Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Horse Race ~ YAWN! ~ Except Romney

DP Entertainment Rating: Chasms of Boredom Punctuated With Quick Descents Into Stark Terror

Don't get your Demon wrong ~ it's not that I don't regard the '08 presidential elections as absolutely crucial, or that I fail to appreciate fully what's at stake.

It's just that the media coverage of them so far has been so vapid & that almost all the candidates largely indistinguishable (with very few exceptions) that, in my view, on both sides of the slate, they're still up for grabs. Which is good, in a way. I can afford to sleep in until somebody either is revealed as really, really dangerous or really, really preferable.

Thus, I haven't really had anything worth ranting about until now.

To date, I've found the debates & attacks amusing only in several instances ~ for instance, the Clinton campaign efforts to hype the all-American "fear of a black nation" by bringing to our attention Obama's past drug use (evoking images of crime, drug-dealing & the wearing of baggy clothes by the black & brown members of the population), which dismays me deeply, seeing's that those two particular contenders hold historic places in American electoral politix--the 1st woman & the 1st black man running for President.

However, neither of those factors are enough, without more, to sway my vote. In some respects, Clinton & Obama are the same, & those are the respects that matter to me ~ the pernicious influence of corporate money in politix. They're both cut from the same cloth there, & their policy positions are not markedly different otherwise on domestic matters. Overall, I like Obama's presentation better than Hillary's. Obama may be lighter on foreign policy experience, but he hasn't been on the wrong side of the war issue, & he doesn't have to address what Hillary appears to be obsessed with: proving to the country she'd be "as tough as a man" in fighting militant Islam.

(I honestly don't worry whether she would be, but then I'm not suffering the delusion that women are inherently the weaker sex. My background & upbringing spring from proverbial hardy pioneer stock, where men are expected to be strong, & women even stronger. My personal experience is that it's as true today as it was 100 years ago).

I'm still leaning toward Edwards, who seems to understand the current death grip that corporate control has on politix (especially the military-industrial complex) must be loosed if anything in this country is really going to change & bring us back from the brink of WWIII. He's also paying attention to domestic issues, which I promise you, will make you forget Iraq/Iran if the predicted recession/depression Bush insists upon ignoring really arrives. Bush has succeeded in completely stripping &/or impeding all the social safety nets that most of us have had the luxury of not having to try to pry help from (in most cases, fruitlessly), because they've been systematically starved to death while we weren't paying attention.

I also like Dodd & Biden.

The only other thing I've found amusing to date is the odd argument between ol' Huckabee & Romney, both angling for the right-wing Christian vote. It boils down to this: whose religion is weirder?

Fortunately for me, it seems, I was innoculated at a very tender age against any particular religious doctrine by members of Huck's denomination, thanks to a babysitter who thought I would benefit by attending Baptist Sunday School. After spending several months scanning the skies for blood-red moons & otherwise seeing signs (& barely existing, miserably) in mortal fear of the Apocalypse the Baptists convinced me was imminent any minute, I have been blessedly immune to any brand of whacko religious fervor, Revelations-based, from the planet Korlob, or otherwise. Guess I'm just lucky. I prefer sane & moral humanism.

Obviously, I also can't get excited about the other GOP bandwagons: overhyped fear of Islamofascists &/or immigrants, so I'm pretty impervious to anything any GOP candidate is arguing.

Though I've never been at risk for voting Republican after the sorry shredded mess the Grand Old Party has made of everything in the past 6 years, I must note that two of the candidates are beyond frightening, & if elected, you can kiss America as we've known it completely goodbye: Mitt Romney & Rudy Giuliani.

Seems only one paper in the entire country has undertaken to probe very critically the candidates' stances on what will be the single most important issue other than the domestic economy ~ their intentions re the continued expansion of executive power.

Giulani flat-out refused to participate, but anyone with half a brain knows where he intends to go with that.

Here I'll defer to Glenn Greenwald's excellent if edgy commentary on Salon:

"In yet another superb piece of journalism, the peerless Charlie Savage of The Boston Globe submitted to the leading presidential candidates a questionnaire asking their views on 12 key questions regarding executive power. Savage's article accompanying the candidates' responses makes clear why these matters are so critical:

"In 2000, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were not asked about presidential power, and they volunteered nothing about their attitude toward the issue to voters. Yet once in office, they immediately began seeking out ways to concentrate more unchecked power in the White House -- not just for themselves, but also for their successors. . . .

"Legal specialists say decisions by the next president -- either to keep using the expanded powers Bush and Cheney developed, or to abandon their legal and political precedents -- will help determine whether a stronger presidency becomes permanent.

"'The sleeper issue in this campaign involves the proper scope of executive power,' said Richard Epstein, a University of Chicago law professor.All of the leading Democrats -- Edwards, Dodd, Biden, Clinton, Richardson and Obama -- submitted responses, as did Mitt Romney, John McCain and Ron Paul. Refusing to respond to the questions were -- revealingly -- Giuliani, Thompson and Huckabee. Significantly, if not surprisingly, all of the candidates who did respond, with the exception of Romney, repudiated most of the key doctrines of the Bush/Cheney/Addington/Yoo theories of executive omnipotence, at least for purposes of this questionnaire. I'll undoubtedly write more about those responses shortly.

"But by far the most extraordinary answers come from Mitt Romney. Romney's responses -- not to some of the questions but to every single one of them -- are beyond disturbing. The powers he claims the President possesses are definitively -- literally -- tyrannical, unrecognizable in the pre-2001 American system of government and, in some meaningful ways, even beyond what the Bush/Cheney cadre of authoritarian legal theorists have claimed.

