Tagged: Barack Obama

"Likewise, Calling President Obama A 'Spineless, Lying Weasel' Could Engender Memories Of The Days When African-Americans Were Whipped For Lying. And Had Nothing To Eat But Weasels."

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How to criticize Obama without being a racist:  a four step guide from the Daily Kos, which is undergoing a series of "purges" due to accusations of racism against members who, three years later, are having second thoughts about Barack Obama.

Short answer: There are ways to criticize Obama without being a racist (as opposed to being called a racist), and there are negative things that one can say about the man that, objectively, are not racist.  We're just not going to tell you what those are.

A sample:

Do keep in mind that positive references based on Obama's race are generally acceptable. We don't have to always talk about Obama in non-racial terms. After all, whenever we speak of the "historic" nature of his Presidency, it's usually an explicit reference to the fact that he is the first black President. Clearly there's nothing wrong with that.

But even that can get dicey, however, because you open the door to a negative race-based criticism. Some have argued that President Obama cannot confront the Republicans the way many of us would like because he can't afford to fall into the "angry black man" trap. Well, OK, but does that mean that those of us who want a "fighter" for our side as President should never consider voting for a black man?

What happens when dissent arises in the midst of a community that, in large part, defines itself by ad hominem attacks on those who disagree with its political views as racist, fascist, and the like?  A community of which a sizeable number are actively hostile to free speech as an ideal?

The results aren't pretty, but they're amusing.

I Think This Kind of Makes Him A Dick, But Apparently It's Wrong To Say So

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When I indulged in an infuriated rant against Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week because her reaction to questions about the legality of our Libyan bombing campaign was a Rovian "whose side are you on," some people suggested that I had taken her out of context. They say that the Obama Administration does not really mean to create a with-us-or-against-us dichotomy to discredit people who have concerned about compliance with the War Powers Act or limits on executive power.

Fair enough. Let's ask the Big Guy himself:

I’m not a Supreme Court justice so I’m not going to — putting my constitutional law professor hat on here. Let me focus on, initially, the issue of Libya. I want to talk about the substance of Libya because there’s been all kinds of noise about process and congressional consultation and so forth. Let’s talk about concretely what’s happened.

Muammar Qaddafi, who, prior to Osama bin Laden, was responsible for more American deaths than just about anybody on the planet, was threatening to massacre his people. And as part of an international coalition, under a U.N. mandate that is almost unprecedented, we went in and took out air defense systems so that an international coalition could provide a no-fly zone, could protect — provide humanitarian protection to the people on the ground.

I spoke to the American people about what we would do. I said there would be no troops on the ground. I said that we would not be carrying the lion’s share of this operation, but as members of NATO, we would be supportive of it because it’s in our national security interest and also because it’s the right thing to do.

We have done exactly what I said we would do. We have not put any boots on the ground. And our allies — who, historically, we’ve complained aren’t willing to carry enough of the load when it comes to NATO operations — have carried a big load when it comes to these NATO operations. And as a consequence, we’ve protected thousands of people in Libya; we have not seen a single U.S. casualty; there’s no risks of additional escalation. This operation is limited in time and in scope.

So I said to the American people, here’s our narrow mission. We have carried out that narrow mission in exemplary fashion. And throughout this process we consulted with Congress. We’ve had 10 hearings on it. We’ve sent reams of information about what the operations are. I’ve had all the members of Congress over to talk about it. So a lot of this fuss is politics.

And if you look substantively at what we’ve done, we have done exactly what we said to do, under a U.N. mandate, and we have protected thousands of lives in the process. And as a consequence, a guy who was a state sponsor of terrorist operations against the United States of America is pinned down and the noose is tightening around him.

Now, when you look at the history of the War Powers resolution, it came up after the Vietnam War in which we had half-a-million soldiers there, tens of thousands of lives lost, hundreds of billions of dollars spent — and Congress said, you know what, we don’t want something like that happening again. So if you’re going to start getting us into those kinds of commitments you’ve got to consult with Congress beforehand.

And I think that such consultation is entirely appropriate. But do I think that our actions in any way violate the War Powers resolution? The answer is no. So I don’t even have to get to the constitutional question. There may be a time in which there was a serious question as to whether or not the War Powers resolution — act was constitutional. I don’t have to get to the question.

