Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I've been looking at the Snowden situation and asking what seems to be an obvious question: What's going to happen as a result of Snowden's actions? The conclusion I've come to is that there's too much support for the national security state in both parties (and in the general public) to expect any real change to the surveillance regime, so Snowden isn't going to accomplish much (if anything) of what he wants to accomplish. On the other hand, the entire affair can be shoehorned into the GOP's Obama-is-evil narrative -- or, actually, into a couple of such narratives. First, the right told us that Obama the NSA snooper was the same evil Big Brother who used the IRS as his Stasi. Now, with Snowden fleeing, Obama is the feckless guy who won't defend America.

Watch how today's Washington Post reaches for Drudge and Fox Nation links by shaping a Snowden story around the latter right-wing narrative:
Obama's hands-off approach to extraditing Snowden draws criticism

It was bright and sunny in Washington on Saturday as President Obama stepped out of the White House in flip-flops and khaki shorts to hit the golf course with his buddies.

At the same time, officials throughout his administration were scrambling to keep one of America's most-wanted fugitives from evading extradition in Hong Kong.

The juxtaposition illustrates the hands-off approach Obama has taken -- in public, at least -- to the government's efforts to bring Edward Snowden, the 30-year-old former contractor who exposed classified details of U.S. surveillance programs, back to the United States to face charges of revealing government secrets.

Conservatives say Obama's posture in the case provides further evidence of a commander in chief whose credibility abroad has declined and who shrinks from presidential leadership at moments of international crisis, including in response to last fall's attacks in Benghazi, Libya....
Oh, perfect: the Post sends opiates straight into the right's favorite vein. Google "where was obama the night of benghazi attack" and you get hits with that title from Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Mark Levin; you get The Washington Times crowing that "Obama made no phone calls on night of Benghazi attack, White House says"; you get posts about the night-of-Benghazi speculations of John Boehner and Charles Krauthammer; and you even get deranged PUMA blogger Kevin DuJan of HillBuzz writing "Barack Obama Was High on Cocaine During 'The Missing Hours' of the Benghazi Attack Last September." And that's just Page 1 of the Google search results.

Oh, and golf! While Snowden was fleeing, Obama went out to play golf! The right loves that meme.

Roger Ailes is seeing starbursts.

Quoted most prominently in the Post story is Eliot Cohen -- Romney adviser, founding member of the Project for a New American Century and member of George W. Bush's Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee (a position he got on the recommendation of Richard Perle). Snowden/Greenwald fans, am I getting across to you the fact that the people making hay of all this aren't exactly your allies on the subject of civil liberties and foreign policy?

It's as if Snowden and Greenwald went into the town square, pointed at Obama, said "Hey, that guy's evil! Let's go get him!" -- and now we learn to our horror that the people most eager to grab a truncheon and join the mob are folks who don't have a deep and abiding commitment to civil liberties and human rights. Nobody could have predicted!

And on the subject of Snowden's flight: Look, I don't know why the administration was so trusting of the governments of Hong Kong and China. But it seems to me that an America bankrupted by Reagan and Bush tax cuts, Bush wars, and a near-depression brought on by deregulation doesn't have much leverage with its bankers. The blame goes way back.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Snowden/Greenwald fans, am I getting across to you the fact that the people making hay of all this aren't exactly your allies on the subject of civil liberties and foreign policy?

No. You sound like someone saying, "It's O.K. when Obama does it, so shut up."

In case you hadn't noticed, people such as Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, John Yoo, Bill Kristol, etc. have recently solidly affirmed their support for NSA spying.

Here's Juan Cole, he makes more sense than you.

Victor said...

It's kinda tough to maintain your leverage when your hands are on your knees, with your pants around your ankles, waiting for the bank's next thrust.

Maybe if we'd have thrown a few of them in Super Max's for basically stealing trillions of dollars, the US might have some more leverage.

But, we have to "look forward, not back."
And we've proven that, no matter how badly bankers and financial wizards f*ck up, and fail, no one ever has to go to jail.

VforVirginia said...


"Now, watch this drive."

Tom Allen said...

It sure would be a change to have "allies on the subject of civil liberties and foreign policy" within the Democratic Party speaking up right about now. But most of them are too busy shooting the messengers to bother.

Steve M. said...

