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Latest Obama Cave-in Is Likely To Further Erode His Base

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Well, he did it again.  Despite the fact that President Obama had vowed to veto the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without trial, the White House announced that the President will breach yet another promise and sign the controversial bill.

Jeremy Herb at The Hill reported on the administration’s concern that if Obama were to veto the bill, there might not have been enough votes in Congress to prevent an override of that veto.  In other words:  Obama was afraid of being embarrassed.  The report noted the defensive language contained in the official White House spin, to the effect that some minor changes in wording were made to satisfy the President:

The White House backed down from its veto threat of the defense authorization bill Wednesday, saying that the bill’s updated language would not constrain the Obama administration’s counterterrorism efforts.

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The administration won some changes in conference committee, which wrapped up Monday, including the addition of a clause stating that FBI and local law enforcement counterterrorism activities would not be altered by the law.

Big deal.  Let the outrage begin!  At the Huffington Post, Michael McAuliff noted that the President had already decided to back down on his veto threat before the House of Representatives passed the bill:

The switch came just before the House voted 283-136 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act despite impassioned opposition that crossed party lines, with Democrats splitting on the bill and more than 40 Republicans opposing it.  Numerous national security experts and civil liberties advocates had argued that the indefinite detention measure enshrines recent, questionable investigative practices that are contrary to fundamental American rights.

At the Human Rights Watch website, no punches were pulled in their criticism of Obama’s latest betrayal of those very principles his supporters expected him to advance:

The Obama administration had threatened to veto the bill, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), over detainee provisions, but on December 14, 2011, issued a statement indicating the president would likely sign the legislation.

“By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.  “In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side.”

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The far-reaching detainee provisions would codify indefinite detention without trial into US law for the first time since the McCarthy era when Congress in 1950 overrode the veto of then-President Harry Truman and passed the Internal Security Act.

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“It is a sad moment when a president who has prided himself on his knowledge of and belief in constitutional principles succumbs to the politics of the moment to sign a bill that poses so great a threat to basic constitutional rights,” Roth said.

Many people might not know that quantitative equity research analyst and former hedge fund manager, Barry Ritholtz (author of Bailout Nation) is an alumnus of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, where he served on the Law Review, and graduated Cum Laude with a 3.56 GPA.  Here are some of the recent comments made by Mr. Ritholtz concerning the National Defense Authorization Act:

While this is shocking, it is not occurring in a vacuum.  Indeed, it is part of a 30 year-long process of militarization inside our borders and a destruction of the American concepts of limited government and separation of powers.

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Other Encroachments On Civil Rights Under Obama

As bad as Bush was, the truth is that, in many ways, freedom and constitutional rights are under attack even more than during the Bush years.

For example:

Obama has presided over the most draconian crackdown on leaks in our history – even more so than Nixon.

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Furthermore – as hard as it is for Democrats to believe – the disinformation and propaganda campaigns launched by Bush have only increased under Obama.  See this and this.

And as I pointed out last year:

According to Department of Defense training manuals, protest is considered “low-level terrorism”.  And see this, this and this.

An FBI memo also labels peace protesters as “terrorists”.

At his blog, The Big Picture, Ritholtz made these points in a December 3 argument against the passage of this bill:

You might assume – in a vacuum – that this might be okay (even though it trashes the Constitution, the separation of military and police actions, and the division between internal and external affairs).

But it is dangerous in a climate where you can be labeled as or suspected of being a terrorist simply for questioning war, protesting anything, asking questions about pollution or about Wall Street shenanigans, supporting Ron Paul, being a libertarian, holding gold, or stocking up on more than 7 days of food.  And see this.

Once again, President Obama has breached a promise to his supporters out of fear that he could be embarrassed in a showdown with Congress.  Worse yet, Obama has acted to subvert the Constitutional right of Due Process simply because he wants to avoid the shame of a veto override.  As many commentators have observed, George W. Bush was not plagued by any such weakness and he went on to push a good number of controversial initiatives through Congress – most notably the Iraq War Resolution.  I find it surprising that so many of President Obama’s important decisions have been motivated by a fear of embarrassment, while at the same time he has exhibited no concern about exposing such timidity to both his allies and his opponents – wherever they may be.


