Tag Archives: Politics

The Wrong Rationale Down Under

Today in Slate, Chloe Angyal has a piece on the sexist media coverage of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

This argument is familiar, of course, because it bears some relation to recent charges of sexism in the media coverage of other female political figures, be they Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, or Elena Kagan. I understand that when confronting foreign political circumstances, American audiences typically demand some kind of governing metaphor, or at least some relevant metonymy, that makes the circumstances “over there” more closely analogous to those at home. It’s for this reason that the lede to this story attempts to universalize, and holds that “the Australian media have hit all the same sexist notes about Gillard that the American media played in their coverage of women in politics like Hillary Clinton, Elena Kagan, and Sarah Palin.”

But what evidence are we given in Angyal’s piece that this is in fact the case? Is her wardrobe subject to continual, banal, and bizarre speculation? Does she mysteriously lose credibility for looking haggard, overly “masculine,” or simply unattractive? Is the possibility of her undergoing breast enhancement given as a potential analogue for her inexperience? Is that very inexperience perhaps too the consequence of having sacrificed ambition in order to raise a family?

While one can quibble over the significance (or believability) of any one of these media narratives, surely they at least suggest a standard of feminine political character different from that which might be applied to their male colleagues (although, likewise, if John Edwards looked like Joe Lieberman, I doubt he’d make it to the cover of the National Enquirer). The point is that they are each valid issues that, if not necessarily as inflammatory as they might first seem, at least create a space for questioning dominant paradigms of appearance, personal conduct, and parenthood.

But what this article attempts is to build a baseless case upon the reverse paradigm: that Gillard is the subject of misogynist scorn because we’re already familiar with the treatment of Clinton, Kagan, Palin, et al. What evidence are we given that this is the case?

Foremost there’s the accusation that the relationship between political allies of opposing genders is sexualized because they’re painted as being “in bed together”… an expression which 0.33 seconds of Googling would reveal to apply equally to David Petraeus and the Karzai brothers, the entire federal government and the firm of Goldman Sachs, and Google, Inc. and Verizon Communications as personified by their CEOs Eric Schmidt and Ivan Seidenberg. Unless we’re meant always to think that the relationship between Petraeus and the Karzais is an entirely homoerotic overture, it’s fair enough to say that the expression ought to stand as a commonplace metaphor for entangling alliances (and is likewise a byproduct of how we categorize these alliances when they seem ill-fitting: “strange bedfellows,” a characterization apparently common enough to bear a distinct dictionary definition).

We’re likewise given the assertion that the media, blindly, can only characterize the dissolution of a partnership as “divorce”…and yet the article in question is actually about Kevin Rudd, not Gillard, and moreover is in reference to the end of his “honeymoon period,” another common expression which certainly forgives the extension of the metaphor.

Surely there’s a case to be made for the speculation regarding Gillard’s living arrangements, but here we’re not even given evidence that said arrangements even remain an issue: the most recently dated article we’re given is Gillard’s own statement that “decisions in [her] personal life, [she]’ll make for personal reasons.” It’s difficult to suppose that a politician is being “dogged” with speculation when her curt avowal of personal privacy appears to be the final word on the matter.

Again then, rather than simply using recent precedents in American politics as a point of comparison, Angyal’s article exploits their very prominence in order to magnify an otherwise entirely trivial case. The reader of such an article is only meant to think, “Oh, yes, it was so terrible how Kagan was treated,” and to then transpose that instinctual horror onto the particular case in question, irrespective of its merits. I am positive that women in positions of authority are subject to closer, more varied, and more arbitrary scrutiny than many of their male peers, but to judge that this is so in every instance simply because it is true elsewhere does no one any favors.


