Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Bargain Bush meant

The Bush administration —remember them? With all the election's wrangling, it's easy to forget we actually still do have affairs of state to attend to. And it sure seems to me that there's a school of thought in the Bush White House that would really prefer it if we did forget about them —at least for the next little while.

It seems President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have reached an agreement governing American military forces in Iraq and there's been hardly a stirring of attention to the matter —at least not here. According to this report in, the particulars of the agreement and threats of a parliamentary veto are the hot topic of headlines and vocal debate in Baghdad. This side of the pond —not so much.

You see the the Iraqi Constitution contains provisions mandating parliamentary approval of binding agreements with foreign countries. Of course ours does, too —but you know how that goes.

President Bush argues that the form of agreement at hand with Iraq is in his right as commander-in-chief. It is merely a "status of forces agreement" like many before it, made by many presidents before him. But as Bruce Ackerman and Oona A. Hathaway point out in their piece for Slate, Bush's bargain "goes far beyond anything in these previous agreements...While American troops have been placed under foreign control in peacekeeping operations, this has occurred only under treaties approved by the Senate. No American president has ever before claimed the unilateral power to bargain away the military power of his successors."

And that is exactly what his agreement with Prime Minister al-Maliki does!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

ACORN in a nutshell: tempest in a teapot

"We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama's relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy." – John McCain

I was frankly disappointed to see McCain resort to this topic in the debates the other night. I was hoping he would show some leadership on this one. In the previous week, he had shown himself capable of pushing back against some of the uglier reflexive demonizing in his campaign, but with ACORN he seems prepared to go with the flow, the flowing effluent.

As Suzanne Goldenberg of The Guardian points out, "The charges against ACORN have grown more pointed with McCain's slide in the opinion polls" —and there may be some sense that this kind of controversy will serve to stir his base and cast just a bit more doubt on Obama for some. This has already been a favorite topic of speculation for a certain species of speculators. Rush Limbaugh has a theory that Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers and ACORN have all been working together with Obama in a secret plot to hate this country and inflict their deliberate minority poverty on an unsuspecting nation.

As John McCain himself said the other night, every campaign has it's fringe elements.

But with McCain raising the "fabric of democracy" as an issue himself at the debate, and people like John Danforth, a former Senator and UN ambassador, speaking up about the prospect of "a tainted election" —as Goldenberg reports —the issue goes mainstream.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The choice in choosing

My sense of the selection of Sarah Palin as running mate for John McCain has always been that she is on the ticket, not for what she might say or do as Vice President or as a potential President, but for what she represents. Don't get me wrong, she deserves respect of a politic sort. She's shown an ability —or at least a lack of compunction— for attacks; and that is a familiar role for the VP on a ticket. Sarah Palin can openly muse about Obama's patriotism and the dark colorings of his past and John McCain can shrug and grin, as if to say, what a pistol —that gal, and still distance himself (somewhat) from the slinging.

But any number of candidates could have filled that role as designated attack dog for McCain. What made Sarah Palin the choice is what she, in all her tabloid storied glory, represents —what she is an emblem of when it comes to the social issue hot buttons, like God and guns, and like the question —of choice.

This past Saturday at a rally in Pennsylvania she chose to remind us of what she symbolizes:
"In times like these with wars and financial crisis, I know that it may be easy to forget even as deep and abiding a concern as the right to life, and it seems that our opponent kind of hopes you will forget that. He hopes that you won't notice how radical, absolutely radical his idea is on this, and his record is, until it's too late."

A CNN report on the rally appearance points out that "Palin has mostly avoided raising her opposition to abortion rights on the campaign trail since she was tapped as Sen. John McCain's running mate, a fact she readily acknowledged in her remarks." And, indeed, Palin might seem to have turned a leaf with these comments this past Saturday. Yet her attacks on Obama's "radicalism" aren't accompanied with any real clarity or contrast, any specifics as to what a McCain/Palin policy would be on abortion rights —or the lack thereof.

