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Friday, August 27, 2021

Obama’s War and Peace

Editor’s Note from Shannyn Moore:

I have had this conversation with John several times. I am glad he wrote his thoughts down, and we welcome him as the latest guest author here at The Mudflats. 

My best advice is to let it set in. We bite the shiny hooks of not-so-breaking news every day. President Obama has to be more than Not-Mitt. Sometimes being an progressive voter makes you feel like a refugee from the Island of Dr. Moreau. Some morally inverted, twisted character from a Céline novel. Just breathe. Just read. Just push for a better America. Oh, and thanks, John.  Please take the time to read his interview with constitutional expert, Jonathan Turley.


By John Cusack

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;—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 and fanatics…the current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican party does not deserve serious consideration for public office.”

True enough.

But yet…

… there are certain Rubicon lines, as constitutional law professor Jon 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 put 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 Af-Pak 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 cant 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 Congressional Budget Office.

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 otherwise?

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.

The reason I post this is so we don’t take the bait -phony scandals and regurgitated talking points.

Obama wants your vote– make him earn it.

John Cusack is an American actor, producer and screenwriter. He has appeared in more than 50 films, including The Journey of Natty Gann, Say Anything…, Grosse Pointe Blank, High Fidelity, The Thin Red Line, Con Air, Being John Malkovich, 2012, and Hot Tub Time Machine. His movie On Frozen Ground, about Alaska serial killer Robert Hanson, will be in theaters this fall.



Here is the transcript of a phone call between Jon Turley and John Cusack:

John was thinking all this when he talked to Jon Turley, one of the smartest and intellectually honest authorities on the Constitution:

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.

Turley: Yeah.

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 Chicago.

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 terrorism suspects.

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 Winston Churchill.
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 U.S. 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?

Turley: Well, that’s the key question that nobody wants to ask. We have a treaty, actually a number of treaties, that obligate us to investigate and prosecute torture. We pushed through those treaties because we wanted to make clear that no matter what the expediency of the moment, no matter whether it was convenient or inconvenient, all nations had to agree to investigate and prosecute torture and other war crimes.

And the whole reason for putting this in the treaties was to do precisely the opposite of what the Obama administration has done. That is, in these treaties they say that it is not a defense that prosecution would be inconvenient or unpopular. But that’s exactly what President Obama said when he announced, “I won’t allow the prosecution of torture because I want us to look to the future and not the past.” That is simply a rhetorical flourish to hide the obvious point: “I don’t want the inconvenience and the unpopularity that would come with enforcing this treaty.”

Cusack: Right. So, in that sense, the Bush administration had set the precedent that the state can do anything it likes in the name of terror, and not only has Obama let that cement harden, but he’s actually expanded the power of the executive branch to do whatever it wants, or he’s lowered the bar — he’s lowered the law — to meet his convenience. He’s lowered the law to meet his personal political convenience rather than leaving it as something that, as Mario Cuomo said, the law is supposed to be better than us.

Turley: That’s exactly right. In fact, President Obama has not only maintained the position of George W. Bush in the area of national securities and in civil liberties, he’s actually expanded on those positions. He is actually worse than George Bush in some areas.

Cusack: Can you speak to which ones?

Turley: Well, a good example of it is that President Bush ordered the killing of an American citizen when he approved a drone strike on a car in Yemen that he knew contained an American citizen as a passenger. Many of us at the time said, “You just effectively ordered the death of an American citizen in order to kill someone else, and where exactly do you have that authority?” But they made an argument that because the citizen wasn’t the primary target, he was just collateral damage. And there are many that believe that that is a plausible argument.

Cusack: By the way, we’re forgetting to kill even a foreign citizen is against the law. I hate to be so quaint…

Turley: Well, President Obama outdid President Bush. He ordered the killing of two U.S. citizens as the primary targets and has then gone forward and put out a policy that allows him to kill any American citizen when he unilaterally determines them to be a terrorist threat. Where President Bush had a citizen killed as collateral damage, President Obama has actually a formal policy allowing him to kill any U.S. citizen.

Cusack: But yet the speech that Eric Holder gave was greeted generally, by those others than civil libertarians and a few people on the left with some intellectual honesty, with polite applause and a stunning silence and then more cocktail parties and state dinners and dignitaries, back the Republican Hypocrisy Hour on the evening feed — and he basically gave a speech saying that the executive can assassinate U.S. citizens.

Turley: That was the truly other-worldly moment of the speech. He went to, Northwestern Law School (my alma mater), and stood there and articulated the most authoritarian policy that a government can have: the right to unilaterally kill its citizens without any court order or review. The response from the audience was applause. Citizens applauding an Attorney General who just described how the President was claiming the right to kill any of them on his sole inherent authority.

Cusack: Does that order have to come directly from Obama, or can his underlings carry that out on his behalf as part of a generalized understanding? Or does he have to personally say, “You can get that guy and that guy?”
Turley: Well, he has delegated the authority to the so-called death panel, which is, of course, hilarious, since the Republicans keep talking about a nonexistent death panel in national healthcare. We actually do have a death panel, and it’s killing people who are healthy.

Cusack: I think you just gave me the idea for my next film. And the tone will be, of course, Kafkaesque.

Turley: It really is.

Cusack: You’re at the bottom of the barrel when the Attorney General is saying that not only can you hold people in prison for no charge without due process, but we can kill the citizens that “we” deem terrorists. But “we” won’t do it cause we’re the good guys remember?

Turley: Well, the way that this works is you have this unseen panel. Of course, their proceedings are completely secret. The people who are put on the hit list are not informed, obviously.

Cusack: That’s just not polite, is it?

Turley: No, it’s not. The first time you’re informed that you’re on this list is when your car explodes, and that doesn’t allow much time for due process. But the thing about the Obama administration is that it is far more premeditated and sophisticated in claiming authoritarian powers. Bush tended to shoot from the hip — he tended to do these things largely on the edges. In contrast, Obama has openly embraced these powers and created formal measures, an actual process for killing U.S. citizens. He has used the terminology of the law to seek to legitimate an extrajudicial killing.

Cusack: Yeah, bringing the law down to meet his political realism, his constitutional realism, which is that the Constitution is just a means to an end politically for him, so if it’s inconvenient for him to deal with due process or if it’s inconvenient for him to deal with torture, well, then why should he do that? He’s a busy man. The Constitution is just another document to be used in a political fashion, right?

Turley: Indeed. I heard from people in the administration after I wrote a column a couple weeks ago about the assassination policy. And they basically said, “Look, you’re not giving us our due. Holder said in the speech that we are following a constitutional analysis. And we have standards that we apply.” It is an incredibly seductive argument, but there is an incredible intellectual disconnect. Whatever they are doing, it can’t be called a constitutional process.
Obama has asserted the right to kill any citizen that he believes is a terrorist. He is not bound by this panel that only exists as an extension of his claimed inherent absolute authority. He can ignore them. He can circumvent them. In the end, with or without a panel, a president is unilaterally killing a U.S. citizen. This is exactly what the framers of the Constitution told us not to do.

Cusack: The framers didn’t say, “In special cases, do what you like. When there are things the public cannot know for their own good, when it’s extra-specially a dangerous world… do whatever you want.” The framers of the Constitution always knew there would be extraordinary circumstances, and they were accounted for in the Constitution. The Constitution does not allow for the executive to redefine the Constitution when it will be politically easier for him to get things done.

Turley: No. And it’s preposterous to argue that.

Cusack: When does it become — criminal?

Turley: Well, the framers knew what it was like to have sovereigns kill citizens without due process. They did it all the time back in the 18th century. They wrote a constitution specifically to bar unilateral authority.
James Madison is often quoted for his observation that if all men were angels, no government would be necessary. And what he was saying is that you have to create a system of law that has checks and balances so that even imperfect human beings are restrained from doing much harm. Madison and other framers did not want to rely on the promises of good motivations or good intents from the government. They created a system where no branch had enough authority to govern alone — a system of shared and balanced powers.
So what Obama’s doing is to rewrite the most fundamental principle of the U.S. Constitution. The whole point of the Holder speech was that we’re really good guys who take this seriously, and you can trust us. That’s exactly the argument the framers rejected, the “trust me” principle of government. You’ll notice when Romney was asked about this, he said, “I would’ve signed the same law, because I trust Obama to do the right thing.” They’re both using the very argument that the framers warned citizens never to accept from their government.

Cusack: So basically, it comes down to, again, just political expediency and aesthetics. So as long as we have friendly aesthetics and likable people, we can do whatever we want. Who cares what the policy is or the implications for the future.

Turley: The greatest problem is what it has done to us and what our relative silence signifies. Liberals and civil libertarians have lost their own credibility, their own moral standing, with the support of President Obama. For many civil libertarians it is impossible to vote for someone who has blocked the prosecution of war crimes. That’s where you cross the Rubicon for most civil libertarians. That was a turning point for many who simply cannot to vote for someone who is accused of that type of violation.
Under international law, shielding people from war-crime prosecutions is itself a form of war crime. They’re both violations of international law. Notably, when the Spanish moved to investigate our torture program, we now know that the Obama administration threatened the Spanish courts and the Spanish government that they better not enforce the treaty against the U.S. This was a real threat to the Administration because these treaties allow other nations to step forward when another nation refuses to uphold the treaty. If a government does not investigate and prosecute its own accused war criminals, then other countries have the right to do so. That rule was, again, of our own creation. With other leading national we have long asserted the right to prosecute people in other countries who are shielded or protected by their own countries.

Cusack: Didn’t Spain pull somebody out of Chile under that?

Turley: Yeah, Pinochet.

Cusack: Yeah, also our guy…

Turley: The great irony of all this is that we’re the architect of that international process. We’re the one that always pushed for the position that no government could block war crimes prosecution.
But that’s not all. The Obama administration has also outdone the Bush administration in other areas. For example, one of the most important international principles to come out of World War II was the rejection of the “just following orders” defense. We were the country that led the world in saying that defendants brought before Nuremberg could not base their defense on the fact that they were just following orders. After Nuremberg, there were decades of development of this principle. It’s a very important point, because that defense, if it is allowed, would shield most people accused of torture and war crime. So when the Obama administration —

Cusack: That also parallels into the idea that the National Defense Authorization Act is using its powers to actually not only put a chilling effect on whistleblowers, but actually make it illegal for whistleblowers to bring the truth out. Am I right on that, or is that an overstatement?

Turley: Well, the biggest problem is that when the administration was fishing around for some way to justify not doing the right thing and not prosecuting torture, they finally released a document that said that CIA personnel and even some DOJ lawyers were “just following orders,” but particularly CIA personnel.
The reason Obama promised them that none of them would be prosecuted is he said that they were just following the orders of higher authority in the government. That position gutted Nuremberg. Many lawyers around the world are upset because the U.S. under the Obama administration has torn the heart out of Nuremberg. Just think of the implications: other countries that are accused of torture can shield their people and say, “Yeah, this guy was a torturer. This guy ordered a war crime. But they were all just following orders. And the guy that gave them the order, he’s dead.” It is the classic defense of war criminals. Now it is a viable defense again because of the Obama administration.

Cusack: Yeah.

