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Amy McGrath: Republicans Have Undermined Our Military

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Amy McGrath: Republicans Have Undermined Our Military

Amy McGrath is a Marine Corps Vet who ran for the Senate in Kentucky in 2020. Since then, she’s sayed active in politics, and has founded Operation Saving Democracy, a veteran-led organization that’s dedicated to defeating Trumpism.

In this interview, Amy discusses how republicans are planning to seize power after winning the presidency in what’s called “Project 2025”, authoritarianism within the Republican Party, and how one republican has been a “one-man wrecking ball” to the American military.

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Amy McGrath:

Look, Donald Trump and his people learned their lesson from 2016 to 2020, and the big lesson they learned was, we can get Trump into office with all of his rhetoric and crazy ideas. But if you surround him with H.R. McMaster and John Kelly and Jim Mattis and those people, they will obstruct.

Ken Harbaugh:

I'm Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn The Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

My guest today is my good friend Amy McGrath, who probably needs no introduction to this audience after that grueling Senate race against Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. She's been incredibly active in politics since then, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes. I wanted to catch up with her about that and get her take on the increasingly dangerous turn towards authoritarianism that the Republican Party has taken.

Amy, welcome back to Burn the Boats.

Amy McGrath:

Good to be with you.

Ken Harbaugh:

Let's do current events first, diving right in. You have been very outspoken about Senator Tuberville's one person holds on senior military promotion. There are other one person holds that extremists in the Senate are taking.

But let's focus on Tuberville for a second because it has had a material impact on military readiness and literally on the lives of those Marines and airmen and soldiers who in some cases are working two and three jobs. Give us the lay of the land and then I want your political analysis.

Amy McGrath:

So, and it's great to be able to do this in more than like a 30 second soundbite, which is what I get usually on MSNBC. Just to take everybody back very quickly though, February of this year one senator in Alabama decided to put a hold on all promotions that were of the star rank, so admirals and generals.

And he did this because he did not like the Pentagon policy. So, when Roe v. Wade was basically overturned the Pentagon decided to, hey we have a lot of women that are stationed in the southern states like Alabama, who need reproductive healthcare and deserve it.

Particularly we have a sexual assault problem still in our military. And if for example, a woman in the military happens to be assaulted, she should be able to get reproductive healthcare.

And so, of course, some of these states in the south, almost all of them have now banned this type of healthcare. So, the Pentagon put in a policy to help women get that care. And those of us that have been in the military know that you get told where to be stationed. So, you don't get a choice. You're either in Alabama or you're in Tennessee.

And so, Tommy Tuberville didn't like this. He didn't like the fact that the Pentagon was helping women cross state lines giving them the leave time to be able to take care of their health and helping them do that. And so, he decided to put a hold on these promotions.

Now, keep in mind that Tommy Tuberville could not get this policy rescinded by regular process. In other words, his fellow senators said no to all of his changes to the policy here that he tried to enact in law. They never even got through committee.

So, because he didn't get his way, he put this hold on. It's been going on since February. We now have over like 500 or so that are being held up. And by the end of this year, it'll be about two thirds of all generals and admirals their promotions held up. And what the problem is with that is that they can't take on position.

So, right now, we do not have a 7th Fleet commander that's the commander of all of the Pacific. We don't have a 5th Fleet commander. We have that's the commander of the naval forces in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, basically.

And so, and among many, many others. And that allows us to not be able to do long-term planning. Our allies and partners don't know who to talk to. We don't have the same authorities as an acting commander, and in addition, their families are held up so they can't move to those locations that they're supposed to take these jobs.

And one of the things that people don't fully, I think appreciate is the military doesn't just plug and play. They don't just say, “Hey, John Doe there is a three-star admiral or a three-star general so he can fill any three-star general role.”

We actually handpick people based on their experience. And so, the person that is supposed to be the 7th fleet commander is like the best guy that we should have in that job right now, and he can't take over because of Tommy Tuberville.

So, that's kind of where we stand. And it's terrible for military readiness. It's a terrible slap in the face to people who frankly could be doing lots of other things in their life and be making lots of money, but they've decided to stay in like 30 years in service of their country and their families, to do this to them because you didn't get your way.

