kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Should W. be worried?

Our President and maximum leader may be a bit worried over the holiday season. He clearly has a few opponents, ideological, strategic, military, etc., to worry about. But if his supporters sound like Charles Krauthammer, then he may be in real trouble.

Krauthammer has gotten a lot of publicity for his recent column, suggesting that the mere mention of "impeachment" of the current Prez is simply nonsense.

Here is a link to Krauthammer's text.

One might gloss his sophisticated and deeply-informed argument as follows (to make it easier to follow, I'll label the premises and conclusion):

  • Premise(s): I don't like impeachment.
  • Conclusion: Anyone who disagrees with me is a moron.
I know I find this convincing.

But others might not, so to persuade them I thought it might be worthwhile to take ten minutes to clarify his argument, so we can get back to the business at hand, whatever that may be.

Charlie is not only a trained psychotherapist, but an award-winning journalist, so he knows not to bury the lead. Hence, he starts with this argument:

Does the president have the constitutional authority to conduct warrantless searches against suspected foreign agents in the United States? George Washington University law professor Orin Kerr (one critic calls him the man who "literally wrote the book on government seizure of electronic evidence'') finds "pretty decent arguments'' on both sides but his own conclusion is that Bush's actions were "probably constitutional.''

So Professor Kerr comes out and says that there are "pretty decent" argument on both sides, but concludes that Bush's actions were "probably constitutional." A carping cynic might rewrite this as saying this:

Professor Kerr suggests there are arguments on both sides, including decent arguments indicating that Bush's actions might well be unconstitutional.
That, of course, is equivalent to Charlie's own version, but those who adopt this reading are sputtering nonsense. Odd that if claim x is nonsense, and is equivalent to claim y, that somehow y isn't nonsense.

Update (12.28.05): It turns out that Charlie didn't even get Professor Kerr right;
as Kerr writes of those who invoke his name as did Krauthammer,

I believe Charles Krauthammer may have had the same misunderstanding, so maybe it's a widespread misconception.
End of Update

But while this no doubt constitutes a knockdown argument, Charlie isn't done.

Some even suggest that Bush has thereby so trampled the Constitution that impeachment should now be considered. (Barbara Boxer, Jonathan Alter, John Dean and various luminaries of the left have already begun floating the idea.) The braying herds have already concluded, Tenet-like, that the president's actions were slam-dunk illegal.

Another excellent point. We begin with the classic strategy, identifying with a broad brush the "left," which apparently includes anyone who mentions the word "impeachment" (or, presumably, implies it). Now the left includes not just raving Marxists like Dean, but a more expansive set of fifth-columnists, seeking to impose state control over private property, such as Jonathan Turley (a colleague of Professor Kerr), Bruce Fein (from the Reagan administration), and notorious leftist George Will. Indeed, on Charlie's taxonomy, someone suggesting that W. does not have the power to determine what is and what is not unconstitutional becomes a "luminary of the left." In short, the Cato Institute has been exposed as a hotbed of Leninists, I guess. And if one dare suggest that the judicial or legislative branch has a role in government, that person becomes a member of the "braying herds." To make things worse, they think like George Tenet.

Here's another leftist, Paul Craig Roberts: the John M. Olin fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, and senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution (all subversive hotbeds):

The Bush administration justifies torture and threatens to veto congressional attempts to restrain its use. The Bush administration justifies indefinite detention of American citizens without charges. It asserts the power of indefinite detention based on its subjective judgment about who is a threat. An American government that preaches “freedom and democracy” to the world claims the powers of tyrants as its own.

Americans need to wake up. The only danger to Americans in Iraq is the one Bush created by invading the country. The grave threat that Americans face is the Bush administration’s police state mentality.
He's also not a big fan of warrantless surveillance of American citizens.

It might be worth noting that no one has actually said impeachment is a "slam dunk," but many have pointed out that a possible violation the U.S. Constitution might be sufficient cause for wondering if such an act qualifies as a high crime or misdemeanor. Yet Charlie is happy to move from "person S mentions impeachment" to "person S considers Bush's acts unquestionably illegal."

One other claim of Krauthammer's is worth considering:

Contrary to the administration, I also believe that as a matter of political prudence and comity with Congress, Bush should have tried to get the law changed rather than circumvent it. This was an error of political judgment. But that does not make it a crime. And only the most brazen and reckless partisan could pretend it is anything approaching a high crime and misdemeanor.

Here is another excellent point. My dictionary characterizes "circumvent" as "deceive, outwit, overreach, find a way round, evade."

As Charlie indicates, W. did "circumvent" the law. To suggest that the sitting President "evading" the law would be a crime is, unquestionably, a bizarre inference, and to suggest that circumventing the law is to break the law (e.g., to commit a high crime or misdemeanor) requires the semantic bufoonery employed only by a "brazen and reckless partisan."

On Krauthammer's own reading, Bush circumvented the law, and others have said that if Bush violated the Constitution, that such an act raises the possibility of having committed an impeachable offense (to be sure, this does make the extremely imaginative assumption that violating the Constitution qualifies as an impeachable offense).

Here's a nice link to a piece indicating why W. might have decided to, uh, "circumvent" the law; evidently that nasty little FISA court wasn't sufficiently compliant with the Administration's requests.