Turley: Certainly part of the problem is how the news media —

Cusack: Oscar Wilde said most journalists would fall under the category of those who couldn’t tell the difference between a bicycle accident and the end of civilization. But why is it that all the journalists that you see mostly on MSNBC or most of the progressives, or so-called progressives, who believe that under Bush and Cheney and Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez these were great and grave constitutional crises, the wars were an going moral fiasco’s — but now, since we have a friendly face in the White House, someone with kind of pleasing aesthetics and some new poloicies we like, now all of a sudden these aren’t crimes, there’s no crisis. Because he’s our guy? Go, team, go?

Turley: Some in the media have certainly fallen into this cult of personality.

Cusack: What would you say to those people? I always thought the duty of a citizen, and even more so as a journalist, had greatly to do with the idea that intellectual honesty was much more important than political loyalty. How would you compare Alberto Gonzalez to Eric Holder?

Turley: Oh, Eric Holder is smarter than Gonzalez, but I see no other difference in terms of how they’ve conducted themselves. Both of these men are highly political. Holder was accused of being improperly political during his time in the Clinton administration. When he was up for Attorney General, he had to promise the Senate that he would not repeat some of the mistakes he made in the Clinton administration over things like the pardon scandal, where he was accused of being more politically than legally motivated.
In this town, Holder is viewed as much more of a political than a legal figure, and the same thing with Gonzalez. Bush and Obama both selected Attorney Generals who would do what they wanted them to do, who would enable them by saying that no principles stood in the way of what they wanted to do. More importantly, that there were no principles requiring them to do something they didn’t want to do, like investigate torture.

Cusack: So would you say this assassination issue, or the speech and the clause in the NDAA and this signing statement that was attached, was equivalent to John Yoo’s torture document?

Turley: Oh, I think it’s amazing. It is astonishing the dishonesty that preceded and followed its passage. Before passage, the administration told the public that the president was upset about the lack of an exception for citizens and that he was ready to veto the bill if there was a lack of such an exception. Then, in an unguarded moment, Senator Levin was speaking to another Democratic senator who was objecting to the fact that citizens could be assassinated under this provision, and Levin said, “I don’t know if my colleague is aware that the exception language was removed at the request of the White House.” Many of us just fell out of our chairs. It was a relatively rare moment on the Senate floor, unguarded and unscripted.

Cusack: And finally simple.

Turley: Yes. So we were basically lied to. I think that the administration was really caught unprepared by that rare moment of honesty, and that led ultimately to his pledge not to use the power to assassinate against citizens. But that pledge is meaningless. Having a president say, “I won’t use a power given to me” is the most dangerous of assurances, because a promise is not worth anything.

Cusack: Yeah, I would say it’s the coldest comfort there is.

Turley: Yes. This brings us back to the media and the failure to strip away the rhetoric around these policies. It was certainly easier in the Bush administration, because you had more clown-like figures like Alberto Gonzalez. The problem is that the media has tended to get thinner and thinner in terms of analysis. The best example is that about the use of the term “coerced or enhanced interrogation.” I often stop reporters when they use these terms in questions. I say, “I’m not too sure what you mean, because waterboarding is not enhanced interrogation.” That was a myth put out by the Bush administration. Virtually no one in the field used that term, because courts in the United States and around the world consistently said that waterboarding’s torture. Holder admitted that waterboarding’s torture. Obama admitted that waterboarding is torture. Even members of the Bush administration ultimately admitted that waterboarding’s torture. The Bush Administration pushed this term to get reporters to drop the word torture and it worked. They are still using the term.
Look at the articles and the coverage. They uniformly say “enhanced interrogation.” Why? Because it’s easier. They want to avoid the controversy. Because if they say “torture,” it makes the story much more difficult. If you say, “Today the Senate was looking into a program to torture detainees,” there’s a requirement that you get a little more into the fact that we’re not supposed to be torturing people.

Cusack: So, from a civil liberties perspective, ravens are circling the White House, even though there’s a friendly man in it.

Turley: Yeah.

Cusack: I hate to speak too much to motivation, but why do you think MSNBC and other so-called centrist or left outlets won’t bring up any of these things? These issues were broadcast and reported on nightly when John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzalez and Bush were in office.

Turley: Well, there is no question that some at MSNBC have backed away from these issues, although occasionally you’ll see people talk about —

Cusack: I think that’s being kind, don’t you? More like “abandoned.”

Turley: Yeah. The civil liberties perspective is rarely given more than a passing reference while national security concerns are explored in depth. Fox is viewed as protective of Bush while MSNBC is viewed as protective of Obama. But both presidents are guilty of the same violations. There are relatively few journalists willing to pursue these questions aggressively and objectively, particularly on television. And so the result is that the public is hearing a script written by the government that downplays these principles. They don’t hear the word “torture.”
They hear “enhanced interrogation.” They don’t hear much about the treaties. They don’t hear about the international condemnation of the United States. Most Americans are unaware of how far we have moved away from Nuremberg and core principles of international law.

Cusack: So the surreal Holder speech — how could it be that no one would be reporting on that? How could it be that has gone by with not a bang but a whimper?

Turley: Well, you know, part of it, John, I think, is that this administration is very clever. First of all, they clearly made the decision right after the election to tack heavily to the right on national security issues. We know that by the people they put on the National Security Council. They went and got very hardcore folks — people who are quite unpopular with civil libertarians. Not surprisingly we almost immediately started to hear things like the pledge not to prosecute CIA officials and other Bush policies being continued.
Many reporters buy into these escape clauses that the administration gives them, this is where I think the administration is quite clever. From a legal perspective, the Holder speech should have been exposed as perfect nonsense. If you’re a constitutional scholar, what he was talking about is facially ridiculous, because he was saying that we do have a constitutional process–it’s just self-imposed, and we’re the only ones who can review it. They created a process of their own and then pledged to remain faithful to it.
While that should be a transparent and absurd position, it gave an out for journalists to say, “Well, you know, the administration’s promising that there is a process, it’s just not the court process.” That’s what is so clever, and why the Obama administration has been far more successful than the Bush administration in rolling back core rights. The Bush administration would basically say, “We just vaporized a citizen in a car with a terrorist, and we’re not sorry for it.”

Cusack: Well, yeah, the Bush administration basically said, “We may have committed a crime, but we’re the government, so what the fuck are you going to do about it?” Right? —and the Obama administration is saying, “We’re going to set this all in cement, expand the power of the executive, and pass the buck to the next guy.” Is that it?

Turley: It’s the same type of argument when people used to say when they caught a criminal and hung him from a tree after a perfunctory five-minute trial. In those days, there was an attempt to pretend that they are really not a lynch mob, they were following a legal process of their making and their satisfaction. It’s just… it’s expedited. Well, in some ways, the administration is arguing the same thing. They’re saying, “Yes, we do believe that we can kill any U.S. citizen, but we’re going to talk amongst ourselves about this, and we’re not going to do it until we’re satisfied that this guy is guilty.”

Cusack: Me and the nameless death panel.

Turley: Again, the death panel is ludicrous. The power that they’ve defined derives from the president’s role as Commander in Chief. So this panel —

Cusack: They’re falling back on executive privilege, the same as Nixon and Bush.

Turley: Right, it’s an extension of the president. He could just ignore it. It’s not like they have any power that exceeds his own.

Cusack: So the death panel serves at the pleasure of the king, is what you’re saying.

Turley: Yes, and it gives him cover so that they can claim that they’re doing something legal when they’re doing something extra-legal.

Cusack: Well, illegal, right?

Turley: Right. Outside the law.

Cusack: So when does it get to a point where if you abdicate duty, it is in and of itself a crime? Obama is essentially creating a constitutional crisis not by committing crimes but by abdicating his oath that he swore before God — is that not a crime?

Turley: Well, he is violating international law over things like his promise to protect CIA officials from any prosecution for torture. That’s a direct violation, which makes our country as a whole doubly guilty for alleged war crimes. I know many of the people in the administration. Some of us were quite close. And they’re very smart people. I think that they also realize how far outside the lines they are. That’s the reason they are trying to draft up these policies to give the appearance of the law. It’s like a Potemkin village constructed as a façade for people to pass through —

Cusack: They want to have a legal patina.

Turley: Right, and so they create this Potemkin village using names. You certainly can put the name “due process” on a drone missile, but it’s not delivering due process.

Cusack: Yeah. And what about — well, we haven’t even gotten into the expansion of the privatization movement of the military “contractors” under George Bush or the escalation of drone strikes. I mean, who are they killing? Is it legal? Does anyone care — have we just given up as a country, saying that the Congress can declare war?

Turley: We appear to be in a sort of a free-fall. We have what used to be called an “imperial presidency.”

Cusack: Obama is far more of an imperial president than Bush in many ways, wouldn’t you say?

Turley: Oh, President Obama has created an imperial presidency that would have made Richard Nixon blush. It is unbelievable.

Cusack: And to say these things, most of the liberal community or the progressive community would say, “Turley and Cusack have lost their minds. What do they want? They want Mitt Romney to come in?”

Turley: The question is, “What has all of your relativistic voting and support done for you?” That is, certainly there are many people who believe —

Cusack: Well, some of the people will say the bread-and-butter issues, “I got healthcare coverage, I got expanded healthcare coverage.”

Turley: See, that’s what I find really interesting. When I talk to people who support the administration, they usually agree with me that torture is a war crime and that the administration has blocked the investigation of alleged war crimes.
Then I ask them, “Then, morally, are you comfortable with saying, ‘I know the administration is concealing war crimes, but they’re really good on healthcare?'” That is what it comes down to.
The question for people to struggle with is how we ever hope to regain our moral standing and our high ground unless citizens are prepared to say, “Enough.” And this is really the election where that might actually carry some weight — if people said, “Enough. We’re not going to blindly support the president and be played anymore according to this blue state/red state paradigm. We’re going to reconstruct instead of replicate. It might not even be a reinvented Democratic Party in the end that is a viable option. Civil libertarians are going to stand apart so that people like Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama and others know that there are certain Rubicon issues that you cannot cross, and one of them happens to be civil liberty.

Cusack: Yeah, because most people reading this will sort of say, “Okay, this is all fine and good, but I’ve got to get to work and I’ve got to do this stuff, and I don’t know what these fucking guys are talking about. I don’t really care.”
So let’s paint a scenario. My nephew, Miles, decides that he wants to grow dreadlocks, and he also decides he’s falling in love with the religion of Islam. And he changes his name. Instead of his name being Miles, he changes his name to a Muslim-sounding name.
He goes to Washington, and he goes to the wrong organization or meeting, let’s say, and he goes to an Occupy Washington protest. He’s out there next to someone with a speaker, and a car bomb explodes. He didn’t set it off, and he didn’t do anything. The government can throw him in prison and never try him, right?

Turley: Well, first of all, that’s a very good question.

Cusack: How do we illustrate the danger to normal people of these massive overreaches and radical changes to the Constitution that started under bush and have expanded under Obama?

Turley: I mean, first of all, I know Miles, and —

Cusack: Yes.

Turley: –and he is a little dangerous.

Cusack: Yes.

Turley: I played basketball with him and you and I would describe him as a clear and present danger.

Cusack: I mean, and I know Eric Holder and Obama won’t throw him in prison because they’re nice guys, but let’s say that they’re out of office.

