crime” under 18USC, Section 1507. Why cite this section that you know doesn’t even apply? You admit this but then say: “Even if protests at justices’ homes are constitutionally protected that does not make them right,..”. “Right”? A strange position for a legal scholar to take when he has run out of legal arguments. If peaceful protest is protected then just admit it!

    And “doxing” is not confined just to those protesting outside justices’ homes. Besides it’s hardly doxing when the names of the 5 conservatives justices are in plain sight right there in Alito’s decision. Doxing and worse has been practiced for decades by anti-abortionists. There have been blockades, invasions, chemical attacks, arsons, bombings, etc. of abortion clinics. The names of abortion providers have been spread on the net. The result was predictable. In 1993 Dr. David Gunn was murdered outside his clinic. The same year Dr. George Tiller was severely wounded and Dr. George Patterson was shot to death. The following year Dr. Bayard Britton and a clinic worker were brutally murdered by anti-abortion extremist Paul Hill. That takes “doxing” to a whole new level.

    If Roe is overturned abortion will not go away. The wealthy will always have access to abortion at a “private clinic”. For the poor the practice will probably return to the “back alley” and lives will be in danger. But states, local communities and pro-choice organizations are already protect a woman’s right to choose. Money is pouring into Planned Parenthood. For those who can afford it abortions will be procured out-of-state–even though states like Texas and Missouri will make a crime. Local organizations in anti-abortion states are even setting up “underground railways” to facilitate and pay for travel to abortion friendly states. Who would have thought the anti-slavery movement would now inspire women and their partners and supporters to stand up for a woman’s right to choose,

    1. You might want to quit your whining, and give some thought to the millions of children who have been murdered, never let to draw a breath of air. The woman’s “right” came and went when she should have used contraception. No more, no less.

      And, in the meantime…

  9. Youve lied more than Hillary in her entire coat-riding career, which is say alot.
    Carry on

  10. When I was new to the workforce I was naïve about how vicious human beings can be. I fell victim to the type of employee who thrilled to stir the pot. “Do you know what she said about you?”

    Then I would react and the “camp jumper” would go back and tell them about my reaction. The frustration escalated to the point the work environment became intolerable.

    It is the same in implementation. Moses had Dathan (Edward G Robinson) in the Ten Commandants movie. There is always the quiet one or vocal one submarining the unsuspecting.

    I suspect it is the same in our current environment. A very weak and incompetent leader and a faction of activists stirring the pot. The media and professional “protesters” amplify the confusion. This is called Psych-ops. Creation of one crisis after another to throw off the balance of the unsuspecting citizen. Through the state of crisis the activists push their nefarious agenda.

    Real people are hurt. They are hurting. We are hurting. Be sure that the pot stirrers are sitting comfortably in their coast mansions or jetting around the earth in the fossil fuel burning jets.

    How can one state “build back better” unless they tear down what already exists?

  11. It is worth repeating: Joe Biden is a sleezebag, nasty politician who *lacks decency. He lacks intelligence. He lacks wisdom. He lacks leadership. He lacks integrity. He lacks honesty. He demonstrates it daily, to the great detriment of the United States of America. FJB. And his horrid wife too.

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