Change Pixie Dust We Can Believe In

Apparently, Greg Craig (who IMHO thus far is batting about 0-3 in his tenure as White House Counsel, counting his erroneous response on FISA, his juvenile cover-up of Rahm’s calls, and his response to the botched Oath) believes in Pixie Dust.

A day before Obama signed executive orders closing Guantánamo Bay and banning torture, the White House’s top lawyer privately indicated to Congress that the new president reserved the right to ignore his own (and any other president’s) executive orders. In a closed-door appearance before the Senate intelligence committee, White House counsel Gregory Craig was asked whether the president was required by law to follow executive orders. According to people familiar with his remarks, who asked for anonymity when discussing a private meeting, Craig answered that the administration did not believe he was. The implication: in a national-security crisis, Obama could deviate from his own rules. A White House official said that Craig’s remarks were being "mischaracterized." [my emphasis]

Note Craig said this in response to a question–presumably from one of the Senators. As a reminder, both Sheldon Whitehouse and Russ Feingold sit on the SSCI. They’re the two guys trying to legislate away this kind of Pixie Dust, the claim that the President can just ignore his own executive orders. Whitehouse, of course, is the guy who first pointed out the way Bush had used Pixie Dust to wish away Saint Ronnie’s prohibitions on spying on Americans. And Whitehouse asked this very question of Michael Mukasey before he was confirmed, only to have Mukasey flip-flop on it as Attorney General. 

So I’m guessing that the question, at least, was asked by Whitehouse with Feingold the second most probable.

Someone ought to tell Mr. Greg "0-4" Craig, though, that once you espouse Pixie Dust you’ve lost all credibility to claim your remarks were "mischaracterized." 

  1. freepatriot says:

    hey, me gregg

    there better be a DAMN GOOD explanation of the “mischaracterized” statement

    or we’ll know we didn’t misjudge your words

    we mischaracterized YOU

    excuse us, we mistook you for a decent human being

  2. freepatriot says:

    does anybody else get the idea that politicians of all stripes are totally fucking clueless about today’s electorate ???

    they got the idea that we’re the same rubes who voted for george in 2000

    and when somebody questions their bullshit, the politicians are wondering what happened to wake the rubes up ???

  3. THATanonymous says:

    LOO HOO @ 8 on http://emptywheel.firedoglake……e-lawsuit/ wrote:

    I cannot find the most wonderful comment written by a DC resident on Froomkin’s blog, but it was a testimonial to what is happening there. A 20 year resident, she said that waving and clapping is normal when people see the President’s motorcade. What is different, she said, is that after the motorcade is gone, people are crying.

    Got me.

    As any good therapist will tell you, people are constantly making subconscious calculations, both logical and emotional. Not all of these calculations rise to a conscious level, but there are ways of seeing them being made and of seeing the conclusions from them. If people were convinced that things had changed in Washington and, no matter how convoluted the process of change became, the important issues that need to be addressed were going to be addressed correctly, then after the motorcade had passed they would be feeling and expressing relief that reform had arrived. It does not matter that people can misunderstand their feelings and represent them as something different than they are. The crying indicates that they have concluded real change is unlikely to happen. Full stop. It is the proximity of the near chance for real change and the not-necessarily-conscious conclusion of its unlikelihood (the tension between these two things) that results in the crying.

    Sorry folks, looks like the people are concluding what I expected from the first time I heard about ‘hope’ and ‘change’. Hope is a feeling that is clung to, to avoid concluding the situation is indeed hopeless. Easy change is for suckers (”You do the changing and I’ll reap the benefits”). Doing the right thing on the other hand often calls for some serious wrenching inside oneself. Only changes in oneself can lead to a collective change of course. That’s what change is about… being different people than you were before. If people could get things to change without changing themselves, then as Bush misbehaved they would have corrected him. It’s because correcting Bush would have required a change in oneself, that he got away with so much for so long.


  4. drational says:

    If a President has the power to issue executive orders, then they have the power to change or rewrite them, no? To me the most important issue is the Bush-Cheney precedence: Craig should state whether a President is permitted to disobey executive orders without telling anyone, and whether executive orders can immunize violation of existing law.
    It’s not clear to me he has found the stash of pixie dust, but whatever he said certainly needs clarification….

