Politico says that a panel of conservative judges may deny Obama the expanded executive powers established by the Bush Administration.
Progressives have been appalled that Obama is defending the Bush policies (even in word, if not in deed). These are the same executive powers that Obama decried as a Senator, and campaigned against in the general election.
One of two things is happening:
Obama is no dummy. He’s a constitutional scholar, and has deep respect for the institution of the Presidency. He realizes that the Presidency expands its power once in several generations; that normally the courts and Congress are continually chipping away at the Executive, not enlarging it. It’s his duty to the office to hold his ground, not just for himself but for future Presidents and the presidency itself. The last thing America needs is an impotent figurehead as Executive, with the Congress and Courts constantly sparring for power with no tiebreaker. So even if he never intends to use those powers, it’s his obligation to defend his right to.
Or the second thing, which I consider less likely, but more brilliant:
He’s aware that there are indeed biased, activist judges in the Judiciary, and that they are more likely to limit the executive powers of a [young, black] Democratic president than they were of Bush.
So this is a deke.
He’s inviting the Judiciary to do his job for him. Rather than ceding the ground that Bush took, he’s making the courts take it away from him, which establishes the precedent that the ground can never be retaken by future Presidents. And he’s letting the conservative circular firing squad put their firm endorsement on it.
He’ll make conservatives implement his policies to the point where they’ll claim it as their victory. And they might not even notice.
Again, I think the odds are long that he’s that Machiavellian. But if he is, and it succeeds, it will be the most masterful Presidential move in decades.
I have to remember, often, that Obama is right, and I’m often wrong, and that’s why he’s going to be President.
Like so many on both sides, I want my candidate to land solid hits in the debates, below the belt if possible. And Wednesday seems primed for it. McCain has been accusing Obama of lying about his relationship with William Ayers, and Obama has quite correctly pointed out that McCain has said that in speeches and TV commercials but not to his face. He’s essentially called McCain a coward.
And McCain’s own supporters are losing patience with his reluctance to throw a punch. Last time he promised to “get ’im.” And he made no mention of Ayers, Wright, Rezko, or Acorn. Again this week he’s promised to “whip his a**” but that, too, is probably cowardly bluster.
Should Obama actually call him on it?
Part of me really, really wants to see the famous McCain temper come out on national teevee, and hear his honest characterization of his African-American fellow Senator. I think Obama knows the exact few, well-chosen words to say to just make him pop at the seams.
But he won’t, because it’s un-Presidential. It’s not fitting. It might alienate people who are sympathetic to him but still slightly afraid of him. And it is completely unnecessary. McCain is making a hash of his Presidential run all by himself (just as Hillary Clinton did); he needs no push from Obama to complete his descent into blithering irrelevance.
All Obama needs to do is stay cool, present his case, walk in his own shoes, and let lesser men like McCain use fear, anger, and frustration. It is not only the way to win, but it’s the way to win over America.
An update to my post from a week and a half ago. It’s going well.
- Keep issues alive. As much as McCain tried to spin it into an umbrage-and-character play in the last two weeks, the bailout and the economy are going to dominate the agenda through Election Day. I have never seen an opinion poll produce a zero per cent result in anything, ever, but that’s the percentage of Americans who think the economy is improving.
- Play the ground game. I think this is Obama’s secret weapon. The Republicans have been energized by Palin, but as she fades, that may fade too. Obama is just continuing to strengthen an already dominant organization.
- Run against the Republican. I’m not seeing them do this. It’s still personal about McCain and linking him with Bush, and now Palin with Cheney.
- Let McCain flail. Oh, my, this is working. He is coming off increasingly poorly on the trail and the stump. Without Palin he looks lost. Missteps are making him furious in private and off-balance in public. He’s pegging the gaffe-o-meter they built for Biden, and nothing he’s throwing at Obama seems to be sticking. But brace yourselves; it will only continue to get uglier.
- Let Palin self-destruct. Also working very well. As Palin’s unknowns decline, her negatives mount, too,and McCain’s support declines linearly. Again, this is mostly rope-a-dope for Obama; what damage she’s not bringing on herself with gaffes her campaign is bringing by fencing her off from the press.
- Court the press. This is the first triumph, and will make for a very good September for Obama. McCain’s campaign expected the press to regurgitate their half-truths and outright lies, and when they didn’t, they went apeshit. Obama has been saturating the press with access and contact. Biden’s given forty-five pressers to Palin’s, well, zero—and they notice stuff like that. And McCain’s campaign is still trying to insulate the base from the long, slow, painful press vetting of Palin by telling them to disregard everything they hear in the “biased mainstream media.” Joe Klein has had it. So have Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin. McCain has lost his base, and now only has hers.
