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Tag: "barack obama"

The Long Arm of Woodrow Wilson

[ 53 ] February 27, 2012 |

Woodrow Wilson’s reputation has been torn to shreds in the last ten years. This can go a bit too far; in the end, regardless of his motives, Wilson did sign a lot of legislation the country really needed. Nevertheless, it’s easy to argue that, outside of JFK, Wilson is the most overrated president in American history. We can argue about the worst thing Wilson did, but I don’t think any of his actions have a more detrimental effect on American society today than the Espionage Act of 1917. Wilson first proposed this law in 1915, but with the entry of the U.S. into World War in April 1917, the Espionage Act, along with a lot of other very bad legislation, became law. The government intended to use the war to crack down on all the radicals threatening it, threats many Americans defined very broadly, mostly to include the “foreign” of various definitions, races, and ideologies. For instance, the 18th Amendment became law during these years after a sixty year temperance movement because alcohol became equated with foreigners in the minds of self-respecting Americans. In my own research, this law comes to bear upon the Industrial Workers of the World and the opening government repression gave to local communities to eliminate radicals once and for all, whether we are talking about the Bisbee Deportation of 1917 or the Centralia Massacre of 1919.

The Espionage Act gave the government broadly defined powers to crack down on any behavior that might be seen as undermining America’s military operations or to promote the success of its enemies. Wilson wanted the ability to censor the press, but at least Congress denied him this. It was followed by the even more terrible Sedition Act of 1918 which prohibited speech seen as detrimental to American interests, of course vaguely defined. The Sedition Act was repealed in 1921 but the Espionage Act remains on the books.

Usually, the Espionage Act is forgotten about but the government has occasionally brought it out to crack down on people it wanted to silence. It was the Espionage Act that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were charged with violating when they gave secrets to the Soviet Union. Nixon used it unsuccessfully to prosecute Daniel Ellsberg and others for leaking the Pentagon Papers.

Today, the Obama Administration has revived the Espionage Act in a broader way than probably any administration since Wilson. David Carr details how aggressively Obama has used the law to crack down on whistleblowers and leakers within the government. This is really unacceptable. The Obama Administration is completely hypocritical in praising freedom of the press overseas while using the Espionage Act to protect its own actions at home. I’m usually fairly unsympathetic to Glenn Greenwald’s argument that Democrats allow Democratic Administrations to get away scot free with actions that they would howl about if Republicans were doing them, but in this case, that line of argument makes sense. Were this the administration of George W. Bush and John Ashcroft, this would be a major story of how the Republicans don’t respect our basic rights. Instead, the use of the Espionage Act against leakers and whistleblowers is a blip on the radar of the Democratic public.

This is wrong. The Espionage Act needs to be repealed immediately and President Obama needs to be called to the carpet on his use of this loathsome law. Moreover, I don’t think historians look back kindly on any situation when the government has used this law. It always reeks of repression and is a black mark on any administration. I don’t want historians to look back on Obama in 50 years and see a president who used an antiquated and repressive law to eliminate low-level leaks in his administration. Alas, that is the road the president presently drives.


Paging Jack Cashill. Jack Cashill. Paging Jack Cashill.

[ 91 ] February 20, 2012 |

Jack Cashill’s annoyed that Media Matters for America (MMFA) “intimidate[d] editors into not assigning Deconstructing Obama for review.” His evidence?

To date, even though my thesis is widely accepted on the right, not a single conservative publication has reviewed it, not even to challenge the thesis.  Other than a quick MMFA-style hit in the Washington Post, no mainstream publication has reviewed the book either.

Now, I’m no mainstream publication, but I am a serious literary scholar—I have credentials and everything—and I did spend a fair amount of time giving his evidence a fair hearing. Suffice it to say that I’m a little hurt that Cashill’s never deigned to respond, especially now that he’s complaining that no one’s ever taken his work seriously. So here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to republish my strongest arguments against Cashill below the fold and invite him to read and respond to them. Only I’m not going to invite him—you are.

Please send a civil email in which you link to this post to jcashill (at) aol (dot) com.