 

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Stupidity As A Virtue

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September 15, 2008

The initial interview Charlie Gibson had with Sarah “The Gumball” Palin, televised on Thursday, September 11, displayed her ability to rattle off scripted answers to Gibson’s questions.  At times, I wondered whether there might have been a “handler” on the set, giving Palin signals as to what answer to recite.  Perhaps by running his hand through his hair and patting his stomach after one of Gibson’s questions, such a handler may have given Palin the signal:  Answer #6.  Later in the interview, when Gibson asked her about a possible invasion of Iran by Israel to bomb nuclear facilities, the “handler” may have scratched his ear and rubbed his right eye: a signal to use answer #4.  After Gibson pressed for a real answer to that question, the handler may have placed his hand to his forehead, palm out, with four fingers extended, meaning:  Repeat answer #4.  When Gibson pressed on for an answer to his question, the hand would have risen in front of the forehead once again, with the four fingers extended.  Although The Gumball may have been able to decide for herself, which question required which answer number, she was obviously reciting canned responses prepared by McCain’s strategists.  Curiously, there was no answer praising the merits of the “Bush doctrine” of pre-emptive warfare.  After the interview, Palin’s apologists explained away The Gumball’s ignorance about the issue, as confusion resulting from some sort of trick question.

In this Presidential campaign, the word “elite” has become a code word for “smart”.  Hillary Clinton used that word to describe Barack Obama, probably because he made Law Review while attending law school, although she never made law review.  (She did serve on the editorial board of a publication called Yale Review of Law and Social Action, which existed only while she was there.)  Obama not only made Law Review at Harvard; he was the President of the Harvard Law Review – an executive position Sarah Palin could never achieve in this or any other lifetime.  The term “elite” is continuously used by McCain supporters in reference to (smart) politicians, news outlets (that employ only smart people), publications (requiring that one be credentialed as “smart” to write for them), as well as educational institutions that would never admit the likes of Sarah Palin or John McCain.  John McCain graduated sixth from the bottom of his class at Annapolis.  He was accepted there because both his father and grandfather graduated from the Naval Academy.  If that doesn’t sound like a familiar pattern, you may want to do some reading about a man named Prescott Bush.

There is an apparent attempt by the McCain camp to manipulate as much of the voting public as possible, into believing that anyone who is “smart” is an “elite” and therefore, somehow “bad”.  This is an easy sell to those who feel jealous of, and intimidated by, people they believe to be smarter than themselves.  The question is:  are there enough of those people out there for this strategy to work?  In twelve years, have we gone from Beavis and Butthead Do America to Beavis and Butthead are America?  The lobbyists who run the McCain campaign are counting on it.  Meanwhile, Palin can continue to say dumb things (including the lie about Iraq as responsible for the attacks of September 11) and McCain can say even dumber things.  In a Portland, Maine TV interview, McCain was asked to explain what experience Palin had in the area of national security.  McCain responded:  “Energy.  Sarah Palin knows more about energy than anyone else in the United States of America.”  Part of McCain’s comfort about saying something so inane, is based on his failure to realize that in the age of YouTube.com, he will be accountable for this statement to a world-wide audience.  Second, he probably lacks the insight to realize what a bombastic claim that was.  Finally, his campaign strategists probably realize that such stupidity will actually endear McCain to a large number of voters. This makes me wonder whether they actually instructed The Gumball to deliberately mispronounce the word “nuclear” based on similar strategy.

The important point to keep in mind is that a significant percentage of American voters do not base their Presidential preferences on any rational thought process.  They decide “from their gut”.  McCain’s campaign staff knows this, because it’s how George W. Bush got elected.  If the Obama campaign wants to stay in this fight, they are going to have to tailor a message that will reach this population.  One way to accomplish this would be to base their ads on proven, successful, commercial TV ad campaign themes.  Obama will never “dumb down” to the level of McCain, Bush or Palin to win over the hearts of mindless voters.  Nevertheless, he should not overlook an appeal to the consensual mentality of that large population, referred to as “the masses”.  He should always remember that sage advice from comedy movie legend, Stan Laurel:  “You can lead a horse to water … but a pencil has to be lead.”