Obama: Liar, Fraud, Disaster


Michael Heath, a longtime reader I respect a great deal for his consistently thoughtful contributions (and really think he should have his own blog; many of the comments he writes are really blog posts themselves), has challenged me on having said that Obama is a “liar and a fraud” and that his presidency has been a “disaster.” Those are conclusions that I think are not just valid but inescapable after three years and I will defend them here.

1. A liar and a fraud. Let me just start with the obvious, which I have been documenting for three straight years here. On April 29, 2009 Obama was asked by a reporter about his administration continuing to invoke the broadest possible version of the State Secrets Privilege in three court cases. He said then that he was opposed to that broad SSP and only favored a narrow version of it that would work as an evidentiary privilege:

Question: Thank you, Mr. President. During the campaign, you criticized President Bush’s use of the state secrets privilege, but U.S. attorneys have continued to argue the Bush position in three cases in court. How exactly does your view of state secrets differ from President Bush’s? And do you believe presidents should be able to derail entire lawsuits about warrantless wiretapping or rendition if classified information is involved?

Obama: I actually think that the state secret doctrine should be modified. I think right now it’s overbroad.

But keep in mind what happens, is we come in to office. We’re in for a week, and suddenly we’ve got a court filing that’s coming up. And so we don’t have the time to effectively think through, what exactly should an overarching reform of that doctrine take? We’ve got to respond to the immediate case in front of us.

There — I think it is appropriate to say that there are going to be cases in which national security interests are genuinely at stake and that you can’t litigate without revealing covert activities or classified information that would genuinely compromise our safety.

But searching for ways to redact, to carve out certain cases, to see what can be done so that a judge in chambers can review information without it being in open court, you know, there should be some additional tools so that it’s not such a blunt instrument.

And we’re interested in pursuing that. I know that Eric Holder and Greg Craig, my White House counsel, and others are working on that as we speak.

That was a lie, plain and simple. Since that time, his administration has invoked and argued for the broadest possible conception of the SSP in every single case where the government has been challenged for illegal and unconstitutional actions in the war on terror. Every. Single. One. Including cases where the allegedly secret information had already been released. He has not argued for a narrower version in a single case. He has not argued for the use of any of the long-established tools he says he wants but already exist — in camera, ex parte or sealed proceedings, for example — for protecting classified information in court, procedures that have been used in thousands of cases for decades without ever resulting in the release of anything important to the public, in even one case. What else could we possibly conclude except that he was lying?

I could easily go on and on with situations where Obama has said one thing and then done the opposite, but there’s little need to do so. I have documented them exhaustively over the last three years and, if I recall correctly, Heath has agreed with me on nearly every one. His main objection seems to be that I can’t say this unless I am willing to call all presidents the same thing:

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? …

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.

And I answered in the affirmative, saying that I would call nearly every president the same thing “without hesitation.” But I think this is an objection that is trivial at best. Do all presidents lie? Of course they do. Every politician lies. And every politician breaks promises. But all such instances are not equal; some are far more damaging than others. As I pointed out in response to that comment, the issues on which Obama has said one thing and done the other are issues at the very core of our constitutional system.

The use of the State Secrets Privilege to make the executive branch immune to all legal challenge is not just some minor little issue. It is, quite literally, the end of all practical limits on the power of the executive branch. It is the end of the checks and balances that were intended to protect us from executive omnipotence. It is the end of the separation of powers. If the president can end any legal challenge merely by declaring that it involves a state secret — and that is the case so far, and I have no faith in the Supreme Court to change it — then his power is virtually limitless and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are dead letters.

And the fact that Obama is, as Heath notes, a constitutional scholar, only makes it worse, not better. George Bush was an ignoramus being led around by Dick Cheney; he wouldn’t know the 4th amendment if it crawled up his pantleg, perched on his ass and yodeled the Ave Maria. But Obama knows how dangerous this is and he clearly doesn’t care. A liar and a fraud? Absolutely.

Let me give you just a list off the top of my head of a few examples of similar problems:

1. After saying that he would filibuster any bill that included telecom immunity while he was in the Senate, he turned around and supported the FISA extension bill that did so.

2. After saying he was opposed to many of the unconstitutional provisions in the Patriot Act, he then pushed through as president an extension of that bill that not only continued those dangerous provisions but made them worse.

3. After giving grand speeches about the importance of accountability and the rule of law, he has made sure that no one would ever be prosecuted for torture, thus violating our treaty obligations and rendering our signature on the UN Convention on Torture absolutely meaningless. And of course, he’s also made sure that there would be no civil cases to hold them responsible either through the use of the SSP.

4. After declaring that he would have the “most transparent administration in history” he has done quite the opposite, arguing against transparency in court time and again.

5. After declaring the importance of civilian trials for terror suspects, he has actually instituted a three-tiered system that gives civilian trials for some detainees (though none have actually happened), military tribunals for others (tribunals that are a travesty of justice, as declared even by many JAG officers involved in the prosecutions), and indefinite detention without trial for others.

6. His administration has argued in favor of absolute immunity for prosecutors.

7. His administration has argued against access to DNA evidence that could prove an inmate’s innocence.

8. Despite his public declarations against torture, there is strong evidence that such abuse continues in detention facilities on military bases.

A Disaster. The conclusion that Obama has been a disaster flows inexorably from the the facts above. Heath’s argument, in essence, is that I’m not counting all the good things he’s done and I’m “disproportionately weighing certain issues.” And he’s right about that. I am absolutely weighing these key constitutional issues — illegal surveillance, executive power, the rule of law, the state secrets privilege, the 4th amendment, checks and balances — as far more important than others. And I do so openly and without apology.

Has Obama done some good things? Of course he has. I’m thrilled that he worked to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, for example. And I’ve praised many things he’s done. But I just don’t think those things compare much to the many ways he has helped to destroy constitutional limits and enshrined executive abuse even further. Some issues are far more important than others.

Perhaps the worst part of this, as Glenn Greenwald keeps pointing out, is that Obama’s embrace of the executive abuses of power has made those abuses a matter of bipartisan consensus now. When Bush was doing the same things, there was at least some token Democratic opposition to it, but nearly all of that opposition disappeared when Obama got into office. Advocates for the constitution like the ACLU, the EFF and folks like me have remained consistent, but the Democratic party, which was never really an effective block to such abuses of power, is now nothing more than a rubber stamp.