And then on top of it, Ken, it's just a total slap in the face to women in the military. I mean, this old man who is a former football coach doesn't like women in the military so much that he doesn't want us to cross state lines to get healthcare. That's how radical this guy is.

Somebody like myself, who could serve their country overseas three combat tours, comes home wants to have a family and happens to potentially have an ectopic pregnancy. That's a pregnancy that isn't viable. That could hurt the life of the mother, could hurt the life of the service woman.

And Tommy Tuberville doesn't want that service woman to get healthcare. That's how crazy he is.

Ken Harbaugh:

Tommy Tuberville, who by the way calls himself the most military person there is having never served a day in uniform.

You said this on Nicolle Wallace, “Ultimately, we can't have one senator holding up and hurting our military in national security in such a way. It has been nine months. And Senator Tuberville has literally weaponized his position as a senator to actively hurt our military.”

You talked about the damage this is doing to those flag and general officers whose careers have been interrupted, whose families have been impacted. More importantly, you've talked about the message that this sends to women across the military, treating them as second class citizens. What is the message that this sends to our adversaries to China and Russia and Iran and Hamas?

Amy McGrath:

Well, I think the message is they have important allies in the United States Senate and in the Congress, and those are the people like Tommy Tuberville who thrive on chaos, who thrive on being disruptors, hurting the processes that we have had for decades that have frankly protected this country and protected the world.

Our military is absolute best in the world, and Tommy Tuberville is just a one-man wrecking ball to that, and we're allowing it to happen. And so, what I've said on TV, and what I continue to say, and I hope that lawmakers really take this in, is that we cannot allow one man in the United States Senate to put a hold and hurt our national security in this way.

I know why they don't want to change the rule. They don't want to change the rule because it would diminish the power of the individual senator.

The problem is that those rules and norms applied back when you had senators that actually were adults that actually put this country above their political party. They knew they had that power, but they, they weren't going to use it in a destructive manner.

We now have on the Republican side, a number of senators who care more about the clicks, care more about the money, care more about their rightwing, extremely extreme agenda than they do about this country.

And the reason they have been able to get power, Ken, and not be pushed to the sideline, which has always been the case in the past, is that the rest of the Republican party is unwilling to stand up to them, which we've seen over and over again. They're unwilling to stand up to the mega extremists, and they're allowing the Tubervilles to do this.

And so, to fix it, in my opinion, we're going to have to change that rule of the Senate, can't allow our national security to be hung out to dry like this.

Ken Harbaugh:

And maybe we need new senators as well. I was going to ask you, but you just offered a pretty good answer as to why Republicans have let this go on for so long. But it's not just Senator Tuberville. You've got J.D. Vance placing one person holds at justice. You've got Senator Paul holding up very important promotions at state and the Republican party seems okay going along with it.

Is it really as simple as them trying to protect the institution of the Senate and the deference given to individual senators? Or is there possibly something else going on?

Amy McGrath:

Well, I think that's why the rules haven't been changed. And I think that applies to both parties. Nobody wants to diminish the power of an individual senator. They feel pretty good about themselves having that power.

The problem is that as you just mentioned, those Republicans have been able to do real damage. When Hamas attacked Israel, we didn't have an ambassador to Israel. We didn't have an ambassador to Egypt. Those two pretty important countries among others thanks to Rand Paul.

We don't have folks at the Department of Justice thanks to J.D. Vance. I mean, in previous years, this wouldn't be allowed, but I think it shows you the lack of power that Mitch McConnell has over his own caucus. And the fact that the rest of the Republicans just aren't willing to stand up publicly.

Now, some of that's changing. Last week you saw Senator Dan Sullivan and a few others on the Republican side stand up and really take Tommy Tuberville to task and say, this is suicide. I mean, this is hurting us, which is great. The only thing I would say is it took him nine months.

Ken Harbaugh:

It took him nine months. It's still not over. This still has to play out.

Amy McGrath:

Right now, in the Senate, my understanding is the Democrats in the Senate are trying to come up with a workaround, a temporary workaround, where they would temporarily change the rules to be able to push these nominations through in bulk. That would require Ken, 60 votes.