We have engaged in a limited operation to help a lot of people against one of the worst tyrants in the world — somebody who nobody should want to defend — and we should be sending a unified message to this guy that he should step down and give his people a fair chance to live their lives without fear. And this suddenly becomes the cause célèbre for some folks in Congress? Come on..

Give this to President Obama: he has a lighter touch than his Secretary of State. He's not only employed a bit of subtlety, he's also give us a change-up, moving from the Rovian "you're objectively pro-enemy" trope to the Rovian "concern about the President blowing shit up is all about politics, not about sincere concerns about war powers or limits on executive power" trope.

But it's still part of the same core message: people who question the extent of my power are insincere and/or disloyal.

Fortunately for Obama, we're much more likely to focus on whether it's civil to call him a dick on the teevee than we are to focus on whether he's adopted the rhetoric he once criticized to defend discretionary expansions of executive power.

My Lord, I Have A Cunning Plan

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I love a mystery.

Today's mystery: what is the operating principle — the strategy — behind White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs' multi-day freak-out?

“I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush. Those people ought to be drug tested,” Gibbs said. “I mean, it’s crazy.”

The press secretary dismissed the “professional left” in terms very similar to those used by their opponents on the ideological right, saying, “They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.”

Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: “They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.”

It's a question that's important for Gibbs' resume, if nothing else. He's done an adequate job so far. But a pilot who has a perfect safety record until he flies a jumbo jet into a mountain in a fit of pique will not be remembered as a good pilot.

Perhaps Gibbs has some elaborate cunning plan that will unfold over the next few news cycles. But he seems to be ignoring some fairly significant points:

First, you dance with the one what brung you, even if the one what brung you is a goddam dirty hippie.

Second, to the extent Gibbs believes he is shoring up support from moderates and the Right by executing a sort of Sister Souljah moment, he fails to grasp that (a) the Right scorns weakness and never responds helpfully to concessions, and (b) hardly anyone genuinely gave a shit about what Sister Soulah thought, but nobody — least of all moderates — gives a shit about what the "Professional Left" thinks.

Third, to the extent you're going to get all indignant about being compared to Bush, you might want to evaluate whether you have, in fact, abandoned or reneged upon most of the ways you said you would do things differently than Bush.

The best case scenario is that Gibbs is amusing and emboldening the Right, offending the Left, and mystifying and concerning the middle, who will think "why is the White House getting all spittle-flecked about criticism from people I haven't heard of and don't care about?" The worst case scenario is that too many voters perceive, correctly, that the White House is saying that it is completely crazy to expect Barack Obama to abide by the principles he articulated as grounds to choose him. All politicians think that. But most are smart enough not to send their Mouth of Sauron out to say it.

Towards A Comprehensive List of Things Obama Is Pushing Us To

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Via Jonathan Turley, I see that Mike Huckabee, a probable candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination for President, had a discussion on Fox with Moral Majority leader Sean LaHaye about whether whether President Obama is pushing us "closer to the apocalypse." No, not metaphorically. As in the end times.

I've heard a lot of things that President Obama is pushing us to, and I realized that it is long past time to compile a comprehensive list, with the help of you, Gentle Readers.

BARACK OBAMA IS PUSHING US CLOSER TO:

1. The Apocalypse/The End of Days/Rapture
2. Socialism/Communism
3. One World Government
4. Slavery
5. Fascism/Nazism
6. Widespread sexual perversion/mandatory and/or widespread homosexuality (how you doin'?)
7. The Destruction of Israel
8. The Downfall of America
9. Economic ruin (within a quasi-capitalist frame of reference)

C'mon, help me out here.

Personally I'm More of a Taft Scholar

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Today, one site of the blogosphere (a term I use almost exclusively to irritate Patrick) is agitated about something, and the other side is making fun of them for it.

Yes, I know you can say that nearly every day.

Today's issue: schoolkids encouraged, on video, to chant "I am an Obama scholar." The freakout, by Gateway Pundit on the right, has a partial quote:

For I, am an Obama scholar.
An Obama scholar.
And I will strive to be.
Outstanding. Brilliant.
I will achieve. I will be motivated with a positive attitude.