Turley: Right, and the problem is that there is no guarantee. It has become almost Fellini-esque. Holder made the announcement a couple of years ago that they would try some defendants in a federal court while reserving military tribunals for others. The speech started out on the high ground, saying, “We have to believe in our federal courts and our Constitution. We’ve tried terrorists before, and therefore we’re transferring these individuals to federal court.”
Then he said, “But we’re going to transfer these other individuals to Guantanamo Bay.” What was missing was any type of principle. You have Obama doing the same thing that George Bush did — sitting there like Caesar and saying, “You get a real trial and you get a fake trial.” He sent Zacarias Moussaoui to a federal court and then he threw Jose Padilla, who happened to be a U.S. citizen, into the Navy brig and held him without trial.
Yet, Obama and Holder publicly assert that they’re somehow making a civil liberties point, and say, “We’re very proud of the fact that we have the courage to hold these people for a real trial, except for those people. Those people are going to get a tribunal.” And what happened after that was remarkable. If you read the press accounts, the press actually credits the administration with doing the right thing. Most of them pushed into the last paragraph the fact that all they did was split the people on the table, and half got a real trial and half got a fake trial.

Cusack: And don’t you think that’s, I mean, in the same way, if you talk to anybody, the demonization, whether rightful demonization, of Osama Bin Laden, was so intense that people were thrilled that he was assassinated instead of brought to trial and tried. And I thought, if the Nuremberg principles were right, the idea would be that you’d want to take this guy and put him on trial in front of the entire world, and, actually, if you were going to put him to death, you’d put him to death by lethal injection.

Turley: You’ll recall reports came out that the Seals were told to kill Osama, and then reports came out to say that Osama might not have been armed when the Seals came in. The strong indication was that this was a hit.

Cusack: Yeah.

Turley: The accounts suggest that this was an assassination from the beginning to the end, and that was largely brushed over in the media. There was never really any discussion of whether it was appropriate or even a good idea not to capture this guy and to bring him to justice.
The other thing that was not discussed in most newspapers and programs was the fact that we violated international law. Pakistan insisted that they never approved our going into Pakistan. Think about it — if the government of Mexico sent in Mexican special forces into San Diego and captured a Mexican national, or maybe even an American citizen, and then killed him, could you imagine what the outcry would be?

Cusack: Or somebody from a Middle Eastern country who had their kids blown up by Mr. Cheney’s and Bush’s wars came in and decided they were going to take out Cheney–not take him back to try him, but actually just come in and assassinate him.

Turley: Yet we didn’t even have that debate. And I think that goes to your point, John, about where’s the media?

Cusack: But, see, that’s a very tough principle to take, because everybody feels so rightfully loathsome about Bin Laden, right? But principles are not meant to be convenient, right? The Constitution is not meant to be convenient. If they can catch Adolf Eichmann and put him on trial, why not bin Laden? The principles are what separate us from the beasts.
I think the best answer I ever heard about this stuff, besides sitting around a kitchen table with you and your father and my father, was I heard somebody, they asked Mario Cuomo, “You don’t support the death penalty…? Would you for someone who raped your wife?” And Cuomo blinked, and he looked at him, and he said, “What would I do? Well, I’d take a baseball bat and I’d bash his skull in… But I don’t matter. The law is better than me. The law is supposed to be better than me. That’s the whole point.”

Turley: Right. It is one thing if the president argued that there was no opportunity to capture bin Laden because he was in a moving car, for example. And then some people could say, “Well, they took him out because there was no way they could use anything but a missile.” What’s missing in the debate is that it was quickly brushed over whether we had the ability to capture bin Laden.

Cusack: Well, it gets to [the late] Raiders owner Al Davis’ justice, which is basically, “Just win, baby.” And that’s where we are. The Constitution was framed by Al Davis. I never knew that.
And the sad part for me is that all the conversations and these interpretations and these conveniences, if they had followed the Constitution, and if they had been strict in terms of their interpretations, it wouldn’t matter one bit in effectively handling the war on terror or protecting Americans, because there wasn’t anything extra accomplished materially in taking these extra leaps, other than to make it easier for them to play cowboy and not cede national security to the Republicans politically. Bin Laden was basically ineffective. And our overseas intel people were already all over these guys.

It doesn’t really matter. The only thing that’s been hurt here has been us and the Constitution and any moral high ground we used to have. Because Obama and Holder are good guys, it’s okay. But what happens when the not-so-good guys come in, does MSNBC really want to cede and grandfather these powers to Gingrich or Romney or Ryan or Santorum or whomever — and then we’re sitting around looking at each other, like how did this happen? — the same way we look around now and say, “How the hell did the middle of America lose the American dream? How is all of this stuff happening at the same time?” And it gets back to lack of principle.

Turley: I think that’s right. Remember the articles during the torture debate? I kept on getting calls from reporters saying, “Well, you know, the administration has come out with an interesting statement. They said that it appears that they might’ve gotten something positive from torturing these people.” Yet you’ve had other officials say that they got garbage, which is what you often get from torture…

Cusack: So the argument being that if we can get good information, we should torture?

Turley: Exactly. Yeah, that’s what I ask them. I say, “So, first of all, let’s remember, torture is a war crime. So what you’re saying is — ”

Cusack: Well, war crimes… war crimes are effective.

Turley: The thing that amazes me is that you have smart people like reporters who buy so readily into this. I truly believe that they’re earnest when they say this.
Of course you ask them “Well, does that mean that the Nuremberg principles don’t apply as long as you can show some productive use?” We have treaty provisions that expressly rule out justifying torture on the basis that it was used to gain useful information.

Cusack: Look, I mean, enforced slave labor has some productive use. You get great productivity, you get great output from that shit. You’re not measuring the principle against the potential outcome; that’s a bad business model. “Just win, baby” — we’re supposed to be above that.

Turley: But, you know, I’ll give you an example. I had one of the leading investigative journalists email me after one of my columns blasting the administration on the assassin list, and this is someone I deeply respect. He’s one of the true great investigative reporters. He objected to the fact that my column said that under the Obama policy he could kill U.S. citizens not just abroad, but could kill them in the United States. And he said, “You know, I agree with everything in your column except that.” He said, “You know, they’ve never said that they could kill someone in the United States. I think that you are exaggerating.”
Yet, if you look at how they define the power, it is based on the mere perceived practicality and necessity of legal process by the president. They say the President has unilateral power to assassinate a citizen that he believes is a terrorist. Now, is the limiting principle? They argue that they do this “constitutional analysis,” and they only kill a citizen when it’s not practical to arrest the person.

Cusack: Is that with the death panel?

Turley: Well, yeah, he’s talking about the death panel. Yet, he can ignore the death panel. But, more importantly, what does practicality mean? It all comes down to an unchecked presidential power.

Cusack: By the way, the death panel — that room can’t be a fun room to go into, just make the decision on your own. You know, it’s probably a gloomy place, the death panel room, so the argument from the reporter was, “Look, they can… if they kill people in England or Paris that’s okay, but they — ”

Turley: I also don’t understand, why would it make sense that you could kill a U.S. citizen on the streets of London but you might not be able to kill them on the streets of Las Vegas? The question is where the limiting principle comes from or is that just simply one more of these self-imposed rules? And that’s what they really are saying: we have these self-imposed rules that we’re only going to do this when we think we have to.

Cusack: So, if somebody can use the contra-Nuremberg argument — that principle’s now been flipped, that they were only following orders — does that mean that the person that issued the order through Obama, or the President himself, is responsible and can be brought up on a war crime charge?

Turley: Well, under international law, Obama is subject to international law in terms of ordering any defined war crime.

Cusack: Would he have to give his Nobel Peace Prize back?

Turley: I don’t think that thing’s going back. I’ve got to tell you… and given the amount of authority he’s claimed, I don’t know if anyone would have the guts to ask for it back.

Cusack: And the argument people are going to use is,”Look, Obama and Holder are good guys. They’re not going to use this power.” But the point is, what about after them? What about the apparatus? You’ve unleashed the beast. And precedent is everything constitutionally, isn’t it?

Turley: I think that’s right. Basically what they’re arguing is, “We’re angels,” and that’s exactly what Madison warned against. As we discussed, he said if all men were angels you wouldn’t need government. And what the administration is saying is, “We’re angels, so trust us.”
I think that what is really telling is the disconnect between what people say about our country and what our country has become. What we’ve lost under Bush and Obama is clarity. In the “war on terror” what we’ve lost is what we need the most in fighting terrorism: clarity. We need the clarity of being better than the people that we are fighting against. Instead, we’ve given propagandists in Al Qaeda or the Taliban an endless supply of material — allowing them to denounce us as hypocrites.
Soon after 9/11 we started government officials talk about how the U.S. Constitution is making us weaker, how we can’t function by giving people due process. And it was perfectly ridiculous.

Cusack: Feels more grotesque than ridiculous.

Turley: Yeah, all the reports that came out after 9/11 showed that 9/11 could’ve been avoided. For years people argued that we should have locked reinforced cockpit doors. For years people talked about the gaps in security at airports. We had the intelligence services that had the intelligence that they needed to move against this ring, and they didn’t share the information. So we have this long list of failures by U.S. agencies, and the result was that we increased their budget and gave them more unchecked authority.
In the end, we have to be as good as we claim. We can’t just talk a good game. If you look at this country in terms of what we’ve done, we have violated the Nuremberg principles, we have violated international treaties, we have refused to accept–

Cusack: And you’re not just talking about in the Bush administration. You’re talking about —

Turley: The Obama administration.

Cusack: You’re talking about right now.

Turley: We have refused to accept the jurisdictional authority of sovereign countries. We now routinely kill in other countries. It is American exceptionalism – the rules apply to other countries.

Cusack: Well, these drone attacks in Pakistan, are they legal? Does anyone care? Who are we killing? Do they deserve due process?

Turley: When we cross the border, Americans disregard the fact that Pakistan is a sovereign nation, let alone an ally, and they insist that they have not agreed to these operations. They have accused us of repeatedly killing people in their country by violating their sovereign airspace. And we just disregard it. Again, its American exceptionalism, that we —

Cusack: Get out of our way or we’ll pulverize you.

Turley: The rules apply to everyone else. So the treaties against torture and war crimes, sovereign integrity —

Cusack: And this also speaks to the question that nobody even bothers to ask: what exactly are we doing in Afghanistan now? Why are we there?

Turley: Oh, yeah, that’s the real tragedy.

Cusack: It has the highest recorded suicide rate among veterans in history and no one even bothers to state a pretense of a definable mission or goal. It appears we’re there because it’s not convenient for him to really get out before the election. So in that sense he’s another guy who’s letting people die in some shithole for purely political reasons. I mean, it is what it is.

Turley: I’m afraid, it is a political calculation. What I find amazing is that we’re supporting an unbelievably corrupt government in the Karzai administration.

Karzai himself, just two days ago, called Americans “demons.” He previously said that he wished he had gone with the Taliban rather than the Americans. And, more importantly, his government recently announced that women are worth less than men, and he has started to implement these religious edicts that are subjugating women. So he has American women who are protecting his life while he’s on television telling people that women are worth less than men, and we’re funding —

Cusack: What are they, about three-fifths?