So, they would have to get nine Republican senators to go along with it. And so, the question, unfortunately, I can't believe I'm saying this, but here we are in 2023, can we get nine Republican senators to put this country above their political party? I don't know.

Ken Harbaugh:

I have heard an alternate explanation, and I don't want to give it too much credence yet, but I would love your take on it. The idea that someone shared with me is that, let's take Tuberville as a case in point.

It might have started as grandstanding on the issue of abortion, but now that we're less than a year out from the general election, and we have examples like Merrick Garland to look back at of keeping spots open for Trump loyalists, should he win. That's a terrifying prospect.

And when you compare that to what we know about Trump's plans, should he win again, as revealed in the project 2025 leaks and things like that. I just wanted to ask you about it. I'm not given to theories like this naturally, but this has actually happened before.

Your opponent, Mitch McConnell was the architect of it last time, and I wouldn't put it past Republicans to keep these very important positions open for Trump loyalists.

Amy McGrath:

Yeah, I don't know enough about the Justice Department appointments and if they roll from one administration to another, if that is the case then I wouldn't put it past them for doing this at all.

I think it's a little bit of a stretch on the military side to try to wait for and figure out if we're going to get some loyalists in there. I think the military is … I mean, and look, I came from the military, so I'm probably biased, but the vast majority of officers and they really are people who are not partisan.

And I think it's going to be hard for them to say, “Hey, I want to have 500 Trump loyalists in these 500 positions that I'm holding up, and I'm somehow going to vet these guys for Trump loyalty.

I think that's a bit of a stretch, maybe less of a stretch on the justice side. Now, on the ambassadors, look, if Trump wins, then the ambassadors go away, and we get new swath of ambassadors anyway. So, I'm not sure what the holdup is there.

Politically, I don't think this is smart. It's stupid to hurt our military. It's always been dumb to go after veterans like he's going, I mean, Tuberville just really must hate women in the military. I don't think that's smart politically.

I also think the issue of abortion has continued to be a losing issue for them, particularly because they keep doubling down on these really far right stances. I mean, to say to women in the military we're going to keep you trapped in a state that doesn't allow you to have reproductive healthcare is just kind of a — it's really crazy.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, I live in Ohio where they have taken that and turned it into law. We had a 10-year-old girl who had to literally flee the state to get medical care after being assaulted. Our pushback against that after this massive outcry was the people of Ohio defeating in August a ballot measure to deny the people a voice in issues like this. We did an episode on that, I'll put it in the show notes.

And then just recently passing a monumental ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights in our state constitution. Feels like a high five moment. It's not. I don't know if you've been following, you're in Kentucky, which isn't that far away, but the Ohio legislature, Republicans in the Ohio legislature are now talking about undoing that, a constitutional amendment.

They're talking about removing any ability to interpret that from the courts, retaining it within the Republican dominated legislature. And I may get the quote a little bit wrong, but one of these Republican legislators said, “No amendment can overturn the God-given rights with which we are born.”

To me, that mindset is one of the most terrifying in politics, the idea that a politician has a God-given divine mandate to overturn the will of the people. But that's what we're facing right here in Ohio. Quick reaction, and then I want your thoughts on, as you alluded to, the bad politics of that.

Amy McGrath:

Well, I mean it's not surprising. They can't get their way through the normal democratic process. So, they're going to do everything they can to change the rules and do it another way. I think it's our responsibility, and I say our; people who love democracy, people who fought for democracy to continue to make sure that the American people and the people of Ohio understand what they're trying to do and push back on it.

The politics of this are very real. I think that we've seen over and over again that the American people are not right-wing extreme on this issue. And really the way you should frame it, and this is Democrats or independents or anybody that cares about this issue, this is a freedom issue.

The Republicans are going after your freedom, your freedom to make decisions, healthcare decisions for yourself. That's what this is about. And I think, over and over again when it's framed that way, and when people really have to vote on it, they're like, “I might be uncomfortable with the issue of abortion myself, but I really don't want politicians telling me what to do. And when it comes to my 10-year-old daughter, I really don't want her to have less freedom than me, than what I had when I was 10.”