The ridicule, by Media Matters on the left, has the somewhat longer context:

Mountain. Move out of my way.
Mountain. Move out of my way.
Mountain of guns.
Move out of my way.
Mountain of drugs.
Move out of my way.
Mountain of violence.
Move out of my way.
Mountain of ignorance.
Move out of my way.
Because I. Am somebody.
And I can be. And I will be.
Anything. Anything. I want to be.
Doctor. Lawyer. Judge. Journalist.
Writer. Firefighter. Principal.
President. President. President.
Anything. I want to be.
If my mind. Can conceive it.
And my heart. Can believe.
Then I know. I know. I know.
I can achieve it.
For I, am an Obama scholar.
An Obama scholar.
And I will strive to be.
Outstanding. Brilliant.
I will achieve. I will be motivated with a positive attitude.
Mountain. Move out of my way.

I'm somewhere in the middle here.

I've already talked at length about why I find such stuff creepy and distasteful, and why I strongly oppose using children for political theatre. creepy. I understand, and acknowledge, the argument that these children — in a class made up mostly of African-Americans — need a strong role model. I just think that there's a line between acknowledging the success of one man, on the one hand, and making him a saintlike figure, on the other. I also don't care for associating actual achievement with political achievement, but that's just me.

By contrast, some of the reactions to this are just plain nutty. This isn't Obama's own fault. It's the fault of the culture, in which he is but one participant.

I Guess John Edwards Wasn't Available

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By now news has broken that the Obama administration hired a New York personal injury lawyer by the name of Eric Turkewitz as the first "White House law blogger."  Yes, the White House will soon have another weblog.

Turkewitz is perhaps best known to the world as the lawyer who sued a Staten Island liquor store on behalf of an alleged robber, who slipped on an icy sidewalk trying to flee the scene of his crime.  He maintains a plaintiffs' personal injury and medical malpractice law firm in Manhattan.  He's quite well known on the web for the "New York Personal Injury Attorney Blog," where Turkewitz spouts off his opinions on everything from oral sex to cross examining doctors for profit.

I've encountered Turkewitz on the web in the past, and even linked to him.  He's a skillful lawyer.  He's an entertaining blogger.  He's probably a decent man, despite the damage he has wreaked upon America's already overburdened insurance industry.  But as the White House's new "public voice" on the law, I predict Turkewitz will be an unmitigated disaster.

First, he's a security risk.  Those who follow legal blogging have suspected for some time that Turkewitz was in talks to take such a position.  He's hinted as much on his blog (which went strangely silent a week ago), on Twitter, and in comments at others' blogs, where he suddenly ramped up the pro-administration rhetoric, even rabidly defending his future masters' attacks on the auto industry in the (now infamously debunked) California Toyota accelerator caseTypically, a man who has been offered a sensitive government position doesn't let the world know it while he's being investigated by the FBI.  What will Turkewitz leak the next time the Obama administration vets nominees for the Supreme Court, as is widely expected to happen this summer if John Paul Stevens retires?

Second, he's not just a security risk because he's loose lipped.  A careful reading of Turkewitz's record as a blogger raises questions about his patriotism, especially as it pertains to the War on Terror.  Consider past reckless statements on Professor John Yoo, whom Turkewitz described as a "torture lawyer".  As I understand it (a friend who serves on staff for the Senate Judiciary Committee confirms the administration was moving to hire a legal commentator for the web), Turkewitz won't be serving the press office, but the office of White House counsel.

If a "ticking time bomb" scenario arises, if Bin Laden or some other high Al Qaeda figure is captured and interrogated, will Turkewitz, as a member of the White House legal team, be able to restrain himself?  Or will he denounce fellow government lawyers as torture artists?

Third, if Turkewitz's past is any indicator, you can forget about changing the tone in Washington, or any hint of civility.  The next time the administration (or perhaps Turkewitz himself) disagrees with a court, can we expect the mockery and hostility that led Turkewitz to denounce a past Supreme Court nominee as "error-riddled" and an "embarrassingly silly hypocrite"?

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, why has the White House chosen a medical malpractice lawyer to speak for it on legal issues?  Is this some sort of payback to Fred Baron and the rest of the plaintiffs' trial lawyer bar?  Is this evidence of some new "health care reform" initiative for the benefit of lawyers who prey on the medical profession?  To my knowledge Turkewitz has never practiced as a constitutional lawyer.  Why has the White House (Obama is also a lawyer, heavily indebted to the trial bar for his election) chosen this man, who is no more qualified to speak about the Constitution than the Geto Boyz, to be its voice on issues such as free speech, national security, and the constitutionality of the health insurance mandate?

