13 April, 2009

Happy Hour Discurso

Today's opining on the public discourse.

It's a Monday. That's all I've got to say about that.

Let's start with stupidity at the Supreme Court for a change. We expect our justices to understand the Constitution, considering their job is to determine what's constitutional and what isn't. Clarence Thomas, it would appear, needs a remedial course:
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas doesn't say much. According the NYT's Adam Liptak, he hasn't even asked a question from the bench in over three years.
But he answered some questions the other night in a D.C. ballroom from winners of a high school essay contest. Thomas noted, among other things, that he thinks Americans have too many rights.

The evening was devoted to the Bill of Rights, but Justice Thomas did not embrace the document, and he proposed a couple of alternatives.

'Today there is much focus on our rights," Justice Thomas said. "Indeed, I think there is a proliferation of rights."

"I am often surprised by the virtual nobility that seems to be accorded those with grievances," he said. "Shouldn't there at least be equal time for our Bill of Obligations and our Bill of Responsibilities?"

It's not at all encouraging when one of the nine members of the Supreme Court complains publicly about a "proliferation of rights." I hesitate to even wonder which protections Americans currently enjoy that Thomas would like to see taken away.


At an event devoted to the Bill of Rights, one would like to think a sitting Supreme Court justice wouldn't throw around rhetoric like this.
Yes, that's right - he's wanting to ignore the Bill of Rights in favor of a Bill of Obligations and a Bill of Responsibilities that don't even fucking exist. What a putz.

Of course, the big story is the drama on the high seas, wherein Navy Seals rescued a ship's captain held hostage by pirates. The Cons, of course, are being bloody stupid about the whole thing. So stupid, in fact, they're being spanked by our very own military:

Isn’t it a big story that Newt Gingrich and some leading conservative media figures harshly criticized Obama’s handling of the pirate standoff — while it was unfolding?

I just got off the phone with a military expert and former Army Ranger who supports Republicans and Dems, and he hammered Gingrich and conservative media figures for criticizing Obama, saying that the Commander-in-chief deserved “respect” while a sensitive operation was unfolding.

“I would hope that they’re feeling a little silly today,” said the expert, Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for National Security Studies. “It’s bad form. You don’t make this a partisan issue until an operation has been assessed. It’s fair game ex post facto. But during the emergency, I think that our elected leaders deserve our respect.”

Gingrich whacked away at Obama’s handling of the standoff on Twitter over the weekend, saying it made us “look weak.” The Wall Street Journal editorial page, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck also targeted Obama.

They might perhaps have wanted to hold off on the targeting:

At some point over the last few days, the hostage standoff with Somali pirates became a leadership test for President Obama. I'm not sure how or why, and I'm less sure this makes sense, but it apparently happened anyway.

Oddly enough, it seems conservatives wanted it this way. Some on the right blamed the White House for the pirates attacking the Maersk Alabama in the first place, while many more blamed the White House for not resolving the matter immediately. The situation, conservatives told us, made the president, and the country, appear "weak." As Michael Tomasky noted this morning, the "unhinged-o-sphere" had started calling this "Obama's Hostage Crisis."

Given this, if Obama is held responsible when bad things happen, I suppose he necessarily deserves at least some credit when good things happen. In this case, the president authorized the use of military force to rescue Capt. Richard Phillips, and the result was a successful operation.

It was one of the earliest tests of the new American president -- a small military operation off the coast of a Third World nation. But as President Bill Clinton found out in October 1993, even minor failures can have long-lasting consequences.
Clinton's efforts to land a small contingent of troops in Haiti were rebuffed, for the world to see, by a few hundred gun-toting Haitians. As the USS Harlan County retreated, so did the president's reputation.

For President Obama, last week's confrontation with Somali pirates posed similar political risks to a young commander in chief who had yet to prove himself to his generals or his public.

But the result -- a dramatic and successful rescue operation by U.S. Special Operations forces -- left Obama with an early victory that could help build confidence in his ability to direct military actions abroad.

Yepper, the Navy Seals, under Obama's orders, saved the day. Funny how quiet Cons get when things turn out well, innit?

Conservatives had clearly been gearing up to exploit the situation as an argument about Obama’s “weakness” in the face of provocation. Upon the news of the hijacking last week, National Review’s Andy McCarthy tauntingly asked “what our new commander-in-chief proposes to do about it.”

