Hope, but no change: Obama to continue renditions

Someone remind me exactly what I voted for last November? NYT:

The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terror suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but will monitor their treatment to insure they are not tortured, administration officials said on Monday.

But, why send them to foreign countries unless they will be tortured, and-or their “arrests” (whatever that means in the context of being kidnapped by U.S. agents in a third county) were improper. In sum, an attempt to continue the Bush administration’s end run around our laws.

Signing statements that assert a unilateral Presidential power to rewrite laws. Indefinite detention without trial. A withdrawal from Iraq roughly in line with that proposed by President Bush — which is to say, an indefinite occupation army. A dramatic increase in spending on the war in Afghanistan without any clear statement of our objective there. Lots of money for bankers. At this rate, I won’t be very surprised if the big push for health care reform winds up as the Bush prescription drug benefit 2.0: top dollar for health care corporations, happy talk for everyone else.

I’m full of hope, but in the “Significant Changes from the Bush Administration Department” this is all I have to date, and it’s pretty paltry compared to the paragraph above: more money for foreign abortions, easier employment discrimination lawsuits, stem cell research allowed, and CIA secret prisons closed. Afertig notes an investigation into our torturers. I’ll add the release of the torture memos. Syphax notes advocacy for a multi-lateral cap on greenhouse gas emissions and appointment of some environmentally-minded people to important positions (which, of course, to paraphrase, is not change itself, only the possibility for change). And that, my friends, in one thin paragraph, is all the substantive change the hive mind can come up with to date.

I’m happy to update this with any other significant changes I have missed if you add them in the comments.

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31 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Dammit

    And I was having a good day.

    Re: the signing statements, I think that was somewhat overblown. As I understand it, Obama was annoyed that Congress was overly prescribing how money should be spent, tying his hands. If it came down to it, I would side with Congress on that issue, but I think the Obama statement was a far cry from Bush's claims that certain laws did not apply to him.

    Does anyone know if Deval uses signing statements? And if so, are they archived?

    • Hmm, perhaps as a matter of practice on Obama's signing statements

      But I'm not so sure as a matter of theory and maybe I've got the practice part wrong as well.

      Here's Barney Frank in a recent comment:

      "During the previous administration, all of us were critical of the president's assertion that he could pick and choose which aspects of Congressional statutes he was required to enforce," they wrote. "We were therefore chagrined to see you appear to express a similar attitude."
      • I think signing statements are bad

        But I think the debate implied here is a helpful executive/legislative one, and I take pride that OUR party challenges our president on such matters.

  2. I don't know...

    Is this a start?

  3. Here's a few marked changes:

    Obama advocated for the climate bill

    U.S. Climate Change Impacts Report released

    Steven Chu and a relevant Dept. of Energy

    Van Jones on the CEQ

  4. Hate to break it to you..

    ...but the more I think about this the less surprised I am.  If you listened to his speeches it was all about bringing people together, not rocking the boat, nothing divisive or controversial.  So many drooled over him because he opposed the Iraq invasion whereas Clinton and Edwards voted for it.  I can't say for sure if or how Hillary Clinton would be different specifically.  I am disappointed, but don't feel quite as emotionally betrayed as some.  Lack of fight over health care and lack of enthusiasm for LGBT equality fall into this category as well.

    • Recommendation - read Kearns Goodwins $quot;Team of Rivals$quot;

      ...and see how timing played into the Emancipation Proclamation, and the heat Lincoln took from both sides.  I will have to look much more deeply into not so much signing statements, but what is actually done - or not done.

  5. The actual signing statement:

    signing statement

    This signing statement does NOT bother me.  What, exactly, do you find objectionable about it?

    • It's a gauntlet

      Congress threw it, and Obama threw it back.

      He should have just refused to sign the bill and sent it back.

      Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
      • Line-item veto would fix this.

        As long as the President is required to take it or leave it in its entirety, he needs to have some leeway of enforcement priorities.