This is just the tip of the iceberg where the White House's new law blogger is concerned.  Eric Turkewitz has maintained a public voice for years.  Expect Republicans, and others who care about the dignity of the law, to dig up far more as Turkewitz becomes the administration's new mouthpiece.

It's a shame.  A White House law blog could be a great idea, a tool to engage with citizens about the part of their government many understand least.  But to put it in the hands of a character assassin like Eric Turkewitz?  Rather than "Hope" and "Change", this looks like business as usual for Washington.

Update: 4/2/2010 I suppose I should have guessed that this was an April Fools Day joke on the part of Mr. Turkewitz.  Sneaky New York lawyers, can't trust a one of them.

As documented by Turkewitz, it also appears that you can't trust certain New York newspapers.  I was sure we'd get the right-wing blogosphere with this post, and the media would ignore it.  It turns out (I have a few emails from bloggers I'd tried to deceive, commending Turkewitz's joke and saying "Thanks, but no thanks," to me) that bloggers are a litle more in touch with the calendar than certain big time journalists.

How's That Hopey Changey Stuff Workin' Out For Ya?

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Didn't we fight a war for independence from Britain over this sort of thing?

The White House is considering endorsing a law that would allow the indefinite detention of some alleged terrorists without trial as part of efforts to break a logjam with Congress over President Barack Obama’s plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Monday.

Last summer, White House officials said they had ruled out seeking a “preventive detention” statute as a way to deal with anti-terror detainees, saying the administration would hold any Guantanamo prisoners brought to the U.S. in criminal courts or under the general “law of war” principles permitting detention of enemy combatants.

However, speaking at a news conference in Greenville, S.C., Monday, Graham said the White House now seems open to a new law to lay out the standards for open-ended imprisonment of those alleged to be members of or fighters for Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

That would be life imprisonment without benefit of trial, either by civil jury, by judge, or even a court-martial.

Of course, the Constitution, as I once read it, would seem to prohibit such a thing.  The idea that the executive branch, with congressional approval, could declare any criminal conspiracy or subversive organization the proponent of war or rebellion, and detain alleged members without trial, forever, seems to cut against the grain of the Fifth Amendment's guaranty that liberty shall not be taken without due process of law, or the Sixth Amendment's protection of the right to a speedy trial before a jury in criminal prosecution.

Oh, silly framers!  You forgot to define "due process of law"!  You forgot to define "criminal prosecution"!   You just assumed people would know what those terms meant.  Well, the Constitution is a "living, breathing document," with "emanations" and "penumbras".

If those emanations and penumbras can live and breathe out things like a natural right to abort a baby, they can certainly squirt out botched abortions like "preventive administrative detention," now can't they?

Mind you, I hold no brief for Khalid Sheikh Muhammad.  I'll cheer as hard when he dances with the Big Needle as I did for Timothy McVeigh.  After he's convicted in a court of law.

And also mind you, Lindsey Graham is a bloviating asshat who takes a prurient interest in the sex lives of political opponents.  He could be bloviating out of his ass now.  But I doubt it.  Obama's been dangling this turd since last May.

I didn't vote for Obama, or McCain for that matter.  But one of the things that I admired in Obama's campaign rhetoric was the promise to return to a rule of law, to adhere to little footnotey-type thoughts like those expressed in the dissent by Justices Scalia and Stevens in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld:

It is difficult to imagine situations in which security is so seriously threatened as to justify indefinite imprisonment without trial, and yet the constitutional conditions of rebellion or invasion are not met.

Oh well, what's a little essential liberty, when the mid-term elections are approaching?

Via.

Ave, Obama. Impositī te salutant!

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Let me be clear: I like it when my employees say nice things about me. But sometimes they go too far, and it's just awkward. Make that ass-kissing just a bit subtle, please, so that I can enjoy the illusion that I really am all that.

The head of the NEA didn't get that memo:

If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, then Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists.

Now, in context, it's pretty clear that the NEA chief means Obama is the most powerful person who is a writer since Julius Caesar, not that he's the most compelling writer since Julius Caesar. (I would characterize Caesar as more insightful than powerful of a writer, anyway.) Nevertheless, you would think that someone as steeped in the arts as Rocco Landesman would recognize that a comparison to Julius Caesar is, under the circumstances, extremely infelicitous.

Perhaps he's gone all swoony.