- Side with the elites. This is working. Maureen Dowd couldn’t bring herself to say it in her own voice, so she borrowed Aaron Sorkin’s: “Where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence.” And to show that the carousel has turned a half circle in the village, George Willactively makes the case that in this financial turmoil, McCain’s behavior demonstrate that he is “not suited to the presidency.” The actual Serious People are coming around to the notion that they can at least negotiate with Obama, though they disagree with him; with McCain, they may not even get to negotiate.
The polls are back where they were several weeks before the convention, but now pointing in Obama’s direction. The coming weeks bring us the Stevens trial, whatever report the Alaska Legislature Council will bring, no doubt further bad news on the financial markets and the economy, and the everpresent likelihood of more tests of the administration’s competence, whether it be disaster response, terrorism, setbacks in battle, or another sex scandal. Of course, McCain can run brutal, personal, vicious ads; Obama could suck in the debates or make a gaffe or two; or Nancy Pelosi could screw up the bailout package very, very badly. There’s a reason we have elections and don’t just let the pollsters pick a President.
Briefly, why I’m supporting Obama.
- The Economy. McCain, despite his recent mumblings, is a laizzes-faire deregulationist. He voted for the 1999 Gramm Deregulation Act, which basically let the brokerages get away with everything that fell apart this week. (Yes, Clinton signed it.) His chief economic advisors are lobbyists. His major campaign donors are large business. He has mouthed words of reform, but his actions in his campaign show that his approach to the economy will be to continue to steer the government’s money to the wealthy, from tax policy on down. I appreciate his stance on earmarks, but all the earmarks in the budget don’t match what we just spent to bail out AIG. Obama has shown that the role of Government is to regulate and moderate markets. His economic advisors are academicians, think tanks, and economists. His go-to guy is Joe Biden, who voted against Gramm in 1999. He’s raised nearly a billion dollars from individuals within the $2600-per-person cap, without tapping corporations. His tax plan restores taxes on the super-wealthy. Digging us out of this hole is gonna be hard, but McCain seems to intend to keep digging us in.
- War. We thought that that would be the big issue, and it might be in the next 6 weeks. But Obama is right, we have to end it, if for no other reason than we need to spend the money bailing out failed banks here at home. Bush is quietly implementing Obama’s plan. And McCain’s approach to Iran is war-war, not jaw-jaw, and I don’t think we have the men or the money for a second front in the War On Their Oil.
- Oil. Yes, I’m disappointed with Obama’s newfound affection for drilling. I want drilling stopped, because I want petroleum stopped. It may take a century (and we may not have a century), but we need to use live-earth power (solar, wind, tidal) instead of dead-earth power (oil, coal, gas) to power humanity in the 21st Century and beyond. Because the dead-earth power will run out, and it inevitably creates CO2.
- Choices. McCain has forged a three-way coalition among the monied conservative elite, the militant neocons, and the movement conservatives (the latter missing until Palin was brought on board). He’s shown that his choices for cabinet positions will follow suit: the same crowd of hacks, cronies, zealots, and self-dealers that clot the Executive branch today. Bush has driven out the people who respect the craft of governance and replaced them with ideologues and opportunists. The Justice Department became an arm for Christian fundamentalists to rig elections. The Defense Department became a more-than-usual direct funding pipeline to campaign executives and donors through mercenary armies. And there is no sign that McCain will be any different. Our one hope with Obama is that his people will get in before the Bush folk burn everything to cover their tracks, so we have a ghost of a chance to find and prosecute the malfeasants.
Obama says it’s about hope. I hope for a Government that serves its people rather than serves itself. I hope for an Administration that respects the Constitution and the law. I hope for Cabinet officials who see science and facts as tools to guide decisions, rather than obstacles to deny, conceal, or twist beyond recognition. And so far, from the McCain campaign I’ve seen little but the most cynical, deceitful, desperate political calculation in recent history.
McCain of 2000 might have made a Republican president acceptable to Democrats; the McCain of 2008 is so devoid of integrity and so under the command of the people who wish to destroy the parts of government they can’t exploit that it’s extremely dangerous to consider him as a possible Executive.
I value and respect good government. I revere the Constitution and the rights of individuals. I’ve been extremely lucky to work at a large, successful corporation that has not had one hand in the Government’s pocket, and yet has thrived. The Government has built highways to my house, airports for my vacations, schools for my kids, and (up to 8 years ago) an image of America as a land of opportunity, freedom, and hope. I want that back, and Obama tells me he’s going to try to deliver it, so he has my vote.
Not Ike. The past two weeks. This is the fifth time I’ve tried to post. There’s way too much to say. So, very quickly:
- The DNC. Heartwarming, uplifting. Reminded me why I’m a liberal and a Democrat. Compassion, civic pride, a belief that forming and executing policy makes America stronger, and that solving national problems is our national talent. And Obama’s acceptance speech deserved to be discussed for more than nine hours.