  6. We're the losers in a tag team match.

    One administration after another.  The names change and our losses keep coming.  In ten years we'll all be debt slaves, fearing the wrath of the Presidential Star Chamber.  

    Hope?, being quickly beaten out of me.  

  7. Obama's Secret Service is Violating the Fourth Amendment Rights of Citizens As Well

    Why would you be surprised Bob.  Why just today we learned that Barack Obama's Secret Service is violating the Fourth Amendment Rights of private citizens against illegal seizure, in order to protect Michelle from having a picture taken with a hamburger in her mouth.

    • Boo hoo

      They were temporarily confiscated.  Let the First Lady eat in peace!

      • So if I refused and told the secret service agent to go pound sand*

        and some sort of action was taken against me for it, I would be wrong to have done so?  

        *would be said more politely, but to that effect.

        • That's what test cases are for!

          See you in the Supreme Court.

          But if the people didn't want to temporarily give up their items, they themselves could have pounded sand. I know at big-time movie premiers, people have voluntarily to give up their cell phones, etc or be denied entrance into the theater.

          Yes, it may suck if you're eating at your favorite burger joint and all of a sudden the Michelle and kids show up, but that's life in DC.

    • They were probably given a choice

      to leave or give up their cell phones and cameras.

    • Love me some nutty Eabo conspiricy theories!

      You know, if indeed the Secret Service did confiscate these cell phones without probable cause to do so and did not give the people the option to leave, there is this great organization called the ACLU that will be willing to take up the fight and bring the Secret Service to court to correct this action. I suggest you get in contact with them.

      I remember when the MBTA was always doing random bag searches. MBTA cops had no probable cause to search these people's bags, but people also had the right to not enter the T station and not have their bags searched.  I wonder if Constitutional crusader EaBo was for or against those searches? I also wonder where was EaBo's constitutional outrage when Bush and Cheney would not deny citizens who did not sign loyalty oaths accesses to the President's speeches and when the administration was ordering the arrest of people wearing anti-Bush t-shirts, lol:

      CHARLESTON, WV - The Bush Administration will pay a Texas couple $80,000 for their arrest on the West Virginia capitol grounds on July 4, 2004, for peacefully expressing their opposition to President Bush by messages on their T-shirts....

      Event staff and law enforcement ordered them either to leave the event or remove or cover their shirts. The couple responded by insisting they had a First Amendment right to remain and express their views. The two were arrested for trespassing, handcuffed, and hauled away in a police van. The charges against them were later dismissed and the City of Charleston, not a defendant in the case, apologized for the incident.


    • Horsie guy - you are posting the same, nonrelevant link all over -

      I didn't look at it the first time, it renders you irrelevant - I don't think anyone will click on your blog link and the purpose of comments is to comment on the post, not promote something that has no link or relevance.  Tedious.

  8. Never being a big fan of executive power anyway

    I wonder if it isn't mainly up to Congress to outlaw renditions, mercenaries, and other morally objectionable activities of the defense department and intelligence services under their purview.

    • I am a fan of executive power (more or less)

      I think Alexander Hamilton had a point when talking about the "energy of the executive".  Sometimes quick decisions have to be made and Congress is just not designed for that.  However, the Constitution does NOT grant war powers or emergency powers to the President as some other national constitutions do.  The Constitution also specifically calls the President the Commander-in-Chief of the armies and navies of the United States, not Commander-in-Chief of all Americans.  In other words John Yoo was almost entirely wrong in his advice to the Bush administration about what it had the power to do.  The President can tell troops where to go and how to organize, but that's about it.  I do think it is within Congress' authority to prohibit by statute the things you mention, but they have to get the President's signature or override his veto, then they have to be willing to enforce it even to the degree of impeachment if necessary.

  9. Are these Obama accomplishment?

    Snitchgate - "The White House has now retreated and claim that this data collection program has been dismantled, after outrage from countless Americans, including Sen. Cornyn, who, earlier this month, sent a letter to President Obama, criticizing this effort."

