accountabilitybloke (old blog)

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High hypocrisy and low quality….

The concepts of “separation of powers” and “checks and balances” are “topics of the week” as the 111th Congress convenes and we get closer to the inauguration of Obama, and two pieces read over the past 48 hours indicate that we are in for an intellectually challenging rough time.

The OpEd piece by Bolton and Yoo in Sunday’s NYT is a classic example of neocon hypocrisy, for in the process of making the case for a renewed emphasis on “treaties” (as an explicit counter to the presidency-centered reliance on executive agreements and Congressional-executive agreements), these two gentleman seem to have rediscovered the value of our constitutional arrangements that they were actively interpreting out of existence while officials in the Bush Administration. This would be somewhat acceptable if we thought we were witnessing a recantation of past misdeeds and conversion to a more principled approach to constitutional law. Instead, it is clear that we have here a blatant effort to strategically resurrect a mechanism that can be used by the neocon-oriented (and very small) minority in the Senate to block US involvement in global arrangements to deal with a number of trans-national environmental, social and moral problems. It is not hypocritical for them to take such a stand, but rather to do so after having spent their entire tenure in the Bush Administration (and after) actively pursuing ways to circumvent international obligations that existing treaties (as well as agreements of all sorts) required of us. I hate to keep saying it, but talk about hypocritical….

Garrett Epps’ article in the most recent Atlantic does not suffer from hypocrisy, but rather from a superficial and oversimplified presentation of US constitutional and political history. Were it not for the author’s credentials, one would assume this is an example of the kind of “analysis” expected from a college freshman paper, informed mainly by high school textbook history and reflecting a bit too much History Channel viewing. It is not the kind of insightful work one expects from a law professor who has made his reputation on a detailed knowledge of the 14th Amendment. The bottom line argument is that the abuses of constitutional authority practiced by the Bush Administration were not to be blamed entirely on W, but also on the Framers of the Constitution who created a “flawed” institution. Using a hodge podge of historical anecdotes drawn from here and there, Epps makes an embarrassingly weak case (even for the Atlantic) for a bunch of reforms that seem naive at best. Is this the best he could do? Is this the best The Atlantic can do?

January 6th, 2009 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments

Unleashing the Know Nothings…

One of the first things you do in an election when running a campaign is mobilize and secure your “base” — those voters who, by custom or inclination or even “reason” should be voting for you on election day. Ignoring that base — or assuming its turnout for you (or your candidate) — can be fatal. Thomas Dewey learned that the hard way in the 1948 presidential election…. Karl Rove and the Bush campaign understood and used that truism more than once, and applied it in the conduct of the Bush Administration’s business as well as in the elections.

The problem is that a candidate’s “electoral base”, like all other things, is a political construction — it needs to be “imagined” into existence and sometimes “shaped” (or re-shaped) before it can be targeted for mobilization. Certainly the raw material of disenchanted or indifferent potential voters must be out there, but the key task is giving them definition and cultivating a self-awareness. Not an easy task when talking about an imagined collective. The talent of folks like Rove is that of the sculptor confronting a huge ball of clay — they can see its potential and work their skills into an artistic form.

The problem is that often the more relevant metaphor is that of Dr Frankenstein who seeks to give life to a corpse with a brain transplant. Risky business that….

John McCain confronted his Frankenstein yesterday in front of live camera at a very public town meeting, and you go the distinct impression that it scared the hell out of him.

October 11th, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments