Style Matters

Now that even super-duper-ultramega Tuesday may not settle the Democratic field, I guess I need to think for once into who to vote for in the PA Dem primary on April 22.

As painful as the decision ought to be when Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton stand apart on policy like Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee, it really isn’t. To illustrate why, take our President. On paper the Bush agenda wasn’t nearly as bad as the means he used to promote it. What the his advisors wanted was often pretty vile, but that’s part of the problem. The commander guy’s own interests usually lose to more powerful men who take advantage of his personal weakness to guide every major decision. Since the strong men in the President’s circle don’t all agree with each other government under Bush has turned into an unaccountable, incoherent mess.

Iraq for example. Who made the decision to disband the Iraqi army? Bush blamed Paul Bremer. Bremer has demonstrated fairly clearly that the orders came from Washington, but probably not from the President, who had just sent Bremer a letter supporting his decision to keep the army together. The decision, like most under Bush, came from a hidden struggle between bureaucratic infighters who found it easier to leave the President in the dark.

Blogosphere left didn’t look for Hillary or Edwards to recant their war vote because we like watching powerful people self-flagellate, although that certainly doesn’t happen enough. We made a stink because we want to know that they won’t do it again. The fact that Hillary cannot or will not acknowledge her mistake makes me think, fairly or unfairly, that crass politics could railroad her into catastrophically stupid decisions in the future just as easily as it did then.

But that’s small beans next to the constitutional mess that the Bush legacy will leave for President 44. It’s baggage, a giant bellhop-slaying pile of it, with David Addington’s initials stenciled on the side. The next president should burn it, scatter the ashes and choose judges based on how emphatically they will overturn every aspect of Addington’s totalitarian agenda. Or she could pick up the bags on her way in. It’s a lot of power. If she felt like it the next President could record the phone and email of every critic, Republican and potential Islamic terrorist without the NSA breaking a sweat. I don’t like living in a country where a spineless boy king with machiavellian advisors has that freedom and I don’t look forward to a Democrat having it either.

The courts may eventually roll some back (although with the new SCOTUS formula, who knows?). Chris Dodd will win some through the legislative branch. But many precedents now exist that the next president will have to actively repudiate. Whether or not Hillary’s heart is in the right place, cynical gamesmanship like this makes me doubt that she will have any problem with the Addington revolution. Unchecked executive power could be just her thing. So reluctantly, despite plenty of things to like about Hillary, and unless Edwards shows some signs of life before April, I plan to vote for Obama.

37 replies
  1. 1
    NonyNony says:

    Just to be clear here – you’re voting for Obama because he hasn’t said or done something to make you think he will continue the “Addington revolution”, not because he’s said or done something to explicitly reject this form of executive power – right?

    Or, if he HAS said or done something to state that he will roll back executive power, you have a link, right? An explicit set of goals for rolling back executive excess would give me an actual reason to cast a vote for Obama instead of Clinton, rather than flipping a coin when the Ohio primary finally rolls around. I’m not making that decision based solely on a hope that he’s going to do it because he hasn’t said that he won’t do it. I’m too old and cynical to vote based on hoping that there actually, really and truly will be a politician who isn’t hungry for more personal power anymore.

  2. 2

    I’m with on this one. I think this next week will tell us a lot about both Obama and HRC. Monday they have a vote on the new FISA Bill (and I believe its the one that includes corporate anmesty) but Greenwald has some new updates on this post that I haven’t had time to read. But it looks like with both candidates in DC for the SOTU address they will have a chance to cast a vote.

    Its a chance for both of them to show some guts and lead.

  3. 3

    As an always Edwards supporter — look at me not voting identity politics — I think you could consider him a bit more. He very well may make a difference tomorrow. I plan to watch the coverage — for what that is worth.

    If the nomination stays in play on an effective level, then my Edwards team of John and Elizabeth may very well make this election count.

    O/T — send your stimulous check back to the government labeled “pay off the debt.” Or “fix the deficit.” Your choice.

  4. 4
    rilkefan says:

    I think the “no-leverage request for voters to be counted = Addingtonism” claim is entirely silly, but in any case JMM’s arguing from ignorance. In particular

    each agreed not to campaign in either of these states, again implicitly agreeing to the decision not to seat the delegates

    is just risible in the age of blogs and cable and, heck, national newspapers.