These actions are not mere disappointments, they are betrayals. He has the opportunity to support the rule of law and end the constitutional abuses of his predecessor. He chose not to. And that makes him a liar, a fraud and a disaster. You’re free to disagree, of course, but you aren’t going to convince me otherwise.

Comments

  1. says

    I will argue that Obama passed Bush II as “worst president ever” when he shredded the Constitution by signing the 2012 NDAA.

    Until now, it has been rare (Jose Padilla and the 1940s Japanese-American Concentration camps notwithstanding) that the government will arrest American Citizens without trial and hold them indefinitely.

    That is now out the window.

    Any State, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of man, that State is obsolete.
    — Rod Serling, “The Obsolete Man”

  2. slc1 says

    I think that the differences between Heath and Mr. Brayton over President Obama clearly stem from their differences as to the relative importance of the issues. Heath asserts that the most important issues facing the country are economic in nature, Mr. Brayton asserts that the most important issues facing the country are those involving civil liberties.

    As I argued in a previous, the civil liberties issues will be of little moment unless the economic situation of the country is improved. If the economy goes down the tubes, which would be the result if any of the Rethuglican candidates were elected and carried out their promises, we might well be faced with a military coup, just as was a threat in the early 1930s. In fact, given the greatly increased power of the military industrial complex, the threat would be much greater then it was in the 1930s. Under such a contingency, civil liberties would be abolished by the ruling junta so that the discussion over priorities would become academic.

  3. says

    Personally, I would weight the progress in LGBT rights he has presided over the greatest on the list. For me and many others, we are finally starting to see a glimpse of what equality looks like. The fear of being discovered and repressed in a previously potentially hostile environment such as unfamiliar hospitals or military associated places or functions is disappearing much more quickly than expected. Even binational couples burdened by DOMA are seeing deportation proceedings delayed for the time being. Still, I imagine that Obama is going to royally piss off the LGBT voting block very soon once he starts stumping for Christian votes again.

    And the primary reason Obama’s administration has been able to get away with all the crap it has is because the Republicans have installed right-wing idealogues throughout the bureaucracy and courts. There is no substantial checking system left to face down the executive branch’s power grabs. The disaster runs much deeper than the presidency.

  4. says

    I think another real and serious harm that Obama has done, sort of related to the “bipartisan” aspect of his law-breaking and Constitution-shredding, is that he’s done all these things and more under the banner of “liberalism”. He pushed the Heritage Foundation’s ideas of health care, the Bush administration’s view of executive power, and every “start from the center and compromise to the right” policy, and all of it is being used to redefine “liberal.” It legitimizes the idea that conservative ideas should get another hearing, now that liberals have had their turn.

  5. raym says

    The really sad and depressing thing is that you just know that if he loses in November, his Republican successor can only be much, much worse.

  6. Michael Heath says

    Ed, Thanks for fairly framing my objections. Your intellectual honesty and argumentation skills are primary reasons I hang out here. I can’t respond immediately but should be able to later in the day.

    slc1 writes:

    I think that the differences between Heath and Mr. Brayton over President Obama clearly stem from their differences as to the relative importance of the issues. Heath asserts that the most important issues facing the country are economic in nature, Mr. Brayton asserts that the most important issues facing the country are those involving civil liberties.

    Actually my previous comment posts went beyond just economics and were instead directly related to the totality of the job of the Office of the Presidency. In particular those areas where the executive branch in totality primarily expends its energies along with those areas which has the greatest impact on all of humanity and the environment given the immense power of the office, in addition weighing its performance relative the impact on the greatest number of Americans.

    Contemporaneously judging a president on future concerns which is where Ed’s criticisms predominately resonate is obviously not a simple task since actions taken now may or may not have a sizable future impact. One example I previously gave was FDR’s internment camps for Japanese-Americans in WWII – an absolutely repugnant action which by itself did not lead to anecdotal or systemically bad behavior by that president or subsequent ones in this area.

    Ed’s concerns on 4th and 5th Amendment issues are equivalent to the concerns I had when President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon. My concern regarding Ford was that his pardon would cause subsequent presidents to act as if they were beyond the reach of the law. I think my concern was realized as legitimate first with George W. Bush’s behavior. And second with all the Congresses since then along with President Obama’s collective failure to instigate criminal investigations of the Bush Administration based on crimes we know took place and where we know were due to the direct orders coming the from the Office of the Bush presidency.

    So while FDR’s actions didn’t have future ramifications, I think the apparently less repugnant action of Ford clearly done in good faith in the nation’s interests has had and will continue to have far worse ramifications. So from this perspective I think we should be humble in judging current defects relative to our future concerns where I think Ed’s takes his opinions beyond what his premises can withstand and are also insufficiently framed relative to the scope of the president’s performance and behavior.

  7. jjgdenisrobert says

    I hate to break it to you Ed, but politics has never been about selecting the right candidate, just the one who won’t blow things up too badly. And right now, that candidate has to be Obama. I would love for there to be a better one, but any of the Republicans will destroy the economy, and rip the Constitution to even tinier shreds than Obama has. Plus, can you honestly say you trust any of them (except maybe Huntsman who doesn’t have a chance in hell) with the Nuclear Football? Even Mittens has a teeny problem with his temper. As soon as he’s confronted with anything inconvenient, the guy flies into uncontrollable rage, with his eyes barely managing to stay in their sockets.

    So it’s always least of two evils. Reality bites.

  8. says

    I think slc and Michael Heath both are correct, in a sense. This really is about weighting issues, but it’s also, as Heath says, a difference in what we’re weighing. He’s making a generalized judgment about Obama as a whole and I’m not. I really am just taking the issues I care about the most and ignoring most everything else. That doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that he’s done good things on some issues that I do care about (repealing DADT being the most obvious), it just means that, compared to subverting the very core of our system of checks and balances, I don’t think it matters.

    SLC argues that if the economy isn’t good, none of the constitutional stuff matters. I’d argue quite the opposite. The fact is that the president has very little control over the economy at all. We like to give credit or blame to the occupant of the White House when the economy is bad, just like we automatically blame the coach or the quarterback when the team is losing, but in reality the president has little influence over the economy. But if we lose the most basic limitations on executive power, we will no longer be a free society.

