Archive for July 25th, 2006

Some folks defend Bush’s recent legal power grabs – the signing statements, the use of “enemy combatant” status, illegal wiretapping, and so forth – by saying there’s some legal arguments that support his moves.

Um, yes. There are probably legal arguments for every hare-brained scheme imaginable. Kind of like claiming the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment (“Nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”) supports regulatory takings bills (like, say, CI-154).

Recently, Presidential legal contortionist – er, legal advisor, John YWoo, wrote a guest editorial in the LA Times decrying the Supreme Court’s smackdown of the administration in the recent Hamdan decision. You can see from reading this tripe – er, opinion – that this guy is a piece of work and is living in fantasyland – er, Berkeley. I’m no legal scholar, but…

First, YWoo compares Bush to…heh heh…Lincoln and…no, I’m serious!…FDR during their wartime activities. Woo claims that, like those previous Presidents, Bush needs to act decisively and quickly to war situations:

Long-standing U.S. practice recognizes that the president, as commander in chief, plays the leading role in wartime. Presidents have started wars without congressional authorization, and they have exercised complete control over military strategy and tactics. They can act with a speed, unity and secrecy that the other branches of government cannot match.

Of course, FDR was working within an actual war, as declared by Congress, not a battle against an emotion, as declared by, well, Bush. It is true that both Lincoln and FDR pursued Constitutionally questionable policies – Lincoln’s suspension of habeus corpus for suspected Confederate spies, FDR’s Japanese internment camps – but in those cases the actions were approved of by Congress and later stopped because of their questionable legality. (In the case of the internment camps, the government was later forced to compensate the internees for the illegal seizing of property and their forced displacement.)

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation is trickier and deserves its own post, but let’s just say it was pretty much just for show. And it was a Constitutional Amendment that outlawed slavery, not the EP. (Does Woo really want to compare the Bush administration’s policies of torture and illegal detainment to freeing slaves?)

The Sept. 11 attacks succeeded in part because our government was mired in a terrorism-as-crime approach that worried less about preventing attacks than about hypothetical threats to civil liberties — hence the “wall” preventing our law enforcement and intelligence agencies from sharing information. Our laws considered war as conflict only between nations and failed to anticipate the rise of non-state terrorist organizations that could kill 3,000 Americans, destroy the World Trade Center and damage the Pentagon in a single day.Bush invoked his constitutional authority to fight this shadowy enemy that does not wear uniforms, targets civilians and violates every rule of civilized warfare.

This is where Bush administration fantasy really kicks in. The best way to fight terrorism is, of course, using terror-as-crime techniques. Israel has demonstrated this for decades. Whenever it uses conventional armies to weed out terrorists groups – like, say, in Lebanon – it seems like the actions only exacerbate tension and create more terror. We see this in Iraq – a previously secular dictatorship that now spawns over 100 terror victims every day.

No, the best way to defeat terror is to cut off terrorist funding, use intelligence-gathering and police techniques to find and identify terrorists, then use special forces to go in and arrest or kill the b*stards. These actions should accompany efforts to eradicate the roots of terror with vigorous economic packages and investment in areas that breed terrorism. It may not be foolproof, but it’d be about a million times more successful — and cheaper –than, say, invading Iraq.

The point is that the administration is creating from terrorist groups a mysterious and powerful boogeyman to scare us into giving up power to the executive. Terrorist groups are neither. With a little more effort, the Bush administration could probably have thwarted 9/11. A competent federal crime agency can fight terror while obeying the rule of law. (Key word: “competent.”)

YWoo concludes with an attack on the Supreme Court for “interfering” in the Hamdan case:

What makes this war different is not that the president acted while Congress watched but that the Supreme Court interfered while fighting was ongoing. Given its seizure of control over some of society’s most contentious issues, such as abortion, affirmative action and religion, maybe the court’s intervention should come as no surprise.

Uh…? Did he read Hamdan? The SCOTUS basically said that courts should decide legal cases of detainees, not the military. That is, the courts should rule on the law. That’s…well…what courts do. But YWoo knows the law better than the SCOTUS! Courts are for keeping their mouths shut while Presidents do! (Seems to me this is a good way to p*ss off the judiciary…)

Now another area of the administration’s power grab is under attack. The American Bar issued a one-of-kind direct challenge to the President challenging his use of signing statements, which finally goads Arlen Specter into action.

I’m sure YWoo thinks the ABA doesn’t know what it’s talking about, either.

