Obama Reduced To Demonizing His Critics

Crossposted from Antemedius

The other day, after Barack Obama’s speech at the National Archives Building in Washington, the New York Times printed a “news analysis” piece that was one of the most offensive pieces of manipulation I think I’ve ever read, in it’s oh so reasonable sounding efforts (probably successful with the vast majority who read it) to marginalize and equate with neanderthals and the far right wing anyone who is not interested in becoming terrorists to fight invented terrorism, with it’s interpretation of Obama’s statements in his speech:

He must convince the country that it is in safe hands despite warnings to the contrary from the right, and at the same time persuade the skeptical left that it is enough to amend his predecessor’s approach rather than abandon it.

In the reductionist debate in Washington, either any sacrifice must be made to win a pitiless war against radicals, or terrorism does not justify any compromise with cherished American values.

Unfortunately, Barack Obama seems to be in complete agreement with the NYT’s manipulations of public opinion:

“Both sides may be sincere in their views, but neither side is right,” Mr. Obama said. “The American people are not absolutist, and they don’t elect us to impose a rigid ideology on our problems. They know that we need not sacrifice our security for our values, nor sacrifice our values for our security, so long as we approach difficult questions with honesty and care and a dose of common sense.”

Today, Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights, talks with Real News Network CEO Paul Jay with his own analysis of Obama’s speech and his determination to “legalize” the Military Commissions set up under George Bush with the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA).



Real News Network – May 23, 2009

“Absolutist” to defend the law?

Michael Ratner: It’s outrageous to equate people who demand the rule of law with those who break it

This “align with the standard of law we use in the US” rhetoric Obama’s been using to try to justify and make acceptable NOT aligning with the standard of law really bothers me coming from a Constitutional Lawyer. It’s political rhetoric and smokescreen he’s using to say one thing but do another, imo.

If he wanted seriously to “align with the standard of law” there is no need for an MCA or the commissions and they should by his own reasoning be tried in “regular” courts with the same rights to confront accusers and challenge evidence – only evidence allowed by law – accorded any other criminally charged defendants, so it is as obvious as the nose on my face that he has no intention of doing anything but circumvent the standard of law with these prisoners, and sell bullshit to the American public and anyone else he can find who will buy it and not see through it.

Two quotes from his own words on the floor of the Senate on September 28, 2006 – his own reaction to passage of S. 3930, Military Commissions Act of 2006 – which approved U.S. torture of detainees and strips Constitutional rights away from detainees, that make it clear the he has always intended to continue the so-called WOT, the dismantling of rights, and avoidance of the law:

All of us – Democrats and Republicans – want to do whatever it takes to track down terrorists and bring them to justice as swiftly as possible. All of us want to give our President every tool necessary to do this. And all of us were willing to do that in this bill. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to the American people.


I’ve heard, for example, the argument that it should be military courts, and not federal judges, who should make decisions on these detainees. I actually agree with that.

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    • Edger on May 23, 2009 at 5:50 pm
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    but I’m feeling pretty Bushed, and I don’t much like attempts to manipulate or demonize me.

  1. a President has ever given.

    No President, not even Bush, has ever claimed the legal right to preemptively and permanently hold anyone he believes might commit a crime in the future, let alone formally institute a permanent, extra-Constitutional tribunal beholden only to him to decide the legal rights of people he arbitrarily and capriciously detains.

    Yet there he stands, so pompous and superior, callously denigrating and dismissing as ‘absolutist’ the fundamental principles of the document he claims to hold so dear.

    I hope they mopped the floors of Independence Hall with extra strength bleach after that speech, because the stain Obama left in those hallowed halls won’t be easy to remove.

  2. Obama’s forked tongue grows and grows!

    • dkmich on May 23, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Too bad there’s nothing in there.  

  3. For many of those being detained which falls between criminal and prisoner of war, and entitles the captive to the basic protections required of either of the above two categories.  This then gets justified by describing all tossed into that hole as “terrorists”.  As anyone who actually pays attention well knows, only a (very small) minority of those being held could fairly be described as “terrorists”, active dedicated al-Qaida members.  Some were nothing but the personal enemies of Afghan warlords, who took the Americans money and got rid of a nuisance  in one two-fer.  However, the largest group is in many ways the saddest: ordinary Afghans, not members of a uniformed military unit, who dared to take up guns and shoot at a foreign invading/occupying army.  Some were low-level fighters affiliated with the Taliban, some had no political association at all, but in either case, none of them represent any sort of “terrorist threat” to the US or anyone else, they are simply Afghan patriots who did nothing that millions of Americans wouldn’t do if our nation were invaded and occupied by a foreign power. (Note; don’t invade a foreign country and expect nobody there to oppose your conquest.) To put it simply, the Minutemen of Lexington and Concord would be categorized as “illegal combatants” by the standards put forward by both the Bush and Obama administrations, and any captured would be consigned to indefinite, perhaps permanent, detention with no rights or recourses.    

  4. day by day, until Bush/Cheney stand trial.

  5. I see it. But I can scarcely believe it.

    Somebody’s given Obama some hellacious Come To Jesus lecture. Wouldn’t you love to see a transcript?

  6. This might be Obama’s low point, and it’s only May.

    Obama said some of these detainess that might be held indefinitely had training in explosives from Al Qaeda, what he didn’t say was we (US) did not have evidence of them committing any crime.

