The Obama administration has been scolding left critics left, right, and center for criticizing them. It is hard to believe that the Obama folks actually think that this talk will motivate disgruntled Democratic base voters. If so, they would have to be among the stupidest politicians ever to enter Washington.
Jane Hamsher has an alternative explanation. The attacks have nothing to do with increasing voter turnout. Rather, they are a cynical ploy to create a scapegoat other than the administration for the electoral losses expected this November. Hamsher demonstrates a long-standing pattern of the administration screwing the candidates they support with leaks designed to deflect blame away from Obama. Here is one of many examples:
January 17, 2009: Martha Coakley — Two days before the Massachusetts election, from Ed Henry, CNN:
Sources: Obama advisers believe Coakley will lose
Multiple advisers to President Obama have privately told party officials that they believe Democrat Martha Coakley is going to lose Tuesday’s special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat held by the late Ted Kennedy for more than 40 years, several Democratic sources told CNN Sunday.
The sources added that the advisers are still hopeful that Obama’s visit to Massachusetts on Sunday – coupled with a late push by Democratic activists – could help Coakley pull out a narrow victory in an increasingly tight race against Republican state Sen. Scott Brown.
However, the presidential advisers have grown increasingly pessimistic in the last three days about Coakley’s chances after a series of missteps by the candidate, sources said.
So here’s how this theory applies to the current drivel out of the White House:
But this is a clear pattern with the Obama White House. Insulating the President from blame for electoral losses is paramount, even at the risk of triggering the loss. Setting up the narrative, pre-election, that the campaign was doomed anyway and there was nothing Obama could do to save it was considered more important.
So when people scratch their heads and wonder how a campaign based on hectoring the “professional left” expects to turn out voters, the answer is, it doesn’t. And you don’t see anyone who’s actually running for office this November engaging in it. They well know that your job is to inspire and energize voters in advance of the election. Obama did too — when he was running for office himself.
But now that he’s not running, and it’s someone else’s butt on the line, he’s turning the Democratic base into Martha Coakley and setting them up for the blame for any electoral failure in fall. The people who showed up to vote for him in 2008 “just weren’t serious” if they “now want to take their ball and go home.”
There is no internal consistency to the narrative that the “professional left” is suppressing turnout by criticizing Obama, but Obama is not suppressing turnout when he scolds the voters who aren’t clapping loudly enough for his achievements. But few in the professional punditocracy find their way to that obvious conclusion.
This isn’t about GOTV. It’s about setting up a fall guy for November. The headline should really read:
Obama Distances Himself From Democratic Voters
Democratic voters are all Martha Coakley now. And if shielding Obama from blame makes matters worse for those who are actually running in November? Well, that’s the price of protecting the President.
This explanation makes sense. Oddly, it also helps understand Obama’s horrific about faces on human rights. Nothing matters, but Obama. Everything and everyone else is disposeable.
At this stage, it’s only a hypothesis. But it is a hypothesis that makes sense of a lot of confusing data from the last 18 months.
September 28th, 2010
In a sign of the times, both economic and social, marriage rates are at their lowest rate in over 100 years:
The new figures show, among other things, that the number of people getting married fell to a record low level in 2009, with just 52 percent of adults 18 and over saying they were joined in wedlock, compared to 57 percent in 2000.
Marriage rates have been declining for years due to rising divorce and an increase in unmarried couples living together. Demographers say the current downturn may now be causing more younger adults to postpone marriage as many struggle to find work and resist making long-term commitments.
“Given the scope of the recent recession, many more couples are likely to choose cohabitation over marriage in the coming years,” said Mark Mather, associate vice president of the Population Reference Bureau.
September 28th, 2010
John R. Bradley has a new book, Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East, that sounds interesting. Salon has an interview with him that outlines his argument that the West and the Middle East are more alike in regards actual sexual mores than we imagine. Here are his beginning comments, summarizing his argument:
The supposed licentiousness of the West is forever being contrasted, to my mind, in wholly spurious ways, with a sexually barren Middle East. “Behind the Veil of Vice” undermines stereotypes about Arab sexualities that have become entrenched in the English-speaking world, partly by reminding readers that we still have plenty of sexual hang-ups in the West, too. In particular, it debunks the notion, promoted by the likes of Martin Amis, that terrorism carried out by Islamists can be explained away with reference to the repressed, envious Arab male who can only find release by flying airliners into phallic-shaped skyscrapers.
