Happy Ignored Days of Commemoration

Happy Ignored Days of Commemoration December 20, 2011

Dec. 15 was Bill of Rights Day, the 220th anniversary of the passage of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. President Obama issued a disingenuous and hypocritical proclamation commemorating the event.

On December 15, 1791, the United States adopted the Bill of Rights, enshrining in our Constitution the protection of our inalienable freedoms, from the right to speak our minds and worship as we please to the guarantee of equal justice under the law. For 220 years, these fundamental liberties have shaped our national character and stirred the souls of all who dream of a freer, more just world. As we mark this milestone, we renew our commitment to preserving our universal rights and perfecting our Union.

That might be believable if you had ever shown any such commitment. But you have rendered the idea of equal justice under law a dead letter by refusing to prosecute the wealthy and powerful for torture, rendition, warrantless wiretaps and any number of other crimes. As Glenn Greenwald documents in great detail in his amazing new book, you have codified elite immunity and made it a matter of bipartisan consensus despite making these kinds of grandiose statements about the rule of law many times in the past.

Last week was also Human Rights Week, for which the president issued an equally farcical proclamation that stood in stark contrast to his actual record. In short, Mr. President, you are a fraud and a liar.

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  • Well, to be fair, the rich and powerful are rich and powerful.

  • Sad that we’re going to have to vote this tyrant back into office because without him in place, we’ll get four years of a different form of tyranny.

  • Artor

    @Katherine #2

    It galls me to say it, but I would prefer a cynical, expedient tyranny over a batshit insane tyranny. I really, really wish “none of the above” was a real option!

  • Tualha

    Maybe the right wing should criticize him for being soft on crime. Oh, wait…

  • Michael Heath

    Ed writes:

    That might be believable if you [Barack Obama] had ever shown any such commitment. [bold mine -MH]

    [In response to Obama’s, “we renew our commitment to preserving our universal rights and perfecting our Union.“]

    Ed, this is not true. Like all other presidents Barack Obama has shown some commitment, e.g., the repeal of DADT along with his reversal of priorities in the Justice Dept. civil rights division relative to the past president’s focus. President Obama has instead failed to be consistently committed regarding all the liberties to be protected via the Bill of Rights. Plus he’s failed to stop the trend of continually extending the power of the executive which infringes on our constitutionally protected liberties, similar to his predecessors.

    Ed writes:

    Mr. President, you are fraud and a liar.

    I think this very tough assertion works only if you are willing to describe nearly every, if not all, presidents with the same description. Are you calling all or nearly all presidents each a fraud and a liar?

    How about each federal judge who supported the president and ruled contra your position? Are each and every one of those judges also frauds and liars where their relevant rulings and opinions are all fraudulent and deceitful?

    I readily concede my big disappointment in President Obama on some of his Administrations’ failures to take their oaths of office seriously enough to consistently and always defend the Constitution; in spite of recognizing this failure in every president I’ve studied.

    I also regret the public and the media are so ignorant and apathetic that these issues are not elevated in the public square to the point where the President is effectively forced to directly confront his Administration’s behavior, leaving us with little to no perspective on his rationales regarding these constitutional failures. There is simply no political pressure within either party to always behave consistent with the Constitution where a rejection of a Democrat guarantees far worse behavior by Republicans while staying loyal to the Democrats does afford progress in some areas, like gay rights.

    Each president I’ve studied has sought ‘tried-and-true’ along with novel ways to extend the power of the executive beyond their constitutional limits. I concede I was actually naive enough to believe this president would reverse this trend and consistently apply the same principle rather than defending the Constitution haphazardly. I concluded ‘he’d be different’ because Barack Obama was the first president I’d ever encountered who served in my lifetime who actually demonstrated a sufficient understanding of the plain meaning of the Bill of Rights and how these amendments relate to the DofI. The presidential avoidance of these principles has me going back all the way to Abraham Lincoln to find the last president initiating a debate regarding both documents; though he too did not always practice fealty to either.

  • walton

    I think this very tough assertion works only if you are willing to describe nearly every, if not all, presidents with the same description. Are you calling all or nearly all presidents each a fraud and a liar?

    I don’t know if Ed is, but I am. Being a fraud and a liar is pretty much a pre-requisite for being elected president in the first place. Occasionally someone with some actual moral principles gets elected – Jimmy Carter, for instance – but such people don’t tend to be very successful when in office. There’s a reason why Obama is President rather than, say, Bernie Sanders or Ralph Nader. The reality is that the political system (and probably all political systems everywhere; certainly all that choose their leaders by any sort of election) rewards people who lie, manipulate public opinion, sacrifice their principles for political expediency, etc.

  • walton

    (And no, I’m not proposing any solutions or alternatives. I’m just griping. Obama is another Bill Clinton, an authoritarian whose actions are geared towards reinforcing established power, and for whom political expediency is more important than principle. And that isn’t surprising; because the whole political system is set up to ensure that only people with those characteristics attain high office.)