And so, I think that message is getting through, and you're seeing that over and over again when the people have a voice, they're making it heard.

Ken Harbaugh:

In Ohio, this has also become a fight about democracy itself. How do we realize the will of the people? We assumed it was a constitutional amendment, but when you're up against a highly gerrymandered state legislature, even that might not be enough.

And I think it belies this notion that the Republican party is representative. And I would just love your thoughts on how you resolve these kinds of fundamental moral conflicts in a democracy.

I have always maintained that you have to win enough people over to get your way in a democratic venue, in a legislature, in a congress, on a school board or something like that. The Republicans seem to be abandoning that.

In Ohio, they don't seem to be trying to win people over. And obviously there's a subtext there, but it's really scary because the logical endpoint of that is autocracy.

Amy McGrath:

Right. And de-authoritarianism that they're moving towards. I think you're absolutely right. Look, the Republicans know that their policies are not popular, and the future is not with them. They know this.

As younger people see the two sides demographics are changing in America. And the Republicans know they are the minority party, and the only way they have been able to succeed to this point in the last, I would say 10 years, maybe 20, is the way our system can is skewed toward the minority.

And I'm talking about the electoral college. I'm talking about the makeup of the Senate. We have more people in San Diego, California than there is in Wyoming. Wyoming gets two senators and a representative. San Diego gets a couple representatives.

And I mean, this is our system, and it is what it is. But let's be clear about who it benefits in terms of political parties. I mean, look, the Republicans, you'd catch me on this fact here, but I think four out of the last five elections that were won by Republicans were not won in the popular vote. Might've been three of the four, but I mean, that's a lot.

And that means that Republicans aren't winning the population, and how do we long term have a democracy where the majority of people want something and it's continually not getting done? And when you talk about the left and people on the left, I can see the frustration because they are the majority, but they can't get their policies enacted because of our skewed system.

And I think Republicans look at that and say, we can't win people over because our policies are not where the majority of Americans are. So, we have to continue to try to tinker with that system, whether it's going after voting rights, whether it's solidifying gerrymandering, whether it's trying to in your case in Ohio, go around the popular vote on a constitutional amendment, whatever it is, inserting our judges to be able to rule the way we want them to rule. That's how we continue to keep our policies in place.

Ken Harbaugh:

Let me offer two more data points about the undemocratic approach of the Republican party and how they are in fact increasing to lose a share of the popular vote. The Senate hasn't represented a majority of Republican voters across the country since 1996.

And even today with the Senate almost perfectly divided, Democratic senators represent 40 million more Americans. And I think Republicans look at that with no plan whatsoever to reverse that trend and win over more Americans.

They look at it as an incentive to entrench those anti-democratic features to make sure that they can retain power with a minority of the vote.

And we're now hearing about this project 2025, which is a plan for the opening days, weeks, months of a new Trump administration to solidify Trump control, to entrench Trump loyalists, to gut institutional protections, and even to deploy the military against fellow Americans. Have you seen some of this reporting and how do you feel about it?

Amy McGrath:

Yeah. I think it's very scary and not surprising. Look, Donald Trump, and his people learned their lesson from 2016 to 2020, and the big lesson they learned was we can get Trump into office with all of his rhetoric and crazy ideas, but if you surround him with H.R. McMaster and John Kelly and Jim Mattis and those people, they will obstruct, they will not allow him to do his crazy plans.

And so, we now have to make sure that we have a bench ready to go on day one. Because remember when Trump won in 2016, he didn't have a bench ready, and he sort of got these people that were sort of the normal Republican administration people ready to go.

And now there's this feeling that that's not good enough. We have to have complete loyalty, and beyond that, we want to have people who are actually going to dismantle the federal government and its systems and its checks and balances that have been worked for hundreds of years.

And that to me is extremely scary. It's being run by the Heritage Foundation, which used to be somewhat respectable. Back when I was a on the Hill as a Marine Corps fellow, Heritage was somewhat respectable. And now they have taken the MAGA mantle, and they basically want to have a list of loyalists that they can insert to take over our government.

Ken Harbaugh:

General Milley is near the top of that list of people that would be prosecuted in a new Trump administration. Do you think that his peers, the four-star flag and general officers are … should they be more outspoken?