Ask others to do so too. Feel free to link to this post. Who knows? Maybe if enough people ask politely, he’ll decide it’s worth his time to respond.

Moreover, because previous attempt to draw a response from him didn’t work, there’s no reason not to try a more direct approach . So, below the fold you’ll find my evidence. I hope that sooner or later we’ll find a response from Cashill himself in the comments.

Read more…

The 2008 Counterfactual

[ 84 ] August 19, 2011 |

Rebecca Traister has a terrific piece about counterfactuals and the 2008 primary. Amanda has some comments as well. Traister does a good job of outlining the where there may have differences — Obama’s coatails (which were likely decisive in the Hagan and Franken Senate races) versus the unlikelihood that Clinton would have played the debt ceiling hand as badly, for example. But the revisionism that has turned someone with an extensive history of centrist deal-cutting into the second coming of Eugene Debs notwithstanding, the differences would be marginal. (And there’s no doubt that had Obama lost the primary, his supporters would be imagining a left-wing Obama presidency that was never going to happen too.)

Particularly after Obama named Clinton his Secretary of State and adopted Clinton’s signature domestic issue in essentially the form that she advocated it — narrowing the nickel’s worth of difference between them to a penny — in policy terms the 2008 Democratic primary was about almost nothing. For reasons Traister’s excellent book explains, the primary was one of major political and cultural significance — and I don’t want to use the word “symbolic,” which trivializes the very real importance of a primary battle between strong candidates from historically underrepresented and marginalized groups — but not policy significance.

…I agree with a commenter that this is also a good point.

Shocking New Evidence!

[ 45 ] April 20, 2011 |

Barack Obama is a Somali pirate.

See also.

Why I Did Not Live Blog the SOTU

[ 6 ] January 26, 2011 |

You might think it’s laziness, but actually it’s science.

And as for the otherwise even-more-irrelevant response, all you can say is that Paul Ryan is a complete fraud.

He’s your president not your boyfriend

[ 38 ] May 10, 2010 |

I heard a soundbite from UC-Irvine law dean Erwin Chemerinksy this morning about Kagan, in which he speculated that Kagan’s warmth and personal charm would endear her to senators during the confirmation process. I’ve never met Kagan but I wouldn’t be surprised if she could charm rust off a pipe — that would certainly help explain her otherwise somewhat inexplicable career.

Personally I think we should try to draw as sharp a distinction as possible between the Supreme Court nomination process and a sorority rush, but obviously a lot of Very Important People disagree.

In some respects this reminds me the ongoing one-sided love affair various progressive types have with Obama. I still like Obama just fine, probably because I’m suffering from Battered Liberal Syndrome, but he doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, dreamy though he admittedly is.

Update: I’ll be doing an interview regarding this topic on the Michel Martin’s NPR show Tell Me More at 11 AM EDT tomorrow. The other guest will be conservative law professor Stephen Bainbridge.

I’ll be arguing that Kagan’s nomination should be opposed because she’s a blank slate who could well move the court to the right, while Bainbridge will be arguing in favor of the nomination because she’s a blank slate who could well move the court to the right.

Justice for sale

[ 0 ] March 5, 2010 |

If Rahm Emanuel is actually deciding what sort of trial KSM et. al. should get on the basis of what he calculates would be most politically convenient for the Obama administration, then the only honorable thing for Eric Holder to do is to resign. It’s every bit as illegitmate for the White House to order Holder what to do in this matter as it was for Richard Nixon to order Elliott Richardson to fire Archibald Cox. Barack Obama (let alone his messenger boy Emanuel — or is the other way around?) is not the nation’s chief law enforcement officer: Eric Holder is. Holder has spent the last three months telling everyone that considerations of basic justice argued for trying KSM in our regular courts, rather than in military tribunals set up for the purpose of disposing of particularly troublesome criminal cases.

When Richardson and his deputy William Ruckelshaus were ordered to do something perfectly legal but also perfectly disgraceful, they resigned (their underling Robert Bork had no such scruples).

