The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency

The imperial power grab is nothing new.

The imperial power grab is nothing new. | Illustration by Lauren Hansen | Images courtesy Getty Images, Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images, iStock)

The Week

President Obama’s announcement that he will use prosecutorial discretion to semi-permanently prevent five million unauthorized immigrants from being deported has brought the usual accusations of galloping tyranny from conservatives. “Barack Obama: American Caudillo” is the title of Rich Lowry’s very dumb column for Politico.

There is more awareness from Ross Douthat, who grudgingly recognizes that George W. Bush broke some important laws in his time. But only by eliding the very worst of the Bush years can Douthat reach his desired conclusion, that Obama’s executive actions are an unprecedented imperial power grab. In fact, growth of the imperial presidency is a bipartisan affair, and George W. Bush is a major culprit.

Here’s Douthat:

How did the man who was supposed to tame the imperial presidencybecome, in certain ways, more imperial than his predecessor? [The New York Times]

It’s important to recognize two things up front. First, that Obama has indeed embraced many of Bush’s expansive legal theories about executive power. Second, that this immigration action is very far down the list of questionable actions.

Use of prosecutorial discretion to forestall deportation — which could be easily reversed by a Republican president or supplanted by an immigration reform bill from Congress — is surely less alarming than, say, claiming the authority to assassinate American citizens with no due process. Obama’s done that to an American child, and has not provided any legal justification whatsoever.

The assassination program started under the Bush regime. And his legacy of stomping on the Constitution and legal precedent was not limited to that. There was the warrantless wiretapping, which almost resulted in a mass resignation of the head of the FBI, the attorney general, and a slew of top Department of Justice lawyers. There was the use of “signing statements” to announce he would not enforce bits of law he didn’t like. There was his refusal to enforce the Clean Air Act even when ordered to by the Supreme Court.

The worst of it, though, was Bush’s program of systematic torture. No good intelligence was collected, and dozens of people were murdered in U.S. custody. It was flagrantly illegal. As Jane Mayer writes in her book The Dark Side, the Convention Against Torture “is about as categorical a piece of legislation as it is possible to write. It bans torture absolutely.”

But as Dick Cheney and his pet sociopath David Addington discovered, it’s easy to get around categorical bans on things. All you do is get some political hack to stamp out a bunch of legal argle-bargle claiming black is white, and don’t let anyone see the analysis. Witness the legal and moral subtlety of said hack, one John Yoo:

Cassel: If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty…

Cassel: Also no law by Congress — that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo…

Yoo: I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that. [YouTube]

Obama put a stop to that, sort of.

But the best Douthat could muster when the guy from his party was carrying out a profoundly evil, illegal, and fruitless procession of war crimes was an “inarticulate mix of anger, uncertainty, and guilt,” condemning torture but trying to excuse the criminals who perpetrated it for being freaked out by 9/11. These sentiments are almost identical to those of Obama himself, as it happens, and they display just as much moral cowardice.

The imperial presidency is a direct result of our janky and outdated political institutions. Nobody shopping for a fresh constitution looks to the American one for inspiration anymore, because it often makes basic governance impossible. A separately elected president and legislature is a recipe for potentially irresolvable conflict. Every single country that has tried U.S.-style constitutions has suffered a collapse of government, without exception. We managed to escape that fate for many years (excepting the Civil War, that is) because of diffuse, ideologically heterogenous parties and a lot of informal norms of governance. All those things are gone or going fast.

Liberals certainly share some of the blame for that. But it is conservatives who are always pushingthe legal and constitutional envelope. It is conservatives who refuse to respect the legitimacy of thepolitical opposition. It is conservatives who seek disenfranchisement of their opponents. It is conservatives who have repeatedly taken the nation hostage to extract policy concessions. And it was Mitt Romney who proposed to tear ObamaCare to bits by using executive orders far more sweeping than the immigration ones Obama announced.

And so it turns out that the caudillo reference is unintentionally apt. As Matt Yglesias points out atVox, American conservatives have long admired the right-wing dictators of Latin America, just as they tend to celebrate extralegal assassination. It may well turn out that America will have a real caudillo at some point. If it does, immigration policy will be the least of our worries.