There is more to be said about these arguments of Krauthammer's, but I will end with two points.

First, if this is the best defense Bush supporters can provide, Bush should be very worried.

Second, if one chooses to take Krauthammer seriously here, one might consider his views of impeachment relative to Clinton.

If it can be shown -- as any sentient person must believe -- that he did [lie in the Monica Lewinsky case], nothing else matters. His presidency is over.

My guess is, however, that he will never resign. He'd be $3 million in debt, humiliated, powerless, indeed homeless. This gambler did not even leave himself a San Clemente to fly home to. And impeachment over one count of perjury will likely not even be attempted.

No. He'll try to stay in office no matter how many party elders beg him to leave. He'll be a dead man walking, an object of ridicule, an Oval Office O.J., denying what everyone knows he did.

You might contrast this prognostication with the remarks of Dan Froomkin, who writes for the (Communist) Washington Post and blogs:

More than four in 10 Americans, according to a recent Zogby [Communist] poll, say that if President Bush did not tell the truth about his reasons for going to war with Iraq, Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment.

But you wouldn't know it from following the news. Only three mainstream outlets that I can find made even cursory mention of the poll last week when it came out.

You also wouldn't know it judging from the political discourse in Washington, but that makes a little more sense. After all, impeachment is for all practical purposes a political act, not a legal one. So with a Republican-controlled Congress that doesn't even like to perform basic White House oversight, it's basically a moot point.

Nevertheless, could there be anything that 42 percent of Americans agree on that the media care about so little?

Froomkin notes that within days of the Monica Lewinsky details becoming public, impeachment was part of the standard set of polling questions. Yet only Zogby seems even to be asking the question about impeaching a President who lied about going to war.

Now that Bush has admitted in public to wiretapping American citizens without a warrant, one might think this polling question could become a bit more prevalent. Might. (And I'm happy to suggest that I have serious doubts about whether lying to get us into a war constitutes an impeachable offense. Warrantless searches is a different story.)

I must be a moron--and clearly in need of some sweet sweet Krauthammer psychotherapy--to wonder why we can't consider the notion of impeaching this President for not only having possibly broken the law (and thus having violated his oath of office), but having announced it in public and having reaffirmed his intention to continue to do so.


Blogger Bazarov said...

I can't really think of anything to say about this post so i'll just say what i wanted to say anyways (i'm practicing my political skills).
Why is the administration so quick to jump on the spying probe leak but so slow to get around to the leak which led to CIA operative being made public? Hmm...
And the whitehouse spokesperson, Duffy. Can we just string him up by his pubes and throw darts at him yet? Not at his face of course, just maybe somewhere that would end the 3.5 billion year long legacy of DNA that led to him (6000 for all you educated creationists/ID folk). Anyone get the urge to gag themselves into a vomit-frenzy whenever they see the people we pay to run this grand piece of property?

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi idiot.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Frodo said...

Full convincing argument article defending bush’s need to break the law:

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act:
First off of the previous 5 administrations since 1979 requested FISA surveillance or searches 18,740 times, they were never denied, NONE! and only modified TWO requests! But during King W's reign this administration requested 5,645 and had 179 modified and rejected or deferred 6, the first time ever this court has EVER rejected a surveillance request. ???

Those overbearing FISA judges rejected 6 of 5,645, or .001 of all W's requests. I have seen these numbers in other newspapers. But what in the world is this administration requesting? Who do they want to spy on?

Here's the $64,000 question, It is a given the FISA judges grant the wire tap 99.999 percent of the time. It is always approved. So please explain why they refused to get the guaranteed rubber stamp from the oversight court. It isn't oversight, it's "turn a blind eye and let the president bugger whoever he wants to, just keep a tally of who's getting it in the end".

Who is SOOOOOOOOO freaking scary to this administration that they can't even tell the rubber stamp judges what they are up to? My money is on the Quakers in Florida running that
anti-war anti-enlistment operation. They are obviously a threat to the this administration, the United States and dare I say the entire free world!

Oddly enough the existing law they put in after Nixon went King Lear Crazy Paranoid and started spying on everybody except Trisha. That FISA law says go ahead start the executively super secret spying just tell the courts within 3 days, and then there is even a provision to allow for a few weeks before notification. It is a legal rubber stamp that congress put into place to "help" the president not get his hands caught in the cookie jar. The poor career NSA workers are now screwed because they were again "just following orders" from the president. They are extremely P.O. because the NSA has everything setup in their favor, to do their jobs 100% legal, no worries. I start my spying first and then get a judge to ok the job and I am golden. W decided not. And the NSA guys are stuck with their nuts in a vice and W blabbing at the podium, press conference, and any Sunday morning show that'll have him that “Yeah I ordered the NSA to Wire tap”… and I said it was ok, I just got tired asking For judges to ok my stuff cause .001 percent were Rejected.

Ok I’m taking bets on how hard the white house stonewalls and refuses to give up the names of who W spied on. And the reason being...
Come on say it together...
National Security Interests.

President Bush, Nixon on line 1, he has some resignation advice.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin

3:15 PM  
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nice, cozy place you got here :)..

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