"After reviewing those responses, Marty Lederman concluded: 'Romney? Let's put it this way: If you've liked Dick Cheney and David Addington, you're gonna love Mitt Romney.' Anonymous Liberal similarly observed that his responses reveal that 'Romney doesn't believe the president's power to be subject to any serious constraints.' To say that the President's powers are not 'subject to any serious constraints" -- which is exactly what Romney says -- is, of course, to posit the President as tyrant, not metaphorically or with hyperbole, but by definition.

"Each of the questions posed by Savage is devoted to determining the extent of presidential power the candidate believes exists and where the limits are situated. On every issue, Romney either (a) explicitly says that the President has the right to act without limits of any kind or (b) provides blatantly nonresponsive answers strongly insinuating the same thing.

"Just go and read what he wrote. It's extraordinary. Other than his cursory and quite creepy concession that U.S. citizens detained by the President are entitled to 'at least some type of habeas corpus relief' -- whatever 'some type' might mean (Question 5) -- Romney does not recognize a single limit on presidential power. Not one.

"And even with regard to his grudging allowance that American citizens should have 'some type of habeas relief,' Romney -- and only he -- implicitly endorses Alberto Gonzales' bizarre claim that -- despite the clear language of Article I, Section 9 -- "nothing in the Constitution confers an affirmative right to habeas corpus" (Question 9). Under this twisted Romney/Gonzales view, the right of habeas corpus -- which Thomas Jefferson described as "one of the essential principles of our government" and "the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution" -- is not constitutionally guaranteed to Americans but can be revoked at any time, for any reason.

"In every area, Romney explicitly says that neither laws nor treaties can limit the President's conduct. Instead, displaying the fear-mongering cowardice that lies at the heart of Bush/Cheney Republican power, Romney described the root of his view of the world this way: 'Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive.'"

"Romney recited that cowardly platitude -- what has now become the shameful flagship of the Republican Party -- in response to being asked whether the President has the power to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants even in the face of a law that makes it a crime to do so. At its core, the defining principle of the Republican Party continues to be a fear-driven repudiation of the American ethos as most famously expressed by Patrick Henry, all in service of keeping the citizenry in fear so the President can rule without limits.

"These are just some of the powers which Romney -- and, among the respondents, Romney alone -- claimed the President possesses, either by explicitly claiming them or refusing to repudiate them when asked directly:
* to eavesdrop on Americans with no warrants, even if doing so is in violation of Congressional law (Question 1);
* to attack Iran without Congressional authorization, even in the absence of an imminent threat (Question 2);
* to disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops (Question 3);
* to issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass laws enacted by Congress (Question 4);
* to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified where said treaties, in his view, "impinge upon the President's constitutional authority" (Question 8)Even more disturbing were the specific questions Romney refused to answer. When asked if the President has the right to use "interrogation techniques" that Congress, by law, has prohibited in all circumstances, here is what Romney said (Question 7):

"[Romney wrote] A President should decline to reveal the method and duration of interrogation techniques to be used against high value terrorists who are likely to have counter-interrogation training. This discretion should extend to declining to provide an opinion as to whether Congress may validly limit his power as to the use of a particular technique, especially given Congress's current plans to try to do exactly that.Mitt Romney is running for President and proudly refuses to say if he would obey the law regarding torture. Worse, he's citing national security as an excuse for refusing to answer the question. He's not even President yet, and he's already insisting that it's too Top Secret for him even to participate in the debate over the President's duties to abide by the law. Even considering where our country has been taken with these matters, that's an astonishing assertion -- that the Terrorists will win if Mitt Romney expresses his views on whether the President must obey the law.

"Underscoring his authoritarian mentality, Romney refused to say that there was even a single 'executive power the Bush administration has claimed or exercised that [he] think[s] is unconstitutional' or even that there were any which were 'simply a bad idea' (Question 10). In Romney's view, the Leader has not erred at all."

Read on:



Anonymous Frank said...

I got a chuckle out of your description of Baptist Sunday school.

I was raised Southern Baptist, but the Southern Baptist Church of my youth is as far removed from the Southern Baptists of today as Episcopalians are removed from Seventh Day Adventists.

It appears that the Sunday school you were afflicted with was not like the one I attended. Such is the priesthood of the believer, I guess.

Theologically, I am still very much a Baptist, but, somewhere along the line, the Southern Baptists have lost their roots.

Elijah Lewis, who founded the little church I grew up in, spent large amounts of time in jail (back then, before the Revolutionary War, it was spelled "gaol") for the crime of not being Church of England.

Now members of the church for which he was a missionary would put persons in jail for the crime of not being wingnut fundamentalists.

Somewhere in there is an irony.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Demon Princess said...

Haha! Thanks, Frank, for the background. For what it's worth, I don't purport to know what "real Baptists" believe. I just know that once I recovered from my particular encounter, I grew a healthy (IMHO) skeptical take on such matters, which hasn't at all prevented me from being spiritual & enjoying attending different churches with childhood friends & teenage friends.

These days, I'm sure, I'd be instantly identified by some sort of electric kool-aid acid test as a dabbler at best & turned away at the entrance, or at worst, labelled heretic & burned at the stake.

I actually feel quite fortunate to have had a breadth of experience with different churches in my "village." I don't really know if that same sort of low-key experience of religion is possible today.

7:16 PM  

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