Liberal Demands Assassination Orders Be Filed in Triplicate

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder finally explained why it’s legal for him to annihilate you on a hunch. The nation’s liberals arose as one to condemn this brazen attack on American principles of…

The banality of zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
Hehe, just kidding. The nation’s liberals were all listening to Rush Limbaugh during Holder’s speech, but a few of them skimmed it later. And, boy, were they ever pretty much OK with it. Mother Jones‘s Kevin Drum, who has raised being “pretty much OK” with things to the status of serious analysis, sighed and shrugged a little more vigorously than usual:

I’m glad Holder gave this speech. I’m glad that he expanded (a bit) on the three circumstances that govern the Obama administration’s decisions to kill U.S. citizens abroad. I’m glad he agrees that these decisions are “extraordinarily weighty” and “among the gravest that government leaders can face.”

Nonetheless, even more than a thousand words of throat clearing can’t hide the fact that Holder simply provided no evidence that the rigor of the executive branch’s due process procedures matches his rhetoric; no evidence that these procedures are consistently followed; and negative evidence that there’s any reasonable oversight of the process. Merely informing Congress is the farthest thing imaginable from rigorous, independent oversight.

Holder’s job, of course, was an impossible one. The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has made a deliberate decision that actions like this are authorized by a combination of the 2001 AUMF and the president’s inherent commander-in-chief powers.

Now you need to know that this Bush comparison isn’t meant to be as damning as it sounds; Drum was pretty much OK with Bush killing whomever he wanted (see the first link above). But process is somewhat kind of semi-significant to liberals, so Drum appended this postscript:

This post wasn’t about my own position on this topic, but here it is. I agree that we’re at war. [Drink! – Ed.] Like it or not, the AUMF is an extremely broad grant of authority. I agree that stateless terrorists pose unique challenges. I agree that targeting them for killing is sometimes necessary, even if they’re U.S. citizens. I agree that Holder’s three principles form a good starting point for deciding when a targeted killing is justified.

But it’s simply not tolerable to take the view that the entire world is now a battlefield, and therefore battlefield rules of engagement apply everywhere. If you want to kill a U.S. citizen outside of a traditional hot battlefield, there needs to be independent oversight. The FISA court performs this function for surveillance, and we know from experience that it rarely gets in the government’s way. But at least it’s technically independent and forces the executive branch to follow its own rules. It’s the absolute minimum that we should require for targeted killings too.

And here we have the American liberal’s ideal form of government oversight: the kind that generates a lot of paperwork (and civil service man-hours) but “rarely gets in the government’s way.” It’s the absolute minimum we should require — if by “absolute minimum” you mean “absolute maximum” and if by “require” you mean “quickly suggest then never mention again.” Only crackpots really give a damn about this stuff.

Obama vs. Romney: There Goes One Lesser-of-Two-Evils Argument

Kevin Drum, the Leonidas of the left 49-yard line, predicts the ways in which a Romney presidency would differ from an Obama presidency. Drum assumes that Romney would have a Republican majority in the Senate, so this is not a best-case scenario for liberals. I scanned the list for anything related to foreign policy and civil liberties, and here’s all I found:

We might stay in Afghanistan significantly longer than we would otherwise — though I’m not sure about this. …

Romney has talked tough on China, but that’s just campaign bushwa. He’d quickly find out that his options are extremely limited on this score. On foreign policy more generally, Obama is actually fairly tenacious, despite Romney’s bluster to the contrary, and I doubt that Romney would be able to move much further to his right.

So, on two sprawling issues that could make a difference in a tight race, it’s practically a wash. No wonder liberals have aimed so much ire at another Republican.

Kevin Drum on Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich

Kevin Drum advises those who want a noninterventionist, pro–civil liberties candidate to ditch Ron Paul and look elsewhere. I grew curious about what Drum had to say about the two least interventionist, most pro–civil liberties Democrats who ran for president in 2008.

Here’s Drum on Mike Gravel:

About halfway through last night’s debate I suddenly noticed that Mike Gravel was missing. What happened?

Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Gravel was forced to withdraw from the Oct. 30 Drexel debate after being unable to meet the required criteria for polling and fundraising. The criteria to participate are set by NBC news and include sufficient and polling requirements, as well as an actively documented campaign.

“There was no record that Gravel made more than five separate appearances in New Hampshire [and] Iowa, where the first caucuses will be held,” NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd said. Gravel’s campaign committee claims that he has made more appearances, but that his schedules were not released.

Thank God. I know lots of people support Gravel’s appearance in the debates based on some inchoate belief that “he deserves to be heard,” but not me. He’s not seriously running and he never has been, and the point of the debates is to give the public a look at actual candidates, not to give equal time to any crank who has a burning desire to mouth off to a national audience. That’s what blogs are for.

Good riddance, Mike. The court jester routine got stale a long time ago.