    And how was it determined a particular indidvidual had trained with explosives?

    Was it “info” gained by torture?

    Was it hearsay? Was the detainee allowed to contest the evidence against him?

    So these individuals could be detained forever and in effect they are innocent, per any reasonable system of jusctice.

    Obama has embraced the methodology of the totalitarian regime.  

  7. This diary has got me thinking about why Obama seems to jetisoning the US Constitution rather than defending it. He is a Harvard educated constitutional scholar. He campaigned eloquently for the change and restoration of the rule of law.

    Was that all just lip service? Is he really a power mad wolf in sheeps clothing? I really don’t think so. Then, why are we headed in this direction right now?

    One of the things that I have found uncomfortable about Obama since the Goolsbee NAFTA imbroglio during the campaign, is his pension for saying one thing to one group of people and another to a different group. This, I think was the genius of Axelrod. The game has been for Obama to appear to everyone as whatever they imagine they want him to be. He has been groomed to simultaneously occupy contradictory frames. Now, it is one thing to skate around issues during a campaign and quite another once you begin to establish a record for governing. That is why he is running into so much trouble with almost every issue right now.

    It is not that he has cravenly (like Bush…) embarked on a program of misinforming (aka lying), but rather (and maybe more troubling) that he honestly believes that he can chart an course that resolves the concerns of both sides of a given issue. The problem is that some issues are not reconcilable. For instance, in this case, you can’t implement a program that is a little bit unconstitutional. That just means that it is illegal–period. Never-the-less, he stood up in front of the US Constitution and declared his new “prolonged detention” regime will be lawful. The scary thing is that he actually believes that it can be.

    So, we need to wonder why. He’s not stupid, and he doesn’t seem to be an evil monster dissembling like Bush. But, how then can he be moving down a path that seems intent upon codifying the destruction of the most basic human rights principles of this nation?

    Is it an unwillingness to take on his politic enemies? Is it fear of political consequences? I think it is something like that.

    David Axelrod is in the White House now. Perhaps he is the person closest to Obama. I can imagine Obama trapped in that fishbowl getting political updates everyday right after his national security briefing. The world is moving fast. Everything is a blur and the game that got you elected was to give eloquent soulful speeches that left open enough room for different factions to conclude that he was on their side. That’s the game he knows how to play.

    Is it delusional? Sort of…

    I’m sure he is very frustrated right now by the “absolutist” opinions of Maddow, Turley and this guy Ratner. I’m sure he knows they are right, but I suspect that he also wants to believe that they are wrong, and that he can somehow magically create the new illegal unconstitutional prolonged detention program in a legal constitutional manner. He wants it so badly, because it solves his problem, and he desperately wants to solve the problem because he wants to be a successful president. It’s like he’s wandering around in a house of mirrors.

    The real problem is that he–in his own way–is conflating politics and governance. Unlike during the campaign, he is trying to address real world problems now. His solutions however, as during the campaign, still require occupying contradictory policies at the same time.

    This is not going to go well, unless he stops pandering and starts to make some tough choices, and stick to them.

  8. In 1948, Harry Truman, in an election year, no less, raised much ire when he went forward with adding a portico to the southern face of the White House.  By doing so, he was able to remove unsightly awnings that were difficult and expensive to maintain.  Nevertheless, his opponents seized upon this as a rallying cry in support of his upcoming opponent, Thomas Dewey-R, New York.

    We will know that a turning point has been reached when Obama adds parapets to the White House and adds a neo-con filled moat (perhaps a genetically modified creature derived from a piranha, Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity) around the perimeter, complete with a drawbridge.

  9. Although he has made a few encouraging changes, much of what Obama has done (and not done) so far, is hugely disappointing.

    When I hear Obama’s smooth, polished delivery I seem to suffer flashbacks from childhood trauma incurred from visits to the dentist’s office.  You know the drill…You are lying helpless in the chair; surrounded in a tangle of wires, tubes and other Rube Goldberg-like contraptions; soothing elevator music wafting in the background; and finally, the dentist leans over you…brandishing tools that you last saw either in a blacksmith shop or was it a B-movie about the Spanish Inquisition), cooing to you in his most soothing voice, “Now relax…this won’t hurt a bit.”

    All of which reminds me, I haven’t seen “Marathon Man” yet.

  10. In a very fine four days I have greatly improved my Apocalyptic horse riding skills.  The US government of, by and for the people, is/has been long dead and buried.

    If, as a nation, we are retarded enough to put any high priority on beating the living shit out of people merely for occupying that living space above “our” oil and at the same time have such audacity to claim high human rights high ground while financing the industrial gold rush that is Red China.

    He must convince the country that it is in safe hands despite warnings to the contrary from the right, and at the same time persuade the skeptical left that it is enough to amend his predecessor’s approach rather than abandon it.

    I just can’t fathom the galactic stupidity of a statement like that.  I have to consider that vast propaganda machine that is media, daily dumbing down the populace by excluding all references to how the capitalistic world really functions.

    How “the right” feels about national security is about as relevant to people’s lives right now as the current rate of ammunition sales.  The ministry of Illuminati propaganda has left the building so to speak.  All we are left with is a dysfunctional puppet show while the globalists decide how best to de-populate 80% of the world.

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