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View Diary: I'm too proud and unapologetic to brag about it to the likes of you. :D (106 comments)

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  •  I don't think you understand three-branch govt. (3+ / 0-)

    A President doesn't "use" a Congressional majority - they have separate agendas, and where they overlap is not under his control.  Neither Harry Reid nor Nancy Pelosi had any intention of shining a spotlight on activities they personally encouraged and oversaw during the Bush regime.  

    You are correct that he could have pulled a Jimmy Carter and just issued an avalanche of Executive Orders that would have been universally ignored and made the entire federal government into a determined enemy of every element of his agenda.  Then, of course, he could have made a fool of himself and engaged in some kind of Saturday Night Massacre of officials he deemed to be insufficiently on board with the agenda, which surely would have done wonders for the progress of that agenda while having no funding and everyone below the political appointee level just laughing at him.

    I really wish there was some kind of computer program that would let people simulate being in politics so they could get this stuff.  

    Nothing makes a Republican angrier than a smile on a poor child's face.

    by Troubadour on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 12:00:36 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  An interesting response (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour

      I will, at the outset, concede that I worded my argument regarding President Obama and the legislature poorly. I am aware that the Executive is not in charge of the legislature in the United States, although I am also aware that a President of the same party as the majority has traditionally enjoyed a significant amount of influence over the Congressional agenda even if they don't necessarily get their own way on every matter (See: FDR, Kennedy, LBJ).

      Having said this, I believe there are several problems with your argument:

      First, you assume that Obama had no leverage over Reid and Pelosi. I believe that he did - if only by virtue of the number of Democrats in Congress whose (re)election campaigns had been made easier by his presence at the top of the ticket and the number of political IOUs he held as a consequence - and failed to use it;

      Second, you state - without evidence - that Reid and Pelosi were complicit in the PRISM business and therefore have vested interests against public disclosure. The first proves the second, but you haven't established the first;

      Third, you use a false-dichotomy fallacy. I have already implied that I would have been quite pleased to see that President Obama had started laying the groundwork for a rollback of the surveillance state (as emphasised repeatedly in his 2008 campaign) within the executive branch failing co-operation from Congress, but then you presented an either/or situation: either the President "had to" accept the status quo in its entirety unless Congress helped him remove it, or he "had to" flail about trying to change it all at once, a course of action that I agree would be foredoomed to failure.

      I reject this either/or argument - I hold that, particularly in light of his proven capacity to make political allies in unusual places in the past, the President had the option of appointing people at the upper levels who agreed with his ideas regarding the NSA's work, as is customary for incoming Presidents, then working on getting the mid-levels of the NSA management to agree with him, or gently easing them out.

      *

      In short, I believe that even if the President could not have taken action by himself as head of the Executive branch (and I've named one action he could have taken - appointing someone at the top of the NSA who agreed with his stated principles of the citizens' right to privacy), that he could have laid a lot of groundwork over the last four years for the action to be taken during his second term, and I see no evidence that he has done so.

      That, more than anything, is what disappoints me. Unlike some people (here and elsewhere), I understand that the President cannot do everything by himself. Further, you make a compelling case that he cannot re-arrange even the Executive Branch - theoretically his purview as President - by fiat without serious consequences. But he has, so far as I'm aware, done nothing but stand in a holding pattern on this issue.

      "Violence never requires translation, but it often causes deafness." - Bareesh the Hutt.

      by Australian2 on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 12:46:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Leverage, yes. (2+ / 0-)

        But leverage can't make politicians do things that directly harm their own political interests.  Congressional Democratic leaders were on the Select Committees that oversaw and funded programs like Prism from their inception.  The public knew about these programs almost from the beginning via brilliant investigative journalism from sources like Seymour Hersh, going back into the first term of Bush, and hadn't made it an electoral priority.  

        A President can't be a one-man army against practically the entire federal government with tepid support (at best) from the public at the guaranteed expense of the priorities he did focus on.  And let's be honest: The people who are being the loudest and most obnoxious in attacking this President on the issue wouldn't have cared if he had done what they demand - they would have just changed the subject.  We've seen that throughout his Presidency whenever he's done exactly what we said he should do.  

        Frankly, I think he did lay the "groundwork" you're talking about.  All he had to say was "My administration doesn't discuss classified programs in public" and nothing would have come of it but the usual grumbling.  Snowden's revelations would have gone the way of all the other revelations about this kind of thing, and faded into obscurity and general unease.  Instead he took a concrete, debatable position, citing specifics that create all sorts of ground for bringing the issue into substantive political discussions that would have otherwise just been theoretical.  

        And guess what this does to the Republicans who are responsible for programs like Prism?  They get to make the delicious decision between defending President Obama or attacking a pillar of their authoritarian platform.  That won't stop them from saying one thing and doing another, as usual, or taking mutually exclusive positions simultaneously, but it does cost them.  I'm not saying that was the motivation for the President's position - I'm sure he just sincerely thinks that this kind of data-gathering is a reasonable balance in the 21st century.  But he hasn't done anything to quash the controversy that a President who wanted to operate in the shadows would.  Quite the opposite.

        Nothing makes a Republican angrier than a smile on a poor child's face.

        by Troubadour on Tue Jun 11, 2013 at 03:56:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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