Citations for the November 27, 2014 TRMS

The Rachel Maddow Show / The MaddowBlog

The list of headlines from Steve Kornacki’s weather segment is too amazing to bury after the jump. I mean, look at this!:

November 27, 2013 – Weather walloping East Coast as roughly 43 million travel for Thanksgiving

New Yorker cover story: A “Broken Arch” for Ferguson

Unorthodox police procedures emerge in grand jury documents

Ferguson Library – ‏@fergusonlibrary – We are open 9-4. Wifi, water, rest, knowledge. We are here for you. If neighbors have kids, let them know teachers are here today, too.

Missouri SOS Office – ‏@MissouriSOS – Missouri State Archives staff are also available at @fergusonlibrary today to assist with records preservation. Drop by for help.

Missouri SOS Office – ‏@MissouriSOS – Staff from our Business Services Division is at @fergusonlibrary today to help local business owners. Drop by for assistance.

Ferguson Public Library oasis sign

HUFFPOLLSTER: Thanksgiving Edition 2014

Gallup: Congress and the Public

Obama Veto Threat on Tax-Break Bill Deepens Rift Among Democrats

Supreme Court Allows Texas to Use Strict Voter ID Law in Coming Election



Ginsburg Is Recovering After Heart Surgery to Place a Stent

SCOTUS statement on Ginsburg condition (pdf)

See The New Yorker Cover That Makes A Powerful Statement About Ferguson


The New Yorker

This says it all…

TPM LiveWire

Jorge Ramos Delivers Riveting Acceptance Speech At CPJ Press Freedom Awards: ‘We Have To Take A Stand’

JORGE RAMOS | Associated Press

The Huffington

Jorge Ramos delivered an emotional and powerful speech Tuesday night at the 2014 Committee to Protect Journalists International Press Freedom Awards.

Ramos was the recipient of the Burton Benjamin Memorial Award, given for “lifetime achievement in defending press freedom.”

Ramos, the Univision News and Fusion anchor and best-selling author, who has become one of the most respected and outspoken journalists in the United States, spoke about the importance of challenging forces of power, asking the tough questions and pushing back against press censorship worldwide.

“The best of journalism happens when we take a stand: when we question those who are in power, when we confront the politicians who abuse their authority, when we denounce an injustice,” Ramos said before a packed ballroom at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. “The best of journalism happens when we side with the victims, with the most vulnerable, with those who have no rights. The best of journalism happens when we, purposely, stop pretending that we are neutral and recognize that we have a moral obligation to tell truth to power.”

“When we deal with the powerful, we have to take a stand,” he went on. “I’m a reporter, I don’t want to be your friend. And trust me, you don’t want to be my friend.”

Ramos has used his passion for journalism to take a public stance on controversial issues like immigration, press freedom and abuse of political power. He spoke in detail about his own journey as an immigrant to the U.S., where he finally found his voice.

“Let me tell what it means for me to be a journalist and to be an immigrant,” he said. “This defines me. I came to the U.S. after they tried to censor me in Mexico. So this country gave me the opportunities that my country of origin couldn’t give me. And, of course, when it comes to immigration, I take a stand.”

Still, there is so much more that must be done to achieve justice for journalists around the world and we cannot stay silent, Ramos said. Silence, he reiterated firmly, is the enemy of journalism.

“Sadly, we stayed silent before the war in Iraq and thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraq civilians died unnecessarily,” he continued. “We have to learn from that. Silence is the worst sin in journalism. But the best is when journalism becomes a way of doing justice and speaking truth to power.”

Ramos pointed to a quote by the great Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel to bring his point home: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”

In closing, Ramos dedicated his award to all the journalists who have died in Syria and Mexico, including two U.S. journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, earlier this year.

“You were our eyes. Now you are part of our soul,” Ramos concluded.

H/t: Ted


Congress Debunks Congress’s Nuttiest Benghazi Theories

Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The Daily Beast

The new House report is tearing apart dozens of GOP claims about the 2012 attack. From Darrell Issa’s ‘stand down order’ to Lindsey Graham’s Hillary slam, see who was discredited.
The House Intelligence Committee’s report on the 2012 terrorist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is undermining years of GOP talking points—and some Republicans, understandably, aren’t taking it well.Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, for one, says the committee, led by outgoing Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, was “co-opted by the CIA” and produced a “fundamentally misleading “ report. Even Rogers is backtracking, saying he didn’t examine the role of the State Department and the White House in the response to the attack.Back in May, Rogers warned that his colleagues “should not let this investigation get into conspiracy theories,” and the committee seems to have avoided them. Instead the report resolves many questions about the attack that cost the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, and discredits several of the most histrionic claims about it.