It’s simply outrageous for White House officials to make prosecutorial decisions of this sort, and in this manner. It’s essentially no different than having Rahm Emanuel order the DOJ to indict certain persons, against the better judgment of government’s top lawyers, because such indictments are calculated to improve his boss’s political fortunes. Or is that the next step in the administration’s ongoing “pragmatic” accomodation to the worst impulses of the American political system?

See also Scott Horton:

In sharp violation of rules of prosecutorial conduct and ethics, political figures in the White House are engaged in the micromanagement of decisions concerning the prosecution of individual criminal defendants. Rahm Emanuel is a political figure, without any serious legal expertise or abilities. He openly presented the question as a matter of political opportunity—thereby infecting the criminal justice system with political horse-trading. This is more than just unseemly. It presents a direct affront to the integrity of the criminal justice system. After eight years in which Karl Rove manipulated essential prosecutorial decisions at Justice, now his successor is engaged in the same type of misconduct. But unlike Rove, Emanuel does it openly.

Law as politics

[ 0 ] January 29, 2010 |

Thoughts on Obama getting uppity with the SCOTUS.

Instant Reaction: Bloggingheads Style

[ 0 ] December 2, 2009 |

Last night, I diavlogged with Matt Duss on the subject of the Obama speech:

As this suggests, I’m pretty ambivalent about the escalation.

A Real Shift?

[ 0 ] October 9, 2009 |

Mr. Trend mounts a defense:

And while you can and should argue that in many ways, Obama’s policies reflect a return to Bill Clinton’s, I don’t think that holds in the case of international relations. Obama has proven himself much more open and reasoned in his policy making than even Clinton did. It’s about more than just being willing to talk to Chavez face-to-face at a meeting of the OAS, or have Bill Clinton pull some tricky negotiations to release hostages in North Korea, or find a path that the entire international community is willing to follow in dealing with Iran. Indeed, one simply has to look at Honduras since June. Obama has taken an approach to Latin American coups that the U.S. has never seen before – an open, non-partisan condemnation of what was clearly an illegal removal of a president, combined with a refusal to get directly involved by sending troops in. The U.S. had done this any number of times before, and every time, it was wrong to do so. For once, Obama relied on diplomacy, and even while condemning the actions, has refused to directly interfere in Honduras. Sure, he’s had the State department take measures to restrict the aid and cash flow to Honduras from the U.S., but that’s within his prerogative as president, all the while respecting Honduran sovereignty.

That sounds simple, unimportant; but from a history where the U.S. basically took every opportunity to meddle in, interfere with, and even directly undo democratic processes in Latin America from 1846 to 2002, this is a major, major shift. And it’s representative of Obama’s policies thus far – respect, doing what’s within his power without overstepping the sovereignty of others, all the while working to maintain global relations. Honduras isn’t the reason; it’s symptomatic of the broader, subtle, but major shifts in how the U.S. is forging a new path in its diplomatic history under Obama.

You Go to Sleep, Then You Wake Up, and Wha Huh?

[ 0 ] October 9, 2009 |

Say what now?

In a stunning surprise, the Nobel Committee announced Friday that it had awarded its annual peace prize to President Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

Less than nine months after he took office, the committee said, Mr. Obama “has created a new international climate.”

With American forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Obama’s name had not figured in speculation about the winner until minutes before the prize was announced here.

Next: Barack Obama, AL Cy Young winner?

….You know, if Obama were the anti-christ, he’d probably be winning a Nobel Peace Prize about right now. I’m just sayin’…

…obviously missed Dave’s post on the same subject.

It’s About Time That I’ve Voted for a Nobel Laureate

[ 0 ] October 9, 2009 |

What the hell? I seriously thought it was a joke when I got back from teaching International Relations 503 for two hours to read this. He’s been President for five minutes, and he is sort of more or less administering a couple of wars (which admittedly he inherited).

I’m sure the others will offer more in-depth observations in the coming hours for which I currently do not have the time to do, but I wanted to flag this to get the ball rolling.

I seriously look forward to the wingnuts going fantastically mental over this.

(NB: we don’t have a Nobel Peace Prize tag, so I went with the closest thing below . . . )

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