    How about this email fiasco

    Gitmo - no change.

    Patriot Act - no change.

    Faith based initiatives - Increases funding.

    Changed Iraq fear mongering to Healthcare fear mongering.

    Changed way lobbyists enter his Administration ... But he gets getting waivers to get his appointees on his staff William Lynn (is Tom Daschle a lobbyist?)

    • Doesn't surprise me

      I am incredibly shocked to find the left wing progressive community outraged over this President. On gay rights what did he promise except for incrementalism and tepid change. He voted in favor of warrantless wiretaps in the US Senate as a candidate. Barack Obama is a Burkean Liberal which is why I proudly supported him.

      On Iraq he has listened to the generals and advanced a timetable that I think will secure the stability of the country and ensure a peaceful US withdrawl. We would have seen a much more violent uprising with target signs on our soldiers backs not to mentioned billions of abandoned equipment and infrastructure if we left on day one. I give the President a pass on this, he inherited a mess that never should have happened and you can't just make an entire army pull a 180 degree turn and then expect the situation to get better. Its smart, its coordinated with non partisan experts such as Secretary Gates and General Petreaus, and it has been done with the utmost consultation with the Iraqi people. They want us to stay until 2011, they want us out after that, it seems that everybody wins with this policy. I give him an A+. If you wanted immediate withdrawl you should have voted for Dennis Kucinich, candidate Obama never promised that.

      On the Patriot Act a change requires a legislature with the balls to make it. It is up to the Democrats in Congress to change this law, also remember Sen. Feingold and Sen. Sunnunu worked out a new compromise Patriot Act that removed most of the egregious portions of it. But I am confident if Pelosi and Reid had the balls to get a repeal to his desk the President would sign it.

      On signing statements-isn't this what progressives want? Most on BMG love getting rid of the filibuster and altering MA election laws if it helps their beloved progressive policies or politicians why not if it helps their President? I mean as a civil libertarian I oppose this and do feel betrayed that the President did say he would not continue this practice, and to wit he is using signing statements not to refuse to enforce portions of the bills but simply to levy disagreement with them. Also since President Jackson ignored the SCOTUS case on Indian removal, I think precedent is pretty clear that the executive can choose to enforce legislation as he sees fit. I disagree with that on principle, but unless a new SCOTUS case or new legislation establishes a new precedence, I think he is in the clear on this one, as much as I hate them and as much as they portray the sentiments of divided government, they are not illegal.

      On Gitmo the President has changed policy by allowing the terror suspects to get due process as they would as criminals in a US court which is the important thing. I could care less where the detainees are so long as there rights are restored. This is a marked change from the Bush policy. Now closing Gitmo is important from a foreign relations/pr perspective and it would have been done by now if Harry Reid and other so called 'progressive' Senators didn't get all NIMBY about moving the detainees into their state. The ball is in their court, not the President's to pony up to recieving the prisoners.

      On LGBT rights. Again I am not surprised, I am not happy with the pace of his enforcement, especially on DADT. Repealing DOMA would require Congress to act first as would establishing domestic partnership benefits federally. Giving DPs to federal employees and killing DADT could be accomplished by an executive order but President Obama is claiming he views executive orders as less legitimate than legislation passed by Congress and is leaving the power in their hands. Also progressives should have expected this seeing that Obama probably had one of the weaker LGBT planks during the primary campaign, Richardson's was probably the strongest out of the mainstream candidates. Also his book demonstrates a strinkingly homophobic attitude on his part in some instances and a wariness to confront the civil rights issue of our time. As a Burkean, he favors incremental change but incremental change should at least have a first step, especially in the overwhelmingly popular notion of repealing DADT, and he has dropped the ball on even advancing the incremental change he promised.

