Patterico's Pontifications


Protocol 101: Honoring America’s Symbols

Filed under: Obama — DRJ @ 8:52 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

President Obama’s recent difficulty with bowing reminds me of another of his protocol problems — honoring our flag and National Anthem:

  • Obama during the National Anthem at Tom Harkin’s Iowa steak fry during the Democratic primary campaign.
    (Video here.)
  • Obama as the American flag passes during a Memorial Day 2009 appearance at Arlington National Cemetery.
    (Speech here.) ** BUT SEE THE UPDATE BELOW **
  • The White House U.S. Department of State, Office of the Chief of Protocol, has its work cut out for it.

    — DRJ

    UPDATE: From steve in the comments, the Memorial Day photo linked above of President Obama is apparently from his entry as the band played “Hail to the Chief.” Here’s another photo and video from the event. My thanks to steve and my apologies to the President, the Protocol Officer, and to the readers here. — DRJ

    Protocol 101: Presidents Don’t Bow

    Filed under: International,Obama — DRJ @ 5:32 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    As noted yesterday, President Barack Obama bowed when he met Emperor Akihito in Japan. His Administration quickly announced he was only following protocol.

    Via Hot Air, the College Republicans of the University of Connecticut blasted that as a myth with this composite of dozens of world leaders shaking hands with — but not bowing — to Emperor Akihito:

    Maybe someone needs a new protocol officer because the old one is about to get the blame. (Either that or dozens of world leaders need new protocol officers.) But the reality is this was probably all Obama’s doing because — according to the New York Times, which weighed in 15 years ago when Bill Clinton suffered from his own bowing scandal involving the Emperor of Japan — protocol officers have been telling American Presidents not to bow to anyone for over 200 years:

    “Guests invited to a white-tie state dinner at the White House (a Clinton Administration first) were instructed to address the Emperor [Akihito of Japan] as “Your Majesty,” not “Your Highness” or, worse, “King.” And in what one Administration aide called “some emperor thing,” an Army general was cautioned that he should not address the Emperor Akihito at all as he escorted him to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

    But the “thou need not bow” commandment from the State Department’s protocol office maintained a constancy of more than 200 years. Administration officials scurried to insist that the eager-to-please President had not really done the unthinkable.

    “It was not a bow-bow, if you know what I mean,” said Ambassador Molly Raiser, the chief of protocol.

    White House officials described Mr. Clinton’s tilt as something of an improvisation. Because Emperor Akihito broke with tradition in turn to raise his glass at the state dinner, some even said Mr. Clinton had managed something of a breakthrough.

    “Presidents don’t bow, and Emperors don’t toast,” one official said. “So this was a little bit like the cultures meeting each other halfway.”

    Emperor Akihito must think Americans are strange but at least the Obama Administration didn’t say “It’s not a bow-bow.”

    Plus, there’s an added bonus from Hot Air: “Japan expert to ABC: Yes, Obama’s bow made him look like an idiot.”

    — DRJ

    Obama in May 2009: Al Qaeda Terrorists Are “Prisoners of War”

    Filed under: General,Obama,Terrorism — Patterico @ 2:14 pm

    The sub-head to this post: “Glenn Greenwald is right on this one.” If that doesn’t keep you reading, what will?

    I recently posed a question that has been on many Americans’ minds since Barack Obama announced that KSM would be tried in federal court: “If Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Is Acquitted, President Obama, Will You Release Him?”

    As I noted, Obama cannot and will not answer this question. Obama must either concede that he will release KSM if he is acquitted, which is political suicide — or concede that KSM’s trial will be a show trial, where the outcome is either predetermined, or does not matter.

    Allahpundit has been arguing that the Grand Gesture of granting KSM a trial in federal court is undermined by the naked reality that Obama won’t release KSM regardless of the outcome. In support of his contention, Allahpundit unearthed this prepared statement Barack Obama made in May, which makes for interesting reading in light of the announcement that KSM will be tried in federal court:

    Now, let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people.

    Perhaps even more interesting is his description of what he would do with people who can’t be tried, but are still dangerous:

    [W]hen this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who’ve received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, or commanded Taliban troops in battle, or expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

    Let me repeat: I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture — like other prisoners of war — must be prevented from attacking us again.

    If they’re “prisoners of war” then why would we try them in civilian courts, Mr. Obama?

    To be sure, Obama goes on to mouth generalized platitudes about how this must be done legally, in conjunction with the other branches of government, etc. etc. But what he does not confront, because politically he cannot, is the question posed at the head of this post: what if you can’t continue to hold KSM legally? Will you still hold him?

