Thing that Used to Be Conservatism Cheers for Despotism

In our current state of political discourse, the idea of thinking before reacting is getting rarer and rarer.  The Thing that Used to be Conservatism, being almost entire a creature of the Conservative Infotainment Complex, seems to never give much thought to its positions these days beyond, “Does this have a chance of ginning up the mob against Obama?”  If so, then they run with it, even if its stupid and totally counter to what conservatism used to actually believe.

Case in point: the current hoopla over Bob Woodward.  All that it is necessary for the Thing that Used to be Conservatism to know is that Woodward dissed the Prez.  All of a sudden he is a hero martyr and FOX and Drudge are issuing the appropriate directives and cues to the faithful:

Watergate reporter blasts Obama ‘madness’…
POLITICO: Exclusive Details…
Will Washington Stand Up for Woodward?
Plouffe: He’s getting old…

Only here’s the thing:  the “madness” Woodward is protesting is the “madness” of Obama not just sweeping aside the rule of law and doing whatever the hell he feels like because he’s King.  Glenn Greenwald, who is actually honest, has the scoop:

That the Obama administration might actually honor the budget cuts mandated by a law enacted by Congress and signed by Obama infuriates Bob Woodward, Washington’s most celebrated journalist. He appeared this week on the “Morning Joe” program to excoriate Obama for withholding a second aircraft carrier in the Gulf, saying:

“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?’ Or George W Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need’ or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ as he did when Clinton was president, because of some budget document.

“Under the Constitution, the president is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country. That’s a kind of madness that I haven’t seen in a long time.”

As Brian Beutler points out: “the obscure type of budget document Woodward’s referring to is called a duly enacted law — passed by Congress, signed by the President — and the only ways around it are for Congress to change it. . . . or for Obama to break it.” But that’s exactly what Woodward is demanding: that Obama trumpet his status as Commander-in-Chief in order to simply ignore – i.e. break – the law, just like those wonderful men before him would have done. Woodward derides the law as some petty, trivial annoyance (“this piece of paper”) and thus mocks Obama’s weakness for the crime of suggesting that the law is something he actually has to obey.

But what about Obama’s lawlessness with drone strikes? Yes.  I’m aware of that.  So is Greenwald, who has been one of Obama’s most persistent critics on this point.  Nobody’s trying to pretend that Obama isn’t comfy with ignoring the law when it gets in the way of his Royal Will.  However, the point here is that Woodward–and his temporary champions in the Conservative Infotainment Complex at FOX and throughout Talk Radio agitprop arm of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism–also care nothing for the rule of law.

But whatever Obama’s motives might be, the fact is that what we call “law” really does require some cuts in military spending. To refuse to do so would be to assert powers not even most monarchs have: to break the law at will. Woodward is right about one point: not only would prior presidents have been willing to do this, this is exactly what they did. Indeed, George Bush’s entire presidency was explicitly predicated on the theory that the president has the power to break the law at will whenever he deems that doing so promotes national security. That America’s most celebrated journalist not only supports this, but demands that all presidents follow this model of lawlessness, is telling indeed.

Our Ruling Class–and the liars and demagogues who constitute the Conservative Infotainment Complex that is currently faking concern about Woodward as some sort of valiant hero for speaking truth to power–are in fact all about the lawless use of power just as Obama is when the Constitution gets in the way.  Of course the TTUTBC isn’t in favor of *total* lawlessness.  But as is typical for the War Party, they crave the lawless use of power in order to throw military might about.  They love that stuff, even when Obama does it.  But the main issue is: they crave the lawless use of power.  And that by Obama, whom they gin up the base to believe is Hitler, Stalin and Mao all rolled up together, while cheering for Woodward’s demand that he ignore the rule of law.

Why anybody would trust any of these mooks is beyond me.  They are a joke.

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  • currently faking concern about Woodward as some sort of valiant hero for speaking truth to power

    Granted, the issue seems to be more complex than initial reports suggested. But do we *know* that they are just faking concern? It seems to me this is a little ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t, damned if you’re carbon based.’ After all, had they blasted Woodward, one could argue they’re just blasting him because of tribal loyalties: Woodward isn’t one of them. But now that they have fallen in behind Woodward, largely over this email from the WH official suggesting he shouldn’t go this direction, they are accused of just lying and faking their concern. That sounds like, at this point, there isn’t much the modern conservatives can possibly do. Attack Woodward: Tribalists. Support Woodward, lying opportunists. Doesn’t mean the other issues aren’t worthy of criticism, this just struck me as a little bit of ‘there isn’t anything they can do at this point that won’t be criticized.’

    • Sean O

      Did you read the post? The whole point is that “modern conservatives” AREN’T. They don’t “conserve”. They are radicals & opportunists making it up as they go along. This is the meaning behind Mark’s tag THE THING THAT USED TO BE CONSERVATISM.