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How to Preach to Altar Boys – The Lessons of Barack Obama’s NYT Op-Ed

In the same way that my childhood self longed for the advent of flying cars, it is my fondest hope that someday, in the far-flung future, someone will print a dangerously ironic t-shirt commemorating the fact that it was our most digitally-conscious president, he of the netroots zeitgeist and social network wizardry, who chose to communicate with the public through what was supposed to be a dying medium. For all the ink once spilled on President Barack Obama’s plan to implement his own version of fireside chats by way of YouTube addresses, yesterday, in an attempt to galvanize support for his health care plan, the president turned not to Twitter, but instead penned a much-read editorial in the New York Times. Certainly this seems reasonable enough, and if the written transcript of his victory speech is but one indication, his words come off nearly as forcefully in print as they do by way of his famed oratory. Yet as the president currently attempts to make his case by touring the (particularly unfriendly) Western states in a series of (largely antipathetic) town halls, the choice of venue for this latest supplication comes as something of a surprise, if only because Times readers are infinitely more likely than readers of, say, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to simply agree with Obama in the first place. There’s that old adage about preaching to the choir, but this particular moment goes well beyond that, if only because even the casual newspaper reader is likely to be more well-schooled in the nuances of the policy struggle than the brevity of an editorial piece would allow; this isn’t just a matter of appealing to the converted, but appealing to people who have as much a grasp of the arcane ritual surrounding the services as does the minister himself. That being the case, unless, in what would be a truly profound display of net savvy, the Obama team is simply waiting to see how long it takes for news aggregators to strip away the Times‘s byline entirely, and thereby gauge how long it takes for an original story to hit the cultural bloodstream, it’s hard to imagine that the point of this piece is truly to persuade, the implicit function of any editorial, no matter the venue. Breaking it apart piece by piece, the unanticipated surprises of this story give us a chance to examine what role an op-ed can possibly serve a sitting president. Can a presidential op-ed really be more than just a stump speech with cheaper newsprint?

In a word? Maybe. An exhaustive study of previous presidential op-ed pieces wouldn’t really leave one with much to work with. It’s almost impossible to imagine any president before the digital age bothering to disseminate points of policy by way of a medium with a finitely circumscribed circulation, and George W. Bush certainly wasn’t busy jockeying for page space with Frank Rich. The only real model for Obama’s current strategy is, well, Obama himself. Back during the campaign, Obama offered an op-ed to the Times detailing his strategy for the war in Iraq. At the time, the article was praised for offering a specific vision of specific policies at a time when the presumptive candidate had long been decried as weak in articulating any decisive policy, and yet it was John McCain, not Obama, whose essay was refused by the Times for not laying any new groundwork, for reacting rather than responding (an allegation which, by the way, is pretty much true; there are approximately three sentences in the course of twelve paragraphs where McCains uses “I”as the subject of a sentence  rather than “Senator Obama”).

At first blush, by comparison, Obama’s latest piece does seem to read like something of a stump speech. We see phrases like “I don’t have to explain.” There’s a parting reference to our children, although fortunately sans mention of “our children’s children.” The second paragraph mentions one of the “46 million Americans without health insurance” by name, thereby attempting to give shape to the general through familiarization with the specific, and yet, merely by drawing attention to the staggering size of that figure makes it seem as though Ms. Lori Hithcock’s story was chosen at random (and really, of all hepatitis sufferers to mention, you pick someone with the sexually-transmitted one?). As far as political rhetoric goes, this sort of thing is as predictable as verse-chorus-verse. Yet the real breakthrough here really is in enhanced specificity in the final paragraphs, in a line by line, point by point dissection of what the president’s health care agenda is aimed at accomplishing. As I’d said before, this sort of frankness shouldn’t be news to readers of the Times…except that it is. Obama’s opening shot describing how “media attention has been focused [only] on the loudest voices” seems to be a passing snipe at Fox News and the like, who’ve been giving airtime to people who yell at Arlen Specter and bring guns to public places as though they were in fact policy specialists, but the notion that the media’s priorities are slightly skewed could even be applied to the Times itself. Many of the featured articles on health care policy (here, here, here, or here, for starters) are focused not on what current legislative provisions are actually intended, but only which ones probably won’t make the cut. The media’s depiction of bill drafting is a hallmark exercise in negative capability. Even the splash page for the Times‘s Caucus blog plays up the same unresolved tensions. The fact that the currently “most e-mailed” Times op-ed piece is not the president’s own but – I am not making this up -“Op-Ed Contributor: Your Baby Is Smarter Than You Think,” suggests that the public has largely grown weary of the discourse.

