Thursday, June 25, 2009

Someone buy John Shadegg a dictionary

At a press conference I attended today where Republicans accused the EPA of covering up the views of a "career scientist" who questioned the scientific consensus that human activity contributes to climate change, I noted during the question-and-answer period that I had talked to said "scientist" earlier in the day and that he had confirmed to me that he had absolutely no background in climate science. Rather, he was an economist with an undergrad degree in physics.

In response, Arizona Republican John Shadegg congratulated me for demonstrating great "entrepreneurship" by seeking out the EPA employee in question. As I muttered to a reporter sitting next to me, "I don't think that word means what he thinks it does . . ."

Can somebody ask Robert Gibbs why he's lying?

Though there is rampant speculation, there is absolutely no evidence Iran has a nuclear weapons program, as I've noted ad nauseam. Yet this hasn't stopped the Obama administration from repeatedly claiming Iran is actively pursuing nukes, just another example of Hope and Change morphing into More Of The Same.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, White House Press Secretary again distorted the intelligence about Iran's nuclear program -- or more accurately, simply ignored it. And yet again, no reporter called him on it.

Asked whether the White House considers the Iranian president "relevant at all" or whether Obama officials are "more concerned about the relationship with the Supreme Leader," Gibbs offered this garbled response:
I think the -- as I've also said in here before, obviously [the Supreme Leader is] the person who is -- who has the authority to make decisions over national security and foreign policy and the primary national interests that we hold, as I've talked about, the nuclear weapons program and the support and sponsorship of terror are things that are directly under his purview.
It's a shame mainstream liberal organizations quit caring about the whole U.S.-government-distorting-intelligence thing soon after Bush left office. That said, their silence speaks volumes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The AP's disinformation on Iran

Associated Press reporter Anne Gearan has a new piece concerning the Iranian election crisis in which she claims that, no matter the outcome, "the United States will still face an unpredictable adversary that gets closer every day to producing nuclear weapons."

Her piece also states that President Obama's "unspoken strategy aimed at defusing Iran's nuclear threat has been coupled with public messages that seek to avoid giving Iran's rulers any ammunition to claim that the United States is meddling."

Gearan also includes this grammatically challenged line: "Iran's nuclear machinery is still chugging toward the ability to produce nuclear weapons if the regime chooses to do so."

Nowhere does the article mention that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently verified -- again -- that Iran has not diverted any of its declared nuclear material to a covert weapons program. The IAEA also notes in its most recent report (pdf) that Iran is only enriching uranium to levels suitable for nuclear energy; to produce nuclear weapons, Iran would have to expel the IAEA inspectors currently monitoring its nuclear facilities, effectively removing itself from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and thus alerting the whole word to its intentions. Even still, it would take months if not years for Iran to amass enough highly enriched uranium to build a bomb.

Nonetheless, the AP claims Iran is "still chugging toward the ability to produce nuclear weapons" -- which kind of makes the country sound like a Sigma Phi Epsilon pledge -- though the piece does add the caveat: "if the regime chooses to do so," which, you know, kind of contradicts the claim the Iranians are actively "chugging toward" producing a weapon.

Unfortunately, the reporter never gets around to mentioning that the U.S. intellilgence community asserts Iran abandoned any weapons program it may have had more than five years ago and that there's no evidence it has made the decision to ultimately pursue nukes. A recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee report also states that there is "no sign that Iran’s leaders have ordered up a bomb", as I noted in a piece over the weekend for

All these facts appear to be highly relevant to a news analysis concerning Obama's strategy for dealing with Iran's nuclear program. To be fair, the piece was just under 800 words, so there very well might not have been enough room for any evidence challenging the Washington foreign policy consensus about "Iran's nuclear threat". Since the AP claims to be "the world's most essential resource for news," I trust this an oversight that will be addressed in Gearan's next article.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Obama condemns violence in Iran. No word about Pakistan.

Speaking to reporters about the ongoing unrest in Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama declared he was “appalled and outraged” by the events of the past few days, stating that “we deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere it takes place.”