      A few other things. Conventional wisdom isn’t wise. It’s crowding out thoughtful approaches & discussion on issues of the day. The Right such as they are have no problem w gasbags the likes of Woodward or Tom Friedman, useful idiots dispensing conventional nonsense. And Woodward has long been forgiven for harassing Nixon for Watergate misdeeds. The hagiography “Bush at War” brought a full pardon & merit badge from the Right. I can’t remember the last time Woodward said anything insightful or worth a listen or a read. He is a fat and happy sellout. His allegiance is to his pocketbook, not journalism or the public interest.

  • Bob

    How about just ignore Woodward? He’s nothing but a spouter of conventional wisdom, inane case he’s a fine reporter of facts but when it comes to cme tart he’s just s gasbag.

  • Sally

    I’m glad I’m not the only person whose jaw dropped when Woodward made those remarks on Morning Joe. Talk about irony, this is the man who exposed Nixon’s lawbreaking, now saying “a strong President would just break the law . . .”
    We live in strange times.

  • Jacob

    I figured what Woodward meant was that the $85b (2%) cut does not have to prevent any one particular action, such as sending or not sending a carrier group somewhere. I would guess either the President didn’t really want to send the carrier group anyway, or is trying to make headlines to make the sequester out to be more important than it is. Or is there some other issue I’m missing here?

    • The Deuce

      Yes, this exactly. Congress and Obama have a fair amount of leverage to decide what exactly gets cut from the programs that are getting slightly less funding than they would have without the sequester, but he’s trying to make the damage as noticeable, dramatic, and unpleasant as possible so that he can use it to claim that the sky is falling because of these piddling not-even-cuts.

  • Peggy R

    Actually, it’s been Barry who’s been seeking to gin up the mob against the GOP to blame them for sequestration. The GOP and conservative talkers are baffled by the public who support Barry who’s done nothing to improve the budget or the economy in general. Barry’s economic thinking is ideologically twisted and wrong. (A longer essay for another day.) The “conservative” media are trying to alert the public and wonder what will it take before the public realizes how bad Barry is for this country. The media need to do some honest reporting on Barry. Woodward came out and did it and got slapped by the Admin. Conservatives are hoping this is the thing that causes the media to get honest and inform the public.
    [No, the GOP isn’t holy or saintly, but the House has passed and the GOP senators proposed several measures that the Dems Senate and Barry won’t buy.)

    Bring on sequestration! Time to starve the beast!

    • Peggy R

      P.S. Woodward is a tool toward this goal of course.

  • Mike

    “But as is typical for the War Party, they crave the lawless use of power in order to throw military might about.”

    The Iraq war was a just and good war. If you don’t believe it I can introduce you to many many people who are forever grateful to GWB for liberating them and their families from rape rooms and torture.

    OTOH if that line has nothing to do with Iraq, ignore me.

    • Mark Shea

      The fact that the Iraq war had some good side effects (as almost any human act, such as betraying Jesus Christ, can do) does not make it a just war. In point of fact, it did not come close to meeting Just war criteria and two popes and the world’s bishops warned you of that repeatedly. I’ll see your anecdotal evidence of some friends who benefited from the war and raise you a couple hundred thousand dead. I’m glad God brought good out of evil for your friends. But that does not mitigate the evil.

      • Mike

        You’re right the Pope did and the bishops did; so you’re right that according to Catholic teaching it was not just. I don’t know enough about what goes into that determination to argue with the Pope! But…
        The couple hundred thousand dead I don’t think is correct, not from the war anyway maybe from the civil war if included. It’s not just a couple of friends I am talking about, I am speaking for the hundreds of thousands of Shiites in Basra alone that were liberated. The casualties you refer to probably included military deaths. SH invaded Kuwait, he had WMDs we know but destroyed them, we found out.
        I don’t want to re-hash the debate but I think in this instance there was politics on the mind of the bishops as the world was hating on GWB.

  • Mike

    One more thing. How do I put this as gently as possible: sometimes, it seems to me, you can sound like the very thing you oppose. Calling people “mooks” and “a joke” is unbecoming and doesn’t help draw a sharp contrast between what you say you want and what you say.

    • Mark Shea

      O the humanity. Cheer for lawlessness and war, silence. Use the word “mook” and the handwringing begins in earnest. Reminds me of the years I spent listening to people weep for the feelings of torture advocates. Cry me a river.

      • Mike

        Look I agree with your assessment, partially, I am just saying reading your pieces it sometimes seems to me you relish the very thing you oppose. The snark is ok but sometimes it reminds me of when i was a disciple of the huffington post and i’d read the same tone. I just think we should stay away from that kind of tactic.

        • Mark Shea

          Fair enough.

          • Mike

            BTW by agree with you I mean I TOTALLY agree that conservatives are letting themselves be lured into a trap, are falling for it and are being made to look idiotic in the process. There’s something to be said for rising above the inane bluster and sound bites of the media monster. At that game the left will always win. In Canada, the federal liberals are on the brink of extinction because the conservatives are looking increasingly like the only party with adults at the helm.