Why haven't we heard from Mattis and others, is there a line that a project 2025 might cross that would see these people finally come together and speak out in a loud voice, acknowledging that some of them have you have some like McCraven and McChrystal who have been very outspoken and I think moved some people, but why aren't there more?

Amy McGrath:

I think that this rhetoric is extremely dangerous. And I can't speak for those members of higher-ranking officials who were actually in the Trump administration as to why they haven't come out more forcefully. Although they have said a few things. I know John Kelly has said a few things about Trump which is good because he is basically just telling the truth.

There are however hundreds of former national security leaders people who worked in Republican administrations and Democratic administrations who have been pretty vocal and have stood up. I'm actually started an organization with a group called National Security Leaders for America, a partnership with them. And the operation that we're doing is Operation Saving Democracy.

And the goal behind that is to amplify their voices. So they're already out there, there's about 700 of them around the country talking about the dangers of not only Trump back in the White House, Ken, but Trumpism, these are former generals, admirals and ambassadors people who are talking about the national security issues of this man back in the White House and what he wants to do.

The idea that you would use the military in domestic matters, which Trump has said he would do. He said that “Hey, next administration, I'm going to do this more. I'm going to use the military more.”

Ken Harbaugh:

He hasn't just said it, he's demonstrated it. He tried to invoke the Insurrection Act.

Amy McGrath:

Yeah. And he will do it again. He will fill his positions with loyalists. I think we're learning more and more about January 6th and about what he tried to do to overthrow the election. And it's extremely dangerous.

But there are people, General McChrystal is not the only four star out there. There's a lot. And a lot of them have, have stood up and have, have had the courage to say, okay, I need to be forceful. I need to speak out here.

And that's what I'm doing, trying to help them amplify their voices, because I think that everyday Americans should know the dangers. It's one thing when politics Democrats stand up and say, “That's very dangerous.”

It’s another thing when a three star, retired, or four star or former ambassador who worked in a Republican administration stands up and says, “Hey, this is very dangerous, and here's why.”

Ken Harbaugh:

I really hope you're right. I love what you're doing with Operation Saving Democracy. I've been tracking it. I think National Security Leaders for America is a great organization, but I wonder if the MAGA base that is going to propel Trump to the nomination and then potentially the presidency.

I wonder how much impact these senior leaders have on the electorate. I'm thinking about that letter signed by every Secretary of Defense, Republican and Democrat. And I mean, it certainly affected me, it affected people in my orbit, but it doesn't seem to have dimmed at all the attraction that people have for Trump.

I'm wondering if there's anything we can do in terms of deploying influencers and luminaries to sway that crowd.

Amy McGrath:

Yeah, I don't think it's going to get everybody. And you've got your loyalists. But I will say though, that with a lot of people who are not tracking these issues, if it's amplified in such a way that it gets on their radar, I think they will take a second look.

I mean, a lot of times when you write a letter of endorsement, I mean, only the politicos see it. So, you've got to put resources behind it. It's got to get on your phone, it's got to get in front of you in your daily lives. And influencers are a way to do that.

But we're not looking to sway the MAGA base here. They're not going to be swayed. We're looking to sway that 1%, maybe 2% of the population who have traditionally voted Republican because Republican party has been seen traditionally as the party of national security.

We have an opening now in ways that we haven't ever had in the last 20 years where the Republican party is seating that ground almost on a daily basis. They're disqualifying themselves as the party of national security on a daily basis.

Between Tommy Tuberville’s antics and holding up our military and slapping military families in the face, slapping women in the military in the face to the elevation of Marjorie Taylor Greene to the committee on Homeland Security, somebody who praised people who hand out classified information, to their constant bowing down to Donald Trump who has 91 indictments against him.

All that stuff. All the GOP Republican nominees are talking about bombing Mexico. “Oh, that's a good thing, to bomb our biggest trading partner without their knowledge,” that's ridiculous. I think there is a way right now.

