Kathleen Parker

Washington, D.C.

Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture. In 2010, she received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for “her perceptive, often witty columns on an array of political and moral issues, gracefully sharing the experiences and values that lead her to unpredictable conclusions.” A Florida native, Parker started her column in 1987 when she was a staff writer for the Orlando Sentinel. She joined the Washington Post Writers Group in 2006. She is the author of “Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care” (2008). Honors & Awards:
  • Pulitzer Prize for commentary, 2010
  • H.L. Mencken Writing Award, 1993
  • Books by Kathleen Parker:
  • Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care
  • Buy on Amazon
Recent Articles

KATHLEEN PARKER COLUMN

Advance for release Sunday, April 18, 2021, and thereafter

(For Parker clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- In 1983, then-Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware called "court-packing" a "bonehead idea," and warned in 2019 during a presidential primary debate that restructuring the Supreme Court by adding more justices would destroy "any credibility the court has at all."

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Biden declined to say whether he'd support expanding the court.

Now, it seems, President Biden has developed a fondness for boneheaded notions. Last week, he named a big bipartisan commission to study the future of the court. A few days later, Democrats in the House and Senate announced a forthcoming bill to add four more justices to the high bench.

Will we wake up one day soon to find 13 justices on the court? No. But Biden is slowly mainstreaming the idea of a larger court and hoping we gradually grow more comfortable with it.

Nothing has changed since Biden's 1983 assessment - oh, except that the court today leans conservative - and liberals don't like it.

But you don't get the sense that liberals on the court want to make it bigger. Justice Stephen G. Breyer has said, "If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts -- and in the rule of law itself -- can only diminish." And even the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn't see the logic of making more justices.

"If anything would make the court appear partisan it would be that," she said in 2019 about court-expansion. "One side saying, 'When we're in power, we're going to enlarge the number of judges so we would have more people who would vote the way we want them to.' So I am not at all in favor of that solution to what I see as a temporary situation."

The movement to restructure the court enjoys deep pockets, thanks in part to a nonprofit fundraising behemoth called Arabella Advisors. Arabella is an umbrella organization that manages four major nonprofits that, in turn, host more than 300 policy projects, some of which are laser-focused on the federal judiciary. It's noteworthy that when Republicans organize themselves to support conservative judges, the left writes furiously of "dark money." But when the left does the exact same thing, why, it's just a lighter shade of gray.

Biden is uncorking the commission to keep his left flank happy; and few people who follow these things believe it will finish its work by cooking up more justices on the bench. But it is likely that he is laying the predicate for such a move years from now.

You might even call this the "Never You Mind That Now"strategy, in which the Democrats are raising the prospect of a bigger court today only to seed it in our brains for their later use. This is a little like an arsonist who sets a fire so that he can put it out and become a hero. In the liberal version of this opera, a monster is created -- the legislation to increase the court -- so that the party can then kill it this round. When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she'd never allow the bill on the floor, the audience heaved a sigh of relief.

But the commission, if nothing else, serves the purpose of making something once unimaginable at least a topic of conversation. Basically, you get people talking about something, back it up with evidence (or commissions) and, gradually, the idea becomes less unpopular. People even forget why it was once objectionable.

Remember when "socialism" was a dirty word? Thanks to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a far-left '60s radical who for most of his career was taken seriously by no one outside of Vermont, we now have lesser, mainstream socialists in public office. And Sanders is now a snugly, flannel-clad grandpa beloved by America's young. He's not scary at all -- and neither is socialism.

Ideas that once seemed crazy can, in time, sound almost reasonable. And when the balance of power in our nation is so closely divided, a foot in a door here can have an enormous impact later.

Meanwhile, the objective has been achieved. The threatening sword of restructuring the court is aloft and hangs over the third branch of government. This alone is enough to undermine trust in the court's independence and poses a threat to democracy itself.

Boneheaded was -- and is -- the correct word.

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Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

KATHLEEN PARKER COLUMN

Advance for release Sunday, April 11, 2021, and thereafter

(For Parker clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- Well, it all depends.

To Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., is a one-man obstacle to progress; on the other side of the aisle, he's the best Republican the country has had since Ronald Reagan.

Except, of course, the West Virginia senator is a Democrat. The best kind in a world where principle matters. By recently committing to protect the filibuster, which Democrats had hoped to upend, Manchin likely has made impossible most of what President Joe Biden had hoped to accomplish: A $2 trillion infrastructure bill, significant advances on gun reform, immigration and climate change, not to mention the cynically named "For the People Act" which might have been better titled, "For the Democrats Act."

As always, Democrats in power tend to overreach while Republicans tend to obstruct.

The act, which purports to expand voter access, is in reality a Democratic Party power grab that takes redistricting authority away from state legislatures while permanently enshrining in law ballot harvesting, same-day registration and no-fault absentee voting. The bill would also essentially nullify state voter ID laws. Though I've recently criticized those laws, I concede they are subject to reasonable differences of opinion.

With Vice President Harris in place to cast the decisive vote in the 50-50 Senate, the only way for Republicans to stop its passage, as well as other Democratic pipe dreams, is through the filibuster. Manchin has now made it clear that he'll do nothing to eliminate or weaken the filibuster, which both parties at different times respect, use and abuse.

Manchin had already opposed previous efforts to weaken it when, in years past, both Democrats and Republicans sought alterations that served their purposes. After then-Majority Leader Harry Reid sought to eliminate the judicial filibuster, Republicans took it a step further and removed the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Manchin opposed both moves.

Manchin also opposes background checks on firearm purchases, an odd tic from my perspective. But again, he's from a red state that's full of hunters and Second Amendment purists. As he wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed: "If I can't go home and explain it, I can't vote for it."

Manchin said his hardened position on the filibuster was informed by the Jan. 6 riots and attack on the Capitol.

As self-styled warriors stormed the offices and corridors of the "people's house," Manchin said he decided that advancing bipartisanship would become his unflagging operating principle going forward. The bitter forces that had led Americans to turn violently against one another and led to the attempted overthrow of the nation's duly elected government had to be addressed in a serious way, he said. No more games.

In another time, Manchin might be considered a hero for standing on such principle, much the way Democrats these days view Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, for voting for Trump's second impeachment. Of course, another's principles are salutary and laudatory when they serve one's own purposes. Manchin's just happen to suit Republicans in this instance. Nonetheless, standing alone against the herd is an uncomfortable place, no matter what party you belong to.

If some think that Manchin is merely preserving his reelection chances, the same can't be said of Romney. Utah is solidly red and deeply Mormon. His Senate seat is secure no matter what. At 74, Romney has run for president twice and may have no future ambitions. But a girl can dream. If sanity were someday to return to our borders, a Romney/Manchin presidential ticket might hold some appeal for independents, as well as Republicans and Democrats who've been trapped so long beneath their respective parties' underbellies, they've practically begun sprouting mushrooms.

Let's be clear: Manchin's willingness to serve as the lone buttress against a torrent of Democratic legislation required enormous courage. He might even be a worthy successor to Romney as a recipient of the JFK Profile in Courage Award. As Caroline Kennedy wrote in a statement about Romney: "He reminds us that our Democracy depends on the courage, conscience and character of our elected officials."

Manchin's urgent call to bipartisanship will likely fall on deaf ears, at least along the Potomac. But it won't go unheard by everyday Americans, most of whom really do want their government to work along bipartisan lines, and who believe that "for the people" is more than an act.

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Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

KATHLEEN PARKER COLUMN

Advance for release Wednesday, April 7, 2021, and thereafter

(For Parker clients and FOR PRINT USE ONLY)

For Print Use Only.

By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON -- It was fitting that on Good Friday, prelude to the miracle of the Christian resurrection, that my life was renewed by a reunion of friends -- all twice-vaccinated -- celebrated with the heretofore not-fully appreciated hug.

So sublime was the moment that I feel I should be recording it with quill pen and inkwell on papyrus paper. Alas, given the profane demands of deadlines and editors, a keyboard will have to do.

