Sunday, January 15, 2012

Isn't this a legitimate criticism?

I don't think Jack Kelly reads anything I say. Which is fine with me, I am going to say what I say regardless of that. But one might wonder where Jack does get his ideas for his columns. I suspect, given his fondness for referencing them, that Jack draws his inspiration(s) from right wing publications and/or blogs. So some on the right wing must have noticed that President Obama is following in the (negative) tradition of George Bush, in grabbing (or just retaining) a lot of power in the Presidency. Maybe people on the right are starting to read Glenn Greenwald.

Today's Jack Kelly column is (sub)titled"A constitutional crisis looms as the president flouts the law". I have been saying for (I believe its) months that while most (or, well, all) of Mr. Kelly's previous criticisms where wrong (based on faulty information, faulty economics, what have you), there were/are legitimate criticisms from the left. Today Jack Kelly get the closest to making those criticisms as I can remember seeing him do. Mind you, he does essentially fail, but today's criticisms are similar to legitimate ones.

I don't think, or would like not to think that this is some sort of "even a stopped clock is right twice a day". Although I will also say that Kelly manages to absolve George Bush even as he slams Obama, supporting the liberal phrase, "its all right if a Republican does it".

So to get to brass tacks, the two allegations I can tease out of Kelly's column are first that a) Obama was ignoring the will of Congress when he attached a signing statement to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that said he would not enforce a particular provision of that law and b) that when Obama made a recess appointment of Richard Cordray for head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Senate was not in recess. Kelly also takes pains to say that most mainstream and/or liberal members of the press did not take any note of these attacks on the constitution.

There's probably something to the last point, but two of the media sources I consult regularly, Glenn Greenwald at salon dot com and the Daily Show, covered these issues. Greenwald covered the NDAA and also has spent time recently in particular discussing how much of the press is giving Obama a pass when he clearly violates parts of the constitution.
The Daily Show, for its part, mentioned both issues in (what else) fairly funny bits. For the recess appointment issue, they showed the clip from C SPAN where the Senate's President Pro Temp or whichever appointed stand in gavel-ed in a session and a second later recessed it for the rest of the holiday. Stewart made a quite comical arm's spread and "what?" gesture for that particular maneuver.

The Daily Show also took note of Obama's signing statement for the NDAA. As I understand it, the NDAA allows for indefinite detention of American citizens. Obama, in his signing statement, said that this provision of this law would not be enforced in his administration. The Daily Show said something about how Obama put a sad face next to his signature, and I believe also something about how Americans were lucky that the Obama administration would continue forever (Stewart did it funny).

I think the National Defense Authorization Act issue is a constitutional failure in more than one way. Authorization for indefinite detention, which should be, under our constitution, illegal, was passed by Congress. At the very least Obama should have vetoed it for that reason. Is the signing statement unconstitutional, in this particular case or in general? In general there have been signing statements dating back to James Monroe, although I am given to understand they didn't generally have instructions until starting in the Reagan era. For this specific case, it seems to me that the President, as chief executive of the federal government, can choose how to enforce laws to at least some degree. But putting in the signing statement is a poor excuse for allowing a flagrant violation of constitutional provision come into law.

As for the recess appointment, yes, in a technical sense clearly the Senate was not in recess. But the Senate was not actually doing anything (I am sure the majority were home relaxing or raising money), and then there is the issue of the abuse of the filibuster by the Republicans since they lost the Senate in 2006. Of course, I can see why Kelly is complaining about this particular recess appointment. Conservative Tea Party types are bitterly opposed to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, and would have preferred to indefinitely block the appointment of a director.

As I said, Kelly repeatedly defends George Bush's actions as not stepping over the constitutional boundaries. Obviously a lot of liberals would disagree with that, but one liberal (Greenwald) asserts that Obama also steps over a similar line. Which raises an inevitable question, who's worse, Obama or Bush. Frankly, I can't really say. Bush being a Republican, it is tempting to simply say he's worse, but in many ways Obama is more disappointing. At the end of the day, Bush and Obama are both so guilty of stepping over the line. Bush should be prosecuted, but he is out of office and not really able to do anymore damage. Obama is still in office, and could easily get re-elected.

So that's Jack Kelly's column today. He still gets it wrong, but I gotta say that he's getting closer.

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