Here are five claims by current and former members of Congress about Benghazi that the report at least partially rebuts:

1. The safety of American personnel at the American consulate in Libya was undermined by a stand down order.

The report makes clear that despite what outgoing House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has insisted, there was no stand down order: “No CIA officer was told to stand down.” Instead, “there were mere tactical disagreements about the speed with which the team should depart prior to securing additional security assets,” and officers on the ground acted in “a timely and appropriate manner,” it concludes.

2. The Obama administration ignored calls for help and committedfatal errors and possible crimesin its response.

Rebutting repeated claims by fringe Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX), the report finds that those on the ground in Benghazi “received all military support available…there was neither a stand down order nor a denial of air support, and no American was left behind.” Further, while the report raises concerns about the process behind writing the talking points then-U.N. ambassador Susan Rice used to discuss the attack on television, the report concludes: “U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions.”

3. CIA agents present were polygraphed repeatedly in an effort to determine if any of them were leaking to the media.

While Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) has comparedthe Obama administration’s “coverup” of Benghazi to Watergate, the committee “found no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress or polygraphed because of their presence at Benghazi.” Needless to say, the report also concludes that unlike Watergate, the “Executive Branch agencies fully cooperated with the Committee’s investigation.”

4. Hillary Clinton got away with murder with Benghazi.

Sorry, Lindsey Graham: “There was no intelligence failure prior to the attacks,” the report says, there was “no specific tactical warning” of any threat to the consulate in Benghazi. Despite the South Carolina senator’s claims, the committee found that while there was sufficient intelligence to discern that the security situation in Libya was deteriorating, no intelligence indicated “planning or intentions for attacks on the Benghazi facility on or about September 11, 2012.”

5. Americans begged for help at Benghazi and none ever came. The only rescuers were Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods, two former Navy SEALs.

Rep.Michele Bachmann, (R-MN) said Doherty and Woods “defied orders and chose to go to the aid of their brothers” when no other help was forthcoming. The report makes clear that Doherty responded to the attack as a part of a team under orders from the CIA station chief in Tripoli and that others came immediately to the aid of the Americans in Benghazi. Resources were promptly diverted to rescue those under attack, the committee found. Bachmann’s other claim—that the Benghazi attack might be the judgment of God—was not addressed by the report.

Ted Cruz: I’m Not ‘All That Conservative’


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) | AP Photo Courtney Sacco

TPM LiveWire

Cruz also met privately with Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, whom the Observerreported found the Texan to be “too right wing” and unlikely to win the 2016 presidential nomination, citing an anonymous source.

[h/t Tim Mak]

The 14 Teens Killed by Cops Since Michael Brown


The Daily Beast

Since Ferguson, police have killed more than a dozen teenagers, half of them black. Some did nothing more than carry a BB gun.
Michael Brown’s death on August 9 was a nationwide wake-up call to the death-by-cop of young minority men at the hands of law enforcement. According to datastretching from 1999 to 2011,African Americans have comprised 26 percent of all police-shooting victims. Overall, youngAfrican Americans are killed by cops 4.5 times more often than people of other races and ages.Since Brown’s death, at least 14 other teenagers—at least six of them African-American—have been killed by law enforcement in a variety of circumstances.

Tamir Rice

Tamir Rice wasn’t yet a teenager when he was killed on November 22 in a Cleveland, Ohio park. The 12-year-old boy was shot by a police officer after brandishing what turned out to be a BB gun. A call made to police beforehand described Rice as “a guy with a pistol” on a swing set, but said it was “probably fake.” When officers arrived at the scene, they say Rice reached for his toy, though did not point it at them, prompting a first-year policeman to fire two shots at the Rice from a short distance.

On Monday night, as the Brown indictment verdict was announced, a local councilor summed these up without getting tangling in blame and legalities:

“Perhaps, after our analysis, we learn that the police officer really did fear for his life and did everything right under the circumstances,” City Councilman Jeffrey Johnson said at a meeting. “But there is something fundamentally broken in our system when a young man can have a legal BB gun, and by the end of that day be killed by a Cleveland police officer.”

Cameron Tillman

On the evening of September 21, police were called to check on reports of trespassers with weapons going into an abandoned home in Terrebonne, Louisiana. Cameron Tillman, a 14-year-old boy was shot dead on the scene by a sheriff’s deputy. His brother, who was there, said he was shot opening the door and was unarmed, but the police said he was armed and that a gun was recovered near his body. It was later reported that the weapon was a BB gun that appeared to be a .45-caliber pistol. The The cop was not named, but was identified as an African-American veteran of the division with no prior infractions.

VonDerrit Myers Jr.

VonDerrit Myers Jr. was shot in the head in early October not far from where Michael Brown died two months earlier. The 18-year-old was shot six or seven times in the Shaw neighborhood of St. Louis after an off-duty police officer fired at him 17 times. Police say Myers charged at the policeman, they wrestled, and then he shot at least three bullets before his gun jammed. Myers had been out on bail in a gun case, but his family claimed he was unarmed and holding only a sandwich in his hand. That night, a crowd of 300 gathered at the scene, and violence broke out: gunshots echoed and police vehicles were damaged. The officer who shot Myers was identified as Jason Flanery, a 32-year-old white patrolman.

Laquan McDonald

After a tire-puncturing spree in late October, 17-year-old Laquan McDonald wasshot dead by a police officer in Chicago. Officers reported to a call about someone breaking into cars in the Archer Heights neighborhood. The teen refused to drop his knife, according to officers, fixed them with “a 100-yard stare,” and walked toward them. That’s when a cop fired at McDonald, killing him.

Carey Smith-Viramontes

Few details have been revealed about the shooting of an 18-year-old girl in Long Beach, California last week. Officers were responding to a report of a missing juvenile girl, and found her in the house of Carey Smith-Viramontes. According to police, Smith-Viramontes was armed with a knife and was shot dead by an officer on the scene.

Jeffrey Holden

An 18-year-old was killed by police officers after opening fire on a cop with two guns in Kansas City in late October. Jeffrey Holden had reportedly been shooting at houses and passersby before the authorities arrived at the scene. he was listed as a missing person and had two outstanding warrants.

Qusean Whitten

Two armed robbers were killed after holding up a Dollar General Store in Columbus, Ohio in October. Eighteen-year-old Qusean Whitten had jumped from the car he was using to flee the scene and started running when police opened fire.

Miguel Benton

In early October, 19-year-old Miguel Benton managed to steal an officer’s gun and shoot him twice. Two cops were transporting Benton and another inmate to jail on drug and robbery charges in Georgia when the incident occurred. Another officer shot and killed Benton.

Dillon McGee

Eighteen-year-old Dillon McGee of Jackson, Tennessee, died after being shot by police officers who claim he was attempting to run them over in a car. On September 26, officers were targeted after approaching a car, driven by McGee, and fired at the driver. McGee was the father of a one-month-old son.

Levi Weaver

A man welding a baseball bat and a kitchen knife lunged at police officers in his home in Georgia, and was fatally shot in late September. According to the sheriff, 18-year-old Levi Weaver begged the officer to shoot him, and then leapt at him. The officer shot Weaver twice.

Karen Cifuentes

A 19-year-old woman was killed in September after an undercover police watched a drug deal go down in Oklahoma City. One of the suspects got in a car driven by Karen Cifuentes and took off, apparently hitting one of the officers who fired then opened fire and killed her.

Sergio Ramos

In August, an 18-year-old was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer after a car crash in a parking lot near a Walmart store. According to police, Sergio Ramos had just robbed a killed an associate when he was confronted by an off-duty cop, reached for the gun in his shorts, and was shot multiple times.

Roshad McIntosh

Some 500 anti-police protesters took to Chicago’s streets after a 19-year-old man’s death at the hands of police. On August 24, Roshad McIntosh was being questioned by cops when he began running. Police say he pulled a gun on them, but his family claimed that McIntosh was kneeling on the ground with his hands in the air. Nearly a month later, his mother brought another protest to city hall, demanding answers in her son’s killing.

Diana Showman

A mentally ill woman brandishing a power drill was shot dead by an officer after she called 911 and told San Jose dispatchers she had an Uzi. Diana Showman, 19, had come out of her house, ignored demands to put down the weapon, and was shot once. Showman’s parents criticized the officer’s response, saying that the police needed to be better equip to handle mental health issues.