Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Nike Presidency

Via Daily Dissent, an amusing rant from one of CNN's talking head on the Nike Presidency, whose answer to any troubling question of constitutional law or human rights is "just do it":

Who cares about whether the Patriot Act gets renewed? Want to abuse our civil liberties? Just do it.

Who cares about the Geneva Conventions. Want to torture prisoners? Just do it.

Who cares about rules concerning the identity of CIA agents. Want to reveal the name of a covert operative? Just do it.

Who cares about whether the intelligence concerning WMDS is accurate. Want to invade Iraq? Just do it.

Who cares about qualifications to serve on the nation's highest court. Want to nominate a personal friend with no qualifications? Just do it.

And the latest outrage, which I read about in "The New York Times" this morning, who cares about needing a court order to eavesdrop on American citizens. Want to wiretap their phone conversations? Just do it. What a joke. A very cruel, very sad joke.

Video here, for those who want to watch rather than read.


And Bush has just taken steps to try and head off the Cornyn-Leahy FOI improvement Bill with this Executive Order:

Tom Blanton, of the National Security Archive at George Washington University had this to say about it:

"Senator Cornyn called the EO an "important first step." I call it a pre-emptive strike against possible passage of Cornyn-Leahy. If President Bush was still operating under the open records laws of Texas, and Sen. Cornyn was still the Texas AG, he'd be prosecuting W as a scofflaw. The new EO is a long way from bringing Texas standards of open government to Washington. Put another way, after 5 years in office, President Bush has just taken his first step towards more open government. And I wonder who will be appointed as the chief FOI officer at the White House -- the Vice President?"

A more humourous take on the matter:
[From a NSA transcript of a telephone conversation earlier this fall between POTUS and "Cornydog" (a/k/a Senator John Cornyn)]

POTUS: Hombre, I want to tell you how much I appreciate your help lately. We really needed your support on the judges thing, you know, getting our guys on the bench and throwing the blame on those activists for all the things that are making me unpopular. And I also like having you in my corner on this Patriot Act stuff; we can't begin to get enough power to win the battle against Osama and his gang across the world.

CORNYDOG: Thank you Mr. President. You are very kind. While I have you on the line, I'd like to ask if maybe you could be of a little help to me.

POTUS: Just say the word.

CORNYDOG: As you know, I made quite a reputation in Texas when I was Attorney General battling for open government information. That has been a great media issue for me.

POTUS: Yeh, I know. Those press guys are always looking for us to spoon-feed them their stories through this open government crap -- and also with leaks and stuff like that -- but then they get upset because we're paying a few newspapers and journalists in Iraq to run good stories. I mean, accurate stories about our country. I guess they'd like to get in on the payola themselves, don't you think.

CORNYDOG: That's a little beside the point, Mr. President. What I'm trying to say is that I've introduced some legislation on Freedom of Information that has been great for my profile in Texas and . . . .

POTUS: You've got a great profile everywhere, Cornydog ole buddy. How can I help?

CORNYDOG: I introduced some legislation earlier this year to improve administration of the FOIA by federal agencies; as you may know . . . .

POTUS: What's FO-YA?

CORNYDOG: It's F.O.I.A - the Freedom of Information Act. Anyway, we . . . .

POTUS: I knew that.

CORNYDOG: I had hearings on my legislation and the public and press response was overwhelmingly positive. I thought I had some real momentum.

POTUS: I wish I had positive public and media response on anything these days.

CORNYDOG: This FOIA stuff is always good for press coverage.

POTUS: So what's your problem, Corny-man?

CORNYDOG: Your guys over at DOJ are giving me real . . . .

POTUS: What's "DOJ" stand for?

CORNYDOG: Department of Justice. Anyway, I'm getting nothing but . . . .

POTUS: I knew that. That's Alberto's operation, right? Sure, I know that.

CORNYDOG: Let me get to the point. The Justice Department has made it clear that they don't want anything done that will strengthen the FOIA. They just don't want changes that would put pressure on agencies to disclose more information or to do it faster. I can't even get their support to create a Commission to study the problem of delay in releasing information; I called my bill the "Faster FOIA Act."

POTUS: Pretty clever. But why would we want information released faster. That just means faster disclosure of embarrassing documents, faster revelations of agency failures, faster release of material showing incompetence, faster public attention on ethical problems, and that sort of stuff. Who needs faster. We ought to realize that we are in a war with terrorism, and just about everything this government does and every piece of paper we have has some relationship to this war. So forget about faster. What we need is to figure out how to keep all government records away from Osama and Saddam and Omar and their buddies masquerading as ACLU members or librarians.

CORNYDOG: I see your point, Mr. President. But I'm hung out there on this FOIA legislation. I've made a lot of public statements, held hearings, testified, introduced bills, and that kind of thing. I need something to show for it. And I really believe in this issue.

POTUS: Well, I'm the President, aren't I. Why don't I issue some kind of Executive Order on the subject. I don't even need Dick's permission to do that. You can come up to the White House and stand next to me and I can announce some initiative on that FO-YA thing.

CORNYDOG: That's a great idea. We could clearly accomplish most of what my legislation requires if you'd just issue an Order directing your federal bureaucracy to shape up. I could help you translate my legislation into an Executive Order. There's even a precedent for this: President Reagan issued an Order in the mid-'80s to protect business information from disclosure when legislation on that subject was stalled.

POTUS: It's settled then. I'll call Alberto up and get his boys working on a Presidential Order that I can issue on FO-YA. We can . . . .

CORNYDOG: Mr. President, that's not really what . . . .

POTUS: include a lot of high-sounding words that the press guys will eat up, maybe have some apple-pie kind of findings, require some reports that are already being prepared anyway, rename some personnel and direct them to do what they're doing already, and throw in some other stuff that won't require any new funds or give anybody any rights. Then we will have done something without doing anything, if you know what I mean. That's my kind of Executive Order.

CORNYDOG: But . . . .

POTUS: You've been a real friend, and I'm going to make the call right now to, what did you call it, "D.O.G." I'll ask Senior Alberto to get me something I can sign before the Holi -- before Christmas. That ought to take care of your profile for awhile, mi amigo. Adios for now.

CORNYDOG: Er, OK, Mr. President. I look forward to seeing what the Attorney General comes up with. Thanks for your time.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/18/2005 10:02:00 AM