      • Minnesotachuck says:

        Not being a lawyer, I’ve never understood the legal/Constitutional basis for and status of Executive Orders. I find no mention of them in Article II. It would seem logical that an EO cannot explicitly invalidate a law passed by Congress and that becomes law by one of the means stipulated in Article II, Section 7. Does Pixie Dust invalidate this logic? If so, is there any justification for it besides what can be found up Bush’s, Cheney’s or Addington’s back side?

  5. perris says:

    as far as I am concerned no presidential order carries the weight of law

    what the FRIG is a “presidential oder”?

    it is NOT written by the two branches responsible for our law, it carries only the weight of someone who works for me telling me what to do

    me no likey presidential orders as law, me only likey presidential orders as they apply to specific instructions already passed as law by congress

    that is it

    • emptywheel says:

      You know, I think thta’s the real issue here. EOs have become a secondary law-making means, which violates the constitution and makes Presidents more powerful than they should be. We need to make taht the issue, eventually, not just that they’re using EOs as toilet paper.

      • klynn says:

        And Whitehouse will hopefully be on this. Thankfully, EW has a follow-up call this week with Whitehouse; so, I’m sure clarity is in our very near future. Too bad for Craig on THAT clarity.

        • phred says:

          I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. I’m not getting the sense that Congressional Dems are prepared to stand up to any presidential over-reaching by Obama, any more than they did with Bush. Even if Whitehouse and Feingold try to do the right thing, who’s going to join them? DiFi? Jello Jay? Harry Reid? Puh-leaze.

          I’m with freepatriot, we need to put the Village on notice that we are not going to tolerate any more of this bullshit.

          I knew Obama would do stuff I didn’t like, I didn’t expect him to dispense with the 4th amendment and go around sprinkling pixie dust in the first week however. This is not good.

        • klynn says:

          I was referencing that EW will be on this this week since she has a follow-up with Whitehouse…She’ll ask the questions which will require further follow-up in order to aid the village.

          Mine was confidence in EW.

        • phred says:

          Oh well, on that point you will get no disagreement from me ; )
          (I would pull out my pom poms and cheerleader outfit, but I would look ridiculous ; )

        • klynn says:

          No pom poms puh-leaze!

          And no holding of breath is in my future…But Marcy had the moxie to ask the right questions this week…We will not see questions like hers asked by the MSM. So, for now, I will confidently look forward to her digging and perhaps a full reaching out on addressing this issue by all of us.

        • selise says:

          i haven’t forgotten whitehouse’s role in getting immunity for the telcos – thereby putting a big roadblock in our way to trying to find out what really happened in that arena. i no longer put him in the same category as feingold or even wyden.

        • Petrocelli says:

          I look forward to Sen. Whitehouse opening up on that immunity vote, if Marcy joins him in R.I. for a scrum, maybe she can squeeze it from him.

        • selise says:

          hope marcy gives it her best try – but it’s been more than a year and i’ve gotten tired of calling his office for an explanation. the only thing i learned was that at first his office staff didn’t believe it (several of them heard about it first from me – at least that is what they told me and from their reactions i believe them).

        • phred says:

          I would agree with that as well. Was it MadDog yesterday who questioned why EW knew more about the timing issue than Whitehouse? It’s a bit early in the day to pull out my tinfoil hat, but one does wonder whether there will be a certain amount of Congressional “what? really? who knew? and now it’s too late to prosecute? oh well {shrug}” that will be coming down the pike as Congresscritters seeking to avert primary challengers come down with a serious case of teh stoopid. Whitehouse is smart enough to be on top of this stuff, but he’s also duplicitous enough to be rolled. Sigh. It’s much too early in the day to be this grumpy ; )

        • selise says:

          so sorry – i thought this was light conversation. but that only after watching larry summers spin about our economic situation this morning on meet the press. *g*

          off to try to get something done… that my best cure.

