Candidates Vow Not To Use Signing Statements To Ignore Law

George Bush has used signing statements as a means to disobey laws and expand the powers of executive branch. Earlier this year Ron Paul stated that if elected he would not use signing statements and has written about how they erode the Constitutional balance of power between the executive and legislative branches. Chris Dodd has called signing statements “antithetical to our Constitution.” Two additional candidates have made similar pledges this week. John McCain denounced the use of signing statements while campaigning in Nashua, vowing not to use them if elected. McCain’s concern over the abuse of signing statements likely stems from Bush’s use of signing statements following the passage of anti-torture legislation he sponsored. Bill Richardson quickly responded to McCain’s pledge stating, “I will eliminate them.” Will there be a show of hands on this issue at the next debates?

Why Does Karl Rove Work For Newsweek?

Because Time didn’t want him:

Time thought this wouldn’t be like hiring George Stephanopoulos,” my source explained. “They think Karl is essentially like an unindicted coconspirator in a whole string of felonies.”

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Paul (Somewhat) Responds To Critics on Racism

Via Q and O I find that Ron Paul’s campaign has found it necessary to make an “I am not a racist” statement. The need for him to do so is a sign that that there have been problems. Q and O makes several good points, and this statement will certainly not satisfy those of us who have had qualms about Paul’s campaign.

One problem is that Paul’s statement misses the point. The issue isn’t primarily whether Paul is a racist but that he uses too man code words of the extremist right and winks too much in their direction for the comfort of many observers of the campaign. Serious candidates for political office would make sure that they are not associated with the groups which Paul is associated with. The nearest example we have had to this was Pat Buchanan’s campaign. As I’ve noted in the past, friends of Buchanan swear that Pat Buchanan is not an anti-Semite. Not knowing Buchanan personally I cannot say what he thinks. However I often heard Buchanan use language which appealed to anti-Semites and therefore his campaign was unacceptable regardless of his personal beliefs.

Paul’s response both is unsatisfactory in response to his racist supporters and also reinforces the view that he is a simplistic thinker. Paul’s philosophy rests on the ideas of freedom (as he defines freedom) and transferring authority from the federal to the state level. Even if one agrees with his ideas here one hundred percent, these principles are not the answer for ever question. Too many libertarians fall into the similar trap of blaming government for absolutely everything bad and have no thoughts beyond that. Q and O argues that liberty, for all its virtues, is not the cure for racism as Paul argues:

I don’t think think liberty is an antidote to anything other than oppression. In a truly free society, in fact, each individual is free to think whatever he wishes about other racial groups, and decline to associate with them, do business with them, or serve them as customers.

What a person cannot do in a free society, is to coerce another person, or violate that person’s rights. That is an entirely different thing from eliminating racism.

Liberty, in fact, is utterly silent on racism, except to the extent that the government of a free society may not in any way engage in it. Individual citizens are as free as they like to do so. Liberty is a mechanism that provides the elimination of coercion, not the inculcation of virtue…

But one cannot ignore the fact that government action has, by and large, reduced overt discrimination in the last two generations. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 essentially destroyed—completely and permanently—the Jim Crow laws of the South. Yet, any acknowledgment of this is sadly lacking in Mr. Paul’s statement. Yes, government at the state level created Jim Crow. But government at the federal level eliminated it.

Mr. Paul seems to be making the old argument that “government is the problem”. And all to often that argument is true. But, again, all to often, the problem is people themselves. And government, whatever its virtues or vices, does not solve the problems that arise from human nature. Neither, for that matter, does liberty. To argue otherwise is to argue for the perfection of man through political means. And that, my friends, is the very basis of collectivism.

David Bernstein presents a similar argument:

In short, at best this statement reveals a naive faith in the idea that government is the root of all problems, as in the old joke, “How many libertarians does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, the market will take care of it!” Don’t like racism? Reduce the federal government and it will go away!

At worst, by completely ignoring the historical role of racism in American society, and the diminished but not insubstantial role racism by whites continues to play in our society, and focusing criticism only on advocates of “diversity,” (even, apparently, when they advocate only voluntary, non-governmental action to achieve diversity), the Paul campaign is appealing to the Pat Buchanan (and beyond) wing of the “Old Right”, while trying to preserve some plausible deniability on race to its more tolerant libertarian constituency.

That’s not to say that personally Paul isn’t really against racism; in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I assume that he is. Rather, the point is that his campaign seems to be taking the same unfortunate position that Goldwater did in 1964; condemning racism in general on principled libertarian grounds, but providing winks and nods that support from racists for racist reasons would be welcome.

Damozel at Buck Naked Politics provides both an example of the libertarian influences on many liberals as well as making an argument for the role of government in opposing the institutionalized racism of the states:

I am 50 years old and back in my teens I read Ayn Rand and even went through a little Libertarian phase of my own; but then, you see, I grew up. More to the purpose I grew up in South Carolina during the days of Jim Crow. There is nothing, nothing, nothing that either you or Ron Paul is ever going to say to change what I remember or what I saw. I remember the free and glorious days before court-ordered busing and the Voting Rights Act and I was raised by African American women. I know exactly what institutionalized racism looks like both from the point of view of its victims (as a witness and through the empathy that children have for people they love) and from that of the (against my will and through no fault of my own) oppressors. I know for a fact that the only way you can get rid of it is through institutional—i.e., governmental—action.

