House Republicans have announced that constitutional expert and George Washington University Professor Jonathan Turley will be their star witness in upcoming hearings regarding Speaker John Boehner's proposed lawsuit against President Obama.
Turley's starring role may be an uncomfortable one. For starters, just two weeks ago he co-authored an op-ed with Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson laying a laundry list of ways President Obama had acted "unilaterally in the face of Congressional opposition." But Boehner's lawsuit focuses only on Obama's understandable decision to delay the Affordable Care Act's employer mandate, a move with ample historical precedent including President Bush's 2006 waiving of penalties for low-income and disabled seniors who missed the deadline for enrolling in his Medicare Part D drug program. More bizarre still for the critic of waterboarding and "enhanced interrogation techniques," Turley's fellow GOP witness will be Professor Elizabeth Price Foley, who has partnered with Bush torture defender David Rivkin to plot Boehner's legal strategy against Obama. And perhaps most disturbing, Professor Turley will have to explain how he could compare President Obama's "so sue me" response to cynical House Republicans to President Bush's dangerously irresponsible "bring 'em on" invitation to insurgents in Iraq.
Writing in the Daily News last week, Turley made precisely that analogy when he warned that "whether it is 'sue me' or 'bring it on,' presidential taunts tend to play better politically than practically." Responding to a threatened GOP lawsuit over supposed violations Speaker Boehner could not yet identify:
The President threw down the gauntlet at Congress: "So sue me."Please read below the fold for more on this story.
The moment was reminiscent of George W. Bush's taunting Iraqi insurgents over 10 years ago by saying, "Bring 'em on."
It was irresponsible bravado from a man who was not himself at the receiving end of IEDs and constant attacks that would go on to cost us thousands of military personnel.
Irresponsible bravado? Consider that 4,000 U.S. troops were killed and 30,000 were wounded after Commander-in-Chief Bush issued this July 2003 challenge to the insurgents rapidly turning Iraq into a bloodbath for American troops and civilians alike:
"There are some who feel like that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is bring them on."The attackers took Bush at his word. As a grieving Mary Kewatt told Minnesota Public Radio in July 2003:
"We have some issues with the fact that President Bush declared combat over on May 1. Combat is not over. We don't even know who's firing at us right now, and all of our soldiers are at great risk of being picked off as Jim was. And that's a shame. And then President Bush made a comment a week ago, and he said, 'bring it on.' They brought it on and now my nephew is dead."Even George W. Bush realized he had made a mistake. Just not that the time. After all, during an April 2004 press conference President Bush could not name a single mistake he had made. "I'm sure something will pop into my head here," Bush explained, "Maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one." But by May 2006, Dubya finally came up with one:
"Kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people," Bush said. "I learned some lessons about expressing myself, maybe in a more sophisticated manner. . . I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted."And in January 2007, just days after he announced the surge in Iraq, Bush admitted to Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes that he had made mistakes, if only semantic ones:
PELLEY: You mention mistakes having been made in your speech. What mistakes are you talking about?In June 2008 during his final swing through Europe before leaving the White House, President Bush told The Times of London that his cowboy rhetoric was perhaps his greatest regret:
BUSH: You know, we've been through this before. Abu Ghraib was a mistake. Using bad language like, you know, "bring them on" was a mistake. I think history is gonna look back and see a lot of ways we could have done things better. No question about it.
President Bush has admitted to The Times that his gun-slinging rhetoric made the world believe that he was a "guy really anxious for war" in Iraq.And with his illicit programs of NSA domestic surveillance and detainee torture, certainly not a man who respected either the U.S. Constitution or laws passed by Congress. In 2010 when Dick Cheney ("I was a big supporter of waterboarding") and George W. Bush ("Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed") each bragged about having tortured detainees, Jonathan Turley lamented:
[. .] In an exclusive interview, he expressed regret at the bitter divisions over the war and said that he was troubled about how his country had been misunderstood. "I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric."
Phrases such as "bring them on" or "dead or alive", he said, "indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace."
"It is an astonishing public admission since waterboarding is not just illegal but a war crime. It is akin to the vice president saying that he supported bank robbery or murder-for-hire as a public policy."And as Turley rightly concluded at the time, the failure to prosecute them belonged to President Barack Obama:
"This shameful moment belongs not to Bush but to Obama who worked to block the fulfillment of our domestic and international obligations to prosecute such offenses. We will continue to have torture discussed casually as just another tough-guy policy choice. Because it would have been politically unpopular to prosecute people for torture, the Obama Administration has allowed officials to downgrade torture from a war crime to a talking point."A talking point, that is, like "bring 'em on."