  5. 5
    Birdzilla says:


  6. 6

    TZ, isn’t it past your bedtime?

  7. 7
    freddy says:

    John Cole just made Mrs. Bennett very happy!!!

  8. 8

    Crap, freddy, I thought you meant the fat Dr.Mr. Bill Bennett’s wife.

  9. 9
    KC45s says:

    Frankly, I doubt you have anything to fear from “unchecked executive power” under Clinton(s). Should the election returns fall her way, it’ll take about ten minutes for every GOP functionary and conservative pundit to cry that things have gotten out of control, how could Democrats have voted for all this stuff, George Bush who, oh, he’s yesterday’s news, those tales of power abuses were all exaggerated anyway.

    Good grief, they’ve already tried to pin the war on the Dems. This sort of campaign will be child’s play. And then the next time a conservative’s in the White House… and so on.

  10. 10
    freddy says:

    oops. i made an ass u me. tim f. made mrs. bennett very happy.
    anyways, watch her, she’s great!

  11. 11
    TenguPhule says:

    Here’s to the Empress and her Imperial Stormtroopers.

    Let the Republican Purge begin!

  12. 12
    Zeta says:

    I think the “no-leverage request for voters to be counted = Addingtonism” claim is entirely silly, but in any case JMM’s arguing from ignorance.

    Wrong. Try again. What you meant to say was, “BTD is a shill”:

    The candidates didn’t take their name off the ballot in Florida because state law would require them to drop out of the race by doing so. Big Tent Democrat trying to use this as a “gotcha” is frankly absurd. There’s a very consistent pattern of Clinton pushing every advantage, regardless of the pre-arranged rules, in order to win what appears to be a protracted delegate fight. She is breaking the rules to change the rules.

  13. 13

    Jeebers, Tim,
    A big chunk of the reason Edwards is “dead” is because the media declared it so and every “…” parroted them, kinda like you just did. It’s a damn primary, I’ll vote Edwards, and lose what? Choosing between the black guy and the woman? Choosing what?

    Maybe they won’t misuse the BOR? Let me ask you if you know a damn thing about their stated record and votes regarding the 2nd? WTF? Did #2 just sort of drift out of the BOR? No? Then why would people with no respect for it do something different? It is in the name of security. Edwards isn’t very good on the 2nd, but those two are appalling.

    Just exactly what particle of difference is there between GWB’s point of view and their’s? It’s for our safety…

    Intellectual dishonesty is just as unappealing on the left as the right (more so since I’m left).

  14. 14
    Zeta says:

    You know, one reason to vote for Edwards that I didn’t really consider until this business with seating the delegates is that it might actually be preferable to have a kingmaker at the convention in the event that things are close, rather than a messy fight over the FL and MI delegates and who knows what else. I’d trust Edwards to make that decision and keep things in line. If you support Edwards and don’t really want to throw in with either of the others, I’d consider that a perfectly good reason to vote for him.

  15. 15
    srv says:

    President Obama to roll back the latest window trimmings of the national security state? Ha. Just what kind of howls would we hear from the right? He won’t take any more risks than Hillary. One domestic suicide bomber in 2009 would be all that is required to demonstrate to a majority that they were unwise to let someone other than the white man take the helm.

    The technical means and Straussian legal constructions created in the last seven years are not going to be unplugged next February. It would be like turning off Google. Not that there will really be any difference between those two very soon. We’re one National Security Letter from turning the keys to the GoogleSphere over to the NSA, and if it hasn’t been delivered yet, it is sitting in a safe waiting for the right opportunity.

    This bizarre afterbirth of american civics has it that we should trust Presidents to self-regulate their powers. We’ve been sliding down the slope of the Unitary Executive since Jackson. A country that is still debating the fundamentals of Article II Powers 220 years later is not serious about democracy. No amount of voting is going to change that.

  16. 16
    Billy K says:


    Me too.

  17. 17
    Wilfred says:

    Afaik, the only person who voluntarily gave up dictatorial power was L. Cornelius Sulla, who returned said power to the Roman Senate after a brief run as Dictator that included proscription of his political enemies – the process in which merely naming someone subjected him to death.