While strict libertarians will object, action at the federal level has sometimes been necessary to prevent violations of rights at the state level. Paul’s view of having virtually all decisions be at the state level, as well as his view ignoring the extension of Constitutional liberties to the states under the 14th Amendment, sets up an idea situation for those who wish to return to the days of Jim Crow. As I’ve argued previously, Paul’s views would not necessarily bring about more freedom and there is considerable risk that the result would be less freedom.

The major failing of Paul’s statement is that not only does it fail to reassure those who have doubts about him but that it also gives no reason for organizations such as Stormfront to alter their support of Paul. Some of Paul’s supporters argue that Paul should not discourage such organizations or attempt to distance himself from them as any votes are beneficial. This fails to consider the two reasons to seek votes. If Paul’s campaign is truly a protest campaign based upon principles as most observers believe, then this goal is sabotaged when the principles are obscured by connections to racism. If the goal is to get every vote possible in the hopes of actually winning, connections to racist and extremist groups places a low ceiling on the potential vote. Playing the race card has helped the Republicans since the 1960’s and might also bring in some votes for Paul. However, there aren’t even enough such voters to guarantee even mainstream Republicans victory any more. There certainly are not enough right wing extremist voters who will vote for an opponent of both the war in Iraq and the war on drugs such as Paul.

Responses To McClellan’s Implication of Bush, Cheney, and Rove

There have been a couple notable responses to the reports yesterday on Scott McClellan’s book implicating Bush, Cheney, and Rove in the Plame scandal. Valerie Plame is outraged:

Santa Fe, New Mexico–I am outraged to learn that former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan confirms that he was sent out to lie to the press corps and the American public about two senior White House officials, Karl Rove and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby who deliberately and recklessly revealed my identity as a covert CIA operations officer. Even more shocking, McClellan confirms that not only Karl Rove and Scooter Libby told him to lie but Vice President Cheney, Presidential Chief of Staff Andrew Card, and President Bush also ordered McClellan to issue his misleading statement. Unfortunately, President Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s felony sentence has short-circuited justice.

Vice President Cheney in particular knew that Scooter Libby was involved because he had ordered and directed his actions. McClellan’s revelations provide important support for our civil suit against those who violated our national security and maliciously destroyed my career.

Chris Dodd has called for an investigation by the Justice Department.

“Today’s revelations by Mr. McClellan are very disturbing and raise several important questions that need to be answered. If in fact the President of the United of States knowingly instructed his chief spokesman to mislead the American people, there can be no more fundamental betrayal of the public trust.

“During his confirmation process, Attorney General Mukasey said he would act independently. Accordingly, today, I call on the Attorney General to live up to his word and launch an immediate investigation to determine the facts of this case, the extent of any cover up and determine what the President knew and when he knew it.”

This might be the first test to see if Mukasey will restore the independence of the Justice Department or continue the politicalization seen under Bush and Gonzales.

Kerry Responds to Pickens Failure To Honor Challenge on Swift Boat Liars

Last week John Kerry accepted a $1 million challenge from T. Boone Pickens to disprove any claim made by the Swift Boat Liars. Pickens quickly reneged on the challenge. John Kerry has responded with the following letter:

Dear Mr. Pickens,

Thank you for your response to my acceptance of your challenge.

I’m grateful that you are prepared to make good on your word and fulfill the offer you made publicly at the American Spectator Dinner in Washington, D.C. on November 6th.

I must remind you, however, that this was and is your “challenge,” not mine. You are, after all, the one who said explicitly at the dinner — in a way that was calculated to challenge any naysayer — that you would give one million dollars “to anyone who could show that anything the SBVT said was false.” (RedState.Com) These were your words — and nowhere did you ever suggest, as you are now trying to, that your challenge referred specifically and exclusively to any advertising by the SBVT.

As you know, the lies of the SBVT were not confined just to their ads; they were a constant barrage of television, radio, Internet, speeches, and forums in which — significantly bankrolled by you — they launched and repeated lie after lie. Your challenge expressly stood behind all of their allegations.

It is disturbing that in reaffirming the challenge you issued, your parsing and backtracking seems eerily reminiscent of the entire approach of the SBVT — say one thing, put out an allegation, then duck and weave, hedge and bob when your words catch up with you. I want to believe that this was not your intent because I am told that you are a man of your word, not “all hat and no cattle.”

Honor and duty, which you purport to defend, demand that you not selectively back away from your original challenge. Your offer clearly said — boldly, unequivocally — to an audience of your friends and supporters — that you would give “a million dollars to anyone who could prove wrong anything the Swiftboat Veterans charged about Kerry.” ( In my letter, that is the offer which I accepted.

I was interested to read in your response that you don’t want to see the SBVT “maligned,” and that you aim “to prevent this important part of American history from being unfairly portrayed.” I accepted your offer precisely because I want to prevent the honorable records of the courageous men who served with me from being maligned by the repeated lies of this organization. I want to see the word “Swiftboat” restored to its original meaning — synonymous with honorable service to country, not political lies aimed to distort and divide. I would hope that your interests should also be in protecting the record of all those who served our country.

As I’ve said to you before, I am prepared to prove the lie and marshal all the evidence, the question is whether you are prepared to fulfill your obligation — no variations, no back pedaling, no retreat, no new bets, no changing the subject.

The only thing remaining now is to set the date for our meeting in an appropriate forum, after which I look forward to you keeping your word and writing a check for one million dollars payable to the Paralyzed Veterans of America so that we can put your money to good work for veterans who have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan.


John F. Kerry
United States Senator