  • imrryr
  • Michael Heath wrote:

    I think this very tough assertion works only if you are willing to describe nearly every, if not all, presidents with the same description. Are you calling all or nearly all presidents each a fraud and a liar?

    Without hesitation. But Obama’s betrayals are on perhaps the most important issues we have and cut to the very core of our constitutional system. Bush was just as bad, of course, but I frankly don’t really think he knew any better. Obama does; he’s said so himself. His actions just do the exact opposite of his bold, principled statements.

    How about each federal judge who supported the president and ruled contra your position? Are each and every one of those judges also frauds and liars where their relevant rulings and opinions are all fraudulent and deceitful?

    No, this is a very different statement. First of all, we have no way of knowing how any federal judge may have voted. Second, federal judges are bound by precedent and often must issue rulings that they think are incorrect as a result. But this is really a side issue and not terribly relevant. I absolutely stand by my statement that Obama is a liar and a fraud in this regard. He says one thing and does the exact opposite on nearly every important question involving the Bill of Rights and executive power. I don’t know what words you would prefer to use for such consistent behavior, but liar and fraud work just fine for me.

  • Michael Heath

    Ed wrote:

    Obama’s betrayals are on perhaps the most important issues we have and cut to the very core of our constitutional system. Bush was just as bad, of course, but I frankly don’t really think he knew any better. Obama does; he’s said so himself.

    I think Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon was the more egregious sin though the behavior of future administrations exploiting the powers Obama won in court might eventually prove me wrong. I still find the Ford Administration to have generally been a successful one.

    I wrote to Ed earlier:

    How about each federal judge who supported the president and ruled contra your position? Are each and every one of those judges also frauds and liars where their relevant rulings and opinions are all fraudulent and deceitful?

    Ed responds:

    No, this is a very different statement. First of all, we have no way of knowing how any federal judge may have voted. Second, federal judges are bound by precedent and often must issue rulings that they think are incorrect as a result. But this is really a side issue and not terribly relevant.

    I think it’s directly relevant in cases like those revolving around the state secrets doctrine which seemed to me to plow new constitutional ground rather than be hog-tied by precedent. Your point about precedent is well-taken though I don’t see it as a side-issue but rather a requirement we sometimes must look one or two degrees further on which judges’ holdings are supporting the Obama Administrations’ positions and behavior. Should we therefore concede those judges/justices who set precedent are frauds and liars?

    Sure I’m frustrated by Obama’s behavior on certain constitutional matters along with the apathy of the media and nearly all Americans that enables such behavior. But what’s also frustrating given all presidents work to extend their power is that Obama is winning in court. The president’s behavior is unfortunately a naturally occurring phenomena; controllable yes, but consistent nearly always relative to all presidents. It’s the failure of the independent judiciary check structured into the Constitution that’s usually more frustrating though not in Obama’s case. That’s for the reason both of us laid out, he knows better and to amplify that frustration, he campaigned on these issues. To lay on the frustration both early biographies of Obama’s first year in office barely touched on this subject. No one with power is holding him accountable, nor are the people to a sufficient degree.

  • slc1

    Re Michael Heath @ #10

    But what’s also frustrating given all presidents work to extend their power is that Obama is winning in court.

    His winning in court is greatly due to conservative judges appointed by Reagan and the two Bushes. If Romney or, the flying spaghetti monster help us, Gingrich is elected in 2012, their judicial appointments will exacerbate the situation. As I have often stated, compare the Rethuglican appointments of Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts with the Democratic appointments of Breyer, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and, Kagan (although Kagan is a little problematical at this point). For all the Obama bashers who insist they will vote for him in 2012 when hell freezes over, they should consider this, although, of course, as they have made abundantly clear, they won’t.

  • Michael Heath

    slc1:

    [Barack Obama’s] winning in court is greatly due to conservative judges appointed by Reagan and the two Bushes.

    The 9th Circuit en banc majority opinion in Mohamed et al. v. Jeppeson Dataplan Inc. was,

    “to toss a lawsuit against a Boeing subsidiary accused of helping the CIA transport detainees to secret foreign prisons where they allegedly were tortured.” [Wired article]

    Here’s the majority break-down by the president who appointed them:

    Clinton – 3 (Fisher – wrote the majority opinion, Tallman, & Rawlinson)

    Carter – 1 (Schroeder)

    Reagan – 1 (Kozinski, perhaps the most famous libertarian judge in the U.S.)

    W. Bush – 1 (Callahan)

    So even within the majority Democratic nominees supported President Obama by a 4-2 margin.

  • And that ruling overturned the opinion by Judge Vaughan Walker, a Reagan appointee who ruled correctly against the use of the State Secrets Privilege.