        • Petrocelli says:

          Marcy’s a beaut, huh ? Like the time she and Jane cornered Conyers in a coffee Shop. Those two should do a feature film, like Michael Moore …

      • THATanonymous says:

        Why eventually?
        If the president can effectively override the law (as has been done), what do we need Congress for?
        And if Congress lets itself be overridden (as it has done), again what do we need Congress for?
        And if this is not resolved at an early date, what will bring it to the top of the pile?
        I learned that, in politics, eventually means never. But surely you didn’t mean never?


    • R.H. Green says:

      Me likey your distinction. It would seem that the president of any large organization (GM?) would issue “directives”, rather than “orders”. These would only apply in the case when the president is acting as CiC for giving orders to the military. The term “orders” just has a magisterial ring to it that the bureaucrats love. Now how to get the government to adjust itself to our enlightenment is a bit of a problem.

    • Dismayed says:

      My thoughts exactly. Presidential orders are orders from the president to the executive branch. The only power they carry is the power the president has to enforce them, plus any power congress gives them under a law defining their power.

      Congress makes laws, Presidents do not. Presidents only execute on the laws passed.

      If congress likes a presidential order, and wants it to have the power of law on all persons, including the president, then they better get cracking on a LAW. Other than that there probably needs to be a law defining the power, enforcabilty, reversability, and applicability of executive orders to the extent this is none as yet.

      EO’s are not laws – period.

  6. JThomason says:

    This is what a post-imperial government looks like. The primary documents have all been compromised and the general constitution falls upon a social understanding of tradition and the good will of the political class.

  7. Petrocelli says:

    Man, that #4 comment was such a twisted misrepresentation of the tenets of self-development … why would anyone sully the pages of this amazing blog with such tripe ? (rhetorical … I will also s.c.r.o.l.l. in future)

      • bobschacht says:

        Yes, my theory of development does include cognitive dissonance. But your “explanation” @4 struck me as leaping to conclusions based on insufficient evidence. As such, I found it interesting but far from convincing.

        Bob in HI

        • Petrocelli says:

          Bob has some unusual walls in his new place and was asking if we knew what would work to hang paintings or pictures, can’t remember which one. I suggested that he talk to a retired tradesman at his local hardware store … those guys are a wealth of information.

        • bobschacht says:

          Heh. Turns out bmaz was right (again.)

          Hey, what’s bmaz’s prediction for the supper bowl? Or is he in hiding?

          OK, I’ll go out on a limb:
          AZzzzz 21, Phillzzzzz 14

          Bob in HI

        • THATanonymous says:

          Point taken. Yes, it was a condensed version of my thoughts and not really intended to be an explanation of how I got there. The particular post I cited is only one of the clues I am using to read between the lines of public sentiment.

          A full explanation is not appropriate for this blog, but I stand by my conclusions. Separate from the issue of interpretation of public emotion, I put a not particularly rhetorical question. To paraphrase: Why didn’t people stop George Bush? It wasn’t impossible, but it didn’t happen. I still think that I made a valid observation about the relationship between the public’s emotion regarding recent events and the public’s previous inaction.

          This blog is mostly about law and the related politics, and it is very, very good. However, these are not dead, fixed-in-amber subjects and instead involve people who often feel strongly about the issues discussed here. Since others are routinely in a better place to observe some of these players’ feelings and how they influence these same issues, I would really like to hear other people’s takes on this stuff. The other posts here ‘reading’ Senator Whithouse’s response to Marcy were quite interesting, and I feel they really rounded out what we might understand or expect in the future from that interaction.

          More please.


        • bobschacht says:

          In our Republic, the only way the “people” get to stop someone like George W. Bush directly is through their votes every 4 years. Between those 4 years, we have an indirect democracy: we rely on our elected representatives to keep a check on our president. Unfortunately, and here’s where your analysis breaks down, our representatives did not do their jobs. Despite their oath of office, they did not defend the Constitution. Speaker Pelosi aided and abetted the criminals in chief by taking impeachment off the table and declining to enforce subpoenas. I think it perhaps ironic that the first female speaker emasculated a traditionally male- dominated institution. How strange.

          So perhaps the crying was more about tears being shed that it took so long to remove the miscreant from office.