I’ve been based in the region for a decade, and the sexuality in the Middle East I know is every bit as capricious as its Western counterpart, as unruly and multifarious, and occasionally as becalmed. By exploring the diverse sex cultures in countries like Morocco, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and Iran, I try to show that, as in the West, illicit sex continues to thrive in the Middle East, often in the open and despite the increasingly shrill public discourse.
And here is his ending:
Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first independence leader, is known as “the liberator of women,” and for me he is the great unsung hero of 20th-century Arab politics. He was an avowed secularist, and a tireless promoter of women’s equality. The feminism he championed was not the Salvationist kind that took root in Egypt, but that which encourages women’s true autonomy and equality in light of progressive Islamic thinking that sought to marry Islam with modernity. He launched a sexual revolution unprecedented in the Arab world, outlawing polygamy, banning the veil, legalizing abortion and advocating birth control.
And he left the red light districts to function, as they had done for decades. Today, prostitution remains legal in Tunisia, and all of the country’s major cities have a red light district. More generally, Tunisian women are by far the most liberated in the Middle East, and can walk the streets unveiled and free of sexual harassment. The point here is that state regulation of prostitution, legal protection of prostitutes, social tolerance of the profession and official monitoring of sex workers’ health and well-being is in no way in contradiction with the advancement of women’s rights.
September 28th, 2010
Readers may remember the uproar last year when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recomended against routine mammography of women between 40 and 50 and that low-risk women over 50 go from having mammography yearly to every other year. The Task Force was not very politically savvy in how it presented its recommendations, failing to adequately explain to the public the basis for its position.
The recommendations were brutally attacked as potentially leading to “countless deaths,” often by those with vested interests in the status quo, such as the American College of Radiology, whose members stand to lose a lot of business should the recommendations be implemented. The recommendations were even compared to not screening airport luggage for bombs, thus using fear of terrorism to trivialize the report.
I found the quality of the debate to be deeply disturbing. Proponents of the current, or even increased testing ridiculed the idea that testing has risks. “What’s a little anxiety against a saved life,” they argued. This argument has several weaknesses. One is that “anxiety” caused by false positives, of which there are hundreds per correct diagnosis, can be severe and debilitating in some cases. Also, the fear of cancer may remain with some women for a long time and not be allayed by repeat negative findings, thus potentially reducing quality of life.
Another major concern is that the result of false positive cancer screenings is not simply “anxiety,” but is also unneeded biopsies in about half of those receiving false positive screenings, with greatly increased “anxiety,” as well as all the risks of having an unneeded medical procedure. Furthermore, many cancers that are detected would otherwise have turned out to be asymptomatic, producing no problems and never being detected before the woman died of other causes. Since medicine currently has no way of determining whether a detected cancer is one of these ultimately benign asymptomatic ones or a dangerous, potential deadly, disease, most of these women with asymptomatic cancers will wind up receiving surgery and/or chemotherapy that ultimately was unneeded, with all the risks, side effects, and, yes, “anxieties,” that accompany breast cancer treatments. Plus these women will live the rest of their lives fearing the recurrence of a disease that, unknown to them and their physicians, was never a threat.
To avoid being misunderstood, this is in no way intended to slight the potential value of mammography for many women. I am simply arguing for recognition that screening tests like mammography, like most medical interventions, are not without risk and that the risks should be realistically evaluated by physicians, communicated to patients, and considered alongside the possible benefits.
All of this is by way of introduction to a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine that adds additional complications to the proper evaluation of the value of mammography. [There is an excellent detailed analysis of this study by David Gorski in Science-Based Medicine on which I base much of my description of the study. The New York Times also has a briefer, and less detailed, but still useful article.]This study developed a methodology to substitute for a randomized controlled research design in evaluating mammography benefit.
The only true randomized controlled trials of mammography were conducted decades ago; these studies found a relatively large benefit in saved lives. Due to ethical concerns, these studies can likely never be repeated as some women would have to be denied mammography after it was proven beneficial.
The new study’s authors set out to examine mammography’s benefit today, when treatments for breast cancer are much more effective, due to the development of targeted interventions, than when the original randomized trials were conducted. Due to improvements in radiological techniques over time, the researchers expected to find even greater value of mammography today than in prior decades.
Since the researchers could not use a randomized procedure to assign large numbers of women to receive or not receive mammography, they sought an alternative way to control for the likelihood that women who receive mammography are likely different from those who don’t receive it in ways that may affect their chances of dying. Thus, for example, women who go for mammography may be more likely to follow medical recommendations regarding healthy lifestyles or may be more likely to follow through on medical care. Thus, they might be less likely to die from breast cancer than a group not receiving mammography for reasons not connected to the actual value of the test.
