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Today in the Cult of the Presidency


Yes, I’d have to say that the primary responsibility for the pending execution of Troy Davis rests with Barack Obama. Article II clearly establishes the president’s power to commute death sentences in the state of Georgia. Somewhere in the back. And, clearly, his use of the Bully Pulpit would have immense influence over the Republican majority on the Supreme Court.

…Also, Agence France-Presse: “Obama won’t act in Troy Davis execution case.” And do what?

…the Supreme Court has denied the stay request.

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  • mark f

    I’d like to call Michael Moore America’s stupidest pundit but, well . . .

    Jonah Goldberg
    As someone who hasn’t read up much on Troy Davis, I’d be interested in seeing a rebuttal to this. If one exists. [“COP-KILLER IS MEDIA’S LATEST BABY SEAL” by Ann Coulter]

    • firefall

      How bout calling Michael Moore America’s stupidest -human- pundit?

    • strannix

      … but he made Sicko, which is still just about the liberal world’s best argument for health care reform.

      He’s being dumb here, sure, but come on. Perspective, please.

      • mark f

        There was a Frontline or some other PBS program that did a much better job.

        • witless chum

          But a lot more people watched Sicko, I’d guess.

          • mark f

            That’s almost certainly true, but Strannix said Sicko was the “best argument,” not the most popular one. I also have my doubts that anyone is seeing a post-Farenheit 9/11 Michael Moore movie with an open mind, or that anyone looking for talking points to deploy against his right-wing uncle would’ve been better served by Moore than by the aforementioned Frontline episode.

      • I don’t think “Sicko” was a good argument at all for health care reform. In fact, I–who would support a single payer system, but would settle for ACA–was offended at the mockery he made of his audience’s intelligence:
        1. the other systems he looks at (Canada, Cuba, France, UK) might be better than the US, but they have their problems too

        2. there might be a reason other than humanistic altruism for Cuba to welcome with open arms Americans in search of health care

        3. There was that scene where more sympathetically shows a former insurance claims processor who cried about all the people she had to deny coverage to. If Moore had caught her on camera when she was still working at her job and being forced to mouth the company line, he likely would have made her into a caricature of the heartless bureaucrat who cares nothing for others’ well-being.

  • LuckyJimJD

    It’s understandable that the French wouldn’t grasp U.S. federalism and its implications for this case. Less understandable for people in the US who believe themselves to be politically engaged. But the Constitution is hard.

    I do think it would have been nice, even as an ineffective gesture, for Obama to say something other than “no comment”. But whatever. Making this about him makes “besides the point” seem on point.

  • LuckyJimJD

    Oh, also, Coulter’s comments on Twitter (too repulsive to repeat) have achieved the seemingly impossible task of making her even more loathsome than she already was. I am not using a figure of speech when I say that I hope she dies, slowly, in a fire.

  • bobbyp

    Well, unless he is making a speech in Cairo, we all know from reading this blog that the president is powerless and commenting on the case would only show how powerless he is….so why bother? Thus ‘no comment’ is great politics because a powerless person does not want to reveal the true extent of his weakness….or something.

    • You usually “or something” deployed ironically, but I actually believe from what you just wrote that you genuinely don’t understand what you’re talking about.

  • Richard

    I used to like Moore but he is getting stupider by the day. A couple weeks ago he called for Obama to arrest the CEO of Standard and Poors (on what grounds I don’t know) and now this

    • I liked him circa “Roger & Me,” but the rest has just gotten progressively more focused on Moore, less nuanced, and more problematic. [And to be fair, the last time I saw Roger & Me, I was a 10-year-old in union Ohio; 30-something me may have the same problem with it I have with a majority of his stuff.]

    • djw

      He’s a good muckraker, but a lousy pundit.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Sort of.

        Both “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Bowling for Columbine” were extremely timely reflections on important issues of the moment that the (according to this blog’s commetariat) 300 million or so more intelligent Americans somehow didn’t get around to publicly reflecting on in ways that reached a fraction as many people.

        Were they brilliant statements about the War on Terra or gun violence? Absolutely not. But in both cases, they were pretty much the best we had at the time.

        When asked who the greatest French poet was, André Gide is said to have responded, “Hugo, alas!”

        That’s kind of how I feel about Michael Moore. He’s absolutely one of the most important–and necessary–voices on the American left. Alas.

        • djw

          I more or less agree with that. There were also some excellent segments on his various TV shows over the years. “Muckraker” isn’t exactly the right word. Give him a camera and a good angle and there’s a decent chance he’ll put together something pretty good. The more it becomes about the expositions of his theories and views, the less compelling it becomes. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll see his next movie, but I can’t imagine seriously considering reading one of this books.