          Bob in HI

        • THATanonymous says:

          Sorry Bob, I must strongly disagree. It wasn’t (just) a George Bush failure. The whole country froze in place for 8 years while the guys behind Bush looted the place, and stripped it of honor and decency besides. Bush wasn’t the only miscreant, as you pointed out in your first paragraph. Pelosi was just the proof of the failure well under way. It was also a countrywide failure of spirit. I had anticipated this failure even as I hoped it wouldn’t come to pass, but there you are. Since everyone knows they didn’t get what they voted for in ‘06, they may have been relieved that ONE miscreant was leaving town in ‘09, but the fact that the place was still full of them doesn’t give that much relief. Some people were struggling to right what had been wronged, but not enough of them and not in the right (effective) way. The country let itself down.

          How many Americans were so frightened by 911 that they howled for revenge without even knowing or caring who perpetrated the act? It was ‘terraists’, what else did you need to know? How many agreed publicly, if not privately to ‘give up a little freedom to get security’? Sadly, way too many. How many spent beyond what any rising tide could possibly repay for things they didn’t need or truth be told actually want? We certainly know the answer to that one. How many times has the mantra ‘you can’t fight city hall’ been repeated, not as an explanation but an excuse?

          It’s odd that you would say my analysis breaks down when you yourself describe how the country broke down. My point is simple. People vote with their feet and all their actions every day. Even if we had waited for the slow ones to catch on to how wrong things were it wouldn’t have taken that long. No, I believe that if there wasn’t also something wrong with the American heart, Bush could have been stopped, legally, early on.

          The public always has options beyond the ballot box. Some legal some not, but even the legal ones can be blindingly effective if people have the real conviction of their beliefs. Yes, all actions trying to change things involve risks. You might not get enough people to agree with whatever you propose; you might find that what you see as obvious is invisible to others; you might have to give up something that you feel is really valuable. But, so what? Look what the country got instead.

          I travel, a lot. People around the world used to sympathize with me that it wasn’t my fault how the American government behaved. They thought Americans in general were great. Gradually a whole lot of people in other countries became less sympathetic with ordinary Americans as they failed to correct their Government’s horrendous mistakes. They were waiting for the people of the country to not just see that something was wrong but to do something about it. What happened?

          The evidence supporting my conclusions comes from a simple look around at the whole state of things. The real state of things on January 25, 2009. The financial situation of the world, the bleeding and dying largely caused or supported by this country, the poisonous products and faulty pharmaceuticals, complete collapse of world trade, the fear blocking everyone’s throats. It doesn’t take a genius to know that it wasn’t only Bush that caused this. It was caused by placing trust in those not shown to be trustworthy, taking wrong steps when people knew better, entertaining the wrong desires and the wrong kind of thinking. That stuff weighs a lot. A whole lot. That is what stops people cold, not the political calendar. It was that weight of all those personal and public wrongs, and the evils not opposed when they could have been, that started leaking out of people’s eyes after the motorcade went past. After a friend tried to commit suicide, his father observed to me that the most difficult part of depression is not at the bottom, but when you start to look at how much climbing you have to do to get out of that hole. Obama goes by in his car and the ladder that must be climbed by each person has not gotten any shorter. And the weight is still there.


  8. nomolos says:

    Sorry to be OT but a discussion arose over breakfast (late, late breakfast!) And this is the “lawerly” site after all.

    If the President has an opening on the Supreme Court can he “demote” Roberts and name a new Chief Justice or is Roberts in there for the next…. bazillion years?

  9. Minnesotachuck says:

    BTW, Marcy, I just got around to reading your “al-Haramain: The Deadenders Misrepresent . . ” post because we were out and about last evening commiserating with a close friend, who lost his job Thursday, and his wife. All I can say is what an awesome job of deconstruction. I hope someone in this community has the connections to make sure it finds its way to the top of Judge Walker’s desk.

  10. whitewidow says:

    I don’t know how much I trust this reporting. I’m certainly not dismissing it, but it really reeks of the “Obama is just the same as Bush” meme that is being pushed by Republicans and Villagers.

    This from Hosenball’s article also bothers me:

    But given the obloquy they have endured for following Bush’s orders on interrogations and detentions, said another intel insider, CIA officials might resist any attempts by Obama to issue classified operational orders that contradict his official policies. “They don’t want to be asked to do something in secret which has been publicly declared taboo,” the insider said.