    Yes, FDR’s internment policy was terrible but at least that decision wasn’t immune to legal challenge. The Supreme Court got that decision wrong, of course, but at least they considered the question and issued a ruling. Obama wants them to dismiss any such challenge as long as the president says they should, which is far more dangerous. And I find no solace in the possibility that the courts might not allow him to get away with it. First, he’s so far won that argument. Second, I have no faith in the current Supreme Court that they would rule the right way when it reaches them. Lastly, it is more than enough to me that a president — any president — would make an argument for unchallenged authority. That is disqualifying to me, in a very literal sense. The moment you make the argument that you should have unlimited power, you have proven yourself to be an enemy of the constitution and the enemy of a free society and you are done in my book.

  9. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    The fact is that the president has very little control over the economy at all.

    I strongly disagree. I think presidents and Congresses have an enormous impact on the economy for a several if not dozens of reasons. I also think people make the conclusion Ed does here because far too many people give credit or blame way beyond what a president is impacting, or a Congressional member. Not that this is what has Ed making his conclusion, I have no idea what factors he’s considering.

    A great illustration of the afore-mentioned defect in action is to read the comment posts at the WSJ. No matter what the topic, articles are predominately used to blame or give credit to some figure-head, whether it be the president, the Speaker of the House, or even committee members in the minority party. But that defect in thinking shouldn’t influence our own conclusions on whether presidents have an impact or not.

  10. says

    Would you rather have Obama, Romney, Paul, Santorum or Newt?

    Obama has failed on issues of civil liberties, and he hasn’t been too good in other areas. But the others have promised not only to fail, but to fail aggressively.

  11. slc1 says

    Re Ed Brayton @ #8

    The fact is that the president has very little control over the economy at all.

    Not true. This is an old wives tale that unsuccessful presidents use to absolve themselves of any blame. This was a tune that Herbert Hoover was wont to warble. Is there any doubt that the economic policies and regulation avoidance of the Dubya administration contributed to the economic near collapse that occurred in 2008? Is there any doubt that, if the economic policies advocated by the Rethuglican candidates were actually adopted, there would be a hair curling depression which, IMHO, could well lead to a military takeover of the government?

    Anyone who thinks that it can’t happen here is whistling Dixie. Many of the intellectuals in Germany in the early 1930s said the same. That didn’t work out too well. The fact is that, in the event of a military coup, the Constitution would be swept aside as so much extraneous verbiage in the name of restoring order.

    Re Michael Heath @ #6

    I stand corrected. However, it is my impression that Heath considers economic issues (and the related issue of climate change) to be far more important then does Mr. Brayton whereas the latter clearly considers civil liberties issues to be more important then economic ones. As evidence of the importance that he attaches to this issue, Mr. Brayton has, in the past, severely criticized President Lincoln for suspending Habeas Corpus during the Civil War.

  12. NoVaRunner says

    When Obama was campaigning and saying all these things he knew his potential voters wanted to hear, I said, “I don’t buy any of this. If he’s elected, he won’t prosecute anyone in the Bush administration. He won’t close Gitmo. He’ll keep pretty much everything Bush is doing and expand it.” And I was right, because no person who ascends to the Presidency will ever take an action that would diminish the power of that office, and will in fact consistently seek to expand it.

  13. organon says

    @#1, I have to agree that there is way too much downplaying of the seriousness of the 2012 NDAA and of the presidents part in it, including signing it into law. Dcictatorship is now legally possible for any president in the future who wishes to exercise it, and my guess is that it will happen at a slow pace as to alarm as few in the public as possible. Simply silence (make disappear) anyone too well able to identify and voice what is taking place. Some out there continue to pretend that the 2012 NDAA is harmless and that the president was somehow pressured into signing it, which requires ignoring all facts and believing that on the basis of faith.

  14. organon says

    @#2, I see only a few things I would want to note. First, wars in the middle east are costing the country an enormous amount of money, as is military spending in general, with these being top issues weighing down the economy. This remains status quo. The war on drugs is enormously costly, not only in all of the costs related to law enforcement, and in trial costs, but even the costs of encarcerating so many, many who should probably not be in jail. Additionally, being jailed destroys future work prospects for such persons, and it has been shown that it is heavily biased against a particular part of the society. Add to that the violations of rights, innocent deaths, millitarization of the police, and a long lost of other costs not necessarily monitary. This remains not only status quo, but some say has actually gotten worse. I could continue, but the bottom line is that those expenditures weighing the economy remain. And the ability of the government to stimulate the economy is largely exagerated. But that would require an economic discussion that would go too in depth. Additionally, if constitutional issues should take a back seat to economic issues, then it would seem that those who believe it should be arguing that the oath to office for the president, congress, etc, should be radically changed. Drop the word constitution and substitute in economic stimulation. Believers in individual rights would have to scoff at the change, in both directions. It is through the loyalists trying to bury the offenses, and the republicans screaming he’s an extreme leftist, that he keeps pulling further and further right, to the point that in many respects he makes W look like a leftist. And the further right he swings, the more fervently the loyalists support and defend him, and the louder the republicans call him a leftist and a socialist. How far to the extreme does he have to go before the loyalists are willing to face reality?

  15. organon says

    @#5, not a chance it would happen. He is a dream come true for certain corporations, including almost eliminating “liberal” opposition to so many things. Watch how heavily funded has campaign is, and by who. The funding will be such that no republican would stand a chance. And it might be why some potential candidates are avoiding running until 2016. A second term is almost guaranteed.

  16. organon says

    @#7, I would have to say that this kind of thinking is leading us down the road where the blowing up is too extreme with both. At what point does the public say enough is enough? Or do we go into the furthest extent of fascism while saying atleast the fascism of candidate A is not as bad as the fascism of candidate B? Do we at some point hold them to their oath to office? Will those who vote for the lesser of two evils at least speak up honestly and say just how bad that lesser of two evils is?

  17. organon says

    @#12, I think he meant it, mostly, while he was saying it. There are just things that happened in his making the ascent into office that brought change to the concept of change. Turn 180, and then turn 180 again.