In Palin's infamous early interviews with Katy Couric she avowed her stance on choosing life over abortion, even in the case of rape or incest, but brushed aside the question of any real implication to criminalizing abortion. She would "counsel choosing life," she said when pressed —as if the role of government (and her potential place in it) weren't law and policy, but maternal advice. As is her wont, she simply did not answer when asked if this meant she advocated prison time for women seeking abortion or doctors providing them. She would "counsel choosing life," she repeated.

Even as she has now chosen to broach the subject more directly, Palin does not contrast specific proposals on abortion law. She only complains of what a vote for Barack Obama supposedly represents:

"A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for activist courts that will continue to smother the open and democratic debate that we deserve and that we need on this issue of life."

I have to ask, have we really been lacking debate on this subject?

Or is it candor we've been lacking?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Then they pull me back in!"

We all remember the line from 'The Godfather' (I guess it was one of the sequels and I honestly don't remember which one). It's one of those lines that enter the lexicon (like Play it again, Sam or The past is prologue). It was Al Pacino bemoaning his involuntary commitment to "the family." For all the horror and violence of his experience with them —and them with him— there was this strange and entirely irrevocable bond.

I'm reminded of Dick Cheney, somehow.

Maybe it was Sarah Palin's gosh gollee gee reconcilliation with the old guy that got me thinking. At the debate the other night she allowed as how she sure does like that "flexibility in there" that Cheney brought to the office (the same "flexibility" Joe Biden described as the most damaging disregard for the Constitution he's ever seen).

You might use the word "erratic" to describe the way McCain/Palin have handled themselves with regard to the current administration. McCain walked in (to the rescue) to the highly touted Bush bailout bill meeting a while back like he was visiting an imbecilic nephew on the matter of his depleted trust fund. Cheney's name was not mentioned once at the Republican National Convention —not once. There has been occasional reference to "blunders" of the current administration from both Palin and McCain, but thus far they have been kind enough not to name one —they've yet to name one, and when it comes to actual policy —well, you know how they say imitation is a form of flattery.

There's this love/hate thing going on. Nobody is really comfortable with the spooky uncle with the brass knuckles and the bag full of bloody rags in his closet. But still, when things get ugly —you gotta love him.

John McCain may publicly attack Obama for "voting for Dick Cheney's energy bill" —and he may, on occasion, lay some of the blame for the Iraq war's difficulties at the vice president's dooorstep, but let's just say there's some winking going on.

Consider this quote from an interview McCain gave author Stephen Hayes as he was preparing a book on Cheney. This was just over a year ago and McCain was asked whether he’d be interested in Cheney as a VP, or in some other administration role, McCain said: “I don’t know if I would want him as vice president. He and I have the same strengths. But to serve in other capacities? Hell, yeah.”

"Same strengths"?

"Hell, yeah"?

I guess the question becomes just who is giving whom an "offer they can't refuse"?

Barton Gellman, author of "Angler" —a study of the Cheney vice presidency— watched the debate between Biden and Palin and came away with this observation (which he shared in an article for

"Palin, by her own recent accounts, is more inclined than Biden to emulate the incumbent."

But there's hope, he also observes:

"But Palin is strictly an amateur by Cheney standards. The woman tried to use free e-mail services on the Web to circumvent Alaska's public records laws, as if no one would guess the identity of Letting her account get hacked was the inevitable newbie comeuppance. No one in Cheney's office would have dreamed of writing down some of the things the hackers found."

So I guess we can pin our hopes on a McCain/Palin administration where the abuse of power isn't carried off with nearly as much skill and accomplishment!

Unless of course they keep the old guy around as a coach.

"...Hell, yeah!"

Friday, October 3, 2008

Palin-drone and String Theory

“Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president’s agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him (Dick Cheney) that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we’ll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation.”

~Sarah Palin, vice presidential candidate
(and aspiring contortionist)

Perhaps years from now the quote above, from last night's debate, will be carved in stone and put on display in Washington, D.C. —I picture it somewhere along side the great reflecting pool between the Washington Monument and The Lincoln Memorial, shaded by a copse of trees, as a marker over the interred remains of the Constitution.