Emphasis mine. There’s plenty more of that in Drum’s archives. Drum mostly just ignored Kucinich, as far as I can tell, though he did say four months before the Iowa caucuses that Kucinich, Gravel, and the slightly antiwar, marginally pro–civil liberties Chris Dodd should “put their egos back into cold storage and stop wasting our time.”

It’s almost as if Kevin Drum considers noninterventionism and civil libertarianism themselves cranky.

Kevin Drum: Not a Crackpot

Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has some fatherly advice for all you idiots:

Bottom line: Ron Paul is not merely a “flawed messenger” for these views. He’s an absolutely toxic, far-right, crackpot messenger for these views. This is, granted, not Mussolini-made-the-trains-run-on-time levels of toxic, but still: if you truly support civil liberties at home and non-interventionism abroad, you should run, not walk, as fast as you can to keep your distance from Ron Paul. … In fact, to the extent that his foreign policy views aren’t simply being ignored, I’d guess that the only thing he’s accomplishing is to make non-interventionism even more of a fringe view in American politics than it already is. Crackpots don’t make good messengers.

Well, one thing you can definitely say about Kevin Drum is that he’s no crackpot. No sirree. He knows that in dissent lurks crankery. When he catches the first whiff of deviation from the D.C. consensus, he hightails it back to Broderville. For example:

Kevin Drum, Oct. 17, 2011:

Aside from the fact that Barack Obama did not, in fact, send troops to Uganda in order to “kill Christians,” what should we think about the fact that he sent troops to Uganda in the first place? Needless to say, I’m far more hesitant about sending U.S. troops anywhere than I was a decade ago….

… I’m pretty much OK with this operation.

Kevin Drum, April 1, 2011:

So what should I think about this? If it had been my call, I wouldn’t have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I’d literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he’s smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted. I voted for him because I trust his judgment, and I still do.

Kevin Drum, Feb. 21, 2003:

As much as I’m unhappy about how the Bush administration has mishandled everything, backing out now could have disastrous consequences. And so we liberal hawks hold our noses and hope for the best.

Kevin Drum, Feb. 9, 2003:

I’ve gotten a lot of email critical of my post on Thursday suggesting that Colin Powell had indeed made a strong case in his UN speech. This administration has lied about everything, they ask, so how can you be so credulous as to believe their latest dog and pony show? …

… I am sympathetic to the idea that George Bush has shown himself to be so hamhanded in foreign affairs that there’s little likelihood of success as long as he’s in power. And yet, what’s the alternative? We need to try, and I’m inclined — barely — to give him a chance. Something has to kick start the Middle East into the 21st century, and I don’t see anyone else willing or able to do it. …

So that’s it. I have tremendous misgivings about this war….

Kevin Drum, Feb. 6, 2003:

I am sympathetic to the notion that administrations lie a lot on the subject of war, and I’m certainly sympathetic to the idea that this particular administration routinely lies about anything they think they can get away with. And yet….that leaves us with a problem, doesn’t it? If, a priori, nothing the administration says is believable, then opposition to war simply becomes a religious doctrine. After all, no one else is going to try and make the case.

Now I found all of that in about half an hour several months ago, so those who care to look should be able to find plenty of additional confirmation that Kevin Drum is no crackpot.

Kevin Drum, Perpetual Skeptic

Kevin Drum, Oct. 17, 2011:

Aside from the fact that Barack Obama did not, in fact, send troops to Uganda in order to “kill Christians,” what should we think about the fact that he sent troops to Uganda in the first place? Needless to say, I’m far more hesitant about sending U.S. troops anywhere than I was a decade ago….

… I’m pretty much OK with this operation.

Kevin Drum, April 1, 2011:

So what should I think about this? If it had been my call, I wouldn’t have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I’d literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he’s smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted. I voted for him because I trust his judgment, and I still do.

Kevin Drum, Feb. 21, 2003:

As much as I’m unhappy about how the Bush administration has mishandled everything, backing out now could have disastrous consequences. And so we liberal hawks hold our noses and hope for the best.

Kevin Drum, Feb. 9, 2003:

I’ve gotten a lot of email critical of my post on Thursday suggesting that Colin Powell had indeed made a strong case in his UN speech. This administration has lied about everything, they ask, so how can you be so credulous as to believe their latest dog and pony show? …

… I am sympathetic to the idea that George Bush has shown himself to be so hamhanded in foreign affairs that there’s little likelihood of success as long as he’s in power. And yet, what’s the alternative? We need to try, and I’m inclined — barely — to give him a chance. Something has to kick start the Middle East into the 21st century, and I don’t see anyone else willing or able to do it. …

So that’s it. I have tremendous misgivings about this war….

Kevin Drum, Feb. 6, 2003:

I am sympathetic to the notion that administrations lie a lot on the subject of war, and I’m certainly sympathetic to the idea that this particular administration routinely lies about anything they think they can get away with. And yet….that leaves us with a problem, doesn’t it? If, a priori, nothing the administration says is believable, then opposition to war simply becomes a religious doctrine. After all, no one else is going to try and make the case.