Meanwhile . . .
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An airstrike believed to have been carried out by a United States drone killed at least 60 people at a funeral in South Waziristan on Tuesday, residents of the area and local news reports said.

Details of the attack, which occurred in Makeen, remained unclear, but the reported death toll was exceptionally high. If the reports are indeed accurate and if the attack was carried out by a drone, the strike could be the deadliest since the United States began using the aircraft to fire remotely guided missiles at members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The United States carried out 22 previous drone strikes this year, as the Obama administration has intensified a policy inherited from the Bush administration.
Of course, it would be a grave act of moral equivalence to equate the deaths of a few Pakistanis -- excuse me, “suspected Taliban militants” -- with those protesters who have been victimized by the Iranian regime. After all, it is widely accepted that those accused of being terrorists or opponents of U.S. military action (or do I repeat myself?) are entitled to no legal safeguards save the right to be murdered alongside their families by an unmanned Predator drone -- assuming, that is, they have brown skin and live in a far off land.

Also: Twitter. It’s hard to empathize with a people that aren’t up to date with the latest in American social networking fads.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Shocking News: Democrats put party over principle

Jeremy Scahill has been doing a great job covering the sell-out of self-proclaimed "anti-war" Democrats this week in granting President Obama more than $100 billion to continue his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- wars these same progressive lawmakers claim to oppose. As Scahill notes, 20 Democrats who opposed the war supplementals when President Bush was in office -- and initially opposed Obama's request -- chose to join "the responsible left" in backing the funds not because they had suddenly embraced America's imperial projects overseas, but for the strictly partisan reason that the current president is a Democrat.

Indeed, as Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) told The Hill, she believes "my president is a peacemaker," despite his escalation of the war in Afghanistan and increasing reliance on Predator drone attacks in Pakistan. Accordingly, "I'm going to give him what he wants."

Noticeably absent from Schakowsy's remarks is any attempt to defend the substance of what she was voting for. Instead, it's all about faith in Hope and Change, which Scahill rightly characterizes as the same "Dear Leader knows best" mentality progressives once criticized when exhibited by their conservative counterparts.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) is another progressive Democrat who backed Obama's funding request for wars to which the lawmaker is ostensibly opposed. Earlier today I asked his office if he still opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and if so, "how does he reconcile voting to fund them, something he did not do back when the president was a Republican?"

In response, I was given this June 16th statement from the congressman:
“I have always opposed the Iraq War and will never waiver in that opposition, but today I voted for the supplemental appropriation requested by the President. I did not arrive at this decision easily, but I did so because the President needs- and deserves- our support on this issue.

“We voted for change last November and it rarely happens as quickly as we want, but we elected a man who opposed the war, but who inherited it when he became President. We owe President Obama a chance to lead America safely out of Iraq.

“At the same time, I am very concerned about escalating U.S. military forces elsewhere in the region and I have been vocal in expressing my fear that Afghanistan could become another quagmire. We must not let that happen.”
Again, what you'll see lacking in the above statement is any defense of the substance of bill in question. While McDermott's fear that "Afghanistan could become another quagmire" is well taken, it's not clear how voting for the money that is enabling an escalation of that war in any way prevents that from occurring. McDermott's entire argument for violating his stated opposition to the wars is that the president "needs" and "deserves" his support, though he never gets around to explaining why exactly that is or why those considerations trump the lives of the innocent civilians who will undoubtedly be killed thanks to Obama's well-funded but ill-considered imperial adventures.

McDermott has opposed war funding bills in the past, in 2007 quoting George McGovern on the House floor, saying "if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us." I also noted his vocal opposition to any war with Iran in a piece last year for Inter Press Service, so it's a shame he chose to sacrifice principle for partisanship this time on such a life-and-death matter as war.

