I wrote this a while back after Romney got the nom. In light of the
blizzard of bullshit coming at us in the next few months I thought I
would put it out now.
Now that the Republican primary circus is over, I started to think about what it would mean to vote for Obama...
Since mostly we hear from the daily hypocrisies of Mitt and friends, I
thought we should examine "our guy" on a few issues with a bit more
scrutiny than we hear from the "progressive left", which seems to be
little or none at all.
Instead of scrutiny, the usual arguments in favor of another Obama
presidency are made: We must stop fanatics; it would be better than the
fanatics—he's the last line of defense from the corporate barbarians—and
of course the Supreme Court. It all makes a terrible kind of sense and I
agree completely with Garry Wills who described the Republican
primaries as " a revolting combination of con men & fanatics— "the
current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican
party does not deserve serious consideration for public office."
... there are certain Rubicon lines, as constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley calls them, that Obama has crossed.
All political questions are not equal no matter how much you pivot.
When people die or lose their physical freedom to feed certain economic
sectors or ideologies, it becomes a zero sum game for me.
This is not an exercise in bemoaning regrettable policy choices or
cheering favorable ones but to ask fundamentally: Who are we? What are
we voting for? And what does it mean?
Three markers — the Nobel Prize acceptance speech, the escalation
speech at West Point, and the recent speech by Eric Holder — crossed
that Rubicon line for me...
Mr. Obama, the Christian president with the Muslim-sounding name,
would heed the admonitions of neither religion's prophets about making
war and do what no empire or leader, including Alexander the Great,
could do: he would, he assured us "get the job done in Afghanistan." And
so we have our democratic president receiving the Nobel Peace Prize as
he sends 30,000 more troops to a ten-year-old conflict in a country
that's been war-torn for 5,000 years.
Why? We'll never fully know. Instead, we got a speech that was stone bullshit and an insult to the very idea of peace.
We can't have it both ways. Hope means endless war? Obama has
metaphorically pushed all in with the usual international and
institutional killers; and in the case of war and peace, literally.
To sum it up: more war. So thousands die or are maimed; generations
of families and veterans are damaged beyond imagination; sons and
daughters come home in rubber bags. But he and his satellites get their
four more years.
The AfPak War is more H. G. Wells than Orwell, with people blindly
letting each other get fed to the barons of Wall Street and the
Pentagon, themselves playing the part of the Pashtuns. The paradox is
simple: he got elected on his anti-war stance during a perfect storm of
the economic meltdown and McCain saying the worst thing at the worst
time as we stared into the abyss. Obama beat Clinton on "I'm against the
war and she is for it." It was simple then, when he needed it to be.
Under Obama do we continue to call the thousands of mercenaries in
Afghanistan "general contractors" now that Bush is gone? No, we don't
talk about them... not a story anymore.
Do we prosecute felonies like torture or spying on Americans? No, time to "move on"...
Now chaos is the norm and though the chaos is complicated, the answer
is still simple. We can't afford this morally, financially, or
physically. Or in a language the financial community can digest: the
wars are ideologically and spiritually bankrupt. No need to get a score
from the CBO.
Drones bomb Pakistani villages across the border at an unprecedented
rate. Is it legal? Does anyone care? "It begs the question," as Daniel
Berrigan asks us, "is this one a "good war" or a "dumb war"? But the
question betrays the bias: it is all the same. It's all madness."
One is forced to asked the question: Is the President just another
Ivy League Asshole shredding civil liberties and due process and sending
people to die in some shithole for purely political reasons?
There will be a historical record. "Change we can believe in" is not
using the other guys' mob to clean up your own tracks while continuing
to feed at the trough. Human nature is human nature, and when people
find out they're being hustled, they will seek revenge, sooner or later,
and it will be ugly and savage.
In a country with desperation growing everywhere, everyday — despite
the "Oh, things are getting better" press releases — how could one think
Just think about the economic crisis we are in as a country. It could
never happen, they said. The American middle class was rock solid. The
American dream, home ownership, education, the opportunity to get a good
job if you applied yourself... and on and on. Yeah, what happened to
that? It's gone.
The next question must be: "What happened to our civil liberties, to
our due process, which are the foundation of any notion of real
democracy?" The chickens haven't come home to roost for the majority but
the foundation has been set and the Constitution gutted.
Brian McFadden's cartoon says it all.
Here's the transcript of the telephone interview I conducted with Turley.
JONATHAN TURLEY: Hi John.