There was a man who got up in front of Tim Scott who he was campaigning, he's a senator who's campaigning for president right now. One of the many-

Ken Harbaugh:

Wait, just announced that he's dropping out, so-

Amy McGrath:

He dropped out. Okay. But this story still applies. So, he was up in New Hampshire, and this older gentleman who had a U.S. Navy hat on, comes to his rally, is Republican, he’s voted Republican. And he said to him, “How can you stand up to Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un if you can't stand up to Donald Trump?”

Now, I don’t know if that guy's going to vote for Joe Biden. I have no idea. But I'm telling you, that's the kind of person that traditionally has been Republican who Democrats and Joe Biden need to make sure that he knows the national security concerns of Trumpism, it seems like he gets it. That's the kind of voter, only 1%. That's who we're going after.

Ken Harbaugh:

I think one of the things you and I have to remind ourselves of constantly is that most Americans don't swim in politics 24/7, like we do. One of the occupational hazards of hosting a show like this, I'm sure you suffer from it as well, is that you assume everybody knows that John Kelly just outed President Trump as disparaging a wounded veteran. You assume that everybody knows that every court in the country said his big lie election claims had no basis.

The things that we take for granted, we still need to communicate during the general election season to those voters. You're right, and I was intentionally asking the question provocatively, we're not going to get that MAGA base, but we don't need them. We don't need many of them, at least, if we get the middle …

Amy McGrath:

And you're right on Ken, when you say, wow, well look, people don't seem to be swayed by this or that. And a lot of that is because it made headlines for a day and then when a year later when people are voting, nobody talks about it.

The going after veterans calling veterans losers and suckers, not wanting to go to the graves of United States Marines that were killed in Belleau Wood because he didn't want to get his hair wet. That kind of stuff, look, you go anywhere in this country, I don't care, New York City, Chicago, or small-town America, you have Veterans Day parades.

Kids come out with their flags. At the youngest age, Americans are taught, thankfully, to respect veterans and respect those who gave their lives for this country.

Voters may not know where Ukraine is. They may not understand the selling out of military equipment and everything that President Trump did in Ukraine. They may not understand Hamas or over there in Israel, that may not hit people. They may not even understand classified material and why that's so important not to have hanging out in your closet and bathroom.

I'll tell you what, when you call veterans losers and suckers those same people that drove down the parade where since you were five-years-old, you've been standing, waving a flag and thanking them, that hits to the core of America.

And it's that, that needs to be amplified this time. Well, not this time, next year, 11 months from now, 10 months from now. And it needs to be done, in my opinion, by an independent organization that reminds people of this. Because if you don't remind them, it's like it never happened.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, I am very heartened to see Operation Saving Democracy on the ground now and beginning to make waves. We'll certainly be tracking it. I'll put a link in the show notes.

I have a couple of other quick questions for you, somewhat non-sequitur, but as a Kentuckian, I need you to weigh in on your recent election, huge win for the gubernatorial race, but Republicans won statewide nearly everywhere else. Can you help us understand that and what can we learn from it?

Amy McGrath:

Yeah, Kentucky is still very much a red state. Governor Beshear has been a good governor. He won his first election against a very unpopular incumbent Republican governor four years ago. And has won reelection. He won reelection because he's been a competent good governor. And he has the power of the incumbency, and that's great.

Remember though that all the down ballots, the incumbents were Republicans. So, they came up with for reelection, some of them did, some of them were open seats.

Kentucky's still very much a Republican dominated and red state. And if you don't have the resources, which a lot of these down ballots just don't have, because a lot of people don't invest in Kentucky because it's a red state.

It's very hard to get over that mountain. I always try to remind people; Trump didn't win here in Kentucky by three points. He won by like 30. So, that's hard. That's a hard mountain to climb. And governor Beshear has been a good governor and that's great for Kentucky. It's a great win for that seat. I wish it would've been all the way down the ballot, but we'll deal with that.

Ken Harbaugh:

Alright, last question. Thoughts on the newly unveiled — I'm trying not to chuckle through this Supreme Court ethics code. I'm going editorialize a little bit first. You probably are thinking the same thing.

The only thing SCOTUS has is the faith that the public has in it. It doesn't have an army; it doesn't have the ability to pass legislation. Once that faith is diminished or God forbid gone, an ethics code isn't going to bring it back. How worried are you about our third branch of government?