Writing in the Weekly Standard, Seth Cropsey kept things nice and predictable by advocating “taking the fight to the pirates,” i.e. an overly militaristic response, and wondering whether the president had the guts to follow through.

Drawing a tenuous parallel between piracy and legal threats against Bush administration officials for war crimes, the Wall Street Journal fret-itorialized “if the U.S. government won’t protect American citizens from the legal anarchy of postmodern Europe, how can we expect it to protect American sailors from the premodern anarchy of Somalia”?

As it was, President Obama — while clearly mindful of the larger implications of piracy for U.S. interests — made the life of the American hostage, and not the maintenance of perceptions of American strength, the immediate objective of the operation. With the captain’s life in apparent jeopardy, deadly force was authorized and used effectively, and the situation was brought to a satisfactory conclusion with a welcome lack of bluster that would have been unimaginable under the previous administration. After having cued up their outrage for Obama’s expected failure, conservatives are now strangely silent in the face of his actual success.

I can only paraphrase Rowan Atkinson here: "I'll bet you're feeling a right bunch of nitwits about now."

Of course, John Bolton rushes in where fools fear to tread. What he wants to do is sure to not surprise you:

Yesterday, the Navy Seals launched a daring and successful effort to free the American cargo ship captain who had been held hostage by Somali pirates for five days, killing three pirates. Throughout last week, some conservatives used the hostage situation to lobby for military action and massive defense spending on irrelevant weapons.

At the forefront of the calls for war was, unsurprisingly, former U.N. Ambassador and perpetual war-monger John Bolton. Even after the successful rescue of the American hostage, Bolton endorsed a ground invasion of Somalia this morning on Fox News:

FOX HOST: Ambassador, if you were serving in this administration, would it be your recommendation that they go in to, militarily with air strikes and/or boots on the ground, into these so-called feral cities, where these pirates are taking hold? Should we go in and take those people out, and take their installations out, now, militarily? Is that what you’re suggesting?

BOLTON: Yes. … Unless we go in and really end this problem once and for all, we will simply see it grow over time.


For Bolton, war is always the best option. Last year, he said that attacking Iran “is really the most prudent thing to do.” In 2002, he declared Saddam Hussein to be “a real threat,” making it “a very prudent and logical conclusion that he needs to be replaced.” And less than two weeks before Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, Bolton praised “the prudent course we are on with Iraq.”

And good ol' Kristol gets spanked hard by Gates for demanding useless military spending:
Kristol cites the pirate crisis — and the use of the U.S.S. Bainbridge — as some sort of proof that the plan to shift resources away from costly Naval destroyers is misguided. However, there was no need for a massive naval destroyer; in fact, it took “several hours” for the 8,000-ton ship to arrive at the scene. Indeed, as Matthew Yglesias noted, Gates himself mocked the idea that such ships could defend against pirates:
Gates is holding on to the Littoral Combat System project for the Navy even though the program has had a lot of cost overruns and so forth. Gates said that despite the problems, “I think it has a capability we just have to have.” Specifically, the promise of a ship that’s not only agile, but relative cheap on a per-ship basis is large. “You don’t need a $5 billion ship to go after pirates,” Gates said.A greater number of less expensive ships would be arguably more effective than fewer, expensive naval destroyers like the Bainbridge and its even more expensive successors, the DDG-1000, which Gates is seeking to cut. Indeed, the defense budget reforms reflect the type of “reshaping,” Gates said, “that the combatant commanders are asking for.”
Kristol is not alone is seeking to use the pirate crisis to shill for increased defense spending. Last week, Fox military analyst Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney said on air that he would deploy the massively expensive and unproved F-22 to combat pirates. Conveniently, McInerney is a consultant for one of the F-22’s major contractors.

So, to recap: we had a gaggle of Cons calling for more defense spending on weapons that wouldn't do jack diddly shit to help such situations, a bigger gaggle of Cons bleating about how weak and ineffective Obama is, and a warmonger calling for war war war - and now that the rescue's been successfully done, not a single word of praise for the Commander in Chief whose orders facilitated this happy resolution.

What a bunch of maroons.

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