CUSACK: Hello. Okay, hey I was just thinking about all this
stuff and thought maybe we'd see what we can do to bring civil liberties
and these issues back into the debate for the next couple of months ...
TURLEY: I think that's great.
CUSACK: So, I don't know how you can believe in the Constitution and violate it that much.
CUSACK: I would just love to know your take as an expert on
these things. And then maybe we can speak to whatever you think his
motivations would be, and not speak to them in the way that we want to
armchair-quarterback like the pundits do about "the game inside the
game," but only do it because it would speak to the arguments that are
being used by the left to excuse it. For example, maybe their argument
that there are things you can't know, and it's a dangerous world out
there, or why do you think a constitutional law professor would throw
out due process?
TURLEY: Well, there's a misconception about Barack Obama as a former
constitutional law professor. First of all, there are plenty of
professors who are "legal relativists." They tend to view legal
principles as relative to whatever they're trying to achieve. I would
certainly put President Obama in the relativist category. Ironically, he
shares that distinction with George W. Bush. They both tended to view
the law as a means to a particular end — as opposed to the end itself.
That's the fundamental distinction among law professors. Law professors
like Obama tend to view the law as one means to an end, and others, like
myself, tend to view it as the end itself.
Truth be known President Obama has never been particularly driven by
principle. Right after his election, I wrote a column in a few days
warning people that even though I voted for Obama, he was not what
people were describing him to be. I saw him in the Senate. I saw him in
CUSACK: Yeah, so did I.
TURLEY: He was never motivated that much by principle. What he's
motivated by are programs. And to that extent, I like his programs more
than Bush's programs, but Bush and Obama are very much alike when it
comes to principles. They simply do not fight for the abstract
principles and view them as something quite relative to what they're
trying to accomplish. Thus privacy yields to immunity for
telecommunications companies and due process yields to tribunals for
CUSACK: Churchill said, "The power of the Executive to cast a
man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and
particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest
degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government
whether Nazi or Communist." That wasn't Eugene Debs speaking — that was
And if he takes an oath before God to uphold the Constitution, and
yet he decides it's not politically expedient for him to deal with due
process or spying on citizens and has his Attorney General justify
murdering US citizens — and then adds a signing statement saying, "Well,
I'm not going to do anything with this stuff because I'm a good guy."–
one would think we would have to define this as a much graver threat
than good or bad policy choices- correct?
TURLEY: Well, first of all, there's a great desire of many people to
relieve themselves of the obligation to vote on principle. It's a
classic rationalization that liberals have been known to use recently,
but not just liberals. The Republican and Democratic parties have
accomplished an amazing feat with the red state/blue state paradigm.
They've convinced everyone that regardless of how bad they are, the
other guy is worse. So even with 11 percent of the public supporting
Congress most incumbents will be returned to Congress. They have so
structured and defined the question that people no longer look at the
actual principles and instead vote on this false dichotomy.
Now, belief in human rights law and civil liberties leads one to the
uncomfortable conclusion that President Obama has violated his oath to
uphold the Constitution. But that's not the primary question for voters.
It is less about him than it is them. They have an obligation to cast
their vote in a principled fashion. It is, in my opinion, no excuse to
vote for someone who has violated core constitutional rights and civil
liberties simply because you believe the other side is no better. You
cannot pretend that your vote does not constitute at least a tacit
approval of the policies of the candidate.
This is nothing new, of course for civil libertarians who have always
been left behind at the altar in elections. We've always been the
bridesmaid, never the bride. We're used to politicians lying to us. And
President Obama lied to us. There's no way around that. He promised
various things and promptly abandoned those principles.
So the argument that Romney is no better or worse does not excuse the
obligation of a voter. With President Obama they have a president who
went to the CIA soon after he was elected and promised CIA employees
that they would not be investigated or prosecuted for torture, even
though he admitted that waterboarding was torture.
CUSACK: I remember when we were working with Arianna at The
Huffington Post and we thought, well, has anyone asked whether
waterboarding is torture? Has anyone asked Eric Holder that? And so
Arianna had Sam Seder ask him that at a press conference, and then he
had to admit that it was. And then the next question, of course, was,
well, if it is a crime, are you going to prosecute the law? But, of
course, it wasn't politically expedient to do so, right? That's inherent
in their non-answer and inaction?
TURLEY: That's right.
CUSACK: Have you ever heard a more specious argument than
"It's time for us all to move on?" When did the Attorney General or the
President have the option to enforce the law?