Given that no domestic policy is more pressing at present than health care mediation, this sort of policy fatigue obviously cannot stand. And that’s what Obama’s op-ed, with remarkable swiftness, manages to accomplish. By simply spelling out his priorities, free from the entangling interjections of several score of Congresspeople, Obama is able to provide his own benchmark for what the eventual legislation should or should not accomplish, his own narrow version of the Monroe Doctrine. Certainly there’s a risk to this approach – if the bill is deflated by the time it is passed, then it is Obama’s op-ed that will provide the template for its failure – but the upshot to presenting a unified policy front is that it actually might allow the administration to mitigate blame. In the same day that the op-ed ran, Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s own Health and Human Services Secretary, implied that the now thoroughly battered “public option” might need to be dropped from the final bill. But with all of his cards on the table, any late amendments to the eventual bill can’t be laid at Obama’s door. In this sense, Obama’s health care opinion piece is actually more radical than his discourse on Iraq. In deference to the relative success of the surge, much of Obama’s space in the earlier article is eaten up parsing the tweaks that can be made to existing foreign policy, and yet his parting statement, “It’s time to end this war,” remains pretty much unfulfilled. Taking on health care head-on, hep-C and all, allows Obama to take a stand and then to wash his hands of any potential fallout.

In the past several weeks, the Times has done its own part to bring the health care debate back to the issues at hand, printing a primer on the different arguments involved, yet in an effort to remain fair and balanced, the piece winds up more akin to McCain’s rejected “not this, but that” approach than to a genuine summary of what the relevant legislation actually looks like. Generally when we imagine public policy, we envision it with the same back-and-forth vacillation as political dialogue or academic debate. But for a sitting president, he who holds T.R.’s famed “bully pulpit,” the virtue of an op-ed piece lies in unequivocal articulation. It’s presidents, not candidates, who get to drive the Straight-Talk Express.


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Burr-Hamilton 2012, and the Fallacy of Constitutional Orthodoxy

Chris Kelly, writing for the Huffington Post, scores some points in his satirical take on the “birther” controversy by noting that, given the comma placement in Article II, Section 1, any person not alive and naturalized during the actual framing of the Constitution is automatically disqualified from being president. To wit:

“No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President…”

This strategy should be familiar to anyone acquainted with the “subordinate clause” argument regarding the Second Amendment, which attempts to clarify just what, exactly, the Amendment is apparently designed to protect. While ordinarily the cleavages of history require that we make allowances for different grammars (it isn’t that Shakespeare doesn’t “make sense,” it’s only that he’s working from a different rule book than we are), I’ll admit that the comma placement here is rather off-putting. We should all think our lucky stars that our rule of law isn’t derived from something as gallingly awkward as the Magna Carta.

Unfortunately for we, the People, this distinction isn’t really what lies at the heart of the entire birther movement to begin with. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, the consensus of even many conservative politicians and journalists, and the fact that local papers carry a birth announcement for Barack Obama on the date he’s always claimed, those claiming that Barack Obama is ineligible to hold the presidency do so largely because the State of Hawaii won’t release the president’s full, long-form record, and thus put the entire issue to rest (Lord knows what would have happened if John Roberts hadn’t readministered the Oath of Office after the ceremony was flubbed the first time around). And yet for a movement with its eye fixed so unwaveringly on tradition and the letter of the law (specifically said comma-riddled document), it’s awfully curious that anyone would want to bypass the “full faith and credit” clause found in Article IV, Section 1. It’s as a result of this clause that a driver’s license from, say, Missouri, where the legal driving age is 16, is still valid in New Jersey, where kids are still hitching rides from their parents until 17; each state is compelled to respect the sovereign licensing capacity of every other, despite potential irregularities in procedure, implementation, and form. If the State of Hawaii certifies that Barack Obama is a legally-born Hawaiian citizen, then who is anyone else to argue? (What’s even more confusing is just what, provided Barack Obama wasn’t naturally born, we’re actually supposed to do about it in the first place. Call John McCain? Schedule a new election? Just turn the whole thing over to Joe Biden? – EDIT: And here‘s our answer. The winner, as suspected, is Option #3, which, judging by this TownHall poll, isn’t really what the birthers would be hoping for. 2nd EDIT: It’s come to my attention that the poll in question is likely fabricated, which isn’t so much shocking as it is just plain depressing.)