Turley: Yeah, he wasn’t very specific on that point. So we’re spending hundreds of billions of dollars. More importantly, we’re losing all these lives because it was simply politically inconvenient to be able to pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Cusack: Yeah. And, I mean, we haven’t even touched on the whole privatization of the military and what that means. What does it mean for the state to be funding at-cost-plus private mercenary armies and private mercenary security forces like Blackwater, or now their names are Xe, or whatever they’ve been rebranded as?

Turley: Well, the United States has barred various international rules because they would allow for the prosecution of war crimes by both military and private forces. The U.S. barred those new rules because we didn’t want the ability of other countries to prosecute our people for war crimes. One of the things I teach in my constitutional class is that there is a need for what’s called a bright-line rule. That is, the value for bright-line rules is that they structure relations between the branches, between the government and citizens. Bright-line rules protect freedom and liberty.

Those people that try to eliminate bright-line rules quickly find themselves on a slippery slope. The Obama administration, with the Bush administration, began by denying rights to people at Guantanamo Bay.
And then they started to deny rights of foreigners who they accused of being terrorists. And eventually, just recently, they started denying rights to citizens and saying that they could kill citizens without any court order or review. It is the fulfillment of what is the nightmare of civil liberties. They crossed that bright line. Now they’re bringing these same abuses to U.S. citizens and changing how we relate to our government. In the end, we have this huge apparatus of the legal system, this huge court system, and all of it has become discretionary because the president can go ahead and kill U.S. citizens if he feels that it’s simply inconvenient or impractical to bring them to justice.

Cusack: Or if the great O, decides that he wants to be lenient and just throw them in jail for the rest of their life without trial, he can do that, right?

Turley: Well, you’ve got Guantanamo Bay if you’re accused of being an enemy combatant. There is the concept in law that the lesser is included in the greater.
So if the president can kill me when I’m in London, then the lesser of that greater is that he could also hold me, presumably, without having any court involvement. It’d be a little bizarre that he could kill me but if he held me he’d have to turn me over to the court system.

Cusack: Yeah. We’re getting into kind of Kafka territory. You know, with Bush I always felt like you were at one of those rides in an amusement park where the floor kept dropping and you kept kind of falling. But I think what Obama’s done is we’ve really hit the bottom as far as civil liberties go.

Turley: Yet people have greeted this erosion of civil liberties with this collective yawn.

Cusack: Yeah, yeah. And so then it gets down to the question, “Well, are you going to vote for Obama?” And I say, “Well, I don’t really know. I couldn’t really vote for Hillary Clinton because of her Iraq War vote.” Because I felt like that was a line, a Rubicon line —

Turley: Right.

Cusack: — a Rubicon line that I couldn’t cross, right? I don’t know how to bring myself to vote for a constitutional law professor, or even a constitutional realist, who throws away due process and claims the authority that the executive branch can assassinate American citizens. I just don’t know if I can bring myself to do it.
If you want to make a protest vote against Romney, go ahead, but I would think we’d be better putting our energies into local and state politics — occupy Wall Street and organizations and movements outside the system, not national politics, not personalities. Not stadium rock politics. Not brands. That’s the only thing I can think of. What would you say?

Turley: Well, the question, I think, that people have got to ask themselves when they get into that booth is not what Obama has become, but what have we become? That is, what’s left of our values if we vote for a person that we believe has shielded war crimes or violated due process or implemented authoritarian powers. It’s not enough to say, “Yeah, he did all those things, but I really like what he did with the National Park System.”

Cusack: Yeah, or that he did a good job with the auto bailout.

Turley: Right. I think that people have to accept that they own this decision, that they can walk away. I realize that this is a tough decision for people but maybe, if enough people walked away, we could finally galvanize people into action to make serious changes. We have to recognize that our political system is fundamentally broken, it’s unresponsive. Only 11 percent of the public supports Congress, and yet nothing is changing — and so the question becomes, how do you jumpstart that system? How do you create an alternative? What we have learned from past elections is that you don’t create an alternative by yielding to this false dichotomy that only reinforces their monopoly on power.

Cusack: I think that even Howard Zinn/Chomsky progressives, would admit that there will be a difference in domestic policy between Obama and a Romney presidency.

But DUE PROCESS….I think about how we own it. We own it. Everybody’s sort of let it slip. There’s no immediacy in the day-to-day on and it’s just one of those things that unless they… when they start pulling kids off the street, like they did in Argentina a few years ago and other places, all of a sudden, it’s like, “How the hell did that happen?” I say, “Look, you’re not helping Obama by enabling him. If you want to help him, hold his feet to the fire.”

Turley: Exactly.

Cusack: The problem is, as I see it, is that regardless of goodwill and intent and people being tired of the status quo and everything else, the information outlets and the powers that be reconstruct or construct the government narrative only as an election game of ‘us versus them,’ Obama versus Romney, and if you do anything that will compromise that equation, you are picking one side versus the other. Because don’t you realize that’s going to hurt Obama? Don’t you know that’s going to help Obama? Don’t you know… and they’re not thinking through their own sort of self-interest or the community’s interest in just changing the way that this whole thing works to the benefit of the majority. We used to have some lines we wouldn’t cross–some people who said this is not what this country does …we don’t do this shit, you had to do the right thing. So it’s going to be a tough process getting our rights back, but you know Frankie’s Law? Whoever stops fighting first – loses.

Turley: Right.



79 Responses to “Obama’s War and Peace”
  1. Mo says:

    I think Ta-Nehisi Coates has the most relevant analysis going:

    It’s long, too. Pour yourself some coffee or tea and get ready to think.

  2. mike from iowa says:

    According to a commercial I got to watch twice today, from some nutjob conservative group.this election is in the bag for Obama. They claim that they know of 24 million illegal and fraudulent voter registrations and Obama will steal this election just like 2008. They want all civic minded individuals to sign a petition to ensure we get voter i.d.s or else the election is over. I know I will sleep better tonight knowing rwnj will be getting their own tactics used against them.

    • mike from iowa says:

      Commercial is from Conservative Majority Fund,shown only on ine Dish Network Channel that is mostly hunting and fishing. Shows Obama Admin. and claims seventy people indicted for trading cigarettes for votes. Not sure how seventy indictments for trading smokes for votes equals 24 mil. fraudulent and illegal voter registrations,but then I’m not privvy to rwnj intelligence. I’m pretty sure rwnj aren’t either.

      • Beaglemom says:

        In Michigan over a million votes were investigated and only three came up as having been cases of “voter fraud” – all by Republicans. The same is true in other states as well. As usual, the Republicans do or say something bad and then blame the Democrats. The only election fraud I know of was by the Republicans in the year 2000 and it resulted in George W. Bush, a multi-armed attack by terrorists in the US, two unpaid-for and illegal wars, and the worst economic mess since the Great Depression (also brought to us by the Republicans). There is no “voter fraud” but there is “election fraud.” Didn’t Alaskans just see that in Anchorage recently?

        This election is too important to waste. My vote will be a straight Democratic ticket and, frankly, I could care less what John Cusack has to say about, well, anything.

  3. Zyxomma says:

    I doubt that many voters here are on the fence. No matter the failings of the Obama administration, the alternative is so much worse. Need more evidence? Check this out:

    • And apparently it’s been in there for the last two or three elections and no one noticed. I don’t know what they think they will accomplish by alienating most women. It still amazes me that there are women who are OK with all that nonsense.

  4. mike from iowa says:

    I would defend anyone that was being pilloried by the right,the way they heap stuff on Obama. That does not mean I would vote for that person and it should not be taken as proof that I like said person. Obama has had a rough go,and he has made some remarkable progress in spite of a hostile bunch of rwnj. At the end of the day,when his term is up-whenever that is-he can walk away from the job older and hopefully wiser. We,the majority of Americans,have to live with Obama’s legacy and we damn well better be sure our voices are heard.

  5. Lacy Lady says:

    I think John Turley missed Bush on that battleship.—–strutting in his flight suit, holding his helmet & how could anyone miss that BIG sign.

    ” 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…”

  6. boodog says:

    So, Mr. Cusack, are you voting for Mitt Romney then?

    • Simple Mind says:

      By failing to use a good editor, Cusack sets up the above response. The issue he raises – whether a President can authorize the killing of an American citizen without due process – is a profoundly important and troubling one. No argument there. This is an issue that should be loudly discussed, debated and resolved. The problem with the article is as it staggers to sort of an ending and Cusack/Turley seem to advocate “walking away” from this election. Regardless of what Cusack wants, this is an “either/or” election. Either Romney or Obama is going to win and lead the nation for the next four years. The election appears to be close. A failure to vote for one gives advantage to the other. As Cusack says – whoever stops fighting first – loses.

    • Forty Watt says:

      Wicked. I like it. 😉

    • Lacy Lady says:

      A vote for Mitt Rommney could mean more war. Early on, I heard him make the remark about building more ships. He sounds like he wants to start a War with Iran. He sounds like he wants to put more money in defense.
      I was against going to War in Iraq and Afganistan in the first place. The Reps used the excuse that we were fighting terriorist. The people that crashed planes in America were Muslins. But Muslins are in our county as well as countries around the world. Not all Muslins are terriorists.
      So did we go to war to fight the Taliban?
      Why has and still does America give billions of dollars to Pakistan? Doesn’t Pakistan shelter the Taliban? Wasn’t it Pakistan that sheltered BenLadin?
      I think we are living in a world of one big puzzle. I also think that we really don’t know what is really going on within our own goverment. We have to trust those that are in power as they can’t devulge things that would jepardize our security.
      I remember the day when our county dropped the atomic bombs on Japan. Who knew we had this secret weapon.——-It meant that our fathers, brothers, uncles & other family members would be coming home soon. Hopefully our men and women in afghanistan will be coming home soon too.
      So—–who will I vote for? Obama is my man!

    • bubbles says:

      so who the heck is John Cusack and why should we care about his feckless commentary about a President who has done a magnificent job on so many levels especially since he has been all but abandoned by so call progressives and the radical left. why does this remind me of the Lisa Murkowski debacle. i am appalled!

      • John Cusack is a very good actor, I’ll give him that. In looking up his bio I found that he had political activists in his upbringing – his mother, I think. That however, does not mean that his view of the President or anything in politics is any more valid than anyone else’s opinions. He’s entitled to his opinion as are we all. But I don’t see why his opinions rate a special post. He doesn’t have the creds for that as far as I’m concerned.

        • boodog says:

          “But I don’t see why his opinions rate a special post.”

          Just being fair, I’m assuming. A counterbalance to all those positive Obama posts here. 😉

          • boodog says:

            Maybe my sarcasm wasn’t too clear- I agree with you, Pat. I don’t know why a post of a rant like this is even on here. I don’t have a problem because he’s an actor, all citizens have opinions. But this is just an angry rant, not what I would have expected from this blog.

            Informative, open-minded writing, showing pros and cons of a candidate would have been more appropriate. But many of the President’s accomplishments have gone without notice here recently. And to post this now? For what purpose? Maybe Shannyn just couldn’t pass up a chance to say “I have had this conversation with John several times.”

          • Irishgirl says:

            Can you point me in the right direction of those positive Obama posts. I seem to have missed them.

  7. mike from iowa says:

    The only conflict I have is whether I can ignore the stench and pull the lever for a Democrat who is the moral equivalent of dumbass dubya,someone I would never vote for,unless I could vote to send him to International War Crimes Court to face justice. Expansion of executive powers is more dangerous to America than the threat of terrorism.