    Sounds like more behind the scenes CIA whining and pushback to me. Of the same variety as “poor Brennan.” So they are now prepared to faithfully follow the law (rather than blindly accepting orders from Fearless Leader, because nothing else will do to “keep us safe”). Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing. It’s just convenient that so many consciences only awaken when there is a Democratic president. I guess we no longer have to be “kept safe”, either.

    • emptywheel says:

      While, I think Hosenball–and Chuck Todd before him–are completely ignorant of the backstory on this. Particularly if, as I’m fairly confident, this came from Whitehouse or Feingold, I suspect they’re reading the question (and therefore teh appropriate follow-up) to mean something very different than it likely does.

  11. JThomason says:

    Obama called out tribalism in his inaugural address. Is this how he will justify using drone missles against the Pashtuns in Pakistan, estimated to be a loosely segmented tribal block of 42 million people standing in the way of Eurasian hegemony? The Pashtuns are largely unconquered by imperial interests. The war against Eurasian tribalism is a standard tenet in the methods of Western economic development crossing the extremes of the political spectrum.

    After they killed the wedding part last year, I thought the US military had vowed to be more careful. No matter how unifying Obama is these ongoing incursions with heavy civilian casualties will continue to radicalize major ethnic elements against the United States.

    • phred says:

      After they killed the wedding part last year, I thought the US military had vowed to be more careful.

      The other night, I caught a bit of an interview Terry Gross (sp?) did with the author of Wired for War. The author explained how high tech our ability to wage war has gotten, including a discussion of using remote-controlled drones to blow people up from half a world a way (i.e., a guy in a cubicle in Utah or somewhere, decides to drop a bomb in Pakistan from an unmanned aircraft). It seems to me that mistakes in a such a system are unavoidable. The days of “waiting to see the whites of their eyes” are long gone.

      All of this makes me wonder, how it will be possible for our modern armies to not commit war crimes (in the form of civilian massacres) given their technological method of warfare. It’s a genuine question. Either we need to commit to the requirements of the Geneva Conventions and stop blowing up civilians remotely, or we need to admit that the GC are no longer in force.

      I think we can and we must do better than this. Indiscriminant bombings ultimately undermine our security and standing in the world. I doubt it matters much to the Pakistanis who is in the White House when the bombs fall.

      • JThomason says:

        The standard defense is that these civilian casualties are unintended consequences. But if one is engaging in an inherently dangerous activity with reasonably foreseeable collateral damages it strikes me the disavowal of intent is really so easily accomplished.

        If Obama is truly deploying standards of reason in contravention to the self-referential and self-justifying methods that have infected our methods then these disingenuous trops must cease. So I agree, it is incumbent upon us (if Obama is representative) to state and ratify the reasonable basis of our actions or else we squander all possible claims to legitimacy across the board from issues of executive power to those of engaging civilians in the use of force where this is a reasonably foreseeable consequence of our actions.

        So I go on. And it is not because reason is really our strongest method but more so its because reason is the only legitimate tender in public discourse.

        • bobschacht says:

          Israel’s recent invasion of Gaza against Hamas illustrates the problem of this kind of war: Israel justifies bombing schools and hospitals because Hamas uses those buildings for snipers or to launch mortars from roof tops.

          In Pakistan, the same civilian marriage celebration might include important members of Al Qaeda (OBL is known to have married into local Pashtun clans). Does that make them a legitimate target?

          Bob in HI

      • Minnesotachuck says:

        There’s a whole literature out there such rubrics as “Fourth Generation War” and “Military Reform” about the downsides of excessive reliance on these sorts of high tech war toys. A good place to start is with the book of collected, coordinated essays entitled Americas Defense Meltdown. Best of all it is available for free download the Center for Defense Information. Click on the word “here”. (Their color choices make its hard to tell that it’s a link.)

