Hole-In-One Diplomacy A Success Abroad, A Failure At Home

Okay, here’s a headline from a couple of weeks ago:

Saxby Chambliss gets hole-in-one golfing with Obama

Now, for me, the interesting thing about that story was not the “hole-in-one” but the “golfing with Obama.” The President, who has been encouraged by Washington-insider types to spend more time eating, drinking, and golfing with Republicans in Congress, apparently believes that if he hits the links with right-wingers like Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss, they will succumb to his charms and, at the very least, stop accusing him of secretly bedding down with jihadists who want to destroy us.

Fast forward from a couple weeks ago to yesterday, after President Obama gave that amazing speech on drones and the war on terrorism and Guantanamo and the inappropriateness of prosecuting reporters for doing their jobs:

Chambliss: President’s speech will be viewed by terrorists as a victory

That headline actually came from Senator Chambliss’ own website. His press release began:

The President’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory. 

The terrorists win! The terrorists win! Damn that Obama!

So much for whacking golf balls with the commander-in-chief.

Keep in mind that not only has President Obama sent Osama bin Laden deep-sea diving without a suit, but under his command we have pretty much decimated all of al Qaeda’s leadership and made would-be leaders of that group, to the extent one can all it a unified group, hide in fear that they will get the next drone-delivered enema or, to stay on topic, become a human hole-in-one.

Chambliss is all worried that closing a weird prison that we, who call ourselves the hope of the civilized world, operate in Cuba will give terrorists in Yemen and elsewhere a “victory.” That’s some victory. The United States actually trying to live up to its values is not what anyone, in Yemen or in Yonkers, should consider a victory for al Qaeda terrorists who are afraid to peek out their doors, lest they die.

In the mean time, I am sure that more golf outings and meals with Republicans are on the agenda for the President. But nothing, absolutely nothing, will change.

[Reuters/Reuters]

In Case You Didn’t Know, A “Lawless” President Obama Doesn’t Want To Kill You With Drones

More than a year ago I wrote about President Obama’s use of drones in the war against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the world. I essentially endorsed, with some discomfort, the way the President was handling his job as commander-in-chief relative to his use of drones in general and the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al Awlaki in particular.

Mr. Obama’s incredibly thoughtful speech on Thursday, at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., confirmed by endorsement and took away much of the discomfort.

I don’t know how any fair-minded person, which excludes most of the conservatives you meet on the street, or on cable TV, these days, could have heard the President’s speech and not have come away with a great deal of comfort that he, and not John McCain or Mitt Romney, is our commander-in-chief.

I won’t analyze the entire speech, but I do want to point out a part that addresses what so many liberals and lefties—as well as the usual gaggle of libertarianish Republicans—have been harping on, with some increasing intensity, for quite a while:

For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen — with a drone or with a shotgun — without due process. Nor should any president deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens, and when neither the United States nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot, his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team.

That’s who Anwar Awlaki was. He was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S.-bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009. When Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber, went to Yemen in 2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, helped him tape a martyrdom video to be shown after the attack, and his last instructions were to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil.

I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t. And as president, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took him out.

I suggest a careful reading of the entire speech for anyone interested in how our modern military power should be applied these days. It is essentially the President “thinking out loud” about some of these topics, while being resolute on others. (He also handled a Code Pink protester fabulously, granting her the dignity of her position and weaving her into his speech at the end.)

Particularly interesting was his comments on the Authorized Use of Military Force, which was passed on September 14, 2001:

Now, all these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can impact, in sometimes unintended ways, the openness and freedom on which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorism without keeping America on a perpetual wartime footing.

The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al-Qaida is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al-Qaida will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking, our definitions, our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight or continue to grant presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states.

So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine and ultimately repeal the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. It’s what our democracy demands.

Contrast this discussion with what the now-ridiculous columnist George Will wrote in yet another ridiculous column about President Obama’s “lawlessness.”

Will was discussing Obama’s controversial recess appointments (the Supreme Court will ultimately determine their constitutionality) of three members to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and comparing that action, unbelievably, to the infamous racist act by George Wallace 50 years ago, “when he stood in the door of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to prevent two young blacks from registering as students.”