- Palin. Politically, a clear sign that tacking to the middle to peel off those less-than-infatuated with Obama was going to fail dismally, and a huge and risky concession that the only possible strategy was to completely engage the fundamentalist base that was (and still is) leery of McCain. A brilliant, and entirely successful, convention and campaign strategy: it’s sucked all the oxygen out of the room for two weeks now.
- Palin as a cultural force. I’m in good company with others that thought the first weekend of scandal would cause the fundamentalists to rip her to shreds. I misjudged the utter, complete power of the antiabortion narrative. And it just amazes me that so many Americans are willing to give up every American greatness—governance, science, ethics, compassion, prosperity, military strength—to stop strangers from having abortions.
- Palin as a vice president. Really, truly, she is barely fit for her current office, much less the Vice Presidency (especially as Cheney has defined it.) There are several hundred people more fit and qualified than her: Governors of larger states, Senators and Representatives with better reform records, business leaders or Cabinet officials. Women and men, some with as much pro-life cred. To put her in the front of that line shows cynical, callous disrespect for the United States Government and the people it serves.
- Palin as a symbol of the culture war. Pat Buchanan said it baldly: it’s us vs. them. And he put himself and Palin in the moose-shooting “us” camp, and “affirmative-action, Harvard Law, Columbia” Obama as one of “them.” Mind you, Buchanan wouldn’t know a moose if it wandered into his Columbia ’62 class reunion. This is a phony culture war staged by the Elite Conservatives pretending to side with the Real People Conservatives so they can still be the Elite.
- Palin and feminism. Whatever happens, the face of feminism is changed completely. Often it takes a brash act of tokenism on the part of the conservatives to save face while finally acknowledging the fundamental legitimacy of liberal values. This is one such act. Conservatives have now had to choke down their hypocritical prudishness about divorce, adultery, premarital sex, teen sex, mothers in the workforce, women in authority positions, and even daycare and equal pay in order to accept the McCain/Palin ticket. If we gain nothing more from this experience, at least conservatism has lurched forward into the late twentieth century.
- Palin as an actual feminist. In short: She’s not. Instead of breaking the glass ceiling by standing on the shoulders of the great ones who came before her, she’s standing on their toes, in spiky heels. She infuriates actual feminists by benefiting from a century of feminist struggle, but turns around and repudiates the key issue that drove the sexual revolution: freedom from male and state control of women’s sexuality. Being wobbly on birth control, strongly anti-choice (for others, while cherishing the “decision” her daughter had), and emphasizing that to succeed in a man’s world a woman has to be sexually attractive to men, she’s a parody of feminism, not its apotheosis.
- Palin and sexism. The two-facedness and mixed messages shouldn’t shock me; she’s clearly a product of our extremely confused sexual ethic in America. For people to question her qualifications is somehow sexist, but for GOP delegates to wear “Palin/Babe ’08” buttons isn’t. She’s tough as steel, but Biden better watch out and not bully her. Questioning or even discussing the choices she made in the birth of her fifth child send her team to the fainting couch with a fit of the vapors, but she parades those same decisions in her stump speech as fundamental qualifications for office. It’s breathtaking. Clearly, after having for decades derided sexism as whining, man-hating, hypocrisy, or self-loathing victimhood, the Right is clearly having a hard time figuring out what it is when they need to accuse others of it. They know as much about sexism as they do about socialism; to them it’s just a new brush to tar others with.
- The Cavalcade of Lies. The end of the Palin Oxygen-Sucking Phase has been the newfound attack on Aristotelean logic and the Ninth Commandment being waged by the McCain campaign. The Bridge to Nowhere lie, the Plane on Ebay lie, the No Earmarks lie, the Sex Ed in Kindergarten lie, the Lipstick lie, the lobbyists lie, the National Guard lie, the he’ll-raise-your-taxes lie, the Tiny Iran lie, the never-changed-my-position lie, the Drilling Will Help Now lie… it’s mind-boggling. And these aren’t arm’s-length, plausible-deniablity 527s. These are stump speeches and TV ads with the FEC-required candidate approval notice. Even the saner parts of the conservative movement are scratching their head in wonderment why McCain, enjoying such a bounce from the convention, needs to sink so low so fast.
I’d really like to write a short essay on each of the above points. They’re piling on each other so fast I can’t, even though I’ve been on vacation and have had little more pressing than walking the kids down to the bus stop to go to school. But I’ll try to pick up in real time, and come back to these as they remain relevant.
“Senator, which poses the greater threat to the institution of marriage: gays who marry, or straights who divorce?”
Because ditching your dumpy, disabled wife for a beer-truck heiress cum beauty queen young enough to be your daughter is so much a part of Traditional Marriage.