  18. NoVaRunner says

    @Organon #18

    I am not so sure. I mean, if I could figure out, through observing the previous several Presidents, that no President would act to diminish the power of the office, then Obama must have figured it out too, prior to the election.

    Perhaps he was, to an extent, influenced by things he learned after taking office, but even if so, I don’t think that invalidates Ed’s point. He campaigned on a specific platform, and if he has had to change that based on subsequent events, he should at least explain why. Instead, he buries everything under the State Secrets Privilege.

  19. slc1 says

    Re organon @ b#14

    First, wars in the middle east are costing the country an enormous amount of money, as is military spending in general, with these being top issues weighing down the economy.

    We have to ask ourselves why we are so engaged in Middle East affairs in the first place. The answer is very simple and can be stated in one word: oil. The Middle East nations sit on better then 70% of the known oil reserves of the world and the world’s economy runs on oil. Any cutoff of oil exports from the Middle East would lead in short order to a world wide depression that would make the current situation look like prosperity. That’s one of the reasons why isolationists like Ron Paul are delusional. Why does Mr. organon think that Obama and his counterparts elsewhere get so bent out of shape by the threats by Iran to shut down those exports by blockading the entrances to the Persian Gulf?

  20. slc1 says

    By the way, the Congress and the courts have to share some responsibility for the erosion of civil rights under the Bush and Obama administrations. The entire theory behind the separation of powers is that these entities are supposed to act as a check on the executive. They aren’t doing their job.

  21. interrobang says

    The fact is that the president has very little control over the economy at all.

    I disagree with this as well, mostly because I’ve watched various Bank of Canada heads deliberately crash Canada’s economy simply by going in the media and uttering the word “recession.” They do this from time to time because they are overly sympathetic to the US and therefore have this belief that Canada’s currency “naturally” should be less valuable on the international currency markets than the US dollar, so every time the loonie heats up too much, they have to induce a recession to restore what they see as the correct order of things.

    I realise this probably sounds kind of tinfoil-hattish to outsiders, but the attitude is completely real, and I’ve watched the phenomenon happen several times over the last two decades or so. One day, consumer spending and hiring and all those leading or real-time economic indicators are ticking along just fine, and then out comes David Dodge the Stooge or whoever has his job this week talking about “uncertainty” and “recession” and BAM!, the job postings are gone by the next day.

    And if the head of the central bank can do it to his own, relatively bulletproof economy, then the arguably most powerful person in the world can certainly do it to his much more volatile economy.

  22. says

    The connection between fiscal policy and economic growth is generally a distant one, taking years to have any real effect. And that effect is dwarfed by the effect of monetary policy (though not at the moment, mostly because there are no bullets left in the monetary policy gun to use). But historically, monetary policy has a much more immediate influence over the economy. As an example, it is a myth that Bush deregulated the financial industry, leading directly to Enron, the housing bubble and the most recent recession. That deregulation took place in 1993 and 1999, signed into law by Bill Clinton. Budget and tax policy has an affect, but in the short run it pales next to the influence of both monetary policy and of market fluctuations and pressures.

  23. organon says

    “I don’t think that invalidates Ed’s point.”

    I’m completely confused by this, as I almost fully agree with the points Ed made, and I did not see what I wrote as invalidating anything he wrote. It was also not in response to anything he had written.

  24. organon says

    “Perhaps he was, to an extent, influenced by things he learned after taking office,”

    I don’t see it as having anything to do with anything he learned. Explain how two radically different individuals, holding completely conflicting views, could follow largely identical policies?

  25. organon says

    “he should at least explain why.”

    Not gonna happen. Good luck with even the admission of the shifts in position.

    “Instead, he buries everything under the State Secrets Privilege.”

    I quite agree. It is not surprising in the grand scheme of things.

  26. organon says

    “The answer is very simple and can be stated in one word: oil.”

    I find this to be in conflict with too many facts. I will leave it at that we disagree on why the country is in the middle east and on who is profitting from those wars.

  27. organon says

    “By the way, the Congress and the courts have to share some responsibility for the erosion of civil rights under the Bush and Obama administrations.”

    All of those in Congress who voted in favor of these things are definitely partly to blame. And it is why in some states whose state constitution allows the recall of their senators and reps, they are working on doing so for those who voted in favor of the 2012 NDAA. The president could easily have vetoed the 2012 NDAA had he actually disagreed with it. And if you look at a lot that is available, his administration was involved in the crafting of the 2012 NDAA well before it reached his office. Under the Bush administration, there was at least the limiting factor of the loud voices in opposition. Bush would never have been able to pull off the 2012 NDAA. But overall I agree with you. Bush didn’t do what he did alone. Those in Congress made much possible. As for the 2012 NDAA, it will not be possible to blame the courts. Before they can even hear a case against it, someone has to come before them who has “standing.” Otherwise, they cannot even hear the case, much less rule on the constitutionality. The only hope was that the president would veto it, which would have bought more time to appeal to those in congress. Had it dropped below their having a 2/3 vote, it would have blocked it completely, and they would have to have returned to the NDAA only being about what it is supposed to be about.

  28. organon says

    “I realise this probably sounds kind of tinfoil-hattish to outsiders, but the attitude is completely real, and I’ve watched the phenomenon happen several times over the last two decades or so.”

    No, it did not strike me as such, and I do not doubt you. Banks can have an enormous impact on the economy. Much of why our economy still suffers is because of actions on the part of certain banks. There is much the general public doesn’t know about as far as the fraud that was taking place, why it was taking place, and how much negative economic impact could still be ahead. A lot of facts have been burried. But I know some who are watching the courts very closely. There could be big trouble ahead. I don’t want to wander off onto that. My point was that people so often argue over tax rates in way that exagerates overall impact. I didn’t want to get into that topic either, or on some other economic myths. I’m just questioning the realism that some have with regard to things they think will stimulate the economy. If they wanted to see the economy improve, look deeper at what are the things that are really dragging our economy down. I do not know enough about how the banks operate in Canada. But I suspect the relationship between them and the Canadian government is different than the relationship in the US.

  29. organon says

    I believe most everyone here has probably seen this, and multiple times at that, but just in case someone hasn’t, it might be worthwhile to consider the implications.