The researchers, conducting their research in Norway, developed a clever methodology using a historical accident in Norway to approximate a random design. In the late 1990′s, Norway gradually rolled in a program to offer mammography to most women aged between 50 and 69. The researchers compared deaths from breast cancer over time in geographic areas where mammography was not offered over the time period examined in the study o estimate how much of the reduced death rate was due to historical improvements in treatment approaches. They then compared the death rates before and after mammography was offered in other communities, to determine the total benefit, including both the historical improvements due to treatment as well as benefits due to mammography. For those who’d like to hear this design described in the researchers’ own language:
First, we compared women in the nonscreening group with their historical counterparts to determine the temporal change in mortality that was not attributable to the introduction of the screening program and that was likely to reflect improved treatment and earlier clinical diagnosis. Then, we compared women in the screening group with their historical counterparts to determine the change in mortality after implementation of the screening program. In this second comparison, the difference in the rate of death between the two groups can be attributed both to the screening program and to temporal trends in mortality that were unrelated to the screening program. Thus, the reduction in mortality that was related to the screening program was the difference between the rate ratio for death among women in the screening group as compared with their historical counterparts and the rate ratio for death among women in the nonscreening group as compared with their historical counterparts.
Through this design they concluded, to their surprise, that approximately two-thirds (18% of 28%) of the reduced death rate over time — which simpler research designs would ascribe to the apparent benefit of mammography — was really due to improved treatment or other factors than the screening procedure. This study suggests that the benefits of mammography screening, while real, are smaller than previously believed. The New York Times described the magnitude of the effect this way:
In the new study, mammograms, combined with modern treatment, reduced the death rate by 10 percent, but the study data indicated that the effect of mammograms alone could be as low as 2 percent or even zero. A 10 percent reduction would mean that if 1,000 50-year-old women were screened over a decade, 996 women rather than 995.6 would not die from the cancer.
To the Times‘ credit, they appropriately point out the costs of mammography:
And screening has a cost, Dr. Welch [author of an editorial accompanying publication of the study] said. Screening 2,500 50-year-olds for a decade would identify 1,000 women with at least one suspicious mammogram resulting in follow-up tests. Five hundred would have biopsies. And 5 to 15 of those women would be treated for cancers that, if left alone, would have grown so slowly they would never have been noticed.
The reception of this study is considerably better than that of the Prevention Task Force report last year. The methodology of the new study is being praised by many of those who believe that mammography is still valuable. The Times points out that the study’s authors’ are not in complete agreement as to the appropriate recomendations for mammography given the evidence that its benefit is likely less than previously believed:
Marvin Zelen, a statistician at the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who was a member of the research team said even though the mammography benefit is small, if he were a woman he would get screened.
“It all depends on how you approach risk,” Dr. Zelen said. His approach, he says, is “minimax” — he wants to minimize the maximum risk — which, in this case, is dying of a cancer.
Dr. Kalager [study lead author] came to the opposite conclusion. She worries about the small chance of benefit in light of the larger chance of finding and treating a cancer that did not need to be treated.
“Since I’m a breast cancer surgeon, I know what being treated is like,” she says. The decision to be screened, she says, “is a matter of personal preference. Is it worth it to risk becoming a patient without it being necessary?”
Many women may still want mammograms, she says, and that is fine.
“I think we have to respect what women want to do.”
The study makes life more difficult for many physicians, especially primary care doctors. As the reported benefits of mammography decline, one hopes that these physicians will become better at describing the risks and benefits of the test and at helping women come to an informed decision whether they wish to be tested. If this study holds up, it will be less clear that mammography should be the default for all women in any age group.
In any case, the reception of the new study suggests that progress is being made in media portrayals of the complexities of real-world medical research. Further, it suggests that the costs of receiving medical tests may start to get the attention it deserves. When it comes to medical tests, it is time to stop simply assuming that more is always better.
September 27th, 2010
As Democrats cower in fear of the Tea Party attacks on healthcare reform, a new AP poll finds that most discontent with the bill passed last year is because it didn’t go far enough:
A new AP poll finds that Americans who think the law should have done more outnumber those who think the government should stay out of health care by 2-to-1.