Amy McGrath:

I'm very worried. It's really sad to see that this has happened. It's a function of people like Mitch McConnell and shoving in Supreme Court justices, in my opinion, in a very terrible way that may have been legally okay, but just flies in the face of good faith.

When you hold up a seat for almost a year, because you want the people to be heard on that seat. And then, fast forward a couple years, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies a month before the election, then you ram through somebody you want because you know the election's probably not going to go your way.

And that to me is, it's just sad. That can, on top of the fact that I think four or five of the justices were appointed by a president who was not elected by the popular vote. So again, you have the minority of people in America kind of inserting their folks in there.

And then on top of it the rulings like Roe, like the repeal of Roe. I mean, you can't say that I'm for precedent. And then, when you get into office, just throw it all away. People look at that, and they're like, well, we don't trust you. And it does come back to trust. And this ethics thing is just a little piece of that. Look what Clarence Thomas did, like you and I in the military.

We’ve been prosecuted for that stuff. We've been kicked out for that. And I mean, see how does the Supreme Court justice get away with that for years? Well, he gets away with it because we always just defer to them, oh, they're Supreme Court justices. They must be doing the right thing.

Well, turns out they weren't doing the right thing. And I don't think they're ever going to get that trust back, to be honest with you. Unless there's an ethics code or whatever you want to say that is actually enforceable. And this one, it appears to be just kind of fluff.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, this really does worry me because as critical as I am of the Supreme Court, and it's going to sound bad, but that's actually ad hominem. I'm not critical of the institution. I'm critical of certain actors within that institution who have betrayed the public trust.

And you referenced Clarence Thomas and his literal apparent taking of bribes, because that flows downwards and the rest of our judicial system provides the guardrails. It was the judicial system that kept Trump's legal arguments leading up to January 6th from winning the day.

And I'm saying this as a lawyer, I think it is absolutely essential that the American public believe in their legal system. At the same time, we have a Supreme Court on which individual actors have betrayed that same public. And I think we have to go beyond an ethics code and fundamentally reform the court. I'm for-

Amy McGrath:

Term limits.

Ken Harbaugh:

Term limits, I was going to say term limits at the top of the list. Maybe even expand the courts. But term limits would do so much.

Amy McGrath:

They would, and it comes down to this, look, we're all human. We'd all probably love glamorous vacations with billionaires and be able to fly on their private jets. That would be a lot of fun. And for our families too.

You sacrifice a lot in public service. The Supreme Court Justice doesn't get paid a ton. And this is the problem. You have a lifetime appointment. They look at this as well, I'm never going to get to that billionaire status, so let me just ride it out while I can.

And it's human nature. And it's like the military, if you want that kind of lifestyle, you want to hang out with billionaires and do that kind of thing, don't become a Supreme Court Justice. Don't take an appointment in public service because it's public service and you have a lot of power in public service. We give that to you as a democracy.

Certainly, Supreme Court justices have a lot of power, but with that comes, not only responsibility, but also you can't hang out and run around and have your kids' college education paid for by billionaires and all that stuff. So, if you don't want that, then don't take that job or resign. Clarence Thomas resign, and you could make millions, resign your position then if you want that.

Ken Harbaugh:

Well, Amy, great as always having you on, we'll obviously put links in the notes, but can you tell people where to go so they hear it as well for Operation Saving Democracy?

Amy McGrath:

Yeah. Operationsavingdemocracy.org. And you can google it. It's an important initiative right now to amplify the national security concern that Trump and Trumpism how they are threats to our country and to our democracy. So, if people want to be involved, we really welcome that and we're going to be working hard going forward.

Ken Harbaugh:

Thanks, Amy. Great having you.

Amy McGrath:

Awesome.

Ken Harbaugh:

Thanks for listening to Burn the Boats. If you have any feedback, please email the team at [email protected]. We're always looking to improve the show.

For updates and more, follow us on Twitter at Team_Harbaugh. And if you enjoyed this episode, don't forget to rate, and review.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Our producer is Declan Rohrs and Sean Rule-Hoffman is our audio engineer. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers, Joan Andrews, Michael DeAloia, and David Moss.

I'm Ken Harbaugh and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.


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