  30. organon says

    This will interest some. Others, maybe not. For those it might interest, I’m posting the link.

  31. NoVaRunner says

    @Organon #24–It seems I’ve inferred something you did not intend. I read your statement “I think he meant it, mostly, while he was saying it. There are just things that happened in his making the ascent into office that brought change to the concept of change” as indicating Obama had had a change of heart after assuming office due to things he had found out when he got there. Apologies if this is not what you meant.

  32. abb3w says

    @6, Michael Heath:

    My concern regarding Ford was that his pardon would cause subsequent presidents to act as if they were beyond the reach of the law. I think my concern was realized as legitimate first with George W. Bush’s behavior.

    …so, probably another generation until this time bomb really goes off?

  33. organon says

    @#32, absolutely no apology needed. I took it as no way an attempt to misrepresent what I had said, but rather a simple misunderstanding. No offense at all was taken. And any breakdown in communication could easily be an error on my part. Others may have understood it as you did, so I thank you for your input. Best wishes…

  34. Michael Heath says

    abb3w writes:

    …so, probably another generation until this time bomb really goes off?

    My repeated point is that we don’t know, which is why I used the FDR Japanse-American internment camp fiasco along with the Ford pardon. To respectively reveal that one that didn’t result in ever-greater future harm while the latter continues to haunt and harm us. My explicit and insinuated point was to argue we shouldn’t become overly dependent and over-commit ourselves to a slippery-slope fallacy on these sorts of matters, that we don’t have an adequate causal or correlative record to do so.

    Certainly FDR, Ford, and Obama did the wrong thing* on their respective related actions, where all three risked or in Obama’s case risk a slippery-slope. But we don’t always encounter such travesties. The Young Turks video posted earlier in this thread is a perfect example of an overly strident argument extending way beyond the facts; it reminded me of people claiming Kerry committed treason by meeting with the Viet Cong in France. Ed’s effective dependence on the slippery-slope argument to make his case the Obama presidency can already be assessed as a disaster is one only two reasons I think Ed’s argument extends well beyond the factual premises he’s leveraging to make his case. The other being that his framework is too narrow to sufficiently assess the president’s performance.

    *Re Obama and the federal courts abuse via the state secrets privilege and indefinite detention. I have yet to hear a compelling constitutional argument Obama shouldn’t have taken out the terrorist in Yemen who was actively engaged in operations against the U.S. who happened to be a U.S. citizen; nor have I heard a good argument Obama has the constitutional powers to do so. So I don’t commit to either constitutional argument while strongly siding with president on taking this guy out from a policy perspective.

  35. katie says

    Holytape @10:

    Would you rather have Obama, Romney, Paul, Santorum or Newt?

    This is an argument that really, really does not help in this case, because “the lesser of two evils” must in fact be lesser to be an appealing choice. Running as “not that other guy,” and supporting the candidate who is “not that other guy,” is how politicians lose elections. Remember Al “Not that other guy” Gore? If you actually want to make a convincing argument, make one, and don’t rely on “so and so would be worse,” particularly under conditions where you can’t even muster evidence for the assertion.

  36. Michael Heath says

    This comment post is my response to Ed’s characterization of President Obama, “as a fraud and a liar”. I’ll cover Ed’s assertion the Obama presidency is, “a disaster” in a subsequent post.

    When Ed first asserted a couple of weeks ago that President Obama was a “fraud and a liar”, I responded with the following which Ed quotes in his above blog post:

    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? …

    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.

    Ed directly responds above:

    I think this is an objection that is trivial at best. Do all presidents lie? Of course they do. Every politician lies. And every politician breaks promises. But all such instances are not equal; some are far more damaging than others. As I pointed out in response to that comment, the issues on which Obama has said one thing and done the other are issues at the very core of our constitutional system.

    Well, I would never argue all instances of lying are equal. For example, it’s absurd to encounter conservative arguments that President Clinton distinguished himself as a liar because of his denials of the Lewinsky affair while not using that same label for President Bush and ignoring the systemic purposeful lies of both him and most of his relevant administration officials. That’s specific to the Bush Administration’s purposeful, systemic, and dishonest assertions about Iraq’s WMD programs and their denial they authorized and administered torture. Clinton’s lie on its own had virtually no important impact on each of us while Bush’s lies clearly did.

    President Obama’s positions on the state secrets privilege are clearly a bigger lie than the lies I refer to here from President Clinton, but certainly not President Bush’s (at least not yet). So some work is required to distinguish where in the continuum Obama lies should be categorized in order to judge his character in general as it applies to his presidency and judge the performance of his presidency.

    I have and continue to argue that we unfortunately live in a world where all presidents lie and if we’re going demonstrate some emotional intelligence and personal responsibility for our republic we need to strive for arguments and voting patterns within this reality. That behavior should require us to seek reforms and a societal change which effectively minimizes or eradicates dishonesty where Ed is an example of an exemplary soldier in this fight whose on the right side.

    However I think that’s only half the battle, that we are also obligated to make pragmatic judgments about presidencies and either support or oppose them within the context that we elect presidents and do so within another structurally defective context, that of the two-party system. I.e., we have a civic though voluntary duty to vote. Given this reality I conclude we’re obligated to make relative judgments about presidents while never ignoring the normative standards Ed and I both support. In fact I’m much more strident about normative honesty than Ed, advocating for far broader access to the civil courts for jury-determined punitive damages when others lie. That position is a plank in my advocacy to effectively ostracize lying from society.

    We can and I think should measure a president’s honesty/dishonesty relative to both his predecessors and his peers. Unfortunately and I think Ed would agree, our society doesn’t perceive honesty as an important enough factor that we encounter metrics quantitatively and qualitatively analyzing a president’s performance normatively and relative to others. I do find Politifact’s reports on the president’s honesty and fealty to his campaign promises helpful. I also think such analyses yields conclusions that are more dispassionate and within a properly broad context where I think Ed fails miserably on the latter. So we are left with our mere opinion-driven conclusions based on premises from our personal observations in spite of the topic of honesty being a topic that could be mostly answered empirically with difficulty in doing so revolving solely around measuring the differentiation between various lies in terms of their respective impact. That brings up another type of lying.