This is the problem with strict constitutional orthodoxy: like most fundamentalist ideologies, it places a primacy on the imprimatur of certain words and phrases while skirting around others. Despite the strictures of grammar, and the fact that their camp is by far the most likely to be letter-of-the-law adherents, no one in the gun lobby takes the subordinate clause argument seriously. Originalism, the position held by Justice Antonin Scalia, among others, is just a more ludicrous strain of this same philosophy, only with the added bonus of conducting arbitrary thought experiments to find out what the Framers may or may not have thought about any given issue. Sure, the Founding Fathers would have wanted the Florida recount called off in favor of George W. Bush due to voting irregularities between precincts, of course, despite the fact that “voting irregularities” would have invalidated each of their own eventual presidencies, and every presidency to come. For all the clamor surrounding supposedly “activist” judges, claims to originalist positions are just another way of calling it as you see it. To extend the analogy, modern legal scholarship becomes a lot like baseball. There’s a pretty definite strike zone, but the calls are left up to the individual umpires, in the heat of the action, and without the benefit of instant replay. Orthodoxy is just what happens when the umpire fails to account for things like the height of the batters. Or is already rooting for the home team.

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Let Us Now Condescend

The final season of David Simon’s The Wire, which probed the blood marriage between the news media and politics (by way, granted, of the police force, but I didn’t want to turn this into a polygamous thing), was exceedingly brilliant, not only for its writing, its casting, its accuracy, etc. etc., but for its attempts to neuter a much abused and almost entirely illogical phrase. Reporters at the show’s fictionalized version of the Baltimore Sun were continually chided to dramatize “the Dickensian aspect” of any given story, an emphasis, as the show’s website has it, on “the heartstrings,” without being “bogged down with a lot of social context.” What this focus fails to account for is that, for Dickens, a novel is nothing but social context. “Dickensian” characters are largely allegories for social classes, reflecting both their own unique experiences along with those of every single person who might be like them. Oliver Twist is an everyman, or if not that, an everyorphan. The problem with this view is that, past a certain point, characters in the “Dickensian” mode cease being human. Hard Times (1854) is the author’s most bombastic novel, and also his easiest forgotten. In a way, Dickensian storytelling is kind of like communist cinema; devoid of discernible individuals and thus void of discernible men. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Karl Marx credited Dickens with “more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together.”

Why all of this is relevant is due to the actual media’s latest “Dickensian” experiment, one that I can now safely comment on since it appears to have run its course. The Big Money, an online subsidiary of Slate, itself a subsidiary of the Washington Post Co., recently announced the inauguration of a feature dubbed “Recessionary Road,” a “cross-country trip to discover what the stimulus looks like from the ground.” This attempt to chart the ramifications of a multi-billion dollar abstraction on the lives of its citizens is, in principle, a noble one, and indeed, one that has been tried before. In 1936, Fortune magazine commissioned novelist-cum-journalist James Agee and photographer Walker Evans to chronicle the redoubling effects of the Great Depression on the daily lives of tenant farmers in the United States. Agee was twenty-seven; the draft he submitted to Fortune, for, let us recall, a magazine article, was several hundred pages long. Roughly forty percent of that article’s first sentence, set down in Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, reads as follows:

“It seems to me curious, not to say obscene and thoroughly terrifying, that it could occur to an association of human beings drawn together through need and chance and for profit into a company, an organ of journalism, to pry intimately into the lives of an undefended and appallingly damaged group of human beings, an ignorant and helpless rural family, for the purpose of parading the nakedness, disadvantage and humiliation of these lives before another group of human beings, in the name of science, of ‘honest journalism’ (whatever that paradox may mean), of humanity, of social fearlessness, for money, and for a reputation for crusading…”

Agee was deeply shaken by any attempt to chronicle a human life through the careful application of a handful of words. So instead he generated whole reams of them, detailing precisely why such a process would be impossible. It was one thing for Charles Dickens to chronicle the lives of Britain’s middling classes by way of a cast of colorful characters with even more colorful names, but Agee, a graduate of Philips Exeter and Harvard, couldn’t bring himself to write in the Dickensian mode without giving up his soul.