What's your plan for the next step in trying to get this security regime dialed down? Anybody? And who are your potential allies who actually have the power to help that goal accomplished? And if you name members of Congress, can you name more than you can count on your fingers?

Mass Independent said...

Today in Mass here, there is a special election for Senator to fill Kerry's seat. Now, I have long admired Ed Markey and had planned to vote for him. But I want nothing more than for Obomber to be impeached, and if I help the Dems with more Seantors and Reps, then I will just be adding defenders for Obomber. So, I am not voting for Markey. And I doubt I will ever vote for a Democrat again, including Liz Warren who I voted for last year.

John Kerry used to speak truth to power. Now he is the Power. The Dems are totally corrupt, and interested only in accumulating power and working for their owners (hint: not any of you).

Victor said...

Mass Independent.,
Yeah, don't vote for Democrats!


Oh, and if you do decide to vote, good luck to the Green Party, or other 3rd Party, candidate(s) of your choice, winning.

And by "winning," I mean winning more than 10% of the vote.


Steve M. said...

Yeah, if you want to know about all the positive changes withholding votes from Democrats can bring, ask the people living through the glorious results of the 2010 tea party election: disenfranchised residents of Michigan cities in receivership, North Carolinian "Moral Monday" protesters, union workers in Wisconsin...

Mass Independent, you're an idiot.

Steve M. said...

(Or you're a Republican plant. Can't tell which.)

Philo Vaihinger said...

"Snowden/Greenwald fans, am I getting across to you the fact that the people making hay of all this aren't exactly your allies on the subject of civil liberties and foreign policy?"

Well, many of them are not, just as you say.

But many are.

Think how many left "civil libertarians" liked Ron Paul during the last GOP primary season and have admired Rand Paul on this whole anti-national security thing.

And there is, after all, on the more radical left, a whole crowd of folks who hate not just Big Government but government as much as any tea-bagger.

I refer you to the anarchists and those for whom pretty much all authority is the enemy.

Daddy-issues drive their politics, leftists or not.

Never Ben Better said...

Shorter version:

Steve: Actions have consequences; here's one that's not good for our side.

First response: Obot! Obot!

Pope Ratzo said...

Most transparent administration in history.

Secret courts, secret laws, secret warrants, secret targets, secret surveillance programs.

And increased prosecutions of whistleblowers. And all of it increased over the past 5 years.

How badly are we willing to tie ourselves in moral knots to defend this guy?

Steve M. said...

Secret courts, secret laws, secret warrants, secret targets, secret surveillance programs.

You'll get all that -- exactly that -- under President Christie, President Rubio, President Cruz, President Jeb Bush, or President Ryan. Hell, you'll probably get it under President Rand Paul.

So, fine, if you don't care to salvage Medicare, Social Security, or legal abortion, if you don't care whether any black person ever votes again in the South, if you want energy policy in the hands of climate change deniers and education policy in the hands of young-Earth creationists, and if you want Ruth Bader Ginsburg replaced and whoever else retires from the Supreme Court in the next decade replaced by John Roberts clones, then by all means blow off the Democratic Party. After all, what do you have to lose?

darrelplant said...

Why does it have to be on us to "plan for the next step in trying to get this security regime dialed down"? Do you really think there's any way to do that apart from trying to appeal to the Obama administration to do it themselves by making them realize what a cockup they've made of the whole thing? Why not ask what the government's plan is?

Certainly, there's no chance that a Republican administration would back down from it--they revel in approbation from civil libertarians--the only possibility that anything is going to happen is going to be if the Obama administration realizes they've stepped beyond the boundaries of what's acceptable to a certain portion of their base.

The idea that there are "allies" to be had on the fight is silly. The executive can do (and has been doing) whatever it wants in the name of national security without checks from the legislative or judicial branches. There's no fight; there might be a vague chance that the administration will take a different path in the calculation that the Democrats could lose control in 2016, but I'm not holding my breath.

So maybe Snowden's action is pointless. But I have to think it's less pointless than trying to extradite him from China or Russia. If the administration had wanted to keep things tamped down, they would have made a deal with Snowden for immunity, forgot about the whole espionage charge thing, and got him back into the country as quickly as possible with no possibility of whatever other documents he has in his possession spreading to the Russians.

But that would be too easy. Much better to freak out.