    Ed argues lies are not equal which in no way challenges my rebuttal to his conclusion, he’s right of course and I never argued otherwise. Unfortunately because all presidents lie, we are forced to determine the level of skepticism we should subsequently employ when assessing their communications. Did President Clinton’s lies about Lewinsky cause me to stop believing every single assertion he made about all matters of policy? No and I think it would be defective thinking to do so where in hindsight I think I was proven right, my position on Clinton’s character is what it was during his presidency.

    When President Bush made post-2003 arguments based on premises I hadn’t adequately researched did I believe him? No I did not, he had proven himself to be a systemic liar who was perfectly comfortable purposefully lying to promote his Administration’s agenda. Of course President Clinton and all other presidents also fail this test as well since they all lie about at least some policy matters. So why use different standards?

    I’d argue we must if we’re going to make conclusions with limited time and resources; that we have to make nuanced assessments about a person’s general ability to be honest precisely because I argue we need to think and act within our civic duty to vote as I noted previously. In the case of President Obama I find him, and continue to find him a generally honest president, where his lies and the immensity of each individual true/false assertion aggregates to the point we can argue he’s a generally honest president with some outlier results showing a propensity to lie on some matters.

    A prime example of the president’s honesty relative to his opponents was in the meeting he held between himself and Congress regarding his positions on healthcare. While verbal extemporaneous debate is a poor method for promoting and defending the veracity of certain claims which are complex issues, it was clear in that debate that the President’s positions were predominately based on factually true assertions while it was also clear the Republicans’ premises were almost all false. It was also clear that when the president made an untrue assertion, it was the type of error coming not from being deceptive but common to verbal discourse on a complex matter and sometimes just getting trivial facts mixed-up (as validated by the fact-check reports published about this debate). This is one mere illustration of the president and the Democrats distinguishing themselves as generally honest brokers where their conservative opponents, who congregate in both parties, define themselves and their positions with their dishonesty.

    From this perspective I think Ed’s focus on a narrow category where that category isn’t even his comprehensive record on the Constitution but instead a couple of amendments, albeit critical ones, is fatally defective to this argument. It would be great if Ed and I could cite empirical studies that assess the propensity of Obama and other relevant actors to lie from a normative and relative perspective both contemporaneously and relative to actors from the past. It would be great if qualitative analyses were available that measured the impact of a president’s lies relative to others in order to better assess their honesty beyond mere numbers of lies told, i.e., Bush’s lies about WMDs was obviously far more impactful than Clinton’s about his affairs. But we have no such studies where I’m left making my own conclusions.

    That conclusion has Ed not moving me a dime off my position just prior to his asserting that Obama is a “fraud and a liar”. Where ‘character’ is an important factor in my consideration when deciding whom to support or oppose. I in fact obviously do find Obama lying about some important matters just like we see from all politicians, in fact I can’t think of one exception at this level of responsibility (Congressional leader, formal leader of political party, president). However I also find that relative to other politicians and more importantly, previous presidents and his challengers, President Obama is generally honest relative to his predecessors and far more honest than every single one of the ’12 GOP aspirants.

    Ed argues the fact Obama’s lies regarding 4th and 5th Amendment matters, because they are about our constitutional system, justifies Ed leveraging those lies to make an attributable claim about the president (albeit coupled to other examples). And while the president has certainly lied in this area relative to his campaign promises or even when talking about his record in the courts on these matters after his inauguration, the fact the president perceives his position as a nuanced one properly checked by the judiciary where the judiciary’s subsequent rulings supports Obama’s assessments yields an unconvincing data point to heavily depend upon when assessing his entire character. Instead it comes across as the president compromising his commitment in this area with a weak rationalization. Certainly Ed’s argument he’s reversed his position is a good one, but not convincing and certainly not enough to extend to Obama’s entire record even when coupled to the numbered items Ed uses to build a bigger mountain.

    Especially when observing Obama’s general and relative honesty in far more important matters which are also central to this presidency and politically controversial, even when it was inconvenient to be honest, e.g., that teacher unions defend poor teachers and resist holding teachers more accountable to the point it harms our educative results, that it is prudent to drill for oil off-shore, that we can’t manage healthcare costs without a universal mandate (like Reagan, a respectable break from his campaign promise and ideological dogma to a position taken by the other side), that federal debt trends are a looming threat, that as despicable as Wall St. acted – we had no choice but to bail them out in order to protect credit liquidity and a global catastrophe. All of which are issues I think we can easily assess as far more critical to our country’s interests than Obama’s position on the state secrets privilege and other 4th and 5th Amendment issues his administration’s argued in court, though history may very well reverse the order on at least some or even all these issues.

    Now Ed goes on to list some other areas where the president has lied, or in some cases I’d correct Ed and note his Administration has acted contrary to his campaign promises. Correction required because presidents can’t and don’t always completely control all aspects of their Administration given its immense size, complexity, and the absurdly broad span of control president’s administrate over, while of course remaining ultimately responsible (some nuance is required). All within the context of virtually no presidents having experience directly relatable prior to entering office while also serving relatively short tenures which should sometimes temper our criticisms between campaign promises and their record in office. My response is that:
    1) these numbered topics Ed raises are relatively trivial to the full weight of his record and,
    2) not sufficient to argue Obama’s systemically running an administration different from what he promised or,
    3) Ed is focusing too narrowly on some of these failures in specific areas rather than looking at the full topical record.

    Let’s take one of the most systemically problematic claim Ed makes, his #4:

    After declaring that [President Obama] would have the “most transparent administration in history” he has done quite the opposite, arguing against transparency in court time and again.

    Ed’s response doesn’t directly falsify the president’s claim and is hardly “quite the opposite”. In fact I find that assertion without merit. The Obama Administration could very well be the most transparent administration in history while still arguing in court against pushing such transparency to the point plaintiffs desire.

    Politifact has a whole category dedicated to tracking the president’s promise of transparency. It’s my assessment the president has made some outstanding progress while committing a couple of egregious unforced errors. I have no idea where Obama stands in the pantheon on this issue nor does Ed provide even one scrap of evidence he’s done the opposite of be transparent relative to past presidents, which was precisely the framing being promised.

