Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 23, 2009

The week that was

callie_inaug_14President Obama.

It still sounds good.

As the week comes to a close, and events fade somewhat into the distance, a few thoughts.

1. You can always count on a democratic administration to remind the press that their role is to challenge power (“afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted”). I don’t object to them doing it, but some of this would have been nice six years ago, when it counted. For what it’s worth, I think Obama’s wrong on Robert Lynn (details here) – I have to believe there’s someone else who can be Undersecretary of Defense who isn’t tainted by the appearance of coziness with the defense industry – not to mention having a background that is specifically supposed to be verboten in the new administration. No one is irreplaceable – either you should have had a waiver process announced as part of the policy (not great optics) or moved on.

That said, watching some of the press briefing this morning at the gym, I was struck by the resounding stupidity of some of the questions. A chief concern of many of the reporters was how Obama could be considered bipartisan if a house committee approved a draft of the stimulus bill on party lines.

Now, there’s a whole bunch of stupid in there. First, it’s a committee vote of one markup of a piece of legislation sure to change over time. Second, it isn’t – yet- Obama’s bill. Third, has anyone considered that perhaps the folks not being bipartisan are, um, the Republicans? There was a lot of time spent on this, which someone on CNN accurately referred to as the press’s tendency to “go for the capillaries.”

There’s also been a bit of whining from Republicans that their “ideas” haven’t been heard. I’m not sure that’s true – my perception, from afar, is that they don’t have any new ideas, and the ones they’ve been plugging for the last 30 years have been found wanting. Furthermore, and I can say this a bit more bluntly than the President can, YOU LOST. You will, for good reason, have less influence than you did when you had one of your own in the White House. Grow up.

2. ZOMG, we’re going to let nasty terrorists roam the fruited plains and kill us all!

If I hear another complaint about either what we’re going to do with the detainees in Guantanamo now that President Obama (still feels good typing that) has ordered the facility there closed within a year, or how awful it is that those same detainees could enjoy the constitutional rights that only us Americans should have, I will lose it.

CNN’s Campbell Brown played a clip from iReporter Katy Brown. Now, by iReporter, I mean someone with a camcorder and a thought, whether or not it is supported by, you know, knowledge or facts. Anyway, Ms Brown, after saying that she agreed with President Obama that the United States shouldn’t torture, pointed out (rightly) that moving 60 detainees to the United States meant they would have access to legal protections in court. But then she continued, “These are the men that tried to hurt us….They’re going to come into the United States and get the rights that our American soldiers fought for. And I’m sure we can all agree that there’s something wrong with that.”

Well, no. First, it hasn’t yet been established that all 60 tried to “hurt us” – clearly some did, but that’s the point of, first, the case by case review of detainees that will commence now, and second, the independent judicial review that will follow if they are brought into the states for trial.

There’s been a lot of talk about how many of the already released detainees have taken up arms against the U.S since their release – and almost as many different counts of how many have done so. (Firedoglake has a clip from Rachel Maddow debunking a lot of that here.) And certainly some have.

However, we have a choice between perpetuating an extra-constitutional system of justice which serves to attract more young men (and women) to al qaeda, or tossing it and maybe –maybe – returning a few individuals to a place where they might try again to attack the United States. (I would assume we would have some way of keeping tabs on them, making them somewhat less dangerous than those we don’t know about who have joined the terrorist cause because of Guantanamo.)

We’ve handled terrorism cases in the courts before, with great success. The most heinous convicts are at the Supermax facility in Colorado, and while one might argue that the prison is unconstitutionally cruel punishment, no one is arguing that people are getting out.

Something that a lot of people don’t seem to get is why our constitution is the way it is. It was written to prevent a tyrannical government from abusing its citizens, and that means that the unconvicted guilty and the innocent have the same rights – until the justice system speaks. I’d like to think we can all agree there’s something very right about that.

3. Apparently, some Bushies were upset that Obama’s inaugural address was so directly critical of policies of the Bush administration.

Now, I know we live in a post-partisan utopia, so after careful consideration, I have this highly moderated response.

Tough shit.

If Bush was leaving Obama with the upper hand against al qaeda, a national debt of less than, say, $5 trillion, even, a budget deficit under $500 billion, and an economy that wasn’t headed for the federal equivalent of a heart-lung machine, perhaps I’d feel differently.

And I am not even getting into how many ways Bush and Cheney shredded parts of the constitution.

Look – you screw up, and someone might come along to say so. As Sister Susan pointed out, George Bush had managed to isolate himself from criticism for most of his eight years in office, with hand-picked crowds and sycophantic aides. Only during the 2004 debates with John Kerry did he have to be in a room with someone who said he was wrong.

And now he was next to another one at the inauguration.

One of the things that really impressed me about Barack Obama during the fall debates was how forceful he could be at calling out the failures of the Republican party and, specifically, John McCain. He had the stones to stand 6 feet from someone and say, in the most direct way possible, that they had been wrong and what the cost of their mistakes had been.

And he did it without ever getting personal.

Obama didn’t call George Bush names. He said, in a much nicer way, that George Bush’s presidency had been a disaster for the United States; that he’d done a bad job – an opinion shared by more than 2/3 of the country.

So to all you aggrieved Bushies – stop complaining. Maybe history will bail your guy out, but that’s not the way to bet.

4. Note to the media: Rush Limbaugh is a circus clown, and should not be confused with someone who has any serious thoughts about policy. If that changes, then perhaps what he thinks is relevant. But don’t feel obligated to report on what he says, because he is a pig.

Same note re: Ann Coulter.

5. Just to end on an up note, the Senate passed the Lily Ledbetter fair pay act. The House should act shortly, and one of the dumbest Supreme Court decisions in recent memory (boy, that’s saying something) will be history.

We have 1,457 more days of President Obama this term. So far, he’s making those days count.

[Photo by Callie Shell-Aurora for Time Magazine. More here.]

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