Also, is Obama really more powerful (considering his political circumstances) than Jefferson, or JFK, or Churchill?

(Latin grammar hat tip to David)

He Didn't Earn It. He Should Return It.

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If Barack Obama wishes to be judged on his own merits, as a politician and a President, rather than as the Norwegian committee's "magic negro," he should decline the Nobel Peace Prize. The Barack Obama who wrote "Dreams from My Father" is a complex and fascinating man.  He is not a token, a fetish, a talisman, or a symbol.  He is not a Morgan Freeman movie character.

And that's all I'll say on the matter.

Update: Well, it isn't all I'll say on the matter.  Awarding the prize to Obama, at this early stage in his political career (he was only a junior Senator this time last year) is the Academy's way of rebuking, yet again, George W. Bush.  The committee had already done that, by awarding the prize to Al Gore.  Bush deserves many rebukes, but the committee has sullied and trivialized itself and its prize with this one.  Obama has not furthered the cause of world peace in any measurable way, because he hasn't had time to do so.  It remains to be seen whether his policies will in fact further world peace.  If the committee gave the prize to Obama as a symbol, on the other hand, as a way of commemorating the achievements of African Americans in rising from segregation to the White House in 40 years, the "magic negro" comment stands.  Awarding the prize to Obama smacks of post-colonial paternalism, and faintly of racism.

"Here's a pat on the head, magic negro.  You've come so far!"

The prize should have been awarded to Richard Holbrooke for the Dayton Accords, his work in Bosnia, and in the Middle East today, or to Harry Wu or another Chinese activist for civil rights.  The only significant war that Obama has resolved is the Henry Louis Gates conflict, and there he had an assist from the makers of Bud Light.  Was Anheuser-Busch at least nominated?

The Shoutout In The Speech

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I watched Obama's oath of office and inaugural address on the TV in the conference room with a dozen of my co-workers, who run the political gamut. There was a diverse collection of snorts (at Rick Warren's frankly odd and creepy intonation of the Obama girls' names, for instance), good-natured snickers (at Obama, who seemed nervous and unlike himself during the oath, and Chief Judge Roberts, who looked poleaxed and seemed to sprint off of the stage), and approving nods (at many of the performances, and at the the delivery — if not, universally, the content — of Obama's speech).

I wanted to call attention to one line:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.

I'm not a non-believer. I'm a Presbyterian — a deacon, in fact. But I was happy and proud to arrive at a time when the President of the United States would make such a clear statement of inclusion in such an important speech. I know, and respect, many atheists and agnostics — among them my father and close friends. I abhor any suggestion that they are less than full and equal participants in American society. That's a suggestion delivered by, for instance, polls suggesting that a majority of Americans say they would not vote for an atheist, and by a large component of modern political rhetoric. For better or worse, with or without scriptural basis, I feel that my relationship with God requires tolerance of the private beliefs of others. And I'm quite certain that in the long term the security of my freedom to worship as I will depends upon vigilant defense of other people's right not to worship. A civic culture that officially denigrates people for lack of faith is a civic culture that will, sooner or later, intrude into the private sphere of belief in other ways.

Arguably the message of inclusion was watered down by the omnipresent invocation of "civic religion" during the proceedings. But that's an argument for another day.

What Sin Is Triangulation A Euphemism For Again?

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While it does seem a bit odd that Barack Obama would choose Pastor Rick Warren (best known for allegedly favoring John McCain in a debate at Warren's church, and, for those who enjoy such things, a certain lunatic conspiracy theory)  to officiate at Obama's inauguration, it's probably a better choice than Jeremiah Wright.

That's about the best I can say for it.

The Freakout Continues

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Something Awful's "Weekend Web" feature has been silent of late, unfortunately. The SA writers visit the horrific places on the internet so that you don't have to, plumbing the depths of furry fandom, racists, fetishists, fanbois, and freaks of every flavor, then favoring us with choice quotes from their forums. It's spellbinding (until they do a feature on you, that is — then you're all "what was wrong with that post? I was being perfectly reasonable!")

Anyway, Weekend Web comes roaring back this week with a feature on reactions to Obama's election. When Facebook becomes indistinguishable from StormFront, you've gotta think there are some damaged people out there. Laugh, so you won't cry.

My personal favorite — Eugene Gardner, businessman from Virginia, boasting that he will fire everyone who voted Democrat, for FREEDOM.