    We’re an Empire now; no one will return power to the Senate, whose members have descended into pin-striped caricatures of their impotent Roman forerunners; lots of sound and fury signifying nothing.

    It’s just a question of good and bad emperors, now. I’m voting for Obama: more bread, less circuses.

  18. 18
    Redhand says:

    Very well put Wilfred!

  19. 19
    Dennis - SGMM says:

    In the last Republican debate, Mitt Romney (Of all people) said something thought-provoking:

    “The last thing we need is Bill Clinton in the White House with nothing to do.”

    I’m quoting from memory but those are pretty much the words Romney used. They reminded me that HRC’s Vice-President would be going to a lot of ribbon cutting ceremonies.

  20. 20
    gypsy howell says:

    Given that I haven’t heard any substantive noises from Senators Obama or Hillary on the FISA issue (they *are* still senators, aren’t they? Apparently they’d like us to forget that fact), let alone even a smidgeon of this much vaunted ‘leadership’ we hear so much about from both of them, I’m left with the feeling that neither of them will do a damn thing to restore the Constitution once they’re in office. So, regardless of how Edwards is doing by April, I’ll vote for him in the primary. It’ll be my last opportunity to vote my conscience this year.

  21. 21
    TheFountainHead says:

    Tim – I respect a lesser of two evils choice. It has always been that, it always will be. I just think this year it’s easier than it has ever been to make it.

    srv – Oh for the love of…it’s far too early on a Saturday to deal with you…

    Wilfred – You nailed it.

    On FISA – I have yet to have one person, on this blog or the Orange Cloud of Terror, or anywhere else explain to my why this bill matters one-fucking-iota. It changes nothing, legally it has more loopholes than a 12 year old’s cat’s cradle, and it doesn’t insure anything!!

  22. 22
    metalgrid says:

    Meh, I’d have no problem voting for Hillary (even though Edwards was my first choice before he flopped). It’s time the Republicans found out what a vengeful Clinton can do with all the power that the Republicans decided to concentrate in one executive location.

    It’s a pity Hillary hasn’t made any promises that she’d use all the FISA and wiretapping power the current president insists he has a right to, in order to hunt Cheney and Rove down and ship em off to an offshore gulag.

  23. 23
    Jorge says:

    Obama has two things going for him on the constitutional issue –

    1. A record of fighting insititutional abuses as an Illinois Senator. His bill requiring the videotaping of confessions and interrogations in capital cases is a strong example

    2. A record of fighting for people’s constitutional rights as a civil rights attorney

    The compass is pointing in the right direction here…

  24. 24

    It’s time the Republicans found out what a vengeful Clinton can do with all the power that the Republicans decided to concentrate in one executive location.

    Not unlike prison inmates finding Jesus while incarcerated; I suspect our friends in the Republican party will suddenly remember that Constitution thingy. That is the only upside to a Clinton Restoration I can imagine. Oh, and watching the exploding heads might be amusing–similar to watching a group of dirty leftists taunt Jonah Goldberg with a bacon double cheeseburger kind of funny–but not overly vicious. Selah.

  25. 25
    benjoya says:

    Somewhere between Jorge and Wilfred. Obama is the better bet.

  26. 26
    demimondian says:

    I’m underwhelmed by the Unity Pony, unfortunately, and wouldn’t touch Edwards with a ten-foot pole. But I have trouble with Hillary, too, due to a side effect of the dynasty issue, and (tangentially) Tim raises the point I care about.

    I don’t want Terry McAuliffe back in charge of the DNC, or raised to any significant position of authority in the party. (And let’s not get started on Mark Penn or James Carville, either.) Nominating and electing Clinton will restore those three to their previous positions of power, and, as a Presidency is largely shaped by the President’s lieutenants, I know what will happen if she’s elected.

    OTOH, I don’t believe in transcendence, and John Edwards is a Romney without the ethical basis, so I’m kind of stuck. I will gladly and enthusiastically support either Clinton or Obama, and that’s about all I can say.

  27. 27
    SGEW says:

    . . . the only person who voluntarily gave up dictatorial power . . . .

    Let us not forget good old Gen. George Washington.

    Obama has two things going for him on the constitutional issue. . . .

    Also: Was a constitutional law professor at U of C. That counts for an awful lot in my book.

  28. 28
    magisterludi says:

    I find nothing reassuring in Obama as a University of Chicago Law School professor.