The poll found that about four in 10 adults think the new law did not go far enough to change the health care system, regardless of whether they support the law, oppose it or remain neutral. On the other side, about one in five say they oppose the law because they think the federal government should not be involved in health care at all.
The AP poll was conducted by Stanford University with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Overall, 30 percent favored the legislation, while 40 percent opposed it, and another 30 percent remained neutral.
Those numbers are no endorsement for President Obama’s plan, but the survey also found a deep-seated desire for change that could pose a problem for Republicans. Only 25 percent in the poll said minimal tinkering would suffice for the health care system.
Republicans “are going to have to contend with the 75 percent who want substantial changes in the system,” said Stanford political science professor Jon Krosnick, who directed the university’s participation.
September 27th, 2010
Der Spiegel brings news that a Wikileaks spokesperson has left after conflict with Wikileaks leader Julian Assange. The broader implications of the falling out remain to be seen:
‘The Only Option Left for Me Is an Orderly Departure’
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Daniel Schmitt — the 32-year-old German spokesman for WikiLeaks who is also the organization’s best-known personality after Julian Assange — discusses his falling out with the website’s founder, his subsequent departure and the considerable growing pains plaguing the whistleblower organization.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Schmitt, you and WikiLeaks have been unreachable by e-mail for several weeks. What’s wrong?
Schmitt: There are technical problems and no one to take care of them. WikiLeaks is stuck in a phase in which the project has to change itself. We grew insanely fast in recent months and we urgently need to become more professional and transparent in all areas. This development is being blocked internally. It is no longer clear even to me who is actually making decisions and who is answerable to them. Because of the high pressure we have all been under following the publication of the American military documents, we have not been able to restructure our organization accordingly. This has created a situation in which not all of the work is being done correctly, and that is overwhelming the project.SPIEGEL: Is that your opinion or do all the people involved share it?
Schmitt: That is one of the points of dispute internally, but there are others. WikiLeaks, for example, was always free of discrimination. In the past we processed and published smaller submissions that were only of local importance the same way that we did more comprehensive documents that are of national or even international importance.
SPIEGEL: Why don’t you do both?
Schmitt: We would like to, but unfortunately we’ve reached a dead-end. I have tried again and again to push for that, but Julian Assange reacted to any criticism with the allegation that I was disobedient to him and disloyal to the project. Four weeks ago, he suspended me– acting as the prosecutor, judge and hangman in one person. Since then, for example, I have had no access to my WikiLeaks mail. So a lot of work is just sitting and other helpers are being blocked. I know that no one in our core team agreed with the move. But that doesn’t seem to matter. WikiLeaks has a structural problem. I no longer want to take responsibility for it, and that’s why I am leaving the project.
SPIEGEL: Why has your fight with Assange escalated to this degree?
Schmitt: We have all experienced intense stress in recent months. Mistakes happened, which is okay, as long as people learn from them. For that to happen, though, one has to admit them. Above all, though, we seem to have lost the faith that we are all pulling together.
SPIEGEL: Assange himself says that you questioned his power and wanted to take over leadership of WikiLeaks.
Schmitt: From my perspective there was no power struggle. It wasn’t about personal interests, it was about our organization and its development. Only he can say why he sees things differently.
SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, you did advise him to temporarily retreat from the public eye as a result of the rape allegations lodged against him in Sweden.
Schmitt: The investigation into Julian in Sweden is, in my opinion, a personal attack against him, but they do not have anything to with WikiLeaks directly. Still, it does cost time and energy and it weighs on him. In my opinion it would have been best if he had pulled back a bit so that he could quietly deal with these problems. It would have been fine if he had continued his normal work out of the spotlight. But he clearly saw my internal proposal as an attack on his role.
SPIEGEL: What will happen now?
Schmitt: I worked on WikiLeaks because I considered the idea to be right and important. We tried numerous times to discuss all of the issues mentioned with Julian, without success. I have given more than 100 interviews to media all around the world, coordinated finances in Germany and also worked on the publication (of documents). Now I am pulling out of the project and will turn my tasks over to — who knows?
SPIEGEL: Who are you referring to when you say “we”?
Schmitt: A handful of people in the core team, who have views about these things that are similar to mine but do not want to go public. A large amount of the work is done by people who want to remain unnamed. There is a lot of resentment there and others, like me, will leave.
SPIEGEL: You are leaving the project at a critical juncture. Do you not worry that a number of Internet activists may accuse you of betraying the cause?