  12. JohnLopresti says:

    There is an interesting historical account from the script-reading Reagan’s presidency of congress’s countermeasures in a dispute over that Republican restructuring of the executive branch to block environment regulations, presentation in a dissertation six years ago, begins about p128; direct link or from discussion of Quayle and OIRA legacy on same writer’s Kelley website; OIRA now being Sunstein’s post within OMB. In a somewhat related view, Kelley also reports Sen. Leahy added terms to a Soxley reg obligating DoJ to send notice to congress when the President steps outside the mandates of law. Seemingly, there are plenty of constructs for congress to pursue notifications and more collegiality in ordinary business which the executive conducts, yet executive branch attributes exist. Here is profKelley’s wending report of the 2007 feedback he engineered for some research he was doing. I still favor research at the ucsbPresidency Project and profPhillip Cooper’s administrative law websites, arduous and disperse though those pathways may be. I think the continuance of the HJC contempt problems into the 111th partly represents lively interest in congress on assessing what shape the presidency might have if refined a smidgeon while there is a ray of light.

  13. Nell says:

    I don’t have a problem with Craig’s having pressed for a re-do of the oath; it took wingnut whining off the table, which had the potential to affect Roberts as well as the office of the White House.

    But it only improves his batting average a little, because this is a major whiff:

    Craig acknowledged concerns from intelligence officials that new restrictions on CIA methods might be unwise and indicated that the White House might be open to allowing the use of methods other the 19 techniques allowed for the military.

    However, manager Obama called for this swing, as his executive orders include creating a committee “to study and evaluate whether the interrogation practices and techniques in Army Field Manual 2 22.3, when employed by departments or agencies outside the military, provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the Nation, and, if warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies.”

    As frequent readers and commenters of this blog are aware thanks to Valtin, the current Army Field Manual itself allows torture, in Appendix M.

    The creation of this committee and Craig’s comments bear out the concerns expressed a month ago by Glenn Greenwald and others at the weaseling by Sens. Feinstein and Wyden on the question of techniques beyond those specified in the (Rumsfeld-Cambone-produced) revision of the Army Field Manual.

  14. WilliamOckham says:

    I think this article says a lot less about Obama’s policies than it does about the ongoing institutional struggles over torture going on inside the bureaucracies in Washington. Before the inauguration, we saw a steady stream of stories about how Obama will have to be just like Bush on torture, detention, and rendition. Then, Obama gets in and makes a complete 180 degree turn. So, the same set of sources and reporters spew out another set that essentially say we should ignore all of that stuff Obama did because, secretly, he’s still just like Bush. I think these stories are just bullshit (in the technical sense). The people behind these stories don’t care whether or not it’s true, just getting the stories out there in the hopes they can have them accepted. They know their only hope for avoiding prosecution is getting people to accept the normalcy of what they did.

    • LabDancer says:

      Sorry this is so late; I’m catching up.

      I think this take is entirely defensible, and at least mostly right on. Hosenball in particular must feel under pressure – perhaps some self-imposed, but given the wierdness of NEWSWEEK under Meacham, I don’t think entirely – to get some ’scoops’ up to compete with his oft-times “reporting” partner Isikoff.

      The part I’m partly reserved about is this: “The people behind these stories don’t care whether or not it’s true, just getting the stories out there in the hopes they can have them accepted”. In common with propaganda, “these stories” often have a grain of truth [or truth in the truthiness] which constitutes the reportage, whereas the rest is the setting or presentation, to accommodate various agendas, possibly including the leaker, or the pleaker, and certainly with a nod to one or both of the magazine’s editorial staff and publisher.

      [In this, IMO, Hosenball doesn’t have Isikoff’s ‘talent’, or his ruthlessly self-serving instincts, assuming there’s a material distinction, in turning microscopically thin slices of political dna droppings into coming off as the sort of Beltway gossip that might as well be in politico, or perezhilton for that matter. Ms E Wheel as we know has made something of a sub-specialty her abilities in dissecting Isikoffities for their content of what Thomas Jefferson once urged newspapers ought to be forced to put under clear warning: facts, probabilities, possibilities and utter complete lies.]