But McDermott was not alone. Courtesy of Scahill, here are the rest of the "anti-war" Democrats who voted to fund Obama's wars:
Yvette Clarke, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Jerry Costello, Barney Frank, Luis Gutierrez, Jay Inslee, Steve Kagen, Edward Markey, Doris Matsui, Jim McDermott, George Miller, Grace Napolitano, Richard Neal (MA), James Oberstar, Jan Schakowsky, Mike Thompson, Edolphus Towns, Nydia Velázquez, and Anthony Weiner.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The war on those happier than Indiana congressmen

Despite billions of dollars spent and millions of lives destroyed, the decades-long war on drugs has failed to have any discernible impact on drug use in the United States. While locking up drug users may benefit the prison industry -- nearly a million Americans have been arrested for drug offenses this year alone -- it's increasingly obvious the prohibition approach is no more likely to work with marijuana and cocaine than it did with alcohol.

Yet modern day prohibitionists persist on, like Republican Congressman Mark Kirk of Indiana, who is bravely crusading against the menace of good pot. In a press release, Kirk reports that "Kush users" -- that is, those who smoke pot containing 15% or more of THC -- "are 'zombie-like'", according to local law enforcement, "because of the extreme THC levels." This is of course a reason to jail them.

Though Kirk concedes "longer sentences aren’t the total solution to our nation’s drug problem" -- how progressive of him -- he concludes they'll do for now, arguing in typical myopic drug warrior fashion, "If you can make as much money selling pot as cocaine, you should face the same penalties."

The sin of selling good pot could get one 25 years in prison for a first-time offense if Kirk's legislation is enacted, which fortunately it most certainly will not be. The righteously wrongheaded puritanical zeal behind the bill is noteworthy, however, as the great journalist H.L. Mencken nailed more than 80 years ago in his book, Notes on Democracy, the especially cruel, crusading personality that motivates the sort of b-list Republican congressmen like Kirk to fight on in the face of obvious failure:
But do the Prohibitionists admit the fact [of their failure] frankly, and repudiate their original nonsense? They do not. On the contrary, they keep on demanding more and worse enforcement statutes -- that is to say, more and worse devices for harassing and persecuting their opponents. The more obvious the failure becomes, the more shamelessly they exhibit their genuine motives. In plain words, what moves them is the psychological aberration called sadism. They lust to inflict inconvenience, discomfort, and, whenever possible, disgrace upon the persons they hate -- which is to say, upon everyone who is free from their barbarous theological superstitions, and is having a better time in the world than they are. They cannot stop the use of alcohol, nor even appreciably diminish it, but they can badger and annoy everyone who seeks to use it decently, and they can fill the jails with men taken for purely artificial offences, and they can get satisfaction thereby for the Puritan yearning to browbeat and injure, to torture and terrorize, to punish and humiliate all who show any sign of being happy. And all this they do with a safe line of policemen and judges in front of them; always they can do it without personal risk.
One thing that always amuses me is that the National Press Club has a room named after this Mencken guy. I'm pretty sure he'd write something particularly scathing about that fact were he alive today.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Obama follows Bush's lead on Iran

My latest piece on the Obama administration's deceptive statements about Iran's nuclear program is over at, entitled "Distorting US Intel On Iran: Obama Follows Bush's Lead, Again". An excerpt:
Any intervention by the U.S. government on behalf of the Iranian opposition is destined to backfire given the role it played in overthrowing Iran’s last truly democratically elected prime minister and its subsequent support for the brutal dictatorial reign of the shah, a reality President Obama appears to be mercifully aware of in rejecting self-righteous calls from the likes of John McCain for him to show greater "solidarity" with the Twitter-savvy protesters. Still, while Obama’s generally calm and considered response to the Iranian election is appreciated, it would be nice if he could refrain from repeating unsubstantiated accusations about an active Iranian nuclear weapons program his own Director of National Intelligence says doesn’t exist.
Read the rest.

Friday, June 19, 2009

U.S. journalist turns Iranian dissident

Question: How narcissistic must The Washington Times' Eli Lake be to believe adding a "green overlay" to his Twitter avatar in an act of solidarity with supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi would do anything other than make him look like a desperate moral exhibitionist? Truly, could there be a more pathetic and meaningless gesture?