Schmitt: I am aware of that, but you should assume that I have thought long and hard about the step. Nevertheless, in recent years, I have invested a considerable amount of time, money and energy into WikiLeaks. But I also have to be able to support the things for which I am publicly responsible. That is why the only option left for me at the moment is an orderly departure.
SPIEGEL: What is it that you no longer stand behind?
Schmitt: That we promise all of our sources that we will publish their material, for example. Recently, however, we have only focused on the major topics and applied practically all of our resources to them. Take the US Army Afghanistan documents at the end of July, for example. The video of the air strike in Baghdad in 2007, “Collateral Damage,” was an extreme feat of strength for us. During the same period of time we also could have published dozens of other documents. And through our rising recognition in the last six months, we have again received a lot of material that urgently needs to be processed and published.
SPIEGEL: With the publication of classified Afghanistan reports, also through SPIEGEL, you have taken on the United States, a superpower. Washington is threatening to prosecute you for espionage and WikiLeaks supporters have been interrogated by the FBI. Bradley Manning, who is believed to be one of your informants, is sitting in jail. Are you afraid of the massive public pressure?
Schmitt: No, pressure from the outside is part of this. But this one-dimensional confrontation with the USA is not what we set out to do. For us it is always about uncovering corruption and abuse of power, wherever it happens — on the smaller and larger scale — around the world.
SPIEGEL: What does it mean for the organization now that its second most recognizable face after that of Julian Assange is leaving? Is WikiLeaks’ future in jeopardy?
Schmitt: I hope not. The idea behind WikiLeaks is too important for that. There are a number of new people in Sweden and Great Britain and I hope that they will all work on something sensible. I believe in this concept that we set out to do, and I am confident that it will survive.
SPIEGEL: With a part of the WikiLeaks team now leaving, do your informants need to be concerned about what will happen with the material they submitted?
Schmitt: It is my view that material and money from donors should remain at WikiLeaks, because both were intended explicitly for this project. There are other opinions internally — with our technical people, for example. No matter what, though, we will ensure that a clean transition happens.
SPIEGEL: You quit your job because of WikiLeaks. What will you do now?
Schmitt: I will continue to do my part to ensure that the idea of a decentralized whistleblower platform stays afloat. I will work on that now. And that, incidentally, is in line with one of our original shared convictions — in the end, there needs to be a thousand WikiLeaks.SPIEGEL: In your role as WikiLeaks spokesman, you have always gone by the name “Daniel Schmitt.” What’s your real name?
Schmmitt: It is high time that I also stop doing that and to go public with my name and my opinions. My name is Daniel Domscheit-Berg.
Interview conducted by Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark
September 27th, 2010
International Jewish groups, including the US Jewish Voices for Peace have launched a boat trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Among those on board is a Holocaust survivor and the father of a 1997 suicide bombing victim in Jerusalem. They are hoping that the Israeli military will have second thoughts before firing on them as it did in May when nine Turkish activists were brutally killed.
‘Jews for Justice’ aid boat sets sail for Gaza
Organizer says goal of boat which left from Cyprus on Sunday is to show that not all Jews support Israeli policies toward Palestinians.
By Nir Hasson and The Associated Press
A boat carrying Jewish activists from Israel, Germany, the U.S. and Britain set sail on Sunday for Gaza, hoping to breach Israel’s blockade there and deliver aid.
Richard Kuper, an organizer with the U.K. group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said one goal is to show that not all Jews support Israeli policies toward Palestinians.
Kuper said the boat, which set sail from northern Cyprus flying a British flag, won’t resist if Israeli authorities try to stop it.
The trip came nearly four months after Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla of Gaza-bound ships. Nine activists were killed in the ensuing clashes. The voyage also came as Israelis, Palestinians and U.S. mediators sought a compromise that would allow Mideast talks to continue after an Israeli settlement slowdown expires at midnight.
Boat passenger Rami Elhanan, an Israeli whose daughter Smadar was killed in a suicide bombing at a shopping mall in Jerusalem in 1997, said it was his moral duty to act in support of Palestinians in Gaza because reconciliation was the surest path to peace.
“Those 1.5 million people in Gaza are victims exactly as I am,” Elhanan, 60, said in an interview.
Other voyage organizers included the group European Jews for a Just Peace and the U.S.-based Jewish Voice for Peace.
Refusnik Israel Air Force pilot Jonathan Shapira, another passenger aboard the ship, told Haaretz that “we hope that the soldiers and officers of the Israeli navy will think twice before they obey orders to stop us.”