          • Njorl

            True. Talking about how Michael Moore got something wrong is usually a step up from something not being talked about.

          • I only half agree. I enjoyed F 9/11 very much at the time, and I’m willing to buy really good Bush critiques even from someone who spent most of 2000 saying that he was indistinguishable from Al Gore, but on re-viewing while it has a lot of good stuff it’s also incredibly frustrating missed opportunity. given immense amounts of official deception to work with, for example, he wastes a huge amount of time with that silly bullshit about the pipeline. The first hour+ of Sicko is absolutely superb, but then there’s the Cuba punchline which was both pretty dumb in itself and seemed calculated to make the (desperately needed) propaganda as ineffective as possible.

            • Yes, his movies start out so well, and then end badly, with inappropriate interviews or lame “confrontation” stunts. Doddery Charlton Heston, a Marine Borat asking questions on a street corner, etc., scenes which are dramatically limp, generally toothless, and look designed simply to get Michael Moore into the frame. Embarrassing, in other words.

              I’m glad something is out there, but OH do I ever wish that something could be edited by someone other than Michael Moore himself.

              • Scott Lemieux

                That Heston scene was amazingly bad; ruined the whole movie for me.

        • Malaclypse


          Somehow I cannot imagine that anybody on the right frets much when Rush engages in rhetorical excess.

          Moore is the best propagandist (in the traditional, Catholic sense) we have, warts and all.

          • witless chum

            He’s something of a blowhard who’s often wrong, but I’ll take him as my blowhard who’s often wrong, at least until a better one comes along.

            Which is pretty analogous to my opinion of Obama. I’d like to think we can do better, but I know for a certainty we can do worse.

  • Murc

    I have to confess that I’m actually somewhat unclear on what situations a President can and cannot issue a pardon or a commutation. It’s federal cases only, right? Bush was able to get Scooter Libby off the hook because he was tried in federal court, not a state one?

    • I think it is based on this:
      According to article II section 2 of the Constitution, the president “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” So, that means Federal offense, methinks.

      • Richard

        Correct. He can’t commute a state court conviction or sentence. Cannot. No such power. Can’t do it. And Kennedy never sent in federal troops to correct an injustice. He sent in federal troops to enforce a federal court order. If a federal court ordered the execution not to go forward and Georgia refused, the president could send in troops to enforce that order. But that is not the case here. HE HAS NO POWER WHATSOEVER in this situation.

        • Murc

          Much obliged to the both of you. At some point I got it into my head that Presidential pardon power was basically magical, but I literally never really stopped and THOUGHT about it until… well, Troy Davis.

          • Ed Marshall

            Yay, the magic of Federalism. It’s an awesome system, because…..The Founders!

            • Murc

              We’d clearly all be better off if the country operated under the principles of the magic of friendship.

        • Warren Terra

          I actually hadn’t realized that, but two seconds with Google confirms it, at the DOJ’s main page describing the pardons process:

          2. Federal convictions only
          Under the Constitution, only federal criminal convictions, such as those adjudicated in the United States District Courts, may be pardoned by the President. In addition, the President’s pardon power extends to convictions adjudicated in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and military court-martial proceedings. However, the President cannot pardon a state criminal offense. Accordingly, if you are seeking clemency for a state criminal conviction, you should not complete and submit this petition. Instead, you should contact the Governor or other appropriate authorities of the state where you reside or where the conviction occurred (such as the state board of pardons and paroles) to determine whether any relief is available to you under state law. If you have a federal conviction, information about the conviction may be obtained from the clerk of the federal court where you were convicted.

  • Stag Party Palin

    You’re all nincompoops. If Ralph Nader was President, he’d stop it. I just know he would.

    • Stag Party Palin

      And now he’s dead. All joking aside, I wonder if there was any feeling of release for him after 22 years in prison.

      Am re-reading some Dumarest of Terra pulp (it’s the best pulp evah). If I could have been granted a wish, it would have been to have someone slip Scalia and Davis the telepathic symbiote earlier today. It would be instructive to have Davis on the Supreme Court. I will say nothing of the other consequence for Scalia.

      • rea

        Scalia shouldn’t mind–he doesn’t think innocence is a reason not to execute people.

  • maybe nader would have said something about it. if he ran on an opposition to the death penalty, he would probably speak up at least and not be such a political coward. especially if the man who was to be executed on disputed evidence was a lebanese american son of small buisness owners, nader would have had the stones to speak up and say i identify with this dude and it sucks at least, even if the constitution gave him no more power to stop it than any other citizen.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      You forget, virag, that the only reason to call for the President to speak up about the many issues over which he has no direct power is that you believe in the Myth of the Bully Pulpit.