This ethical quandary has likely not occurred to the higher-ups at the Post Co., or to Agee’s literary successor, Chadwick Matlin. “Recessionary Road” seeks to take on human-sized questions and problems, yet manages only to supply answers in the most grandiose, abstract of terms. “Is a job saved the same as a job created?” the article asks, belaboring a sort of economic pun, but the question itself is one that becomes immediately obviated when put into an even remotely human context: does the difference matter to the person who learns he won’t be fired? Hell no, but he’s probably thankful for it all the same. Matlin and Co. (since it seems far less cruel to ascribe the project’s transgressions to a slew of co-conspirators than to a single reporter) don’t actually ask anyone this question, however. When it comes to describing actual stimulus sites (a health clinic, a water treatment facility), Matlin is all narration, describing the perils of GPS navigation while editorializing the bigness or smallness of any given stimulus price tag. The only genuine people that they profile are people with no direct connection to anything whatsoever, about half a dozen in total, from a pair of street musicians to a bowling alley clerk to a “twentysomething” fry cook. One of the people they interview, “Ken, 54,” is the Secretary of the Interior. The musicians and the bowling alley get their respective websites plugged for free.

Since so few people are actually awarded face time, we’re forced to ponder why, exactly, any of these individuals were necessarily selected at the expense of any other. All are generically upper-lower class. Some are minorities. Most acknowledge not only that they’ve yet to undergo any discernible life changes as a result of the stimulus, but as a result of the recession in the first place. Yet it’s likely that, on average, I meet more strangers over the course of a single day than Matlin and his roving photographer manage to capture over the course of their multi-week odyssey.

This is the supposedly Dickensian aspect, but Matlin isn’t exploring the microcosmic effect of transnational events on the little guy – he’s casting a select group of little guy’s to fill out his own narrative. He’s not reporting: he’s authoring. As if to dramatize the error, or to make it so ludicrous that it escapes serious commentary, not only has “Recessionary Road” lost James Agee’s moral compass, but Walker Evans’ iconic photographs, filled with grit and tragedy and drama, have been replaced with…with this guy:

Credit: The Big Money

In case the effect of the words is lost on anyone, “Recessionary Road” wants us to know that its profiles are just cartoons.

These people, as the “twentysomething fry cook” contends, aren’t really touched by the stimulus in any noticeable way, and maybe that’s part of Matlin’s point: to let us know that the President’s stimulus hasn’t reached the people it was intended to help, but that, in and of itself, is a political agenda entirely separate from the humanist, or rather, human-interest angle that Matlin pretends to be covering. Such is likewise the case when he minces the distinction between “recovery” and “stimulus,” opining that “Obama would prefer me to say it’s a trip to document Recovery Act projects across the country. Wait, no, I can’t call it that, either. Because if I call the stimulus the Recovery Act, then I’m going to be explicitly siding with Obama.” Matlin’s apparent journalistic objectivity prevents him from “explicitly” siding with a politician, but that doesn’t stop him from subjectively alerting us to his displeasure at the Obama camp’s preferred labeling, either.

Even relatively innocuous moments are painted in this fashion. While covering an event in my hometown of St. Louis, Matlin inserts that St. Louis mayor Francis Slay “says he’s a ‘big fan of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’ like he’s talking about Albert Pujols.” Having (disclosure) once met Mayor Slay at a then-local donut stand, I can assure you that yes, he is a politician, but why would his words here be at all disingenuous? The ARRA (an acronym that very well might not have existed at all up until this very moment) just delivered $7.8 million to his city, which certainly isn’t a lot as, say, a fraction of national debt, but is obviously a major boon for any mayor. Yet Matlin needs to make insinuations about everyone’s ultimate sincerity so that we, like Matlin, can conclude that “[t]oday was about the politics, not the projects.” We can’t view the human component of the stimulus (sorry, sorry, Recovery Act!) if the actual import of the legislation is already a foregone conclusion in the author’s mind.

The mission statement for “Recessionary Road” makes a claim to a host of “big philosophical questions,” among them the “job saved versus a job created” dilemma, but after reading the actual posts, it becomes facile to supply the answers – not the actual answers, of course, but the answers that Matlin is all too ready to supply independent of anyone else’s input. James Agee couldn’t bring himself to inflict the trauma of journalism on his subject, but for Matlin and The Big Money, covering the recession just becomes their own exercise in supply-side economics.

Hey, if roving reporters can abuse economic puns, then so can I.

