Monday, 27 September 2010

Balancing The Sets Of Spectacular Imbalances

There is little in the field of political commentary I find more tiresome than hearing people say that because the party who they voted for promised to fight for X and failed, they now intend to vote for the party that have sworn X will never happen except over their dead bodies, amongst the ashes of our dead sun.

This has been much in evidence recently, and frequently amongst people who should know better. I share the disappointment at the nixing of the plan to repeal DADT, though I realise my annoyance is orders of magnitude smaller than those for whom a repeal would make a material difference tom - either in allowing them to serve or as evidence that their community is making genuine progress in civil rights (advancing in the teeth of fire from lunatics like Ann Coulter: "Marriage isn't a civil right. You're not black.").

That said, the idea that gay people should consider voting for Republicans in future because "At least we know where they stand" is about the most gob-smackingly self-defeating and all-out fucking idiotic idea one can easily imagine. A lot like saying you're so sick of meeting flirtatious sex-pots who don't end up sleeping with you that you may as well slash your crotch into chum with a squeaky pizza-cutter.

All that said, though, there is a more interesting dilemma lurking in here. Namely, if you believe someone is on the right side of 99 issues, how spectacularly, unspeakably disgraceful do they have to be on the remaining one issue before you'll switch to the guy who's with you on that sole problem?

That's the question that's been going through my mind ever since I read this:
[N]ot only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are "state secrets," and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.
Needless to say, this is deeply, deeply disturbing. Even if I had more faith in Obama than I do (the fact that I prefer him to pretty much any given Republican president or presidential candidate since the 19th Century should not be confused for hero worship), the implications of allowing such power to be wielded by one man are obviously very concerning. Do I think Obama would start bumping off his enemies and simply claim they are terrorists? No I do not. But I could be wrong. Moreover, by providing precedent for such conduct, we need to worry not only about how Obama will use this "privilege", but how the next guy will, or the one after that. This, of course, is one of the many (many many) reasons I viewed those who argued Bush could be trusted to run roughshod over constitutional protections as so devastatingly idiotic. Quite aside from my feelings about the man in question, it is critical that every action we judge acceptable for an executive to take takes into account the way it can be used by the worst amongst us, not the best. Call it the "Nixon Test". If you ain't happy with the idea of Nixon having the ability to execute American citizens without legal review, then fuck off with suggesting Obama can have it.

It has been noted by many that Obama's deepest failings to date have been on civil liberties. From defending Bush's practices (and whilst Obama is genuinely worse in this area than Bush - about the only area in which that could be said, with the possible exception of relations with India, I believe that is more because Bush started a downward spiral, rather than there being anything specific in Obama's nature that makes him more intrinsically gittish), to extending them still further, and to letting the Republicans in Congress beat him up over closing Gitmo and allowing civilian trials for suspected terrorists, it's a pretty sorry story.

This, though, might just take the proverbial cake. In fact, this is so bad, the idea that an executive can order the execution of his citizens and declare his reasons for doing so immune to judicial review so anathema to both me and the concept of democracy itself, that it makes me wonder whether if the Republican candidate in 2012 specifically swore to ban such actions by executive order - and I had good enough reason to trust their word - whether I might have to consider switching sides.

Fortunately (from a certain point of view), it's almost certainly a moot point. The Republican political machine (as oppose to the entirety of their voting base, many of whom are noting and objecting to what Obama is doing) isn't interested in trying to force Obama to give up on this stuff. They don't want to curtail powers they hope to have access to in 2012 (and are liable to have in 2016), after all. No, right now they're all to busy arguing Obama is a secret Muslim socialist who hates America because his drunken father was an anti-colonialist (and when exactly did Americans decide being pro-colonial was the way to go, especially with regard to British colonies). As much as I despise the Republicans on their own terms, I dislike them even more because their vapid, show-boating, race-baiting antics denies America what every healthy democracy needs: an honest, sensible, and above all vigilant Opposition. The GOP right now are like the boy who cried "Wolf!", only even that analogy fails because they're more akin to the boy who cried "Wolf with ten legs and heat-vision that's the secret love-child of Satan!"

So, I am mercifully spared the agony of having to choose sides. Nevertheless, well done, Mr President. Well done for genuinely making me worried that sooner or later I will have to reconsider just who it is out there who represents the lesser evil.

Sometimes I really hate people...


Anonymous said...

I'm actually for giving Nixon that kind of power, if only to make the world look more like a Futurama episode.
And sometimes it looks like USA is pro-colonial as fuck:

SpaceSquid said...

How come the Philippines don't get a kick-ass earring, huh? Who are the real racists?

(I move the US changes its motto from "In God We Trust" to "Pro-Colonial As Fuck" immediately. Even if Obama objects, like the anti-colonial prick he so clearly is).