(Since I first wrote this Lake appears to have reverted to a non-green avatar. Such is the fleetingness of online solidarity.)

Who me, unaware?

After courageously changing his avatar green, the almost endearingly unaware Lake offered this advice:
What's happening in Iran is about Iran. We in the US should refrain from using the demos there as a partisan cudgel here.
about 1 hour ago from web
I think I agree with this statement, but I'm not sure the tone of the domestic debate is helped by accusing people like former National Security Council member and CIA analyst Flynt Leverett of being "an [A]hmadinejad man" -- as Lake does -- for merely pointing out that plenty of Iranians voted for Ahmadinejad the last time around, so it's not entirely implausible that a great number would do so again. But Lake doesn't seem to do the whole self-awareness thing so well.

And while I believe sympathy for the Iranian people is to be commended, allow me to suggest others who it may be more appropriate for Americans to show solidarity with:
-- The more than 7 million Americans behind bars -- the largest prison population in world history -- many for non-violent drug offenses.

-- The 4 million-plus Iraqi refugees forced to flee their homes thanks to the U.S. invasion of their country.

-- Palestinians suffering under a U.S.-financed Israeli occupation and blockade whose votes were dismissed by the West because they weren't for the right party.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama administration still lying about Iran

Iran might be in the midst of another revolution or not, but one thing's certain: the Obama administration is going to persist in referring to an active Iranian nuclear weapons program that its own intelligence agencies say doesn't exist.

Speaking to reporters today on Air Force One, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declared that the U.S. government's "concerns" about Iran aren't any different than they were before the election fiasco:
Obviously we continue to have concern about what we've seen. Obviously the Iranians are looking into this, as well. We continue to be heartened by the enthusiasm of young people in Iran.

But I think what's important is the concerns that we have about their nuclear weapons program, and the concern we have about their support for terror isn’t any different than it was on Friday.
It should be noted that Iran vehemently denies have any desire for a nuclear weapons program, and the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran (pdf) states that "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran." Admiral Dennis Blair, President Obama's director of national intelligence, also testified under oath earlier this year that Iran neither has the highly enriched uranium needed to make a nuke nor has its leadership made the decision to pursue nuclear weapons.

Still, Gibbs, following the lead of Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, continues to refer to an active Iranian "nuclear weapons program", a distortion of intelligence worthy of Dick Cheney. So far no reporters have called him on it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

United Against Nuclear Iran giddy over Ahmadenijad 'victory'

In light of earlier polling data (pdf) showing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad trouncing his opponents in last week’s election, I’m inclined to believe his victory is “legitimate”, as far as these things go, however unfortunate that may be for the Iranian people and for the prospect of improved relations with the U.S. That said, Juan Cole and others have pointed to seemingly credible evidence the election may have been tampered with by the powers that be, preventing anyone from yet concluding with complete certainty what exactly just happened.

Except, that is, for the good folks at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), a hardline group co-founded by Obama officials Richard Holbrooke and Dennis Ross committed to preventing Iran “from fulfilling its ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons.”

Providing further evidence for Daniel Luban of Inter Press Service’s observation that neoconservatives and others itching for a confrontation with Iran were eagerly rooting for an Ahmadenijad victory -- fearmongering about a nuclear Iran being that much easier when there’s a Holocaust-denying demagogue to point to -- UANI President Mark Wallace, a former ambassador under George W. Bush, in a June 14 statement asserts with complete confidence that “Iran has reelected President Ahmadinejad.”

What’s most interesting about Wallace’s statement, though, might be the fact that UANI has finally given up the pretense of giving a damn about the Iranian people. A typically breathless, fear-inducing ad the group is currently running on TV warning Iran’s “radical rulers [are] seeking nuclear weapons” -- an assertion curiously missing a citation -- nonetheless claims Iranians themselves are “young” and “vibrant”, a “people Americans have no quarrel with.”