    Back in May, when Obama made these remarks, Karl discussed some contemporaneous articles that provided some insight into how the Obama administration was handling this issue. A New York Times article said that Obama was musing about “a ‘preventive detention’ system that would establish a legal basis for the United States to incarcerate terrorism suspects who are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried.” A New Yorker article said the Obama administration was “weighing” the idea of a national security court that could “order certain suspects to be held without a trial.”

    The latter article quoted Neal Katyal, who is now Obama’s Principal Deputy Solicitor General, favoring the “national security court” as an option even for defendants acquitted in federal court. As Katyal explained the idea in this article (written before Obama’s election):

    Now, what is needed is a serious plan to prosecute everyone we can in regular courts, and a separate system to deal with the very small handful of cases in which patently dangerous people cannot be tried.

    That’s where a national security court could come in. A system staffed by federal judges, with experienced counsel on both sides, in which the government would have an ability to temporarily detain a dangerous individual. It might be limited to those situations when a criminal trial has failed.

    Ah. So you try the terrorist, and if he’s acquitted, you go to a different court to keep him in custody. (“Temporarily,” of course. And what is meant by “temporarily”? Until the war on terror is over? Until the patently dangerous person no longer wishes to kill every American he sees? How long would Obama’s national security courts hold an acquitted person after the criminal trial has failed?) The rationale for the separate system of justice: we might not win in the existing system.

    That’s a show trial. For all his faults (and they are many), Glenn Greenwald is exactly right about this. He notes that Obama and Holder are determining what sort of process detainees get, not based on what is legally required, but rather based on whether the government can win:

    A system of justice which accords you varying levels of due process based on the certainty that you’ll get just enough to be convicted isn’t a justice system at all. It’s a rigged game of show trials.

    Greenwald starts from this valid premise and reaches bad conclusions, in which he seems to want to grant a full criminal trial to every prisoner of war caught on the battlefield. But he and I agree that a fair proceeding requires basic rights, such as notice of the charges and evidence, a right to be present, a right to counsel, and a right to respond to evidence. I have many times expressed concerns about holding detainees based on secret evidence, or rigging the process to ensure convictions.

    If the government is choosing the forum and mode of your trial based on where it thinks it can win, it is rigging the outcome. If the government is unwilling to accept a bad outcome to your trial, your trial is a show trial.

    Under these criteria, Obama’s decision to try KSM in federal court is a clear example of a show trial.

    In his press conference, Eric Holder went off script and inadvertently confirmed this, when asked how he could assure family members of 9/11 victims that the plotters would not be released on a technicality:

    I am quite confident that we’re going to be successful in the prosecution efforts.

    If I was concerned about the forum not leading to a positive result or if I had a concern — a different concern, you know, we would perhaps be in a different place.

    A questioner picked up on Holder’s suggestion, asking how it could be fair or legal “if you’re picking different forums for different defendants based on where you can be sure that the outcome will be a conviction.” And then Holder readjusted the mask he had just let slip, and said that of course he wasn’t doing that.

    This statement of Holder’s is completely consistent with Obama’s May remarks in which he stated that dangerous people “who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes” will not be released.

    The American people need to understand: Obama is not giving KSM a trial because he believes it’s the right thing to do. He is giving a trial to KSM only because he believes that a conviction seems certain — and if for some reason the government turns out to be wrong about that, KSM is going to be held anyway.

    There’s really only one way to read this: the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will be a show trial. For all his faults on other fronts, Glenn Greenwald is exactly right here.

    SC Polls: Lindsey Graham’s Support Evaporates

    Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 1:54 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    Hot Air links a website I’m not familiar with that claims two new South Carolina polls show Senator Lindsey Graham’s support has tanked and may not be salvageable:

    “Already consistently loathed by a solid third of GOP voters, Graham’s recent leftward bent – including his co-authoring of a controversial “Cap & Tax” proposal supported by President Barack Obama and liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) – has him locked in a “terminal free fall,” according one prominent Republican consultant.

    “A chunk of the GOP has always detested him, but in the last month a damn [sic] has broken,” said the consultant, who was granted anonymity to discuss the impact of two recent polls that were conducted in South Carolina (one allegedly by Graham’s own advisors). “More Republicans now oppose Sen. Graham than support him. Independents are also deserting him in huge numbers.”

    I can hear the response now so I’ll save everyone the trouble: This is bad news for the GOP because it can’t afford to run off anyone, especially Republicans already in office. Maybe that’s true but it’s still good news in my book. Lindsey Graham won’t help Republicans return the GOP to the party of less government, lower taxes, abundant energy, and more jobs — beliefs that win elections.

    Republicans don’t have to be dependable Party-line voters but they need to be dependable when it comes to policy. Lindsey Graham has voted with the GOP 90% of the time but his opposition came at crucial times — such as with cap and trade, the Gang of 14 (including the Haynes nomination discussed here, here, and here), immigration, and voting for Sotomayor despite being one of her harshest critics.