Jack Cahill and Craig Wilson, with whom I shared countless meals and bottles of wine while living next door on Georgetown's Olive Street for more than a decade, finally left their famous stoop and trekked southward for Easter with family. En route, they took a short detour to spend a night with us in our pandemic haven, otherwise known for steeplechase racing and assorted Revolutionary War battles.

An epidemiologist and a journalist, respectively, Jack and Craig are retired. Like many people finally shed of calendars and alarms, they had plans. Theirs were to continue their habit of traveling the world before the covid pandemic mucked things up. This time of year, you'd more likely find them cruising down the Amazon or observing giant tortoises in the Galapagos than dodging traffic along I-95.

But, having barely left their smallish townhouse for a solid year -- and reasonably confident that it was safe to step out -- they finally packed their car and hit the road. Suffice to say, their arrival was like an explosion of azaleas -- colorful, beautiful and long-awaited.

Jack got to me first. "I think since we've both been vaccinated, we can hug," he said.

We hugged. And hugged. Not to be hysterical but wrapping my arms around these two dear friends bordered on the sacramental. We've been so consumed with covering our faces, avoiding physical contact, washing and sanitizing, that these first hugs of a new season felt like slipping into a warm bath. To embrace another human being without fear was both to surrender to joy and to escape from a tediously long sentence of isolation and withdrawal.

Jack and Craig, neither of whom tend toward the sentimental, might be surprised to learn of my effusive interpretation of a simple hug. Jack has a penchant for data and is practiced at emotional distancing. Craig, though more effusive, is similarly trained with a skeptic's eye and a lethal sense of humor. But hugs between friends are special -- and our friendship was most special of all, at least in my view.

Not everyone loves hugging. People whose parents weren't huggers are more likely to be hug-averse. However, I was reared on Daddy Bear hugs and have been a committed hugger all my life. This doesn't mean I'm indiscriminate. Hugging is for close friends and family. But it's a certainty that the hug-averse won't likely share my stoop.

There are legitimate, scientific reasons for this. Hugging releases oxytocin, the "cuddle hormone" that helps people form bonds with other people. Research has shown that babies who aren't cuddled suffer an underdeveloped oxytocin system that makes it more difficult for them to read social cues or become sociable in later life. In researching a book a few years ago, I learned that women enjoy a surge of oxytocin with a 20-second hug, while the release of oxytocin in men seems to be activated by more advanced forms of, shall we say, situational awareness.

The coronavirus that rendered hugging unacceptable changed us by segregating us from loved ones, essentially un-cuddling us. Now the miracle of vaccines has changed us again. I wonder if those who refuse to be vaccinated are willing to go hug-free for life? Or do they hug people, anyway, in the belief that they're immune to this terrible disease? As some get vaccinated and others don't, we'll inevitably become a bifurcated society in which the vaccinated steer clear of the unvaccinated. The question is, how will we know who's who?

Vaccine passports were a doomed idea from the start, but I've hit upon an idea that shows promise: The peace sign. The two-fingered V signifies to others that you've had both shots. I'm (probably) not about to run up and hug a stranger, but I like the idea of sharing the peace in this way. "I'm vaccinated," it says. I'm safe. You're safe. As safe as is possible. We can hug, which, for the vaccinated, is just another word for freedom.

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Kathleen Parker's email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

About
Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture. In 2010, she received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for “her perceptive, often witty columns on an array of political and moral issues, gracefully sharing the experiences and values that lead her to unpredictable conclusions.” A Florida native, Parker started her column in 1987 when she was a staff writer for the Orlando Sentinel. She joined the Washington Post Writers Group in 2006. She is the author of “Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care” (2008).
Books
  • Save the Males: Why Men Matter, Why Women Should Care
Awards
  • Pulitzer Prize for commentary, 2010
  • H.L. Mencken Writing Award, 1993
Reviews
"In a media genre that's all too often predictable, Kathleen Parker almost never fails to surprise – with her passion, her wit and her creativity. She's an independent thinker and her viewpoint is often so fresh and original, you can't help but be moved even when you disagree." – Sharon Grigsby, deputy editorial page editor, The Dallas Morning News

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