      But I would add a further possible agenda that’s served by this story – one that acknowledges Fearless Leader’s being convinced one or both Senators Feingold and Whitehouse are somewhere behind the “fact” portion of this reportage: I think that a large part of the Obama style of approach [not just at this moment- it will always be there in some way, at least until after his re-election, but perhaps even after for reasons of self-preservation], to stretch the poker analogy, is to hold his hole cards close, ideally never to be revealed, such that the superficial ‘centrality’ of his words and public appearances, and even official acts where he can afford to, serves as much as possible to ‘assure’ middle-muddle Americans, and to de-fuse as many as possible of those who reside far closer than we to the nation’s cliff-dwelling and -hanging rightwingers, that he is in no way ‘radical’ and has no ‘extreme’ plans. I’ll go further: I expect that every time Obama thinks he’s about to embark on some initiative or take a position that might threaten to spook the wingers into trying to rouse to the middle-muddle, we can expect to see some pleaked signs of stroking in some other direction. In that light, if it is light, a part of this story, being a part of the larger story currently being spun in WDC, very much suits his desire to be accepted as somehow reliably, dependably, even reflexively mainstream [in the establishment media sense].

      I’m thinking here about Shelby Steele’s take on Obama: that he will end up so accommodating that he will effectively betray what many African-Americans and progressives read into the opportunity of his presidency. IMO Steele’s vision is obstructed by his view from the right or right-center, seeing Obama as some shrewder and better-marketed variation on Michael Steele, in contradistinction with some nationally un-electable “black empowerment” image like that projected by/on Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan even moreso. IMO Obama is more accurately perceived by his own roots, in a mostly-idealized African father and a very strong-minded white activist mother, with a really nurturing and supportive extended family particularly on the maternal side – the ‘civilizing’ side of him, if you will [betraying my bias, I readily admit]. From that, Obama has been fortunate in obtaining a ‘feminine” read on social interaction: of how to placate while advancing one’s goals, of how to appear to ‘give’ while in fact ‘getting’. In this, I don’t think we are safe in discounting the altruistic ambitions of his mother – whose intervention at a critical time in his young life was instrumental in him being sparked to make something deliberative out of his life. Also in this, I don’t think this is wholly star-eyed: I am perfectly aware that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions; witness the tragedy of LBJ, the presidency in my life-time which I think most merits that Shakespearean characterization.

  15. Hmmm says:

    Welp, everyone said the biggest danger of W’s extra-Constitutional excursions with Prezzy power was that future administrations wouldn’t be able to resist putting the ring on. Greg Craig is simply proving that view to have been correct. The big question now is whether BO himself has the strength of character to not put the ring on, and if so whether he can whip weaker underlings like Craig into shape in time to put a stop to all of this once and for al. This is directly connected to whether consequences for the W administration will be pursued.

  16. JThomason says:

    Its true enough as has been suggested that much is not known about Obama’s view and there are certainly forces that are interested in asserting a post-imperial normative narrative. The attacks in Pakistan this week are not speculative nor was Obama’s compromise on FISA after vowing a filibusterer if immunity was pushed six months prior to the issue coming to the fore.

    Subtle manipulative politics while making for interesting consideration undermine the emergence of principle so casting us once again into a milieu of social relativism. Historically the rule of law may have been a reaction to a revolutionary a moment. There are others too have who been far more historically attractive in establishing the rule of international humane norms by example than Bush.

    The shadow of the Military Commissions Acts in the end takes a lot of wind out my sails in thinking that there will be a correction sufficient to act as a future deterrent. But it is fair enough to say even with a mixed beginning that the jury is still out.

  17. tanbark says:

    Good job, ‘Wheel! I haven’t seen anyone else go after Craig. If we let him slide this B.S. about it being Okay for Obama to be King, instead of preznint, then we’re on our way back to square one.

    Truffle milkshake for you, for calling him on it. :o)

  18. brantl says:

    I don’t get it. Do Executive Orders have any legal weight, or don’t they? If they don’t, then they are a bluff. If Obama doesn’t go with along with anybody else’s bluff, where’s his liability? If he doesn’t obey his own Executive Orders then he looks hypocritical, but does he have any legal liability? Not if they have no legal weight. They may also have legal weight as SOP to the executive staff below him, as procedural standing orders, yet not apply to his judgement. Anybody thought of/know about that?

  19. brantl says:

    Don’t I remember Bush giving an Executive Order delegating the declassification power to Darth Cheney? Wasn’t that given legal credibility? It seemed that it was……