  8. Forty Watt says:

    I don’t have the time nor the inclination to do any more than make a couple of points.

    “Now chaos is the norm and though the chaos is complicated, the answer is still simple.” No it’s not. Cant – in the sense of sanctimonious talk- is simple.

    “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?” I am not so forced. And I have no need to be forced into an ongoing contemplation of the modern warfare, wherein more citizens are killed than members of the military by increasingly sophisticated methods. It is just as highly troubling as it was in the Civil War.

    By the way, can you name a war that was not fought for political and economic reasons?

    Joanthan Turley has said: “Principle is rarely convenient in politics, but it remains the dividing line between true statespersons and mere politicians. When it comes to law and war, everything is not relative. At least not for those defending the rule of law.” (I notice citations are not compulsory).

    You, John, quote Winston Churchill with admiration. May I ask, do you think he was a statesman? Because if you believe for one minute he was not a relativist when it came to law or war, all I can say is you are thinking of the superficially mythical Churchill, in Christopher Hitchens’s phrase, a “totem” of the American establishment. He was a great man, thank God for him, but he never had a principle he didn’t betray.

    Apart from that, it’s a long piece.

  9. Simple Mind says:

    Okay, we get it. Cusack and Turley disagree with the Obama administration’s position, although I’m not sure why they took over 75 paragraphs to say that – repeatedly. I agree that its an important issue and that people should advocate for changes to policies they don’t agree with. However, its the conclusion of the dialogue that confuses me. Cusack says that “the information outlets and the powers that be reconstruct or construct the government narrative only as an election game of ‘us versus them,’ Obama versus Romney…” Ummm… that’s what the election is – Obama vs Romney – unless you decide to sit this one out. Now, if Cusack can’t, as he says, bring himself to vote for Obama or Turley really thinks that enough people will “walk away” from the election, I’d ask if the name Ralph Nader rings any bells. Cusack then closes with a saying to the effect that he who “stops fighting first – loses.” – which is exactly what occurs if he decides not to vote for anyone. If you think that the end of Social Security, Medicare and most environmental and consumer regulation is more acceptable than voting for Obama, then I suppose it is your right as an American to stop fighting.

    • COalmostNative says:

      I agree! The alternative is the United States of Corporations, ruled by a rigid theocracy, enforced by the NRA.

      If we want to change the direction and tone of Wasnhington, then elect Congresspeople who will ask hard questions, listen to each other, act together in the best interests of our country and its citizens. And don’t just blame Obama and his administration; we shouldn’t let the GOP and their moneyed supporters off the hook for all the damage they’ve done- and will do.

    • Beaglemom says:

      I agree. This election is between President Obama and Mitt Romney. There can be no walking away from the ballot box just because you don’t agree with President Obama 100% of the time. Frankly, I am tired of t he so-called “progressives” who have been too full of themselves ever to align with the Democrats really and who are very happy walking away from the ballot box. Remember what they gave us in 2000? And again in 2004? The real “war criminals” are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney – who led this country into war for no reason other than the unrealistic hope of stealing the Mideast’s oil. Not only did they kill countless thousands of people but they also all but bankrupted this country. President Obama has worked ceaselessly bringing the US back from the brink. For that and for much, much more I am proud to state that I am a Democrat and that I will be voting a straight Democratic ticket here in Michigan in November. Anyone who sits out this election because he or she is miffed with President Obama might as well be voting for the Republicans – the ones who gave us war and economic collapse.

  10. PollyinAK says:

    The world is run by the money-changers. Until that changes, nothing can change at it’s core. I will vote for President Obama because he tries to make efforts in the right direction for America as a whole. But, really, no president, will ever be the perfect progressive president until the money-changers are out of the picture. People can “evaluate” all they want, but it will take more than talk and words to make real change. Voting helps, but the world swings to greed and corruption, as it has since the beginning of our “civilized” world.

  11. karen marie says:

    “Obama wants your vote– make him earn it.”

    If you don’t think he has earned your vote yet, it’s too late.

    While I appreciate Mr. Cusak’s thoughtfulness, this is not the time for this conversation. Last year? Sure. Three months out from an election? Not so much.

    At this point your vote should be based on whether you think you’ll be better off with a second term for the Obama administration or with a Romney/Paul administration. If you have a question as to which you consider better/worse, I don’t know what to say except FSM save this country.

  12. bubbles says:

    i don’t who know John CusacK. i don’t care about what John Cusack has to say about anything. i do know i have yet to hear one good word about this brilliant man who occupies the White House with grace and decency from any of the so-called radicals and progressives. this is what the President has done without any help from the likes of John Cusack…who ever the hell he is:

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    A LONG List of President Obama’s Accomplishments! With Citations!
    May 29, 2012
    By Milt Shook

    Republished with permission from

    If you’re one of those folks who thinks President Obama is a “disappointment,” you haven’t been paying attention the last few years. And those of you who try to draw comparisons with the Bush Administration should put away the hallucinogens and have your memory checked. If you were in a coma for the eight Bush Years, I apologize and forgive you. But please join the real world. So far, this president has done most of what he said he would do if elected; imagine what he could have done by now if progressives had supported him and not given him a Congress that doesn’t look at him as if he’s the demon seed.

    Not only is he NOT a “disappointment,” he’s pretty much the opposite. And no, I don’t just say that because he took out Osama bin Laden, helped Libya determine their own destiny for the first time in a while, and because he seems able to handle international incidents without starting a new war. The guy does nearly everything we elect a president to do, and he doesn’t brag about it constantly.

    Is he perfect? No, he’s human. Does he deserve some criticism? I suppose, but I must admit I haven’t seen any complaints that were of based on anything having to do with the real world. One I can’t forgive him for is pulling Janet Napolitano out of Arizona. But the thing is, on balance, he’s mostly stellar. Besides, criticism about certain specific problems is one thing; taking on an overall “Obama sucks” meme not only has the potential to put Willard Romney into power, it’s also a lie. Just because you wanted a president who would give you a glitter-farting unicorn and didn’t quite get that doesn’t mean he’s not doing well at the job we hired him for.

    What follows is a PARTIAL list of Obama’s accomplishments so far. Unlike many such lists, there is a link to a citation supporting every single one.

    Legislative Prowess

    Despite the characterizations of some, Obama’s success rate in winning congressional votes on issues was an unprecedented 96.7% for his first year in office. Though he is often cited as superior to Obama, President Lyndon Johnson’s success rate in 1965 was only 93%.

    Fiscal Responsibility

    Within days after taking office, he signed an Executive Order ordering an audit of government contracts, and combating waste and abuse.

    Created the post of Chief Performance Officer, whose job it is to make operations more efficient to save the federal government money.

    On his first full day, he froze White House salaries.

    He appointed the first Federal Chief Information Officer to oversee federal IT spending.

    He committed to phasing out unnecessary and outdated weapons systems, and also signed the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act to stop waste, fraud and abuse in the defense procurement and contracting system.

    Through an executive order, he created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

    Improving the Economy, Preventing Depression

    He pushed through and signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as “the stimulus package,” despite the fact that not one Republican voted for that bill. In addition, he launched, so that taxpayers could track spending from the Act.

    In his first year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act created and sustained 2.1 million jobs and stimulated the economy 3.5%.

    He completed the massive TARP financial and banking rescue plan, and recovered virtually all of its costs.

    He created the Making Home Affordable home refinancing plan.

    He oversaw the creation of more jobs in 2010 alone than Bush did in eight years.

    He oversaw a bailout of General Motors that saved at least 1.4 million jobs, and put pressure on the company to change its practices, resulting in GM returning to its place as the top car company in the world.

    He also doubled funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership which is designed to improve manufacturing efficiency.

    He signed the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act giving the federal government more tools to investigate and prosecute fraud in every corner of the financial system. It also created a bipartisan Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to investigate the financial fraud that led to the economic meltdown.

    He signed the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act, which was designed to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive credit card practices.

    He increased infrastructure spending after years of neglect.

    He signed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, expanding on the Making Home Affordable Program to help millions of Americans avoid preventable foreclosures. The bill also provided $2.2 billion to help combat homelessness, and to stabilize the housing market.

    Through the Worker, Home Ownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, he and Congressional Democrats provided tax credits to first-time home buyers, which helped the U.S. housing market recovery.

    He initiated a $15 billion plan designed to encourage increased lending to small businesses.

    He created, which allows for online collaboration between small businesses and experts re managing a business. (The program has since merged with

    He played a lead role in getting the G-20 Summit to commit to a $1.1 trillion deal to combat the global financial crisis.

    He took steps to improve minority access to capital.

    He created a $60 billion bank to fund infrastructure improvements such as roads and bridges.

    He implemented an auto industry rescue plan, and saved as many as 1 million jobs. Many are of the opinion that he saved the entire auto industry, and even the economy of the entire Midwest.

    Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he saved at least 300,000 education jobs, such as teachers, principals, librarians, and counselors that would have otherwise been lost.

    He dismantled the Minerals Management Service, thereby moving forward to cut ties between energy companies and the government.

    Provided funding to states and the Department of Homeland Security to save thousands of police and firefighter jobs from being cut during the recession.

    He used recovered TARP money to fund programs at local housing finance agencies in California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Michigan.

    Crafted an Executive order establishing the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability to assist in financial education for all Americans.

    Wall Street Reforms and Consumer Protection

    Ordered 65 executives who took bailout money to cut their own pay until they paid back all bailout money.

    He pushed through and got passed Dodd-Frank, one of the largest and most comprehensive Wall Street reforms since the Great Depression.

    Dodd-Frank also included the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

    He made it so that banks could no longer use YOUR money to invest in high-risk financial instruments that work against their own customers’ interests.

    He supported the concept of allowing stockholders to vote on executive compensation.

    He wholly endorsed and supported the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 that would close offshore tax avoidance loopholes.

    He made a deal with Swiss banks that permits the US government to gain access to the records of criminals and tax evaders.

    He established a Consumer Protection Financial Bureau designed to protect consumers from financial sector excesses.

    He oversaw and then signed the most sweeping food safety legislation since the Great Depression.

    Civil Rights and Anti-Discrimination

    He advocated for and signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which made it a federal crime to assault anyone based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

    He pushed through, signed and demanded the Pentagon enact a repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that forced soldiers to lie to fight for their country, and put our troops at risk by disqualifying many qualified soldiers from helping.

    He appointed Kareem Dale as the first ever Special Assistant to the President for Disability Policy.

    Helped Congress pass and signed the Civil Rights History Act.

    He extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

    He’s appointed more openly gay officials than anyone in history.

    He issued a Presidential Memorandum reaffirming the rights of gay couples to make medical decisions for each other.

    He established a White House Council on Women and Girls

    He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, restoring basic protections against pay discrimination for women and other workers. This was after the GOP blocked the bill in 2007. Only 5 Republican Senators voted for the bill.

    Wrote and signed an Executive Order establishing a White House Council on Women and Girls to ensure that all Cabinet and Cabinet-level agencies evaluate the effect of their policies and programs on women and families.

    He expanded funding for the Violence Against Women Act.