      As for rendition I believe the justification used is that the torture is out, but it might make more sense to allow multiple intelligence agencies the right to question suspects to coordinate information and intelligence. Also its a matter of allowing suspects overseas to be interrogated by their own countrymen which I actually view as a positive change from the Bush years when we illegally detained and questioned foreign nationals. I would rather a British national accused of being an AQ member be interrogated by MI5 than by the CIA simply to respect his rights as a British citizen. But I also think the President could be doing a better job making sure that the no torture porviso is strictly enforced.

      Lastly, overall I would aruge that I am not disappointed by this President. He ran and won as a centrist Democrat. He is and has always been a pragmatist first and a progressive second, if at all. His record, speeches, and positions demonstrate this, and he was serious about being bi-partisan, it was not rhetoric. It is also one of the most ideologically diverse cabinets I've seen, full of many Clinton loyalists, two notable Bush holdovers, and a few moderate Republicans. There are also in Austin Goolsbee and Cass Susstein libertarian paternalists, who I would argue constitute a unique third way within the progressive movement that is very intriguing. Overall this is a group of people committed to getting things done and not interested in ideology, which I find refreshing compared to the last few years, but it appears most on BMG wanted a take no prisoners liberal Democratic version of Bush. The bombastic, partisan, unilateral President who fought to protect his base of voters at the expense of the national interest. I for one am glad President Obama is not of that stripe.

      Where he has failed is he has overreacted to the Bush years and allowed Congress to be the primary driver of the federal government. While I agree that Bush ignored or bullied Congress in a way that distorted the traditional division of powers I believe Obama has gone too far in the other direction. The failure of health care reform will be an example of that. It is also one of the few areas where his progressive ideology (i.e gov healthcare=good) is overriding his pragmatic politics. Wyden-Bennet would have passed the House and full Senate months ago, the fact that it has not been considered is ludicrous and the President should revisit it after the public option dies. It destroys employer based healthcare and implements other cost-cutting reforms which gives progressives a good foundation to work towards future single payer and other public options while also making free market healthcare more efficient which gives conservatives a nice victory as well. The fact that this is the one area where he refuses to be pragmatic and follows the tunnel vision of the left wing of the Democratic party is rather disconcerting, especially when he is willing to throw them under the bus on signing statements, transparency and other issues where I wish he would be less pragmatic.  

  10. Even the Federal Reserve is a continuation. Nothin succeeds like a bailout.

    The only change we got was short change.  I don't know which is sadder, listening to the administration drone on about continuing what the previous administrations did, or listening to the party apparatchiks justifying the process.

    ...Does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?


  11. A measure of success???

    While our hard earned taxes have been spent on "cash for clinkers" and we have been told this was money well spent for our economy... sort of right. The numbers show 41% of all vehicles purchased were non-American vehicles so Japan, Korea and others countries are laughing all the way to the bank with our tax dollars. THANKS Obama!!!

    • /?!/?!/?!/?!/?!/?!/?!/?!/?!/?!/?!/?!

      = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    • amazingly ignorant

      Not only did local dealerships make money, no car or car company is purely US anymore.  Hyundai, Toyota, Honda, etc. all have US plants and Ford, GM, etc. all use foreign made parts and have plants abroad. Additionally, Ford partners with Mazda (and owns 13%)  and GM has partnered with Toyota for years. American workers and companies are benefiting regardless.

      Jingoism is an ugly thing, especially when coupled with willful ignorance.

  12. Bob's statement of $quot;why send them to foreign countries unless they will be tortured$quot;

    "[Why] send them to foreign countries unless they will be tortured" is such an ignorant statement. Just because you are unable to fathom any other possible reasons for rendition, doesn't mean that is the only reason why we transport them to other countries. Unless you provide us with some facts, your comment would be rendered incredible and a waste of the reader's time.

    • ok, I'll bite

      Why else would you send them to other countries?  

    • It's not a statement

      It's a question. A question that you made no attempt to answer, although you strongly imply that there is such an answer.

      Since you didn't provide us with an answer, your comment is a waste of the reader's time.

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