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Selective Abuse – John Yoo and Treacherous Citation

In a recent Wall Street Journal, the former Department of Justice official responsible for helping the Bush administration authorize warrantless wiretapping for and against U.S. citizens broke his self-imposed omerta to offer a rhetorical defense of his pet policy. I say “rhetorical” rather than “ethical,” “legal,” or “logical” only because Yoo’s argument relies largely on a cursory sampling of verbiage on executive power, from Locke to FDR by way of Alexander Hamilton. As an attorney, it is of course understandable that Yoo’s standard of proof should be dependent on what might be thought of as precedent, and as a student of English literatures and language, I should be pleased to see what is normally referred to as “close reading” penetrating even the highest levels of government. And yet there’s something marginally unsettling about Yoo’s piecemeal justification, which, it goes without saying, concludes that “we should be skeptical of those who insist that we radically change the way this country has always made war.”

For anyone who missed it, the key word in that quotation is “always,” and to shore up his claim, Yoo embarks upon his aforementioned tour of pre-revolutionary British philosophers. The bulk of his claim, however, is wedded to a lengthy and uncited quotation from Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist No. 23, which, as Yoo holds, has it that:

“The power to protect the nation, said Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist, ‘ought to exist without limitation,’ because ‘it is impossible to foresee or define the extent and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent & variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them…’”

So much for my renewed confidence in close reading. Anyone familiar with academic citation will note Yoo’s curious reluctance to quote the first half of Hamilton’s statement directly. That’s because Hamilton isn’t espousing “the power to protect the nation.” As it was actually written in 1787, No. 23 actually reads, verbatim: “The authorities essential to the care of the common defence are these–to raise armies–to build and equip fleets–to prescribe rules for the government of both–to direct their operations–to provide for their support. These powers ought to exist without limitation” [emphasis obviously mine]. Hamilton’s original claim is that a nation’s common defense rests on the ability of an executive to coordinate military action; our first Secretary of the Treasury is arguing for the very necessity of a commander-in-chief, not advocating the primacy of an omnipotent executive (let’s remember that the Federalist Papers were designed to persuade the populace that a federal government wouldn’t just prove a backwards step towards unilateral monarchy). Yoo’s intrinsic claim, that unchecked surveillance of a civilian population is somehow covered by the imperative “to provide for [the] support [of armies and fleets]” is illogical. It would actually (and mind-bogglingly) prove easier to argue that the best interests of America’s armies would be served by allowing federal troops to be quartered in private homes…and yet this supposed mandate is one obviously invalidated by the Third Amendment.

Part of Yoo’s difficulty is that his argument is marginally bi-polar, with a myopic concern for precedent and history tempered by an incompatible conviction that contrary claims are invalid precisely because they are antiquated. In discussing FISA, Yoo holds that “President Bush and his advisers faced an obsolete law not written with live war with an international terrorist organization in mind.” To wit, then, a law passed in 1973 ought to be ignored because it fails to account for present day circumstances, and yet our domestic policy ought to be dictated by a two hundred and twenty year old pamphlet that addresses a different issue altogether.

Yoo’s oversight, his apparent unwillingness to actually read Hamilton in toto, seems almost dispiriting for its comprehensive ability to compromise the entire practice of quotation itself. We, as responsible members of society, as academics, as lawyers, as whomever, rely upon quotation under the assumption that a man’s spoken or written testimony actually reflects something about the material world, or about the instance that its speaker happens to inhabit. John Yoo deploys the Hamilton quotation only because it is immediately useful: “Here’s one of our founding father’s kinda, sorta, indirectly advocating something that I’m partially responsible for!” But wasn’t Alexander Hamilton the same man who gave us the National Bank, a federal credit system so violently opposed by Andrew Jackson (likely the most comparably populist president to George W. Bush) that he devoted his presidency to attempting to kill it? If this were a conversation about the economy and not homeland security, quoting Hamilton would be anathema to Yoo and his ilk. If this were a discussion about government oversight of economic activities, then we’d be more likely to see Aaron Burr emerge the hero of Yoo’s story. Secretary Hamilton is only invoked here when the penumbras and emanations stemming from his words can be distorted to the most expedient end.

But then again, maybe that isn’t so unusual. After all, John Yoo and Co. are the same folks who are willing to air their grievances in the Wall Street Journal and yet absolutely refuse to have a sworn statement taken by Congress. If we can pick and choose our forums, why not our quotations?

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