a tale of two speeches

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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13 Responses

  1. Mike Farmer says:

    I think Kristol has it right when he compares the experience and maturity. To me, Obama is no great speaker, and the fact that there aren’t any good speakers in government right now speaks to the weakness of our representatives moreso than Obama’s rhetorical skills. Obama is facile, patronizing and boring. Cheney is not much better, but he does come across as an adult. As for the content of their speeches, both are rehashing something that should be dropped. Let’s talk about ending the wars — that would be much more interesting and productive.Report

  2. E.D. Kain says:


    Let’s talk about ending the wars — that would be much more interesting and productive.

    I couldn’t agree more!Report

  3. Bob says:

    E.D., you wrote, “But nothing in either speech made me feel any better about the ever expanding role of our Commander in Chief or the entrenched national security state we have erected.”

    Well, I won’t presume to dispute your feelings but the President made a least two statements that gave me some hope, made me feel better, that some roll-back in executive prerogatives might be in sight.

    1. “And we plan to embrace several principles for reform. We will apply a stricter legal test to material that can be protected under the state secrets privilege. We will not assert the privilege in court without first following our own formal process, including review by a Justice Department committee and the personal approval of the Attorney General. And each year we will voluntarily report to Congress when we have invoked the privilege and why because, as I said before, there must be proper oversight over our actions.”

    2. “I will deal with Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government.”

    Yes, at this point only words and his words, to often in my opinion, have failed to bring about action. At least we have something to measure him against. We will be watching to see if he hold Congress and the courts as co-equal branches.Report

  4. E.D. Kain says:

    Good point, Bob – and well taken. Again, I do have high hopes for the President. I just worry about all these words, words, words. And also I worry that Congress will have a hard time living up to that co-equal branch idea…Report

  5. Bob says:

    “…Congress will have a hard time living up to that co-equal branch idea…”

    Well, that deflated my ballon. But you speak the truth.Report

  6. Katherine says:

    Bob –

    It’s just words. Obama has taken a view on state secrets privilege as extreme or more extreme than Bush. He’s backed off virtually every promise he made to civil libertarians. His tactics on this issue are to sound as moderate and reasonable as possible while changing virtually nothing.Report

  7. Bob says:

    Katherine, I don’t think there is much daylight between us. I clearly stated my skepticism regarding Obama’s words v. actions. At least I hope I did. But if any opacity remains here is my position, Obama has disappointed me way to often, he must show me the money.Report

  8. Michael Drew says:

    There is no reason to feel good about this speech, except its uber-logical construction and the crystaline clarity of its analysis of the issues at hand. The president clearly lays out the difficulty of the situation he inherits (difficulties that in all honesty obtain regardless of those inherited facts as long as we seek to prevent people from taking particular actions in the world by means other than prosecution after the fact), and then clearly asks Congress to pass a law that would manifestly violate the basic protection offered in our law against imprisonment without due process.

    I can’t say this at Greenwald’s place, but I do have considerable respect for the president’s honesty and the above-board way he asks Congress to institute procedures that we simply cannot institute without violating core principles.Report

  9. E.D. Kain says:

    Michael – to some extent I agree. And again it’s not Obama so much that worries me but those that come after. It’s the generic executive that frightens me, not necessarily the individuals who inhabit it. Obama is extremely bright, and I think honest, but he’s only with us for 4 – 8 years, and then….who knows?Report

  10. Michael Drew says:


    I wrote this under Chris Dierks’ excellent post on the Obama speech, regarding the issue of de facto presidential power and our vulnerability to calculated disregard for law by the person in that office regardless of Congress’s attempts to reign the legal powers of the office in:

    And as to Bush’s [or any president’s potential] actions, I think our system simply is structurally inalterably vulnerable to a president who gets it into his head that he can do whatever he wants with all the people with guns he has immediately at his command as a result of his designation in the constitution as commander-in-chief of the military. There is nothing the Congress can do about an executive run amok in the short term. The standard response in the national security arena is that funding can be cut off. But can you cut off funding for arbitrary detention? Torture? Those things were already against the law. [You can make funding ofr detention activities dependent on a guarantee, but are honestly going to cease funding for detention altogether if the stricture is ignoresd?] The president simply has the power to do these things [as a matter of might, not legal right], up until the point where he can’t find people to follow the orders or he is impeached and removed.

    However emboldened the Congress becomes as a result of witnessing Bush autocratic machinations, or at our urging, or for any other reason, I believe the maximal limitations that we are likely to see them place on the executive are not rightly described as greater than marginal, and certainly nothing that changes the amount of day-to-day control over the coercive actions of the government retained by the president that we would not remain essentially helpless against a president who chooses to act arbitrarily, lawlessly, or in bad faith when it comes to the use of coercion and/or force at home or abroad.

    The president has such de facto power over the preponderance of concentrated force in the country that absent fundamental structural changes to our system we will remain dependent on his willing compliance with laws restricting his use of said power. That is why the question of the character of the people we put in that office should be of such concern to us every four years, and why I blanch when people dismiss character considerations in presidential candidates in favor of policy preferences.

    I wonder what your thoughts about that view might be.Report

  11. Michael Drew says:

    Dangnabit, I just can’t post cleanly lately:

    dependent on a guarantee

    should read

    dependent of a guarantee by the executive of due process rights and humane treatment for those he detains

    Thanks if you’re still with me here, no sweat if you’ve moved on…Report