  29. 29
    SGEW says:

    Obama as a University of Chicago Law School professor.

    Because he was a liberal, “living Constitution,” overturn Korematsu, Brennan-quoting Con Law prof in a dominantly conservative institution. It takes a lot of principle, smarts, guts, and, yes, class to pull that off. From everything I’ve heard about his time there, he managed to defend a progressive interpretation of the Constitution while maintaining very respectful and congenial relations with his conservative colleagues.

    Sounds rather good to me.

  30. 30
    magisterludi says:

    Yeah- a veritable hotbed of Liberal thought that UofC.

  31. 31
    Chris Johnson says:

    Here’s what I’d like to see-

    Clinton (or Obama, if you like) wins, and immediately uses executive powers to have ALL the Bush cabal arrested and extradited to the Hague, where they are tried for war crimes by an international court. Some may be convicted, some may get off- not up to us.

    Seeing this act, the wingnuts become hysterical, and immediately insist on rolling back all the monarchical executive stuff to pre-Nixon states. The President graciously permits this as long as she/he aren’t held responsible for acts carried out under the previous arrangement…

    Sort of the ‘teeth pulled, one last bite pays for all’ doctrine…

    Seriously. If nobody expects anybody to tell the truth or be honest anymore, my judgement of character (and political savvy) will be derived by ACTS. Turning these neocon crazies over to world judgement is what I’d call a GLOBALLY savvy political act, and it could be just the thing. I don’t care if they promised never to do it. Let’s see what the next crowd DOES, whether they’re politically able to say it or not.

  32. 32
    Chris Johnson says:

    Also, I am very slightly more inclined to think that Clinton is more likely to take political acts that address our war crimes situation specifically to ingratiate ourselves with the world that we’re starting to economically hamstring… there is a lot of dealing to be done to make that a softlanding, and it’s okay if it’s done in a scheming way so long as it’s effective. I want what we had of our global reputation back. It wasn’t great but from a superpower it could’ve been worse. Now it’s miserable, and that doesn’t sit well with me as an American.

    The amount of oversight we as a people had over our foreign policy was embarrassing, but now we’re Caligula crossed with Michael Myers. We need some serious diplomatic slickness to get out of this one.

  33. 33
    MJ says:

    Tim I take from your post that Edwards would be your first choice if you thought he had a chance of winning. I just don’t understand the appeal of Edwards. He’s worse then Mitt when it comes to being a slime ball in regards to his positions. He voted one way in the senate and his rhetoric is different as a candidate.

    He voted differently on trade with China then what he is saying now on the campaign trail. He attacks the Patriot Act now but voted for it. He voted for No Child Left Behind and know speaks against it. He voted for Yucca Mountain twice, now he is strongly against it. Now that Nevada is done voting he may change his position again. He voted for the bankruptcy bill that he now speaks against.

    Did Edwards do anything in his one term in the Senate besides voting against his current positions that somebody can point to that is impressive?

    What is the appeal of this man to you folks?

  34. 34
    Johnny Pez says:

    Tim, you’ve managed to perfectly replicate my own thinking. Spooky.

  35. 35
    rachel says:

    Wilfred Says:

    Afaik, the only person who voluntarily gave up dictatorial power was L. Cornelius Sulla…

    Solon of Athens?

  36. 36
    Tractarian says:

    Also, I am very slightly more inclined to think that Clinton is more likely to take political acts that address our war crimes situation…

    Wouldn’t that require Hillary sending herself to the Hague?

  37. 37
    BrianM says:

    Boston Globe asked asked the candidates:

    But the other two leading Democrats – Clinton, a New York senator, and Obama – were both more definitive. Along with Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, and Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Clinton and Obama endorsed a more restrained approach to executive power than Bush.

    The Democrats said a president must obey laws and treaties that restrict surveillance and interrogation. They also said that the Constitution does not allow a president to hold US citizens without charges as “enemy combatants” – even though Bush has won court rulings upholding his right to indefinitely imprison citizens suspected of terrorist links.

    There were some differences among the Democrats. For example, Clinton, a veteran of congressional investigations of her husband’s administration during the 1990’s, embraced a stronger view of a president’s power to use executive privilege to keep information secret from Congress than some rivals.

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