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“Executive Orders To Undo Executive Orders”: Does Rand Paul Want To Repeal All Executive Orders? Depends When You Ask

Does Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) want to repeal the Emancipation Proclamation? It depends on when you ask him.

Senator Paul raised the subject during a Thursday night appearance in Manchester, New Hampshire. During a question-and-answer session with Republican activists, a young man reportedly asked Paul, “If you were to receive the presidency, would you repeal previous executive orders and actually restrain the power of the presidency?”

“I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders,” Paul replied, as quoted by Real Clear Politics.

This would be problematic for a number of reasons. Although Republicans would presumably love to do away with President Obama’s executive order protecting some young immigrants from deportation, for example, repealing others would be a tougher sell. Would Paul really want to reverse President Lincoln’s order freeing the slaves, President Truman’s order desegregating the armed forces, or President Kennedy’s order barring discrimination in the federal government?

Well, not when you put it that way.

“Well, I mean, I think those are good points, and it was an offhand comment, so obviously, I don’t want to repeal the Emancipation Proclamation and things like that,” Paul told Real Clear Politics when questioned on the broader impact of his plan. “Technically, you’d have to look and see exactly what that would mean, but the bottom line is it’s a generalized statement that I think too much is done by executive order, particularly under this president. Too much power has gravitated to the executive.”

In reality, President Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any president since Franklin Roosevelt. But still, Paul’s point is clear: He was speaking extemporaneously, and doesn’t actually want to repeal all executive orders.

That excuse would be easier to swallow if Paul hadn’t made the same promise to the Louisville Chamber of Commerce in August:

Asked directly if he would issue executive orders as president, Paul said the only circumstance would be to overturn the ones made by his predecessors.

“Only to undo executive orders. There’s thousands of them that can be undone,” said Paul. “And I would use executive orders to undo executive orders that have encroached on our jurisprudence, our ability to defend ourselves, the right to a trial, all of those I would undo through executive order.”

Paul later backed away from that comment in much the same way, telling reporters that “It wasn’t sort of a response of exactness.”

In fairness to Senator Paul, it seems highly unlikely that he really wants to resegregate the military in an effort to roll back executive overreach. But his clunky attempt to get on both sides of the issue has become a theme for him, which has repeated itself on Medicare, immigration, foreign aid, and a multitude of other topics.

His Democratic rivals have taken notice.

“Rand Paul’s problem isn’t that he changes positions — it’s that he insists that he can simultaneously hold multiple, contradictory positions on a litany of key issues,” Democratic National Committee press secretary Michael Czin said in a statement. “As Paul gears up for a presidential run, he changes positions to suit the moment or to match the views of the group in front of him. From confronting ISIL to ending aid to Israel to whether he supports the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act, Rand Paul disingenuously tries to have it every way.”

Paul may be able to get away with clunky flip-flopping in the Senate, but it will become a major liability for him if he pursues the presidency in 2016. Clearly, Democrats are ready and eager to attack his lack of consistency. If Paul isn’t careful, they could set the narrative for him long before the first votes are cast.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, September 15, 2014

September 16, 2014 Posted by | Executive Orders, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No, Asshole, You’re Totally Wrong”: What Plantation Is Jim DeMint Living On?

I once had this idea for a play about God, a comedy, in which the audience would be introduced to a series of casuists and charlatans and braggarts and bloviators, and they’d be carrying on, lecturing away on topics large and small with serene self-confidence. There’d be the sound of thunder and perhaps a puff of smoke, and from the wings, God would appear. He or She would, over the course of the three acts, take on numerous corporeal forms—white man, black woman, Asian man, Arab woman, et cetera—but in each guise would admonish the speaker: “No, asshole. You’re totally wrong. How do I know? Because I’m God, and you’re wrong.”

The idea came to me, of course, because of life’s endless pageant of moments when one wishes life really worked that way. But I don’t know if I’ve ever wished it more than I did two days ago, when Jim DeMint, the ex-senator and Heritage Foundation head who defines the words casuist and charlatan and braggart and bloviator and about 262 others that are worse, said that the federal government of the United States did nothing to end slavery. The salient words:

Well the reason that the slaves were eventually freed was the Constitution, it was like the conscience of the American people. Unfortunately, there were some court decisions like Dred Scott and others that defined some people as property, but the Constitution kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights’ in the minds of God. But a lot of the move to free the slaves came from the people, it did not come from the federal government. It came from a growing movement among the people, particularly people of faith, that this was wrong. People like Wilberforce who persisted for years because of his faith and because of his love for people. So no liberal is going to win a debate that big government freed the slaves.

Please, I beg of you, don’t do DeMint the honor of thinking him merely stupid. He’s probably that, in some way. Certainly those sentences add up to a mountain of stupid, a Himalayan range of it. Yet at the same time, a statement this insane can’t be propelled merely by stupidity. A denial of reality this whole, this pure, requires, I think, some thought, some premeditation. Dwell with me on this for the moment.

Today’s radical conservatives like DeMint want to destroy government. This means in the first instance discrediting everything government does in the present. That, we’re all plenty familiar with. It’s a lot of what we fight about all the time.

But the project also includes history—proving that nothing good that ever happened in history was done by the government. Oh, they might grant you a war here or there, these wingers. They’re OK with war (when we win them—when we’ve lost them, that was of course the liberals’ fault). But nothing else.