“Let them remember the history of our people, and those who followed orders and later said ‘we were only following orders.’ We do not pose any kind of security threat to Israel’s citizens. We intend to continue forward with our crew and our cargo to the port in Gaza, where we are expected.”
The ship’s cargo includes toys, textbooks, musical instruments, fishing gear as well as prosthetic limbs for orthopedic treatments.
The organizers admit that they are a bringing “symbolic” amount of aid. “The ship will try to reach the Gaza shore in order to unload the supplies within the framework of a non-violent symbolic act of solidarity and protest, aimed at calling for the lifting of the siege and the free passage of supplies and people to and from Gaza,” the organizers said in a statement.
Shapira said that “I believe that the navy won’t want us to pass, but on the other hand, there has never before been a Jewish aid ship, manned by determined people including a Holocaust survivor, trying to reach Gaza. This may prevent them from shooting at us, like they did in the Turkish flotilla.”
The 33-foot catamaran Irene, carrying a total of nine passengers and crew members, set sail from the Turkish Cypriot north of the island because the Greek Cypriot south imposed a ban on all-Gaza-bound vessels in May, citing vital interests.
Prior to the ban, international activists had used south Cyprus to launch eight boat trips to Gaza, a coastal strip seized by the Islamic militant group Hamas three years ago.
On May 31, eight pro-Palestinian Turkish activists and a Turkish American died when Israeli naval commandos boarded a flotilla of Gaza-bound ships.
The Irene boat planned to deliver children’s toys, medical equipment, outboard motors for fishing boats and books to Gaza residents.
Kuper said the voyage intended to show that not all Jews support Israeli policies toward Palestinians and to underscore what he called Israel’s illegal, unnecessary and inhumane blockade of Gaza.
“Jewish communities around the world are not united in support of Israel,” Kuper said in a telephone interview from London. “Israel’s future peace is coming to terms quickly with the Palestinians.”
Organizer Alison Prager said from the boat before it left Cyprus that although many Jews have been on previous blockade-busting trips to Gaza, this was the first time Jewish groups have banded together to send a boat of their own.
Kuper said the trip was funded entirely by supporters’ donations.
September 26th, 2010
Obama is an incredibly skilled President. After every atrocity committed against human rights committed by his administration, one thinks he can’t think of any more abuses to commit. But then his administration ups the ante. In their latest, the Obama administration claims, not only the right to murder an American citizen without trial, but that their ability to commit this murder cannot be reviewed by a court because the President’s assassination policies, tactics, and techniques are a “state secret” TM. This assassination is to be committed against a “terrorist” TM. And we know that he is a “terrorist” because the President says so. And Presidents never lie or make mistakes. They are infallible.
If this position holds, it won’t be long until US agents will be assassinating US citizens in our cities solely on the say so of our King President.
Here is part of Glenn Greenwald’s comment:
If the President has the power to order American citizens killed with no due process, and to do so in such complete secrecy that no courts can even review his decisions, then what doesn’t he have the power to do? Just for the moment, I’ll note that The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage, two weeks ago, wrote about the possibility that Obama might raise this argument, and quoted the far-right, Bush-supporting, executive-power-revering lawyer David Rivkin as follows:
The government’s increasing use of the state secrets doctrine to shield its actions from judicial review has been contentious. Some officials have argued that invoking it in the Awlaki matter, about which so much is already public, would risk a backlash. David Rivkin, a lawyer in the White House of President George H. W. Bush, echoed that concern.
“I’m a huge fan of executive power, but if someone came up to you and said the government wants to target you and you can’t even talk about it in court to try to stop it, that’s too harsh even for me,” he said.
Having debated him before, I genuinely didn’t think it was possible for any President to concoct an assertion of executive power and secrecy that would be excessive and alarming to David Rivkin, but Barack Obama managed to do that, too. Obama’s now asserting a power so radical — the right to kill American citizens and do so in total secrecy, beyond even the reach of the courts — that it’s ”too harsh even for” one of the most far-right War on Terror cheerleading-lawyers in the nation. But that power is certainly not “too harsh” for the kind-hearted Constitutional scholar we elected as President, nor for his hordes of all-justifying supporters soon to place themselves to the right of David Rivkin as they explain why this is all perfectly justified. One other thing, as always: vote Democrat, because the Republicans are scary!
Can you imagine the uproar among Democrats if a republican President had proclaimed the right to murder at will?
September 26th, 2010