    Graham is only dependable when it comes to Graham … or, as the Republican Party of Charleston, South Carolina, said when it voted to censure Graham last week, he has “weakened the Republican brand” in his continuing desire to “be relevant.”

    — DRJ

    PS – Lindsey Graham on how to win friends and influence people:

    “The Ron Paul quarters of the GOP are buzzing about Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) speech to this past weekend’s state party convention — a combative performance in which he took on conservative activists and Paul supporters. One heckler yelled out: “You’re a hypocrite!” Graham snapped back: “I’m a winner, pal!” When Paul supporters started to boo, Graham took them on:

    “I am not a libertarian. If you are, you’re welcome to vote for me and build this party, but we’re not going to build this party around libertarian ideas.”

    Taxing Sweets to Balance Sour Local Budgets

    Filed under: Government — DRJ @ 12:57 pm

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    More and more states like Colorado are considering whether to tax sweets and sodas to balance precarious state budgets:

    “[Colorado Governor Bill] Ritter’s office estimates that eliminating the sales-tax exemption for candy and soft drinks would generate $17.9 million and help avoid deeper cuts to schools and colleges.

    “We thought that people would be willing to pay 3 cents on a dollar candy bar,” said Ritter, who once spent three years running a nutrition center in Zambia before resuming his law career. “We just viewed it (allowing the sales tax) as something that doesn’t do anything to our (state’s) competitiveness.”

    Illinois recently subjected candy and soft drinks to sales tax, San Francisco is considering a soda tax, and candy and soda tax proposals have been floated this year in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Even President Barack Obama said recently he was interested in the idea of taxing soda, saying kids were drinking too much of it.”

    Supporters say taxes will help balance local budgets and make people healthier. Critics say taxes like this impact poor and middle-class Americans the hardest. Either way, states face difficult decisions as budget deficits are expected to increase in FY 2010:

    “In total, states faced a budget shortfall of $113.2 billion in FY 2009. As high as that shortfall is, it is far less than some projections for the shortfall for FY 2010. According to one projection, states could, in total, face a shortfall of $142.6 billion in FY 2010.

    It is worth noting that these shortfalls would be even higher if it were not for reception of federal funds. The reception of federal funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) was used by states to fund some of their expenditures, lowering the reported spending that comes out of the general state fund.”

    FY 2009 budget deficits for each state are listed here; projected state FY 2010 deficits are here; and stimulus funds distributed by state are shown here. Some states have no projected shortfall — good news for them — but bad news for the remaining states that make up the increasing difference.

    — DRJ

    The White House Takes on the Stupak Amendment

    Filed under: Abortion,Obama — DRJ @ 11:03 am

    [Guest post by DRJ]

    One reason the Pelosi health care bill passed the House was the Stupak Amendment that reaffirmed the Hyde Amendment’s ban on the use of federal funds “to pay for any abortion or to cover any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion” except in cases of rape, incest or danger to the life of the mother.

    Planned Parenthood condemned the Stupak Amendment, claiming it undermined “the ability of women to purchase private health plans that cover abortion, even if they pay for most of the premiums with their own money.” [NOTE from DRJ: I believe this is because, under the House bill as amended by the Stupak Amendment, a private policy can’t cover abortions if federal funds pay some of the premiums.] Planned Parenthood argues the Stupak Amendment violates “President Obama’s promise to the American people that no one would be forced to lose her or his present coverage under health reform.”

    After the health care bill passed, Cecille Richards, the President of the Planned Parenthood Action Center, called on Planned Parenthood supporters to stop the Stupak Amendment by contacting President Obama at the White House — their “strongest weapon” in the fight to protect women’s health. Today on CNN’s State of the Union, David Axelrod confirmed the White House will work to stop the Stupak amendment and keep it out of the final health care bill:

    “The abortion amendment was tacked on to the House health care bill and was a key factor in securing the votes of moderate Democrats before the bill was approved by a narrow margin last weekend. The amendment, authored by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., went beyond preventing the proposed government-run plan from covering abortion to restrict federal subsidies from going toward private plans that offer abortion coverage.

    Axelrod said in an interview Sunday that the amendment changes the “status quo,” something the president cannot abide.

    “The president has said repeatedly, and he said in his speech to Congress, that he doesn’t believe that this bill should change the status quo as it relates to the issue of abortion,” Axelrod said. “This shouldn’t be a debate about abortion. And he’s going to work with Senate and the House to try and ensure that at the end of the day, the status quo is not changed … I believe that there are discussions ongoing to how to adjust it accordingly.”

    When the abortion issue calls, the White House listens.

    By the way, are you really keeping your “present health care policy” if you previously paid for it yourself but the federal government helps you pay for it in the future? Or have I missed out on a great opportunity because the federal government has already been helping people pay for their private insurance policies?

    — DRJ

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