Ahmadinejad’s apparent election victory, however, has changed all that, with the Iranian people presumably now fair game for America’s liberating firepower. “President Obama offered the hand of diplomacy to the Iranian people,” Wallace says. “Iran has rejected that hand.” The evidence? “Since President Obama's inauguration we have seen more nuclear enrichment from Iran and more missile tests. And now Iran has reelected President Ahmadinejad - a hard-line, holocaust-denying radical.

The solution? “America and the international community must increase Iran's economic isolation.” After spending a good chunk of change on slick anti-Iranian propaganda with which to scare geriatric cable TV watchers, I have a good feeling UANI would have issued that same call for even more economic sanctions no matter who won the election.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fear nutjobs with guns, not 'anti-government' ideas

Casting your political opponents as enemies of the state who are aiding and abetting terrorism -- was it so long ago this was the favored debating tactic of the political right? Fast forward one historic, transformational election, however, and it is the nominal left in this country accusing their opponents of fomenting violence, calling for increased domestic surveillance and alluding to a coming civil war. By no means unexpected, the transformation has been rather stunning, though I must admit I find the prospect of a shoot-out between Daily Kos diarists and Free Republic posters to be somewhat amusing, if a bit unlikely.

Since the tragic shooting at the Holocaust museum, legions of earnest Democrats have been quick to lay blame at right-wing talk radio and the GOP, none less than the hysterical “progressive” journalist David Neiwert, who has spent the better part of a decade selling books to Concerned Liberals on the specter of right-wing violence in America -- along the way smearing anyone who may hold (gasp!) anti-government views. With right-wingers generally reviled as of late -- and for good reason -- it makes sense for someone trying to hawk a new book on the evils of the right to pin the acts of murderous nutjobs on the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. But Neiwert’s latest hack job, typified by the juvenile “wingnut” name-calling in the opening sentence, goes far beyond criticizing right-wing blowhards, instead tarring certain ideas as Officially Off Limits.

For example, criticism of the Federal Reserve is out of bounds -- anti-semitic even -- or so Neiwert implies in this passage about the suspected museum shooter:
[T]he truly telltale aspect of his record: In 1981, he was arrested for attempting a "citizen's arrest" of Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve Building in D.C. and was sentenced to a prison term for it.
More to the point, this is precisely the same belief system that today fuels the cottage industry in conspiracy theories -- promulgated by the likes of Ron Paul and Alex Jones -- that the Fed is part of a massive conspiracy of "international [read: Jewish] bankers" to enslave Americans and destroy the country.
First: Paul Volcker was Federal Reserve Chairman in 1981, not Alan Greenspan, who didn’t take over for another six years. This is probably a good indication of how closely Neiwert has followed economic policy. Admirably, this doesn’t stop him from accusing folks like Ron Paul from being wink-and-a-nod anti-Semites for criticizing Fed policy, despite the fact Paul hates the Fed for inflating the money supply while the Holocaust shooter hated the Fed for precisely the opposite reason: that it wasn't inflating fast enough. Say what you will about Paul’s philosophy, but the man is clearly driven by economic ideology, and in speeches and columns he drones on at length about monetary policy, not The Jews. Example:
The Fed has followed a consistent policy of flooding the economy with easy money, leading to a misallocation of resources and an artificial "boom" followed by a recession or depression when the Fed-created bubble bursts.

Though the Federal Reserve policy harms the average American, it benefits those in a position to take advantage of the cycles in monetary policy. The main beneficiaries are those who receive access to artificially inflated money and/or credit before the inflationary effects of the policy impact the entire economy. Federal Reserve policies also benefit big spending politicians who use the inflated currency created by the Fed to hide the true costs of the welfare-warfare state. It is time for Congress to put the interests of the American people ahead of the special interests and their own appetite for big government.
Huh. I guess there was a secret code in there somewhere.