    Under his watch, National Labor Relations Board has issued final rules that require all employers to prominently post employees’ rights where all employees or prospective employees can see it, including websites and intranets, beginning November 2011.

    Fighting Poverty

    He provided a $20 billion increase for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps).

    He signed an Executive Order that established the White House Office of Urban Affairs.

    Improved Foreign Relations and American Status Abroad

    He visited more countries and met with more world leaders than any previous president during his first six months in office.

    As he promised, he gave a speech at a major Islamic forum in Cairo early in his administration.

    He did much to restore America’s reputation around the world as a global leader that does the “right thing” in world affairs, at least according to the rest of the planet.

    He re-established and reinforced our partnership with NATO and other allies on strategic international issues.

    Closed a number of secret detention facilities.

    He improved relations with Middle East countries by appointing special envoys.

    He pushed for military to emphasize development of foreign language skills.

    Offered $400 million to the people living in Gaza, called on both Israel and the Palestinians to stop inciting violence.

    He refused to give Israel the green light to attack Iran over their possible nuclear program.

    He worked to make donations to Haiti tax-deductible in 2009.

    He established a new U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

    Issued Executive Order blocking interference and helping to stabilize Somalia.

    He established new, more reasonable policies in our relations with Cuba, such as allowing Cuban-Americans to visit their families and send money to support them.

    He ordered the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It was Republicans (and a smattering of Democrats) who prevented him from following through.

    Ordered a review of our detention and interrogation policy, and prohibited the use of torture, or what Bush called “enhanced interrogation.” He ordered interrogators to limit their actions to the Army Field manual.

    He ordered all secret detention facilities in Eastern Europe and elsewhere to be closed.

    He released the Bush torture memos.

    On his second day in office, he signed a detailed Executive Order that banned torture, reversed all Bush torture policies, and put the United States in compliance with the Geneva Convention.

    In response to the emerging “Arab Spring,” he created a Rapid Response fund, to assist emerging democracies with foreign aid, debt relief, technical assistance and investment packages in order to show that the United States stands with them.

    Passed the Iran Sanctions Act, to prevent war, and to encourage Iran to give up their nuclear program.

    Ended the Iraq War.

    He authorized and oversaw a secret mission by SEAL Team Six to rescue two hostages held by Somali pirates.

    Better Approach to “Defense”

    Created a comprehensive new strategy for dealing with the international nuclear threat.

    He authorized a $1.4 billion reduction in Star Wars program in 2010.

    He restarted nuclear nonproliferation talks and built up the nuclear inspection infrastructure/protocols to where they had been before Bush.

    He signed and pushed to ratification a new SALT Treaty.

    Negotiated and signed a new START Treaty that will last until at least 2021.

    Through the Defense Authorization Act, he reversed the Bush Administration and committed to no permanent military bases in Iraq.

    He developed the first comprehensive strategy with regard to Afghanistan and Pakistan designed to facilitate the defeat of al Qaeda and the withdrawal of most troops, as well as the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

    He returned our focus to Afghanistan, stabilized the country, and began the process of withdrawing our troops.

    Fulfilled campaign promise and ended our involvement in Iraq, and will complete full troop withdrawal before Christmas 2011.

    He took steps to severely weaken al Qaeda and limited their ability to terrorize the world.

    He negotiated and signed a nuclear nonproliferation treaty with India.

    He took decisive action to use NATO to limit the slaughter of innocents in Libya, so that the Libyan people could topple a despotic government and determine their own fate.

    Treating Soldiers and Veterans with Respect

    He made sure that families of fallen soldiers could be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB, by providing funding for it. He also ended the media blackout on coverage of the return of fallen soldiers.

    He funded Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with an extra $1.4 billion to improve veterans’ services.

    He provided the troops with better body armor.

    Created the Joint Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record program for military personnel, in order to improve the quality of their medical care.

    He put an end to the Bush-era stop-loss policy that kept soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan beyond their enlistment date. (personal note: my son will be in harm’s way for six fewer months with Obama as president, so you know I love this one).

    He supported and signed the Veterans Health Care Budget Reform and Transparency Act, which made more money available to enable better medical care for veterans.

    He ushered through the largest spending increase in 30 years for the Department of Veterans Affairs for improved medical facilities, and to assist states in acquiring or constructing state nursing homes and extended care facilities.

    He created the Green Vet Initiative, which provided special funding to the Labor Department to provide veterans with training in green jobs.

    He oversaw a $4.6 billion expansion of the Veterans Administration budget to pay for more mental health professionals.


    He has repeatedly increased funding for student financial aid, and at the same time cut the banks completely out of the process.

    Completely reformed the student loan program, to make it possible for students to refinance at a lower rate.

    Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , he invested heavily in elementary, secondary and post-secondary education. This includes a major expansion of broadband availability in K-12 schools nationwide , as well as an expansion in school construction.

    Also through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he put $5 billion into early education, including Head Start.

    Signed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, also known as GI Bill 2.0

    He oversaw expansion of the Pell Grants program, to expand opportunity for low-income students to go to college.

    He passed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which provided an extra $12.2 billion in funds.

    Greater Transparency and Better Government

    He signed an order banning gifts from lobbyists to anyone in the Executive Branch.

    He signed an order banning anyone from working in an agency they had lobbied in previous years. He also put strict limits on lobbyists’ access to the White House.

    He held the first-ever first online town hall from the White House, and took questions from the public.

    The Obama White House became the first to stream every White House event, live.

    He established a central portal for Americans to find service opportunities.

    He provided the first voluntary disclosure of the White House Visitors Log in history.

    He crafted an Executive Order on Presidential Records, which restored the 30-day time frame for former presidents to review records, and eliminated the right for the vice president or family members of former presidents to do the reviews. This will provide the public with greater access to historic White House documents, and severely curtails the ability to use executive privilege to shield them.

    He improved aspects of the Freedom of Information Act, and issued new guidelines to make FOIA more open and transparent in the processing of FOIA requests.

    National Safety and Security

    He’s restored federal agencies such as FEMA to the point that they have been able to manage a huge number of natural disasters successfully.

    Authorized Navy SEALS to successfully secure the release of a US captain held by Somali pirates and increased patrols off the Somali coast.

    Has repeatedly beefed up border security

    Ordered and oversaw the Navy SEALS operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

    Science, Technology and Health Care

    He created a Presidential Memorandum to restore scientific integrity in government decision-making.

    Opened up the process for fast-tracking patent approval for green energy projects.

    He eliminated the Bush-era restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. He also provided increased federal support for biomedical and stem cell research.

    Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he committed more federal funding, about $18 billion, to support non-defense science and research labs.

    He signed the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Act, the first comprehensive attempt to improve the lives of Americans living with paralysis.

    He expanded the Nurse-Family Partnership program, which provides home visits by trained registered nurses to low-income expectant mothers and their families, to cover more first-time mothers.

    His EPA reversed research ethics standards which allowed humans to be used as “guinea pigs” in tests of the effects of chemicals, to comply with numerous codes of medical ethics.

    Conducted a cyberspace policy review.

    Provided financial support for private sector space programs.

    He oversaw enhanced earth mapping, to provide valuable data for agricultural, educational, scientific, and government use.

    He ushered through a bill that authorized the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products. As a result, the FDA has Ordered Tobacco Companies to Disclose Cigarette Ingredients and banned sale of cigarettes falsely labeled as “light.”

    Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he provided $500 million for Health Professions Training Programs.

    He also increased funding for community-based prevention programs.

    He oversaw a 50% decrease in cost of prescription drugs for seniors.

    He eliminated the Bush-era practice of forbidding Medicare from negotiating with drug companies on price.

    Two weeks after taking office, he signed the Children’s Health Insurance Re-authorization Act, which increased the number of children covered by health insurance by 4 million.

    He held a quick press conference, and urged Congress to investigate Anthem Blue Cross for raising premiums 39% without explanation. Rep. Waxman responded by launching a probe, and Anthem Blue Cross put the increase on hold for two months.

    Ushered through and signed the Affordable Health Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage to 30 million more people, and ended many common insurance company practices that are often detrimental to those with coverage. He also established

    Through the Affordable Health Care Act, he allowed children to be covered under their parents’ policy until they turned 26.

    Through the Affordable Health Care Act, he provided tax breaks to allow 3.5 million small business to provide health insurance to their employees, and 29 million people will receive tax breaks to help them afford health insurance.

    Through the Affordable Health Care Act, he expanded Medicaid to those making up to 133% of the federal poverty level.

    Through the Affordable Health Care Act, health insurance companies now have to disclose how much of your premium actually goes to pay for patient care.

    Provisions in the Affordable Health Care Act have already resulted in Medicare costs actually declining slightly this fiscal year, for the first time in many years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Last year’s increase was 4%. Compare that to the average 12% annual inflation rate during the previous 40 years.

    Strengthening the Middle Class and Families

    He worked to provide affordable, high-quality child care to working families.

    He cracked down on companies that were previously denying sick pay, vacation and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare tax payments through abuse of the employee classification of independent contractor.

    Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act , he cut taxes for 95% of America’s working families.

    Under Obama, tax rates for average working families are the lowest they’ve been since 1950.

    He extended and fully funded the patch for the Alternative Minimum Tax for 10 years.

    He extended discounted COBRA health coverage for the unemployed from 9 months to 15 months, and he’s extended unemployment benefits several times.

    Environment and Energy

    He fast-tracked regulations to allow states to enact federal fuel efficiency standards that were above federal standards.

    He fast-tracked increased fuel economy standards for vehicles beginning with the 2011 model year. It was the first time such standards had been increased in a decade.

    He oversaw the establishment of an Energy Partnership for the Americas, which creates more markets for American-made biofuels and green energy technologies.

    His EPA reversed a Bush-era decision to allow the largest mountaintop removal project in US history.

    He ordered the Department of Energy to implement more aggressive efficiency standards for common household appliances.

    He ordered energy plants to prepare to produce at least 15% of all energy through renewable resources like wind and solar, by 2021. (As you can see, Republicans are trying hard to kill it.)

    He oversaw the creation of an initiative that converts old factories and manufacturing centers into new clean technology centers.

    Bypassed Republican opposition in Congress and ordered EPA to begin regulating and measuring carbon emissions.

    His EPA ruled that CO2 is a pollutant.

    He doubled federal spending on clean energy research.

    He pushed through a tax credit to help people buy plug-in hybrid cars.

    He created a program to develop renewable energy projects on the waters of our Outer Continental Shelf that will produce electricity from wind, wave, and ocean currents.

    He reengaged in the climate change and greenhouse gas emissions agreements talks, and even proposed one himself. He also addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference, officially reversing the Bush-era stance that climate change was a “hoax.”

    He fully supported the initial phase of the creation of a legally binding treaty to reduce mercury emissions worldwide.

    He required states to provide incentives to utilities to reduce their energy consumption.

    Following Bush’s eight year reign, he reengaged in a number of treaties and agreements designed to protect the Antarctic.

    Created tax write-offs for purchases of hybrid automobiles, and later he and Democrats morphed that program into one that includes electric cars.

    Mandated that federal government fleet purchases be for fuel-efficient American vehicles, and encouraged that federal agencies support experimental, fuel-efficient vehicles.

    He oversaw and pushed through an amendment to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 authorizing advances from Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

    He also actively tried to amend the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to eliminate the liability limits for those companies responsible for large oil spills.

