Single funniest blog post I ever read

A right-wing commentator denounces unlimited presidential power as "un-American" because "America exists precisely because of our desire to rein in government and make it accountable to the people."


Glenn Greenwald
September 23, 2008 12:16AM (UTC)

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

I wrote earlier today about the sudden right-wing resistance to vast executive authority that has emerged in opposition to the Paulson plan, but still, this post from Ed Morrissey at Michelle Malkin's Hot Air -- full-fledged advocates of every last expansion of unfettered executive power over the last eight years -- is just so exquisite, so perfectly constructed, so unbearably hilarious, that it really expands the definition of "self-satire" and demanded its own featured space:

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The crux of the [Right's] skepticism over the plan comes from an absurd protocol at the heart of it. It makes Henry Paulson a de facto financial czar, in charge of potentially a trillion dollars in taxpayer money with no accountability whatsoever for his actions. Here's the relevant proviso in the legislation:
"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

We don't allow this kind of free agency from elected officials, let alone political appointees. Not even in his role of Commander-in-Chief does a President have a mandate that is completely unreviewable. Henry Paulson may or may not be the most brilliant thinker in high finance, but even if he was, why would Americans want to give him literally a carte blanche with the equivalent of one-third of our annual budget? With no review possible?

It's absurd, and at its heart, it's un-American, in the sense that America exists precisely because of our desire to rein in government and make it accountable to the people. We gave up on the monarchy in 1776. We certainly didn't do that to trade in King George for Czar Henry. Only in a panic, in which Congressional leadership abdicates its role to keep executive power in check, would any American Congress agree to surrender its Constitutional mandate for oversight. And that panic may be taking place now.

How is it humanly possible for that to be written without the author recognizing that everything he claims to oppose is what he's spent the last eight years endorsing? Even given the well-established authoritarian capacity to simultaneously embrace two precisely antithetical thoughts, wouldn't a minimally functioning human brain -- the kind necessary just to do things like turn on a computer -- alert someone to the fact that the ideas they are vehemently criticizing are the ones that have animated everything they've said and done for the last eight years? How does a human brain evade that recognition?

In the areas of national security and war -- so broadly defined as to include almost everything the President does both abroad and on U.S. soil -- the central theory of the Bush presidency has been, as John Yoo put it: "These decisions, under our Constitution, are for the President alone to make." The Bush administration's central strategy has been repeatedly to tell courts that they have no right to review the Leader's decisions. The Military Commissions Act, the Protect America Act, the FISA Amendments Act, the Detainee Treatment Act, and the Patriot Act all provide, to one degree or another, the exact same absolute executive discretion and prohibition on judicial review that the Paulson Plan provides, and in doing so, allows the President to decide which individuals -- including Americans -- are spied on, arrested, detained, rendered, and subjected to all sorts of interrogation methods without any review at all. The administration repeatedly told Congress and courts that what they did -- in general -- was far too secret to allow any oversight or review of any kind.

The same people who cheered all of that on are now parading around proclaiming that "that America exists precisely because of our desire to rein in government and make it accountable to the people" and "only in a panic, in which Congressional leadership abdicates its role to keep executive power in check, would any American Congress agree to surrender its Constitutional mandate for oversight" and invoking the tyrannical specter of Britain's King George, who didn't even possess some of the powers that they insisted on vesting in their own contemporaneous King George.

Digby has an important post here describing some of the political motivations behind the Right's sudden re-discovery of small government principles in the context of this bailout (it's basically the cynical strategy Newt Gingrich has been advocating for more than a year) . While some of the Right's leading lights are undoubtedly conscious of those cynical political calculations, many of them -- and I'd bet anything Morrissey is included in this group -- actually believe what they're saying about how outrageous unlimited executive power and a lack of oversight are and don't realize how any of that fits in with everything they've been doing this decade. If there's an Obama presidency, they're going to start righteously spouting limited government "principles" without realizing any of this, either. It's sometimes quite jarring -- and, in a really dark and perverse way, incomparably hilarious -- to see what the human mind is capable of doing.

UPDATE: In comments, Jim White writes:

Joke number two

Q: What is a liberal?

A: A conservative who has been ripped off by Wall Street.

Liberals who become post-mugging conservatives at least generally recognize their transformation. These authoritarian followers on the Right actually perceive themselves as champions of limited government power and oversight and checks and balances and the like and think that they've always been that.

UPDATE II: A new CNN poll finds "that by a 2-to-1 margin, Americans blame Republicans over Democrats for the financial crisis." Democrats have been nothing resembling an "opposition party" in any meaningful sense, but it is still the case that the GOP has run the country for the last eight years. The GOP has had its way on virtually everything. Even the lowest-information voter realizes that -- that is, after all, why Democrats are (justifiably) perceived as being so "weak" -- and it will therefore be very difficult to convince voters that any of the grave crises facing the country are not the "fault" of Republicans.

UPDATE: Ian Welsh has had superb commentary on the financial crisis over the last week and today expresses substantial enthusiasm over the draft bill circulated by Chris Dodd, which contains numerous oversight provisions and other substantive limitations and protections absent from the Paulson plan. But as Welsh suggests, Democrats frequently offer better alternatives to the one Bush is demanding only to then capitulate at the end; it remains to be seen what will happen here (and read John Cole's wise observations about the excitement over Dodd's improved plan).


Glenn Greenwald

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