Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Two Most Disturbing Exchanges from the WH Press Conference

First of all, I want to say that whoever runs Transcript Editors at DK does a great service.

Second of all, I wanted to highlight two exchanges from the Syria discussion at the White House press conference today that I found to be particularly disturbing.

Here, we have a reporter quoting Obama's 2007 self regarding the War Powers Act and how the president needs to seek congressional authorization for war. Jay Carney lies and hedges before he ultimately makes the bold and comically untrue statement that the use of chemical weapons in Syria is an imminent threat to the United States. We already know that the administration has redefined such language to the point of emptiness. This is just another example of such language games and an insight into a distinctly imperialistic worldview.

Last I checked, Syria was not planning to attack the U.S. homeland. Only then can one be justified in speaking of an "imminent threat." We haven't faced an attack from a foreign military since World War II and haven't faced a sustained attack from a foreign military since the War of 1812.

Q In 2007, the Boston Globe asked candidates running for president to answer a series of written questions, and one was in the context of Iran: Does the President have the constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use of force authorization from Congress? Candidate Obama said, "The President does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." Does the President still agree with that?

MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. But you're also trying to get me to engage in a discussion about a decision that has --

Q But it's not a hypothetical anymore.

MR. CARNEY: It is a hypothetical, Ed.

Q You have to admit the military option has been on the table for a year, a year and a half.


Q Now it's not about hypotheticals. We are maybe within days, if not hours, of the President making a decision, correct?

MR. CARNEY: It is correct that the President is working with his national security team reviewing the options available to him to respond to the clear violation of an international norm by the Syrian regime with the use of, on a significant scale, chemical weapons against innocent civilians. As I made clear, it is clearly in the United States' national security interests that that norm be maintained because the consequences of that standard dissolving are enormous and very detrimental to the interest of the United States and very detrimental to the international community, to our allies and partners in the region, and to the world at large.

Q But you're saying that's the standard today. But I'm saying the standard in 2007 to candidate Obama was an actual or imminent threat to the nation. Do you believe that exists right now, an actual imminent threat to the United States?

MR. CARNEY: I believe that absolutely allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present a significant challenge to or threat to the United States' national security interests.

Q Not just to our allies in the region, but to the United States?

MR. CARNEY: Correct.
And, in the other disturbing passage, Carney, in essence, says that the U.S. is not a representative government, that the legislature has no power here, that Britain is more democratic than we are.

Q And then finally, British Prime Minister David Cameron is recalling Parliament this week. There’s going to be a motion put forward on Thursday, a vote on authorizing the British response. Is it fair to say that President Obama is not going to recall Congress to seek some type of similar measure before proceeding?

MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, I don’t want to engage in speculation about a course of action that has not been decided upon. When the President has an announcement to make, he’ll make it. As this process is undertaken, we are consulting directly with House and Senate leaders in Congress. We are consulting directly with the leadership of the relevant committees as well as with other members of Congress who have a keen interest in this matter. I think you’ve seen that documented by some members who have spoken to it. And that process will continue. We think it’s very important that the consultation process take place in a matter like this of such gravity.

We are also, as we’ve made clear, engaging with our international partners. There’s a substantial list of communications that the Secretary of State has had. The President himself, as we’ve read out to you, has had consultations with Canadian Prime Minister Harper today, and in recent days with British Prime Minister Cameron, French President Hollande, and Australian Prime Minister Rudd. And I would anticipate that the President will continue to make calls to his counterparts throughout the week.

When it comes to processes -- I think which goes to your question -- I’m not going to -- it presupposes a course of action that hasn’t been decided upon.

Q But that fact that Cameron is in a position to recall his Parliament, says he’s going to put forward a motion on Thursday, seems to suggest that there is something that's been decided.

MR. CARNEY: Well, let me just make a broad statement. Obviously, this is a different country with a different form of government. There is --

Happy 10th anniversary, Iraq War! Our Nobel Peace Prize winner president might be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by starting an aggressive war, something pacifist (and fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner) Martin Luther King Jr. would have vigorously opposed. Although, considering that reports indicate that the strike will happen on Thursday, Obama will be polite enough to wait until after he delivers his MOW speech before engaging in acts of aggressive war--you know, to reduce the dissonance a tad.

Note: And, as a quick but important aside, the money that the government is considering spending on military strikes could be, you know, spent on helping the one million child refugees that have fled Syria and need food, education, etc., lest they become a "lost generation" as the UN has said because of the lack of funds for the relief efforts. 

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