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:

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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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  • Dave G.

    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.

      • Dave G.

        Yes I did read the post. I wasn’t quibbling with the conclusions about modern conservatives and what they’ve become. I was pointing out that when various ‘conservative’ pundits go after a Woodward, as often as not, they’re accused of being blind tribalists who simply blast anyone who is ritually impure. But when they side with someone like Woodward, they are now just called liars who are faking their support? It appears at this point that there is nothing these modern conservatives can do then, is there? Better to assume their outrage is honest, they are really supportive of Woodward in this case, and then make the point. Otherwise, it might sound as though I have concluded there is nothing the modern conservative can do, which itself can be problematic.

        • Mark Shea

          Who said they were liars? Their support is, in this instance, obviously genuine. What it is not is conservative in any sense. It’s about their deathless love of the exercise of lawless militaristic power, Constitution be damned.

          • Peggy R

            ” It’s about their deathless love of the exercise of lawless militaristic power, Constitution be damned. ”

            Really? Everything the GOP/conservatives (not the same) do is to get military power to pursue around the world? Who knew? I don’t think conservatives are saints or always correct or honorable. (Does one always have to say something like that here?) But this is stretch I’d have to say. Conservatives in general care deeply about the constitution. But yes, some apportion a good deal of power to the CIC, via their understanding of the constitution. There are divergent views on the use of military power. I will admit that I am surprised by some, including conservative lawyers, supporting the drones. The conservative movement is not monolithic. It is a coalition of groups which are focused on different aspects: the social, the economic and fiscal (even those are split between status quo blue bloods and free marketeers), and the national security. They split on immigration as well. There is much more debate and thoughtful discourse on the right today than on the Left, which seems to have narrow lockstep views and policies.

            • Mark Shea

              I’m not referring to all conservatives (for example, the American Conservative or Front Porch Republic represent some healthy strains). But in the strongholds of Bourbon Neocon “thought” that are FOX, talk radio, Drudge and other members of the Conservative Infotainment Complex, there is not only no regret or rethinking of the Iraq disaster, but constant lobbying for yet another war with Iran. These people never learn.

              • Peggy R

                I find your broad brushes to be often unfair and wearing, I must admit. I also don’t get where the conservative infotainment folks are cheering for despotism. I think some one below explained Woodward’s point well. But yes, there are plenty of showmen on the conservative front with little conviction. A reasonably intelligent person could detect the difference, but then look at our population re-electing Obama. The country needs opposition to Obama.

          • Dave G.

            “Conservative Infotainment Complex that is currently faking concern about Woodward as some sort of valiant hero”

            It was the use of the term ‘faking’ that suggested they were less than sincere about their concern for Woodward in this case.

            • Mark Shea

              They aren’t the least bit “concerned” for Woodward, but they do find him useful.

              • Dave G.

                But that’s only saying they aren’t really sincere in their outrage. They may well be. They may think he is right in this case. See what I mean? If we attribute the worst motives to a group no matter what the group does, then there’s no chance that group has, at least in our own minds. I would say they’re probably right in this case. The problem seems more would they be as bothered if a GOP president did the same thing? In this case, they may be quite sincere. And quite right.

                • Mark Shea

                  The problem is that they have no interest in the Constitution. If you think that is “quite right” I can’t help you.

                  • Dave G.

                    As far as I know, the outrage was over Woodward being called down by an Obama staffer for speaking out that Obama may be somewhat to blame for the mess. In this case, Woodward seems to be correct, as much of this mess is a result of Obama’s lackluster leadership. I mean, Obama isn’t the most stellar leader we’ve ever had. I don’t think it some crime against humanity, and I have no doubt that Obama critics will try to get their money’s worth. But that’s not to say there aren’t some things worth criticizing the staffer for, or that Woodward might be right in his appraisal. In any event, I’m willing to assume they aren’t just faking their support in this case. Even if I disagree with other conclusions they’ve made.

                    • Mark Shea

                      The “threat” and the subsequent comparisons of Obama to Nixon was all bullshit:

                      And please, don’t come back with a bunch of hand-wringing twaddle about the need to “charitably” assume that maybe Woodward and the entire Conservative Infotainment Complex all “sincerely” managed to uncharitably read this innocuous note in the worst possible light. If you are going to wring your hands about charity every time somebody points out that conservatives were acting like uncharitable fools ginning up a mob, you should also consider wringing your hands about conservatives acting like uncharitable fools ginning up a mob.

                      There was no “threat”.

                    • Dave G.

                      Mark, did you read my comment? I said I think there was reason to question the staffer’s comments, there certainly is reason to criticize both parties in this, including Obama, I’m sure the critics of Obama have overplayed the card, and I have no doubt critics of Bush would have done the same thing. It’s the way of things in our modern political discourse. That’s pretty much my view of the situation, none of it involving the assumption that they’re all just faking it. I think the outrage is sincere. Even if it isn’t justified.

                    • Mark Shea

                      No. There was no good reason to question the staffer’s statements which *obviously* were not a “threat” and which were lyingly characterized as such because it was useful to do so.

                    • Dave G.

                      By the way Mark, it’s not ‘hand wringing’. It’s simply pointing things out. And it’s not twaddle to speak of the need to be charitable. Not unless that part of the Catechism is twaddle.

                    • Mark Shea

                      It is twaddle to only be “concerned” about charity when it suits your tribe.

                    • Dave G.

                      My tribe? really? You really need to stop assuming that people you disagree with is some blind member of ‘the tribe.’ Since I’ve been on your blog, I’ve been critical of the GOP and FOX and others. As I always have been, born of a family of Democrats and never one to confuse the GOP with the Trinity. Remember me? The fellow who used to say ‘everything I ever learned about porn stars, I learned from FOX News’? Yeah. That’s me. The same one who pointed out the other day that there are liberals and Democrats who are bothered by Obama’s drone warfare. Don’t just assume that someone who disagrees on this or that is part of a tribe, lest you become part of the ‘I’m not part of any tribe tribe’, that assumes anyone with disagreements must be part of a tribe.

                    • Dave G.

                      By the way, I mentioned the idea of me being some conservative tribalist to my wife, and she got quite the giggle from it. ‘Yeah, right’ was her response.

  • 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.

    • Rosemarie


      That’s the basic impression I got. Conservatives seem happy over Woodward, not so much because of the content of what he said, but because a member of the media establishment was finally calling out Obama on something. And not just any member of the media but Woodward, who brought down a president once before. Plus, he was “threatened” for doing so; surely this will show the American public once and for all that this POTUS is a wannabe dictator! Or so they think; IMHO their enthusiasm is overblown, as is the claim that he was threatened. It was kinda vaguely threatening of something, maybe, but not specific enough to be scary.

  • 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.

      • TMLutas

        Your case would be immensely aided if you would be able to correctly cite the start and end of the Iraq war. I bet you don’t even get the year right.

        • Mark Shea

          I know. You’re one of those guys that want to pretend it began in 1991 and never ended. But in the Normal American community, the second Iraq War began when W stupidly launched his attack on Iraq in March 2003.

  • 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.