It’s time to face facts: Woo and Gonzalez and the rest of the administration’s legal staff are hired, not to advise the President on the rule of law, but to distort and twist the interpretation of law so that lil’ Dinky can do whatever the h*ll he wants.

Update: Oops! I wrote “Woo” instead of “Yoo” yesterday. John Woo is, of course, the action filmmaker. My apologies to Woo.

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Links…

Local bloggers post about the “terrible trio” of extremist initiatives. Matt Singer writes about Montanans in Action’s attempt to mislead voters; Shane Mason presents a “fact sheet” on the “Stop Overspending” bill, CI-97; and our local Liberal Whacko chimes in on all three initiatives.

Why is Conrad Burns ashamed of our troop presence in Iraq?

Meanwhile, the Senator’s position in Congress has fallen so much, he can’t get some $60 million in pork to Montana in time for the elections. I guess his peers can read the writing on the wall…

Speaking of pork, what’s up with these free-spending “conservatives” these days? Why is the federal government paying for ice rinks and city lighting?

Hey! A Missoulian editorial I agree with! Clean up the Mike Horse dam now!

Joe Klein on Joe Lieberman: “Let’s stipulate that Lieberman’s position [on Iraq] is honorable, heartfelt and politically courageous. But it is annoying, nonetheless.”

Lieberman uses Bush-like tactics and ejects Lamont supporters from his appearance with Clinton. Um…this is how Lieberman plans on winning the primary?

Human Rights Watch: the US is still torturing detainees.

Meanwhile, Senator Arlen Specter threatens to sue the President. Hm, are pigs being fitted for wings over there?

The “Scarlet R”: An anonymous GOP candidate is ashamed of his party affiliation.

Just what you need to know: the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill. Um…do these people take themselves a little too seriously, or what?

The Idaho quarter is kick *ss!

Rolling Stones to play in Missoula?

I don’t post too much about the Connecticut Senate primary pitting Joe Lieberman against his upstart challenger Ned Lamont: I try to keep things local with an occasional post on some federal issue. (Plus I save the other stuff for the American Prospect.) But today I feel compelled to write on some remarks Bill Clinton made while stumping for Joe yesterday. They sure as h*ll p*ssed me off:

In a 23-minute speech, where his statements were often cut off by applause, Clinton called the controversy over the war in Iraq “the pink elephant in the living room,” which should not divide Democrats, who are minorities in both the U.S. House and Senate.”The real issue is, what are we going to do now?”

The friggin’ pink elephant in the living room?

You know, I would trade my right arm to swap President dinky for Clinton. In a heartbeat. Say what you want about his sexual proclivities or his “slick-ness,” he was a hellva better President than our current fella. (Of course a house plant could run the country better, IMHO.) But this reminded me how he used to p*ss me off when he was the Prez.

So the Iraq War is just a “pink elephant in the livingroom.”

Forget the thousands of servicemen and –women who have given their lives in the conflict. Forget the tens of thousands of dead Iraqis. Forget the fact that our security is now compromised by the war – our borders remain porous because the war is sucking up federal funds, we’re unable to threaten North Korea or Iran militarily because our armed forces are bogged down in an unwinnable quagmire. Forget the fact that the war is draining our coffers, increasing the deficit and push our collective future down a sinkhole. Forget about the rudderless administration’s inability to deal with the war.

And above all, forget about Joe Lieberman’s unwavering support for a President’s failed, aimless, and incompetent war policy. And forget the fact that Lieberman claimed that anybody who disagreed with him – and the President – was an unpatriotic America-hater.

Forget all these irritating little details. It’s just a “pink elephant.”

These people just don’t get it. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton and the conservative and out-of-touch DLC unveiled their new agenda: the “American Dream Initiative.” (Notice the not-so-subtle reference to MLK’s “I have a dream” speech.) It’s not a bad deal, the initiative, which seeks universal health care for children (not enough, but I’ll take it), retirement pensions for workers, and easier access to college. Good.

But the DLC’s initiative doesn’t even mention the number one issue important to U.S. voters: the pink elephant.

Yet as a platform for Democrats, the initiative is notably silent on what could be the overarching issue of the 2006 elections: the Iraq war. Clinton said the omission was deliberate, since the plan focuses on domestic policy and expanding and strengthening the middle class.

Why are “centrist” Democrats still pretending the war doesn’t exist? Don’t we need a plan for Iraq? Shouldn’t the Republican party be forbidden from meddling in foreign affairs? Haven’t we made enough mistakes?

Look. Most people think the Iraq war has been bungled from the beginning. To avoid the topic is foolish. We demand accountibility.




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