      This means that such demands only show has stupid (and pwn3d) you are!

  • mb

    It is unseemly to use this man’s death to score rhetorical points. His death, and that of the clearly guilty white supremacist in Texas, diminishes us all. The only people punished tonight are those family members left behind. Even if Davis was not innocent (as the douchebag in Texas clearly wasn’t) surely his family did not deserve to suffer his loss. This to me is the real tragedy of the death penalty.

  • Christopher

    Article II clearly establishes the president’s power to commute death sentences in the state of Georgia. Somewhere in the back.

    If you need help finding it, it’s right after the part that gives him the power to order the execution of American citizens.

    • Incontinentia Buttocks

      It’s worse than that, Christopher.

      Even with a Democratic House and sixty Democrats in the Senate, let alone with a Republican House, the President is powerless not to order the execution of American citizens.

    • Yes, quoting a histrionic polemicist spouting off bad arguments about an unrelated subject completely validates Moore’s own histrionic polemicism.


      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        Actually, the correct, non-snarky response is that just because a President can arrogate to himself one unconstitutional power doesn’t mean that he can arrogate another unconstitutional power (and, in fact, I’d add that since the President’s arrogating unconstitutional powers to himself is, in general, a bad thing, we shouldn’t be wishing for more of it).

        And, no, neither Greenwald’s nor Moore’s tone has anything to do with it.

    • You diminish the evil of actual executions – the killing of helpless prisoners – by using the term to refer to shooting at wartime enemy fighters who are at large.

      Try to have a little class, even if you can’t manage knowledge.

  • Michael Moore said something dumb. I never did like him. Ever since he started knocking Obama I’ve realized that he was responsible for Chappaquiddick, or maybe it was the 2010 election loss.

    Damn you people never get old.

    • Marc

      Like him or not, Moore did say something stupid. Obama really didn’t have the power to pardon him, or to send in the troops to stop the execution.

      It can help, you know, to step aside from the tribal online politics and say “yep, my guy messed up.”

      It’s good for you and your credibility.

      • mark f

        Yeah, but think of how Obama ordering a Dr. Strangelove-ian battle between the National Guard and Georgia State Police in order to free a “cop-killer” would’ve cowed the Repulican Party.

        • Anderson

          Obama *could* have incarcerated the GA parole board as “enemy combatants” and sent them to the brig in SC where Padilla was held. Fuck yeah martial law!

      • Walt

        Is it really good for your credibility, though? My impression is that in practice it’s better for your credibility if you never admit that you’re wrong, and just change the subject. That seems to be the Republican MO.

      • Like him or not, Moore did say something stupid.

        Yes, but he’s critical of Barack Obama, so it’s considered bad form in certain circles to point out that he said something stupid.

        • Ed

          That cuts both ways, alas. And because he’s critical of Obama it’s not only necessary in certain circles to highlight disagreement with Moore at every opportunity but add that one never liked his manner, his movies, etc…..

          Both “Fahrenheit 9/11″ and “Bowling for Columbine” were extremely timely reflections on important issues of the moment that the (according to this blog’s commetariat) 300 million or so more intelligent Americans somehow didn’t get around to publicly reflecting on in ways that reached a fraction as many people.


          • I was just responding to a subject prompt, someone talking about disappointment with his movies.

            I wasn’t talking about my own similar aesthetic disappointments with them because I was mad at Michael Moore for this silly remark, because, you know, I’m not.

            He said something based on a common misperception about presidential powers that many, even better-educated people, share. He was wrong on the facts, made a bad assumption, etc. Whatever. It might make me roll my eyes a little, but it doesn’t make me ANGRY.

          • because he’s critical of Obama

            Oh, certainly. There could not possibly be any other reason for people to take exception when Michael Moore says something stupid and offensive.

            It can only be because he’s critical of Obama.

        • I am sorry that I wasn’t cristal clear. More than one person on this thread has pointed out that they never did really like Moore anyway ever. Just like a few days ago it was Digby people just really never liked, but now they’ve just gotten around to pointing out how little they used to think of him/her.

          The point isn’t that what Moore said wasn’t dumb or perhaps ignorant of the way the US governments work. The point is the attitude coped by the commentators who need to prove they’e always been in on how little the person (moor/Digby) really knew. And indeed they have always known that the person in question was questionable.

    • Njorl

      “Damn you people never get old.”

      What justification would you give for this not being applicable to you?

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