    He initiated Criminal and Civil inquiries into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

    Through his EPA, he asserted federal legal supremacy, and barred Texas from authorizing new refinery permits on its own.

    He strengthened the Endangered Species Act.

    His EPA improved boiler safety standards to improve air quality, and save 6500 lives per year.

    Through the EPA, he took steps to severely limit the use of antibiotics in livestock feed, to increase their efficacy in humans.

    He increased funding for National Parks and Forests by 10%

    He announced greatly improved commercial fuel efficiency standards.

    He announced the development of a huge increase in average fuel economy standards from 27.5mpg to 35.5mpg starting in 2016 and 54.5 starting in 2025

    Other Stuff

    He has expanded trade agreements to include stricter labor and environmental agreements such as NAFTA.

    He oversaw funding of the design of a new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in 2015. He protected the funding during the recent budget negotiations.

    Oversaw and passed increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

    He nominated Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Sotomayor is the first Hispanic Justice in the court’s history, and the women represent only the third and fourth women to serve on the court, out of a total of 112 justices.

    He appointed the most diverse Cabinet in history, including more women than any other incoming president.

    He eliminated federal funding for abstinence-only education, and he rescinded the global gag rule.

    He loosened the rules and allowed the 14 states that legalized medical marijuana to regulate themselves without federal interference.

    His FDA banned the use of antibiotics in livestock production.

    Ushered through and signed national service legislation, increasing funding for national service groups, including triple the size of the Americorps program.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      Dearest Bubs- I am one of the “radical and progressives ” who are pretty unhappy with this President. I will vote for him but I am not happy at all.
      I appreciate the good things he has done but … well I won’t fight with people like you, whom I respect, but I am very, very, very tired of being ignored and shouted down, especially within what is nominally my camp.
      I am very tired.

      • mike from iowa says:

        I wholeheartedly agree with Pi,except for the (yuck!!) liver and onions comment. Whoever the next Potus is will expand executive powers and this is a dangerous trend for Americans and the rest of the world. Bush should not have been allowed to ignore the Constitution and neither should Obama. It is up to us to find solutions amongst ourselves and we can’t do that if we are easily dismissed or basically told to shut up.

      • Simple Mind says:

        I, for one, hope that Alaska Pi and Mike from Iowa never shut up. Not only are their comments interesting, the encouragement of diversity and debate should be one of the great (if sometimes frustrating) strengths of the Democratic Party. The possible ways to defend the country from state-sponsored terrorism is a vital issue that goes to the soul of the nation and what it stands for. Let the debate be loud. Now, that is a related but separate issue from what you do about it if you strongly disagree with the Obama administration’s actions in this arena. I respect the Cusack/Turley view that we should just “walk away”, but I strongly disagree with it. As WC said in another comment (and Cusack appears to agree with), you can only win by being engaged. You may not win soon. You may not win ever. But to quit is to surely lose. In this particular election, a failure to vote for Obama gives another advantage to a pair of particularly odious Republicans who, depending on the day, have stood for the destruction of Social Security, Medicare and the near-destruction of many safety net programs. If they succeed, their actions will result in the deaths of thousands of poor Americans just as surely as if a SEAL team had been sent in. I agree that the targeted execution of anyone without due process is deeply, deeply troubling. I agree that it will be difficult to change President Obama’s mind on this. I know it would be impossible to change President Romney (or Ryan’s) mind on this, and I know that if I “walk away”, nothing changes.

        • Alaska Pi says:

          Simple Mind-
          I have no intention of walking away from voting. I have voted in every municipal, state, and federal election for 40 years save one local one which I finally had to give up on getting to the polls for given my remote living spot, having a flat tire , having a flat spare tire, and no one who would give me a ride . And it still bugs the crap out of me that I couldn’t get there -30 years later.
          Also, I will vote for Mr Obama though being in Alaska means it is merely a symbolic vote given our 3 piddly Electoral College seats means it does not matter who I vote for. It won’t change anything and wouldn’t even were we to go blue or adopt the Congressional District Method to apportion seats per popular vote. My vote in the Presidential election means NO thing. Period.
          Except to me.
          If I walk away it will be from places like here. I am tired.
          I am aware I am a tiny minority even on the left.
          The only stake I have in this particular thread is to urge folks to consider Mr Cusack’s ideas and as the vast majority of the commenting community here is not only uninterested but quite clearly offended by the ideas, I have no place here.

          • Simple Mind says:

            Well, Alaska Pi, if you need to take time off, I’d certainly understand. I disappear regularly from blogland during remote assignments and often feel the better for it. Still, I’d hate to lose your voice, which is always interesting. I don’t know much about your politics and I’m not very good with labels and categories. I just know that it is the minorities that move and change things, although sometimes slowly, even over more than a lifetime. As to Mr. Cusack, I thought his dialogue contained two issues – his opposition to the Obama administration’s actions in the so-called War on Terror and his (Cusack’s) reaction to that, which was a refusal to vote. As to the former, we obviously need to discuss it, but not solely as an “Obama” issue. Look at Eisenhower in Guatemala, Nixon in Chile, Reagan in Nicaragua and several executives in Vietnam. Its a huge, deep and very troubling issue. As to Cusack’s latter point, I think his agreement with Professor Turley that people should “walk away” from this election is at best naive. With all due respect, I have not read any of the comments that seemed offended by a discussion of Cusack’s first point, but many who did not care for his second one. Anyway, I hope you get to feeling better and continue with your many fine and thought-provoking comments.

    • boodog says:

      I think there has been far more written about what he HASN’T done than what he has, Thank you bubbles.

  13. One more thing. Yes, we do have a lot to talk about. One of the things I like about the Democratic party is that there is room for people who don’t all agree. I would hate to see any discussions lead us to being as liberal as the Republicans are conservative. By making sure everyone is on the same page they have boxed themselves into a corner and can’t seem to find a way out. They have also made that box so small that there isn’t room for anyone else to come in and there isn’t any room for growth or movement in their corner.

    As Democrats we are much better off having liberals, centrists, moderates and an occasional conservative (sounds like an oxymoron to me) as part of the our bigger party. Talking is always a good thing but honestly the time to have this idealtic conversation is not in the middle of this particular election.

    • John says:

      There used to be many liberal Republicans, so I don’t see why there can’t be conservative Democrats. The important thing to remember is that the tea parrty Repbulicans aren’t conservative. They are insane, power hungry idiots whose only philosphy is to oppose any government action whatsoever that doesn’t invovle dictating how a uterus may be used. They are the modern day Lyndon La Rouch followers.

      • Well, yes, I completely agree that they are nuts. I’m astounded that they are still around. I thought they were so crazy that they would never really get voted in and if they did, no one would listen to them. Instead they have taken over what used to be the republican party. I don’t get why normal sane experienced politicians are so willing to bow down before these lunatics. But I guess if they don’t have any more courage than that the repubs deserve just what they are getting. We just need to make sure that the crazies get voted out and sent back home and they never get to come out again.

      • Forty Watt says:

        Interestingly, they are not a monolithic group, and like liberals, progressives, lefties radicals and whatever combination of these terms folk like to call themselves cannot be neatly pigeonholed. I doubt large numbers of tea party Republicans are Lyndon LaRouche followers. In 2009 LaRouche advocated a single-payer health care bill, which would be an anathema to most Tea Party adherents. If you just mean there is a lot of crazy out there drinking tea, yes indeed.

        However, at the moment, the folks over at Conservatives for Palin, while identifying with the Tea Party, are horrified at Todd Akin. They find his notion of “legitimate rape” offensive and his belief that women cannot get pregnant through rape wholly ridiculous. In other words, it would impossible to tell who was writing most of the comments, a progressive or a tea party repub.

        Because that particular group loathes the GOP as much as the Dems, they dislike Romney and for the same reasons as many here. The only difference is they will vote for him because, like you and Prof. Turley, they feel President Obama has done great harm to the Constitution.

        Complex old world, isn’t it?

    • beth. says:

      “Talking is always a good thing but honestly the time to have this idealtic conversation is not in the middle of this particular election.”

      Agree with you 100%, there, Pat in Washington.

      It really bothers me that the ‘seed’ of doubt and discontent seems to always be most urgently and boomingly revived at the 11th hour. It’s as if the ‘planters’ have just suddenly come to the realization [of what the ‘seed’ is] or they’ve, basically, been fiddle-pharting around the whole time, and only making the occasional half-hearted attempt to be heard on the ‘seed”/issue, prior to that hour.

      Either way, the ‘newly-awakened’, full-voice-ahead *at the 11th hour*, is, imho, extremely counter-productive and highly destructive to the election process. And yet, for whoknowswhy, it seems to happen every damned time! beth.

      • Alaska Pi says:

        Beth- I love and admire you to pieces but as one who has been largely ignored for the last 3+ years by my party whenever I try/do speak up I have to say this is not an 11th hour appeal. It has been said for quite awhile, by quite a few people and ignored.
        I have to say, yet again, I think I have stayed with the Democratic Party for 40 years to piss off Andrew Jackson’s ghost because it sure hasn’t been to be part of anything which includes me.
        The party is still vaguely aligned with things which matter to me which has to be enough for now because the alternative is so much worse… that’s not saying much is it? Do I have to shut up during election season as well as between elections?

        • beth. says:

          Alaska Pi, you sweetie pie, you… The reason I say it’s “an 11th-hour appeal” is not that you (and mamy folks like you) haven’t tirelessly been sounding the clarion for ages, it’s just that I detect the ‘volume’, if you will, is never LOUD enough for *any one* to hear … *until* we are smack . dab . at . the . end -stages . of . an . election . cycle! I find that terribly frustrating.

          For four years, folks have had the opportunity to ‘talk up’ their thoughts on issues perennially dogging our nation. For four years, folks have had the opportunity to ground-swell the *need* for a particular change, For four years, folks have had the time to ‘give ultimatums’ delineating what is, and is not, expected from any particular individual. Four years!

          And just NOW they decide the ‘deal breaker’ is something they need to LOUDLY toss into the mix? Really? — *as if*, in less than 100 days, every one and their cousin is going to rally around the on-going sticking point, and is going to say, “Whoa — I hate that! Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I hate that candidate X is continuing what all the others who’ve held that position before, have done…I hadn’t noticed that. Yup, that settles it — I’m going to vote for another candidate *even though* I was going to vote for X; shame, really, ’cause I truly do like X’s resume, track record, and vision…” .

          And adding to the absurdity of the notion that the ‘sudden revelation’ is going to affect any *immediate* change, what do you suppose happens to those who’re “undecided”? Sometimes, all they need is that wee little nudge to vote one way or the other. Why, in heaven’s name!, then, does anyone think bringing up the negative about an otherwise pretty darned good candidate, is a good thing?

          Yes, these 11th-hour self-styled Town Criers, frustrate me. Frustrate me Very much. beth.

          • I couldn’t agree with you more, beth.

          • Alaska Pi says:

            beth- the problem with what you are saying here, in this context, this moment, is that Shannyn says she has had this conversation with Mr Cusack many times . If his experience is similar to mine, not much of anyone listened along the way and they won’t listen now. This is not a sudden revelation but there’s always a reason not to listen. Currently, it is the purported necessity to show solidarity in an election cycle or concentrate only on the positive.

