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sometimes there is no third option to use, you can't get out of a situation without making yourself look bad. so your best option is basically to take the lesser of two evils.

the catch is that the options that gives you the least problems is also the ones that makes you look like you had no idea what you are doing. so instead you make yourself look guilty in an effort to keep up your reputation.

named from the film version of the sum of all fears, where the russian president takes responsibility for a military strike done by a general acting without orders so it doesn't seem like he was incompetent.

"better guilty than impotent", tvtropes.org

this trope's been rattling around in my head since obama's chosen to vigorously defend the wholesale rifling of all domestic messages by the nsa. in "the sum of all fears" (2002), newly minted and wholly innocent russian president nemerov, after ordering the rogue generals responsible "disappeared", defiantly defends the atrocity as a legitimate response to "a nation of criminals" attacking innocent russians, in order to not appear not in control of his own military. the hero, cia analyst jack ryan, to the derision of washington's defense and intelligence chairs, correctly surmises that nemerov isn't the hardliner he pretends to be and didn't order the attack — ultimately helping both countries avoid being manipulated into global thermonuclear war.

it's difficult to reconcile a constitutional scholar and government transparency proponent defending, much less overseeing, a massive ongoing violation of the fourth amendment. but it's not hard to imagine the nsa (with profiteer booz allen) doing what they're paid to do, in secret, and in the name of the war on terror, simply deciding they could and would eavesdrop on everyone. these are not revelations of new ambitions. so we're left to scratch our heads and wonder if obama chose the lesser of two evils rather than plead ignorance and admit that our intelligence agencies are out of control. or maybe a movie is just a movie. perhaps we'll find out in fifty years or so after the papers are finally declassified (or even sooner if wikileaks or anonymous ever gets hold of them).

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Comment Preferences

  •  Should HR for misogyny in the TJ. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nattiq
  •  Actually, the President pointed to the guilty (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aarrgghh

    party. Congress, by insisting that the first priority is to prevent terrorism has set the universal surveillance system in motion, much as it did with the drone program by insisting that suspected terrorists be killed without putting boots on the ground. Congress ordered the killing. Then coming back and saying "that's not how we thought it would go," is disingenuous.

    People are being killed, surveilled and held in indefinite detention on Congress' orders. Doing it by negating all other options is still doing it. If there are five options and the Congress rejects four, then the only one left is a go. This is another way in which the Party of No operates that I hadn't thought of before. Of course, the President could opt to do nothing, but, while GWB took that option, that's not in compliance with the duties imposed by the Constitution.

    Obama did not beat around the bush when he said the Congress had "been briefed" and, presumably, given assent to what was being done at their direction. That only eight members are actually in the loop is also by Congressional, rather than Presidential, choice. If the country is going to recognize Congressional failures to perform and their wholesale abrogation of responsibility, it will have to be pointed out until the message registers. Congress has a big head start in shifting blame somewhere else.

    That said, universal surveillance is a lot less lethal than B52 bombers and drones with hellfire missiles.
    Why our electronics industry needs to be suckled at the public teat is a question we might well ask.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 06:20:31 AM PDT

    •  all true (0+ / 0-)

      however obama isn't for example vigorously defending gitmo the way he's defending the spying

      •  Gitmo is indefensible. The spying is the outrage (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        aarrgghh

        of the moment. The message that needs to be conveyed and hammered into the electorate's consciousness for 2014 is that Congress is a problem.
        People don't much care that the courts are short-handed, since they don't like judges anyway.
        Men don't much care that women can't get appropriate medical care, 'cause they'd rather not think about "female problems" to begin with.
        Being spied on hits closer to home 'cause most people do have something to hide. That somebody might be listening in on their phone sex seems so unfair.

        We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

        by hannah on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 06:48:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  your mileage may vary but (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne

          i find the spying just as indefensible. both are constitutional violations that i agree are the spawn of an irresponsible and cowardly congress that wants to perpetuate them in secret. i also agree that these outrages are (relatively) momentary -- it will be next generation that will shake its head in shame the way we shake our heads at the internment of the japanese.

          obama may be required by law to carry out congress' will, but he's not required to promote it. as with doma he is free to lobby against it.

          •  The main body of the Constitution outlines (0+ / 0-)

            duties and obligation. I don't thin spying on citizens is mentioned. Many commerce-friendly undertakings aren't mentioned either, but the commerce clause has been interpreted generously to justify all kinds of assistance. Then too, promoting traders and other middlemen was a primary function from the start. The more recent claim that government should keep hands off business has only arisen in the context of governmental agents acting on behalf of workers and consumers. Still, it is disingenuous for the chambers of commerce to keep harping on free enterprise -- it was always only free in the sense that business and industry got supported at no cost. Taking free goods from the public treasury to market for private profit is their idea of ideal.
            Anyway, the prohibitions in the original amendments were add-ones that might have been better left off. Wile it can be argued that they address the more likely areas of overreaching, it can also be argued that the established religions got an exemption because of their basic mission to keep the populace on the straight and narrow, while people speaking and writing without restriction clearly makes it easier to know what they are up to, than if they organize insurrection in secret. If the agents of government and the public they supposedly serve are seen as antagonistic, then free speech and assembly are a boon to the powers that be.
            That our currency crop of petty potentates don't understand that is more evidence that they are a bunch of incompetents--which does not preclude them making a horrible mess.

            We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

            by hannah on Tue Jun 18, 2013 at 08:39:31 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  It's all of a part to me. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          aarrgghh, hannah

          Cold war paranoia on steroids in service to transnational corporate conglomerates and 'financiers'.  Using 'othering' to divide and distract the masses and keep them in control so that they don't fight back against their own exploitation.

  •  You know, being a 'scholar' of something doesn't (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    aarrgghh, Nattiq

    necessarily mean you agree with every last part of it.  It simply means you've spent a lot of time studying it.  If anything, it means it's actually easier to find loopholes in it, or ways to 'stretch' interpretations.

    In view of the last five years, 'Constitutional scholar' doesn't seem to have the same meaning it once did.

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