If that comparison weren’t embarrassing enough, Will wasn’t finished:

Courts defeated Wallace’s lawlessness. Presumably the Supreme Court will defeat Obama’s by telling the NLRB that the D.C. court was right about recess appointments. By such judicial vigilance against the excesses of elected officials, democracy is disciplined and progressivism’s agenda — unchecked executive power — is understood to be unconstitutional.

I, being a progressive, wasn’t aware that progressivism’s agenda was “unchecked executive power.”  Geeze. I thought it was unchecked executive power that gave progressives and liberals the heebie jeebies. In any case, President Obama’s amazingly engrossing and thoughtful speech on Thursday, in which he wants Congress to take pack the “unbound powers” it has granted to the executive branch, makes a fool not only out of George Will, but all those who think this president is power mad.

Even A Blind Rand Paul Finds A Nut Now And Then

Senator Rand Paul, as you all have seen or heard by now, is, as I write this, conducting an honest-to-goodness filibuster in the U.S. Senate over the nomination of John Brennan for Director of the CIA. Paul started his filibuster at 10:47am Central Standard Time this Wednesday.

Despite the fact that I dislike, rather strongly, Rand Paul, and despite the fact that he has said some dumb things during the time he has been speaking, I have exactly no problem with what he is doing, for a couple of reasons:

1) The filibuster should be conducted in the way Rand Paul is conducting it; that is, he is actually doing the (relatively) hard work of standing up and speaking, and speaking, and speaking, as opposed to just technically initiating a filibuster without the accompanying necessity of standing on the floor and paying the price—in terms of the sheer physical strain, as well as the public exposure—of his convictions.

2) His point for conducting the filibuster, as far as I can tell in the time I have listened to him, is a valid one. I admire anyone who is willing to stand up for hours upon hours in defense of a recognizably legitimate principle.

I will summarize his objection, the ostensible reason for his filibuster, by quoting something he said at 6:37 pm Central time—almost exactly eight hours after he began:

If you have a war that has no end, if you have a war that has no geographic limit, and then if you have strikes that have no constitutional bounds, basically what you have is an unlimited, imperial presidency.

I cannot and will not argue with that.

Now, I confess that a year ago to the day, I wrote about drone strikes on Americans in foreign lands (Can The Government Kill Citizens Overseas?), and I haven’t seen or read anything that would make me change my mind (reluctantly, I said “yes”).

But what Rand Paul is arguing, again, as far as I can tell between the bouts of nuttiness, is something different. He seems to be mostly concerned with a president’s authority to use drones, or presumably any other method, to kill Americans here, on American soil. And I can say that there is no way, under any set of normal circumstances, I would support using drones to kill Americans on American soil, without an independent due process of law. No way.

And I would expect Barack Obama, as our leader and as a Democrat, to feel the same way. I think he does, even if, just to protect his executive turf, he is somewhat reluctant to say so. And I think his Attorney General, Eric Holder, feels the same way. I believe Holder’s letter to Rand Paul, which you can see here, comes close to satisfying my concerns, since he writes:

It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the President to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the President could conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on December 7, 1941, and September 11, 2001.

I say it comes close to satisfying my concerns because I think it could have been worded more clearly and more directly, sort of like this:

Senator Paul,

Unless there is a rare circumstance of an imminent catastrophic attack, such as happened on December 7, 1941, or on September 11, 2001, there is no way the Constitution permits the authorization or use of lethal military force on terrorist suspects on United States soil. None.

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States

The problem with what Rand Paul is doing is not his message. It is the fact that such an otherwise silly man is delivering a message that merits our attention. And the fact that Senator Ted Cruz, a most disgusting and calculating opportunist from Texas—who does a mean impression of Joe McCarthy—is supporting Paul makes it all the worse.

But at the end of it all, what remains is a legitimate demand, by at least one member of the legislative branch, that its executive branch counterpart recognize the supremacy of the Constitution in its treatment of American citizens here at home.

And, as much as it pains me to say so, Rand Paul is doing a good thing in this case.

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