    I would argue Obama’s record on transparency is mixed but heading in the right direction, and hardly that of “a fraud”. I’m particularly impressed with how the Administration allows us to track stimulus spending and set-up an on-line forum for petitions to the White House. Yes some of their responses were absurd, but I don’t think subsequent presidents will be able to kill this initiative but instead will realize increasing pressure to directly respond.

    Is Obama a liar? Of course he is given he’s a politician and they unfortunately all lie at this level. But should we distinguish him amongst those who seek office, Congressional leaders, and past presidents as a liar? I find the notion absurd because I instead find him relatively honest within the field he operates.

    Is Obama a fraud? I don’t think so and find Ed’s argument is so weak on this matter I don’t think it requires more than my merely pointing to Politifact’s set of Obama’s campaign promises and his performance to date and the use of one illustration, transparency. I find it particularly ironic because this is the second presidency in my adult lifetime where I perceive the follow-through from campaign to the White House is the most consistent by far relative to past modern-day presidencies with the exception of H.W. Bush, who also governed consistent with how he campaigned. I’m impressed at how closely Obama has presided relative to my conclusions of him during the ’08 campaign. I’m also surprised at how the left and the right have misrepresented his presidency which I don’t think did it all until he recently with the subject assertions, ‘fraud, liar, disaster’. (With Reagan we should be grateful he governed far differently than his campaign had him promising.)

    I have been accused by some commenters in this forum of being a reactive supporter of Presidents Obama and Reagan; they almost always miss the point. My stridency is almost always due to what I perceive are defective arguments relied upon against both people. My pet peeve is instead bad arguments where both of these gentlemen generate a disproportionate share of bad arguments in this forum and beyond, both from the left and the right. And while I find Ed joining the group of Obama disparagers who can’t support their arguments when they extend beyond individual issues, I do continue to laud Ed for his blog posts on President Reagan that nail his record, both good and bad.

    In the case of Obama another factor admittedly does come into play, which is our obligation to vote. Far too often I find arguments that purposefully or not, causes vilification of the president in a manner that ignores how his opponents stack-up to the criteria used to criticize the target. Such a narrow framing has me predicting defectively wrought conclusions to not vote for President Obama, that the justifications not to support him are structurally defective rather than arguable and worthy of our consideration. We in fact frequently observe such conclusions in this very forum.

    So from both perspectives I find Ed’s recent conclusions, Obama’s a liar and a fraud and his presidency is a disaster, not even remotely close to the normal quality of argument Ed almost always produces while also troublesome because I think he’s influencing people whose subsequent reactions also can’t withstand scrutiny and earn our respect. In fact we frequently see some commenters promise not to vote for President Obama because of Ed raising one particular failure by the president, ignoring that we can safely and confidently predict his opponents would be far worse. Of course it’s not Ed’s fault when his readers leap to such absurd conclusions, until recently when Ed used those very topics to extend his criticisms to Obama’s entire presidency.

    This is not an argument we should vote for President Obama or not vote for another candidate, it is an argument we should build arguments and make conclusions we act upon which are sufficiently contextual, can withstand scrutiny, and come out looking like respectable arguments worthy of consideration.

  37. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #38

    As I stated earlier on in this thread, it is obvious that the differences between Heath and Mr. Brayton are due to the very different priorities they assign to the issue of civil liberties. At this point, I think that the two worthy opponents should agree to disagree, hopefully not disagreeably.

    However, as I also stated, the Congress and the courts have to shoulder some of the blame for the deterioration of civil liberties during the Bush and Obama administrations because they haven’t done their Constitutional job of acting as a brake on the executive branch. Our system of government is dependent on a degree of dynamic tension between the three branches of government, which is quite unlike the system in parliamentary systems like Canada and Great Britain where there is no real separation between the executive and the legislature and, AFAIK, the courts have far less power to overrule legislation.

  38. Michael Heath says

    Below is my response of Ed’s conclusion that the Obama presidency is, “a disaster”.

    This is Ed’s argument in its entirety in his above blog post:

    A Disaster. The conclusion that Obama has been a disaster flows inexorably from the the facts above. Heath’s argument, in essence, is that I’m not counting all the good things he’s done and I’m “disproportionately weighing certain issues.” And he’s right about that. I am absolutely weighing these key constitutional issues — illegal surveillance, executive power, the rule of law, the state secrets privilege, the 4th amendment, checks and balances — as far more important than others. And I do so openly and without apology.

    Has Obama done some good things? Of course he has. I’m thrilled that he worked to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, for example. And I’ve praised many things he’s done. But I just don’t think those things compare much to the many ways he has helped to destroy constitutional limits and enshrined executive abuse even further. Some issues are far more important than others.

    Perhaps the worst part of this, as Glenn Greenwald keeps pointing out, is that Obama’s embrace of the executive abuses of power has made those abuses a matter of bipartisan consensus now. When Bush was doing the same things, there was at least some token Democratic opposition to it, but nearly all of that opposition disappeared when Obama got into office. Advocates for the constitution like the ACLU, the EFF and folks like me have remained consistent, but the Democratic party, which was never really an effective block to such abuses of power, is now nothing more than a rubber stamp.

    These actions are not mere disappointments, they are betrayals. He has the opportunity to support the rule of law and end the constitutional abuses of his predecessor. He chose not to. And that makes him a liar, a fraud and a disaster. You’re free to disagree, of course, but you aren’t going to convince me otherwise.

    I’m disappointed with the following that I emphasize:

    You’re free to disagree, of course, but you aren’t going to convince me otherwise.

    Reminds me of the ‘nuff said’ by advocates who aren’t able to adapt their position by considering a meritorious rebuttal. An exception would be warranted if Ed presented a comprehensive defense of his position, but I perceive his defense to be built entirely on possible future damage hypotheticals.

    Overall, I find this a weak defense that Obama’s presidency is a disaster because it avoids nearly all of the matters that the president and his White Staff spend their time, energy and political capital on, and will be judged on by economists, historians, and foreign policy experts.

    I agree that some singular failures are so massive, though rare, we can judge an entire presidency upon it, e.g., James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln regarding the related issues of slavery, secession, the meaning of the DofI and its relevancy, and the Civil War. However I find Ed pointing to zero evidence of any damage President Obama has done that would allow a current claim this presidency is a disaster within the context of judging his performance relative to the other forty-three. I therefore find this to be ludicrous conclusion.