Often, this is easy enough. Example: The great post-war prosperity boom and middle-class expansion. We on my side say: unionization, massive public investments, a tax rate that kept the coffers full, a few other things. DeMint and his type can’t have that, so they say: American ingenuity, a free-market system that encouraged initiative, no big bloated welfare state yet, etc. That’s a simple one. Left and right offer competing narratives, and to most people, parts of each probably sound plausible.

But then you get to trickier matters. How, as a radical conservative today, and especially a Southern one, and especially one from the state (South Carolina) that started the Civil War (first to advance nullification, first to secede, first shots fired), are you supposed to explain that war? And how are you supposed to explain slavery? Tough ones. If you ever visit any of those crackpot websites I look at sometimes, you’ve seen, for example, the commonly advanced idea that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery, it was about states’ rights and economics and so on. I guarantee you that notion will show up pretty quickly in this very comment thread.

But that explains only the war’s beginning, not its end. I had not heard, until DeMint’s comments here, their theory on the war’s end, and more deliciously on slavery’s. So it was “the conscience of the American people” that ended it. And the Constitution, which “kept calling us back to ‘all men are created equal and we have inalienable rights.’” And William Wilberforce. But whatever it was, it wasn’t “big government.”

Interesting interpretation, eh? DeMint’s “conscience of the American people” x’s out of history the Emancipation Proclamation, which strikes me as an act of the federal government (a presidential order); also the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery and, as an amendment to the Constitution, was surely an action of the government. It also x’s out the war itself, fought to the end, no matter what today’s Confederate revisionists say, to wipe out slavery once and for all.

As for the Constitution, well, there’s the fact that the words DeMint quotes appear not in the Constitution but the Declaration of Independence, but there are bigger problems here than that. If Jim DeMint had been alive in 1860, it’s reasonable to assume that he’d have gone with the flow in his state, correct? So he’d have supported secession. And, big cheese that he is, he’d have likely played some role in creating the Confederate States of America. And in turn he’d likely have signed the Confederate Constitution, thus pledging his loyalty to a document that explicitly prohibited the Confederate government or its several states from interfering in slave ownership in any way, including a specific provision stating that any territories the CSA gained via war or any other means would become slaveholding states. That would have been Jim DeMint’s Constitution, not the one you and I heed.

Finally, this Wilberforce business. They love Wilberforce, today’s rad-cons. He was a devout Christian, you see, and a conservative; and yet at the same time a stern abolitionist. What a useful combination! Invoking Wilberforce allows conservatives like DeMint to pretend that he, not Calhoun, is their moral lodestar and inspiration. It’s somewhat problematic for them that while Wilberforce did indeed fight slavery, he did so in England, where he actually lived, not in America. And only up until 1833, when he died. Besides which the fiery abolitionists in America, William Lloyd Garrison and so forth, were quite religious too, but on the political left.

There is such a thing as having a legitimate difference of opinion on a question of history. Was Napoleon the embodiment or the corruption of the French Revolution, to take an obvious example—historians will argue that one till the end of time. But DeMint doesn’t have a legitimate difference of opinion. He has a wholly ideological one, designed not to spur historical debate but to justify his miserly posture toward contemporary politics.

And so every sentence that came out of his mouth was just utter nonsense. But not just that–premeditated, pernicious, and malicious nonsense, spun to serve contemporary ends like fighting the delivery of health coverage to millions. Physicians have boards to answer to, lawyers the local bar; but in politics and media, there’s no panel that can police this drivel and declare DeMint unfit for participation in public discourse. And so he gets to say these utterly insane things but still get quoted in the papers as if he were a serious person. And the rest of us just have to endure him. God, if you’re there, now would be a good time to show up.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, April 11, 2014

April 13, 2014 Posted by | Constitution, Jim DeMint, Slavery | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Resolute, More Seasoned”: President Obama’s Inaugural Address Was A Modern Speech Steeped In History

President Obama gave a truly American speech yesterday. It resonated from the opening reference to “all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights,” to his constant refrain of “we, the people.”

It was in many ways a stronger speech than four years ago, more resolute, more seasoned, more ready to ensure that America lives up to the words expressed in the Declaration of Independence. It was a speech for a modern era, acknowledging the rapid change of the 21st century.

The strong thread of his speech was the strong history of America, from the war for independence to the emancipation proclamation 150 years ago to the March on Washington 50 years ago. “From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall,” the President highlighted the guiding value that all are created equal. The age-old creed was made modern and relevant to all Americans — of any color, any natural origin, any gender, any sexual orientation.

The notion that an inaugural address would mention gay marriage and highlight the start of the gay revolution at Stonewall would have been unthinkable a decade or two ago. What an amazing transformation.

The melding of traditional aspirational values and the struggle to solve modern American problems was inspiring. He was forward looking and pragmatic when it came to tackling the issues of immigration reform, climate change, equal economic opportunity, helping the most vulnerable. And he was equally pragmatic when he recognized that “outworn programs are inadequate to our times” and that government is not the answer to all our problems.

But his was a defense of government as “we, the people” to achieve what our framers designed. He did not deride government or Washington but set out a positive, progressive, future for us to pursue together. This was a change from what we have heard over the past thirty years.

It was, in many ways, a very modern speech clothed in the best of our history to act as a call to Americans. This is a president now comfortable with the bully pulpit and a leader committed to using it in the years ahead. You will see a Barack Obama ready to inspire and organize people for the cause. My guess is that this speech was just the beginning.


By: Peter Fenn, U. S. News and World Report, January 22, 2013

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Inauguration 2013 | , , , , , | Leave a comment


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