Neiwert’s suggestion that criticism the Fed is destroying the country is somehow the sole domain of the racist far right is symptomatic of his rigid and outmoded definition of what constitutes “left” and “right”. One needn't be a Bircher to see something wrong with the way the Fed operates, as evidenced by Dennis Kucinich's speeches on the topic. A nominally private institution dominated by banking interests and given the monopoly power to manipulate a nation's currency is of concern to people of many political stripes – witness the majority of the House, including progressive Democrats like Lynne Woolsey, who are co-sponsoring Paul's bill calling for an audit of the secretive Fed. No doubt Neiwert will inform us these people are all promulgating “the same belief system” that drove the Holocaust museum shooter, the bastards.

In many respects, Neiwert is doing for the left what hate sites like Little Green Footballs do for the right: conflating every isolated instance of violence with an emerging “fascist” threat, only replacing Muslims with paranoid hicks. More troubling, he uses his fearmongering to paint his peaceful, non-violent political opponents – like the consistently anti-war Paul – as in league with the basest members of society, not because they objectively incite violence, but because in some instances their views sound superficially similar to those embraced by right-wing conspiracy theorists; ergo a U.S. congressman voicing criticisms of the Fed's monetary policy gives aid and comfort to those who think Ben Bernanke is actually a Jewish-Lizard hybrid.

That The New Republic's insufferable Jamie Kirchick uses the Holocaust museum shooter and the exact same formulation as Neiwert to smear the left -- even citing the “fringe” left's interest in Ron Paul's presidential campaign as evidence of their “views about Israel, the Middle East and 'neocons'” are the same as those of the Holocaust museum shooter -- is a strong indication of how silly this type of argument is, and how it's nothing more than a dishonest tool of partisan hacks too lazy or incapable of rationally debating policy.

And not to undercut Neiwert’s theory of an emergent reactionary menace, but since Obama took office, how many people have been killed in the United States by politically motivated violence? I’m not sure, but I can guarantee you the number’s less than those killed in Pakistan from the drone attacks Obama has authorized. And in terms of threats to minorities, the enlightened, liberal Obama administration oversees the world’s largest prison population, largely consisting of non-violent drug offenders – disproportionately black and Hispanic -- and has shown no signs of promoting serious reform to address this scandalous condition.

Unfortunately, Neiwert and his fellow liberal travelers prefer focusing on the violent hyperbole of their domestic political opponents to the very real and much greater evil of state-sanctioned murder and incarceration. While quick to denounce the “eliminationist” rhetoric of the right, Neiwert characteristically had precious little to say about liberal Hillary Clinton's vow last year to “obliterate” the more than 65 million people of Iran should their government attack Israel. Likewise, Neiwert’s preoccupation with his theories on freelance fascism have caused him to go conspicuously silent on those the progressive Obama administration slaughters overseas, suggesting a rather misplaced set of priorities.

As Reason's Jesse Walker writes of the spate of right-wing violence:
Yes, these murders are terrorism, but they're the sort of terrorism that can be contained by the average small-town police force. If you try to blow them up into a grand pattern that threatens ordinary Americans, you're no different from the C-level conservative pundits who treat every politically motivated crime by a Muslim as evidence of a broad Islamic threat to ordinary Americans' well-being.
Exactly. Conflating a few gun-toting crazies with the threat of a looming civil war might sell a few books and reassure a few liberal of their own superiority, but is about as loony as Glenn Beck accusing Ron Paul supporters of (wait for it) . . . being domestic terrorists.

Meanwhile, as the notorious right-wing extremist Henry David Thoreau wrote when the U.S. government was similarly engaged in an indefensible, immoral war, "How does it become a man to behave toward the American government today? I answer, that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it."