            Yet- expansion of executive power is a huge important subject in a nation of laws, not men. Whether we trust this man not to abuse that power or not, what do we do when he is gone? We dealt with a set of questions surrounding executive power during Johnson and Nixon presidencies, esp, the latter, in our lifetimes . We need to continue to do so whether we agree with Mr Cusack’s notion that it is THE bright line from which to make one’s voting decision or not.

            I am most grateful to Mudflats and Shannyn in that an actual forum for these thoughts is provided though the reception has been frigid.
            I would also encourage people to at least go look at this


            and think about it.
            I do have a great respect for Mr Obama on multiple levels and accept that he has made many tough decisions given the reality of a Congress that has failed almost completely to stay on track and do its job but I am not going to ignore major decisions I disagree with.

            As deeply concerned as I am about the latest extension of executive power I have a different bright line than Mr Cusack.
            Filling seats on the Supreme Court.
            My grandchildren will have to live with whoever the next President or 2 appoints.
            No way do I want Mr Romney anywhere near that . No way.
            My personal experience with undecided voters, admittedly non-scientific, is Pfft! on most of them. We end up with spending massive money and appeals to attract them in the last weeks of a campaign and most are about as independent as mistletoe.

            I do get what folks here on this thread are sure of though. No one listened for the last 3+ years and they won’t now. 🙂
            And were I to choose not to vote on a President this time, I’m voting for Romney even though no vote in Alaska really counts in that election.
            Goody. Thanks all.

          • bubbles says:

            it is indeed frustrating.thank you Beth.

          • mike from iowa says:

            Beth,you have a heart of gold,but seriously now,four years ago the only certain apect of the rethuglican candidate for Potus is the fact that he would be extremely wealthy and extremely White.The election season is too damn long as it is,how would it be to have discussed every facet of every known and suspected candidate for four straight years? I have not made a secret of my misgivings about the Potus. We will just have to agree to disagree,no offense.

    • boodog says:

      I agree, Pat.

      • Forty Watt says:

        This is a response to Alaska Pi. It’s not clear where best to put it as I want to start by addressing: “If his experience is similar to mine, not much of anyone listened along the way and they won’t listen now. This is not a sudden revelation but there’s always a reason not to listen.”

        I regret that this is your experience. It must be very frustrating. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by people who discuss these concerns freely, especially the issue of the expansion of Executive Power. Mind you, they haven’t been discussing that subject for the last 3 plus years, more like 50 or so.

        I myself, being an immigrant, only got into the conversation with Nixon. However, I have a clear memory of being in a Constitutional Law class in Scotland during the Kennedy administration and discussing some interview he’d given – I’m guessing 1960 – saying that it was much better to be President than a Senator as the chief executive could change world affairs with a stroke of the pen. Even in high school, we learned about Roosevelt, in effect, seizing the isthmus of Panama from Colombia without congressional approval, together with all the other governments he established in South America.

        In 1973, in order to better understand the country I had chosen I read The Imperial Presidency which Arthur Schlesinger wrote because he felt the US Presidency was out of control and was no longer functioning within Constitutional parameters. Turns out, these darn Presidents have been at it since George Washington decided that the new American Republic would remain neutral in the war between Britain and France and issued a proclamation prohibiting American citizens from helping either country.

        This is by way of saying, for myself, my response to Mr Cusack’s post is not frigid. Neither do I think there are not issues for discussion, concern, protest etc. therein. In fact, endless avenues of discussion might have been opened had Mr Cusack’s thoughts been expressed more clearly.

        In my previous comments I have stressed the complexity of these issues. This was an attempt to be polite – believe it or not. 😉 To spell out what I really meant: Issues such as these require greater contextual knowledge and a depth of thought not best served by what I would characterize as the *OMG this is like shit, dude* approach.

        Alaska Pi, I have a sharp tongue but a warm heart and I’m willing to listen to anything that you have to say. Come visit. 🙂

  14. WC has been having these kinds of arguments with his buddies since undergraduate school. There are two important points here.

    First, in our form of government, you can only order from the menu. There may be a lot of other stuff you’d prefer to eat, but you have to order from the menu. The choices now are either liver and onions or eggplant. WC is no fan of liver and onions, but it’s highly preferable to eggplant. WC will hold his nose and vote for liver and onions.

    Second, until the political pendulum is moved back, President Obama will have to do. Politics is the art of the possible; election of a more left-leaning candidate is impossible. It will happen. But not between now and the first Tuesday in November.

    A few of WC’s buddies back in the late 1960’s thought the situation was so awful that only revolution could change things. They are all dead or went to jail. Some of WC’s other buddies thought a third party was the answer; that cost Al Gore the presidency.


    • Alaska Pi says:

      Amen, WC.
      I will vote liver and onions and be fine with that.
      I do hope I live long enough to see the pendulum swing back some though…
      And I’m getting old so maybe we can get working on it after November, please.

    • COalmostNative says:

      I agree, too. Some of my friends died in the 60s, others fled to Canada- and they are still alienated from family. Do I wish it was better now- of course, but I also blame the Koch brothers, the Republicans who have done nothing but plot against Obama, the cheating hedge fund investors, the climate change-deniers, and religious intolerants for standing in the way of thoughtful discourse and bipartisan action to improve our country, and end wars.

  15. But the bottom line is still who will get your vote in November? I am not as liberal as many here, but more liberal than President Obama has been on some issues. Do I have problems with the war(s)? Absolutely. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t glad that bin Laden is gone and that many in the Taliban are as well. We don’t live in a world by ourselves and we don’t live in a world where we will all ever agree on religion or politics or how to raise our children.

    I don’t agree with his stance on everything or every decision that he has made. He’s not there alone in passing laws – a Congress that is more disfunctional than most disfunctional families could ever think of being is largely responsible for many of Obama’s ideas never having a chance to see the light of day. I trust President Obama and I will have no hesitation in voting for him in November.

    If you are thinking of voting for Romney instead then you really aren’t paying attention. And if you think that some sort of protest vote will make the point that you don’t like either candidate I can tell you from personal experience that that’s the worst thing you can do, just as stupid as not voting at all. I was more of a democrat but wanted to be an independent. So I didn’t vote for Carter for re-election but knew that I couldn’t vote for Reagan. I cast my one vote for the independent, John Anderson, thinking that was a good way to make my point that I didn’t like either major candidate. Well, the point was that I threw away my one vote and so did others and we got landed with Reagan – and Bush, the first, and Bush, the second twice. It might not have made any difference in the outcome, but I really did feel that I had wasted my vote. I won’t ever do that again.

    • Carol says:

      Pat in Washington state, if you were in Washington state and voted for John Anderson instead of Reagan or Carter, perhaps it wasn’t as throwaway as you recall. I was in Oregon and by the time I went to vote, the results were known, no matter who I voted for, it wouldn’t have had impact on the results, so I voted for John Anderson for the same reasons you did. I will absolutely vote Obama this November, but knowing that in Alaska, the overwhelming vote will be for the repugnants.

      • No, I lived in Kansas at the time. I think it was a vote that I threw away. I’m sure the majority of the state went for Reagan. I didn’t have to deal with that whole issue of knowing the outcome of the election before I voted.

        Nice to know I wasn’t the only one who voted for Anderson. I’m not sure what he even stood for – he just wasn’t one of the others. I make sure I’m a better informed voter these days. At least now I know where I agree and disagree with the candidate that gets my vote – couldn’t really say that when I was a lazy voter in 1980. Honestly, I thought Reagan was a joke and didn’t stand a chance of being elected. Hmph, what a mistake that was. That and the two terms for Bush, the second, are the reasons I don’t take any candidate for granted.

        • Well, duh. I don’t know what I was thinking. I DID live in Washington state in 1980. That’s the year we moved here. I guess I was still getting used to living some place other than Kansas and I was more focused on who all these people were on the local and state level that I really hadn’t heard of before. And we had just moved into a new house and had a two year old consuming all my time.

          After I thought about it I do remember thinking that there was something wrong with the race being called on the east coast when it was only 4 or 5 pm here and the polls were still open for another two hours at least. It was just one more lesson in how far we were from the rest of the country. Except for that little issue, I like being removed and up in our little northwest corner.

    • Alaska Pi says:

      While I have and will continue to vote for a Pres/VP combo, I have to say , being from Alaska means my vote means absolutely nothing . No thing, Doodly squat.
      While WC is correct that we have to choose from what is actually on the menu, it is also true that the menu is chosen by others than us here, and that whatever we choose neither adds to nor diminishes the pot in any way which matters.

      We have 3 Electoral College votes – that puts us completely out of the picture for any kind of “pull” our votes might be said to have. All of us- R and D alike. The kind of scenario which would put our 3 votes as the deciding votes for President is not on the horizon

      There is nothing stupid about not voting for the Presidential slot here. We don’t count anyway.
      It is of far more importance to get out and vote when one of the seats on our Congressional delegation is up for election. Every vote counts there, Every time.
      We would be better off here to focus almost entirely on getting rid of Don Young but we won’t.

      • I understand your point, and I don’t think it’s stupid. But Alaska isn’t the only state the has just a few electoral votes. What would happen if people in all those states felt the same and just opted out of the the presidential race voting? The numbers are already skewed to the larger population states but I don’t think we should just willingly give up our voice. Even if your state goes red, it’s still important to have an accurate counting of the popular vote. Maybe someday we will get rid of the electoral college and one vote will really be one vote. We all need to show them that our one vote does matter when we look at the bigger picture.

  16. Zyxomma says:

    Thanks for posting this, Shannyn. This is yet another reason I miss Keith Olbermann. Professor Turley was a frequent guest, and always spelled things out quite clearly. That said, the idea of a rMoney presidency gives me nightmares. Obama as Emperor is quite bad enough; rMoney as Emperor, too much to bear.

  17. pt460 says:

    Thanks for posting this and the reminder that many of us already knew about, but has been too painful to admit.
    How do we fix this? Recall that Congress voted to support and amendments to change it were defeated. See how they voted:

  18. Steve Wehmhoff says:

    I am very sorry that Mr. Cusack did not get his unicorn. maybe if we clap loud enough tinkerbell might live. The problem was not the President it was the House of Representatives. Had Mr. Cusack not been sleeping through his High School civics class he might realize the bigger problem and not thought that the blame resioded at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave but down the street.

  19. John says:

    Thanks for posting. Obama is no liberal. If I had the choice, there are liberals I would prefer to see as our President. There are even centrists who support the constitution that I would rather see as our President. But the choice in November is between Romney, Obama, or a protest vote. I will have no hesitation in voting for President Obama. He is far from perfect, but he is far far far better for our country than Romney.

  20. Alaska Pi says:

    As a non moderate, left, left, lefty I see lots to think about here and plenty to agree with.
    Thanks for posting this Shannyn.
    Dems- we do need to talk about the various differences in POV amongst ourselves.
    Centrism is problematic, deeply problematic and too easily and wrongly confused with “moderate”.
    If we can’t quite get to the issues raised here , can we at least discuss the differences between Centrism and liberal? The sky won’t fall if we do.

  21. I feel that Mr. Cusack is correct in his evaluation. It seems like, even though the players may change from time to time, the song and dance remain the same. Just a thought.

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