Sunday, November 23, 2014

White House Fool Report: Power

Little did these guys imagine that one day adult white Republicans would be in an almost identical position, suffering from somebody not getting deported. Via Libraries Linking Idaho.

So young senator Rand Paul thinks there's a parallel between the Obama order to delay deportation on 5 million undocumented immigrants last week and Franklin Roosevelt's order of February 1942 to throw 120,000 documented Japanese residents (barred on racial grounds from becoming citizens but nearly all of them either living in the country for a minimum of 34 years or born here, since no immigration had been allowed since 1908) into internment camps?

Hahahahaha. I guess they had in common that both were entirely legal. (Some people might claim that the victims of internment had a worse time than the victims of, um, say, who are those victims?)

The president probably wouldn't mind having the kind of congressional cooperation FDR got over the internment of Japanese, as BooMan reminds us, with the Senate and House practically competing that March to see which could move their legislation out fastest, and only one mild dissenter, Mr. Republican, Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, who complained that the penalties for disobeying the law (basically, for being Japanese in an unauthorized area meaning more or less everywhere outside of a camp) weren't stiff enough:

"I think this is probably the 'sloppiest' criminal law I have ever read or seen anywhere." He added, "I have no doubt that in peacetime no man could ever be convicted under it, because the court would find that it was so indefinite and so uncertain that it could not be enforced under the Constitution."
Yes, he was apparently afraid they'd have trouble keeping the Japanese Americans in camps once the war was over. But he didn't vote against it, anyway.

A serious conceptual error in the way we think about presidential war powers, as exemplified by the 1973 War Powers Resolution, is this often expressed hope that an emboldened Congress will stop the president from killing. What makes them think so? I don't think Congress has ever held the White House back from a military adventure ever since that small-government advocate President Jefferson sent the Navy to the Barbary Coast, and I'm sure it hasn't since 1973. It could, you see, it's always had the power, as Glinda said to Dorothy, but it doesn't want to!

We can see this at the reductio ad absurdum level in the congressional response to the Syrian air campaign, where they literally fled Washington rather than face the possibility of having to vote on it. Republicans wouldn't vote in favor of the thing, because that would mean voting in favor of the president, which they have sworn dreadful oaths never to do no matter how great the temptation, but they didn't feel comfortable voting against him either, if it meant voting against military adventures, which might make them look non-tough. They just ran away in terror (the only thing we have to fear is the fear of appearing fearful), in the hope that everybody would forget about it, which I believe they did, leaving Senator Paul to complain in utter abstraction from historical reality about the separation of powers not being separated enough:
"I care that too much power gets in one place. Why? Because there are instances in our history where we allow power to gravitate toward one person and that one person then makes decisions that really are egregious," Paul said. "Think of what happened in World War II where they made the decision [to intern Japanese]. The president issued an executive order.... We shouldn't allow that much power to gravitate to one individual. We need to separate the power."
As President Obama said on the subject of his immigration moves,
"To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: pass a bill,"
Because that's how the Constitution really works. It leaves enough room in the job descriptions that one branch can go some small distance to make up for the failings of another. In the 1950s the Supreme Court compensated for Congress's inability to pass civil rights legislation, in the 1970s Congress helped balance the executive's failure to control its intelligence apparatus, and right now the presidency is counteracting the cowardice and helplessness of Congress on a lot of issues.

But Congress will never ever learn to stop the president from excessive zeal in committing troops. It's just part of the structure. I'm afraid it's up to us to get better at electing presidents. In this I feel, as I've said, that electing Obama, and the anti–Stupid Shit caucus, is a sign of real progress, though I'm disappointed by Friday's discovery that the residual US force remaining in Afghanistan after New Year will not be as non-combat as advertised,
the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.

The internal discussion took place against the backdrop of this year’s collapse of Iraqi security forces in the face of the advance of the Islamic State as well as the mistrust between the Pentagon and the White House that still lingers since Mr. Obama’s 2009 decision to “surge” 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Some of the president’s civilian advisers say that decision was made only because of excessive Pentagon pressure, and some military officials say it was half-baked and made with an eye to domestic politics.
Call me old-fashioned, but I think keeping a promise is kind of important no matter how much General Dempsey (or Senator Lindsey Graham) is going to badmouth you for doing it.

Don't hear Senator Paul saying anything about that, though.*

 (Delighted, on the other hand, by the news that the House committee has been unable to find anything wrong with BENGHAZI!!! Not that it'll stop the Republicans from continuing to raise funds off the imaginary scandal. Because that's what they do.)

*Update: Also it may not be anything like as much of a departure from Obama's promise as Mazzetti and Schmidt suggest at the Times; BooMan, who has been reading the the story by Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan for the Washington Post instead, doesn't think so, and Wapo notes that they probably can't help it, to the extent that they're there at all:
U.S. forces probably will be engaged in direct combat with the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to them or other members of the remaining international military coalition. “Our expectation is that the Taliban and al-Qaeda will continue to directly threaten U.S. and other forces in Afghanistan,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
It may be that the Times sources had an interest in making the "debate" seem a lot more "heated" than it actually was.


From a post I ended up not writing a month or so ago, just for perspective. Obama has never been anywhere near as unpopular as some of his predecessors were most of the time:

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