    Potential damage based on new precedents? Sure! But even then I highly doubt such damage would preclude us from considering Obama’s record in its totality. I also think our democracy is strong enough to defend against future presidents trying to abuse the new powers Obama won for the presidency in a manner that effects many of us while hating the fact Obama exposed us to this future risk. My optimism isn’t supremely held by instead tenuously, fearfully, and hopefully.

    Neither Ed or I have the benefit of hindsight to measure the potential harm Obama’s positions on 4th and 5th Amendment matters might have, with no convincing evidence presented by Ed that provides confidence these positions will result in disaster. See my illustration of FDR’s Japanese-American internment camp debacle along with Ford’s pardoning of Nixon for examples where respectively, no subsequent systemic harm was caused and where harm occurred by Ford pardoning Nixon (assuming you draw the dots from Nixon to W. Bush/Obama that I do when it comes to torture and the failure to indict). Both taken together are illustrative of my assertion there is no strong causal relationship within the context of future harm caused. An assertion which is admittedly, like Ed’s contra assertion, based on my personal conclusions rather than heavily weighted by empirical evidence.

    Ed writes:

    Has Obama done some good things? Of course he has. I’m thrilled that he worked to end the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, for example. And I’ve praised many things he’s done. But I just don’t think those things compare much to the many ways he has helped to destroy constitutional limits and enshrined executive abuse even further. Some issues are far more important than others.

    Re what the politicians within the executive branch do and have a significant impact on goes well beyond the issues Ed references. Here’s some of the biggest, which I do not parse as success or failure but instead list as issues I think must first be considered prior to making any compelling judgment. Especially since the sins of Obama as noted by Ed (and predominately agreed-to by me) may never have a significant impact on our country. Those issues I argue we must consider, in no particular order, are:
    * the budget fights,
    * developing and getting the stimulus passed,
    * Obama’s administration of the stimulus,
    * his fighting with the DofD to put plans in place for a new strategy in Afghanistan,
    * following through on ending the Iraq War,
    * his diplomatic efforts – particularly with Pakistan.
    * His administration of the Afghanistan War,
    * his continued build-up of the intelligence community,
    * trade issues,
    * currency wars,
    * passing a healthcare reform bill which effectively and will ultimately transfer pricing responsibility from a failed market into the hands of the federal government,
    * two Supreme Court nominations,
    * creation of a consumer advocate agency,
    * Wall St. “reform”,
    * Treasury Dept’s performance, especially in the credit markets and with Congress on the debt ceiling limit
    * reversed Bush’s limitations on embryonic stem cell research,
    * willingness to consider reductions in Defense spending relative to past spending projections (if not outright cuts),
    * complementing the Fed’s Monetary policy with his fiscal policy positions
    * policies to address the housing crash,
    * the failure of not passing ‘cap and trade’ legislation along with all climate change efforts,
    * more tax cuts, especially the temporary payroll withholding tax cut
    * recently strident and on-the-stump communication of income inequality, the decline of our meritocracy, and the recent deterioration between business cycles and the corresponding (lagging) labor market. Labor market success no longer closely tracks to economic growth or corporate profits like it once did. Obama is on the stump fighting for new polices based on this new reality. The harm started on his predecessor’s watch and went ignored, and is based on policies going back to the 1970s that led to the rise of the global economy without a corresponding reaction by the U.S. when it came to needed changes in the labor market.
    * Management of the BP oil spill and subsequent actions,
    * signed a new START treaty with Russia,
    * our actions in Libya,
    * our general reaction to the Arab Spring and
    * last year’s uprisings in Iran.
    * Adding health coverage for 4 million additional children via SCHIP,
    * passing the Lily Ledbetter equal-pay protection act,
    * redirecting subsidies to private banks for Pell Grants to students,
    * re-instituting family planning support in undeveloped nations and finally,
    * framing the ongoing debt debate as one which predominately come from spending cuts with only about 17% of the remedy coming from tax increases.

    I would argue many though not all of these issues are singularly far more relevant to Obama’s success or failure than his activities than the failures noted by Ed. Especially his fiscal policies in a time of deep recession aggravated by a financial crisis along with the execution of two wars. I’m actually surprised Ed doesn’t agree.

    When it comes to these times I don’t believe anyone can judge the performance of the Obama presidency with one exception. That exception is his inability to change the operational context in a manner that has Republicans working with his Administration like Congressional Democrats did with President Reagan. Of course Obama’s not the culprit here, the GOP clearly is. I’m instead noting that great executives are frequently judged as great because they re-leveled the playing field and therefore won victories unimaginable in the old paradigm, e.g., Reagan’s rejection of ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ as a viable operational context along with his rejection the USSR could survive given its inherent economic weaknesses. Both of which violated both conservative “wisdom” and contemporaneous inside-the-beltway perspectives.

    So in matters of the president’s performance, I’m comfortable arguing that assessment is yet to be determined and am shocked Ed disagrees.

  39. John Phillips, FCD says

    slc1, it depends. For since 1998, when the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force, which is basically the European Convention on Human Rights written into UK law, the previous Labour and existing coalition governments have both lost a lot of cases due to ‘bad’ law under that act. In fact, the present government likes it so much that it wants to totally rewrite the act to take back some of the powers granted to the court. Can’t have those ‘activist’ judges protecting the human rights of the government’s vassals, can we.

  40. eaj101 says

    With all respect, I think the argument Ed and Greenwald are making is inverted: there is *already* a bipartisan consensus, and Obama’s actions are simple verification.

    I disagree with some of Obama’s actions, but I’m also sure that a President too far in advance of public opinion is overridden, and simply isn’t re-elected. Given the alternatives, I don’t think that’s an option.

    I’m reminded the Roosevelt used to ask his left-critics to “force him to do it”, by which he meant that it took a significant swing in public opinion to make larger changes possible. It seems to me that Obama has achieved some things, and many of the things you’re accusing him of are simply not things that were within the realm of the politically possible. Complaining that Obama hasn’t immolated himself in support of those things is pointless, I think.

    -eric

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