I'm guessing Mr. Thoreau would have a hard time in the Age of Obama posting that on most liberal blogs, the traitorous old kook.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Style over substance

President Barack Obama is nearly doubling the U.S. occupation force in Afghanistan, is ramping up unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed 50 civilians for every one "Taliban", and is continuing the grand U.S. tradition of cozying up to despots and distorting the intelligence concerning Iran's nuclear program. At the same time, he is actively covering up torture and other war crimes committed by his predessor while proposing a program of indefinite imprisonment for those deemed threats to the state. But according to The Nation's Robert Dreyfuss, Obama has through his speech in Cairo "turned the corner on the post-9/11 nightmare." No, really:
I want emphasize one thing today: that by not mentioning "terror" or "terrorism" in his 55-minute address, Obama has formally turned the corner on the post-9/11 nightmare conjured by by President Bush and his ilk. If Obama sustains this, it has enormous potential not only to improve US relations with the Muslim world. It will utterly alter the discourse inside the United States, which for nearly eight long years has been distorted by the fear-mongering, Muslim-bashing, Osama-inflating, homeland security-worrying neoconservatives and their political allies.
That is, while Obama's continuing much of the same policies toward the Middle East, he's no longer talking about it -- at least not in the strident terms favored by neoconservatives -- so all is well. To be fair, Dreyfuss does say that after the Cairo speech "comes the test of Obama's sincerity." However, I'd suggest the test of Obama's desire to fundamentally alter U.S. policy toward the region took place soon after he took office.

While disappointing, the liberal tendency to elevate lofty rhetoric and speechifying over the actual substance of the policies their progressive leaders are implementing continues to amaze.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Nancy Pelosi forgets her oath of office

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has no idea what her oath of office is, nor does she understand her ostensible duties under the U.S. Constitution -- or so she implied in June 3rd remarks marking the unveiling of a statute honoring former President Ronald Reagan.
"President Eisenhower, President Reagan and all of us who take the oath of office know that our first responsibility is to protect and defend the American people, and that's why it's so appropriate that President Reagan's statue has contained within it chunks of the Berlin Wall as a symbol of his commitment to national security and his success."
This is wrong. Entirely wrong, actually. The president's oath of office says nothing about protecting and defending the American people, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald pointed out when a Brookings Institution "scholar" made that same erroneous claim while defending President Obama's support for indefinitely imprisoning those deemed threats to the United States.

Rather, the oath of office all U.S. heads of state are required to swear by asserts the president will, to the best of his or her ability, "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." That is, rather than anointing the president as America's Great Protecter defending us proles from the evildoers abroad, the oath states the president must seek to uphold constitutional protections and the rule of law. Understanding that distinction is crucial to putting in context the Bush/Obama administration's efforts to indefinitely imprison terrorism suspects in the name of national security while shredding the bill of rights along the way.

Of course, politicians have rarely been much influenced by a piece of paper signed hundreds of years ago by a bunch of white dudes in wigs -- how many divisions does Thomas Jefferson have anyway? Still, it would be nice if those in government at least pretended to abide by the document that ostensibly binds U.S. citizens in perpetuity to the "social contract" it purportedly represents.

Like most of her fellow lawmakers, however, Pelosi -- who herself took an oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" (again, no talk of protecting the homeland) -- has no desire to speak of constraints upon her political power, rather having every incentive to portray herself and her cohorts as the last line of defense between the barbarians at the gate and our beloved children.

But whether Pelosi is actually acknowledges or is even aware it is her responsibility to defend the Constitution or not is really of no consequence, for that particular piece of paper American politicians swear to uphold certainly hasn't stopped those in power from regularly trampling its protections for individual rights. As Lysander Spooner observed, "whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist."

Meanwhile. In dedicating a statue to a man who funded death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians, Pelosi had this to say about the ever-so inspiring example the Reagans provided to the American public:
President Reagan and Mrs. Reagan had one of the great love stories of all time, and the American people benefited from that. The support, the love that Mrs. Reagan gave the president were a source of joy to the American people, and, again, of strength to the president of the United States.
I was too young to remember the period, so a sincere question: Did anyone out there really find the marriage of Ronald and Nancy Reagan -- a modern day Anthony and Cleopatra, says Speaker Pelosi -- to be a "source of joy"?