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Obama’s ‘Power problem’

There is an interesting article on Martin Kramer’s Sandbox blog about Obama adviser Samantha Power. The article points out the extraordinarily daft 2002 foreign policy suggestions made by her and Michael Ignatieff (who I have met a couple times… nice enough for a total Guardianista) in which she urges US military intervention against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. But in the quoted part of her problematic remarks…

Unfortunately, imposition of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful. It’s a terrible thing to do, it’s fundamentally undemocratic. But, sadly, we don’t just have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide our policy, or that are meant to, anyway. It’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark, rather than a deference to [leaders] who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people.

… the real ‘money quote’ for me is not the bizarre notion of (in effect) going to war with Israel, it is “But, sadly, we don’t just have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide our policy, or that are meant to, anyway.”

Her remark is a pretty clear cut rejection of the US Constitutional Republic in favour of unrestrained democracy. That is of course clearly what Obama thinks as well and why he will not allow the Second Amendment to get in the way of what he wants. So it is hardly surprising that he chooses an advisor who shares his opinion that constitutional limits on democratic politics are something to be sad about. It is also something that needs to be pointed out loudly and often by people who think limits on what the state can do are a very good idea indeed. At least Samantha Powers is somewhat honest about the fact she feels the US Bill of Rights is a regrettable limitation on untrammelled democratic politics. I wonder how many politicians would be so candid?

28 comments to Obama’s ‘Power problem’

  • The more and more I see of Obama’s policy prescriptions, the more and more he just appears to be almost a caricature of the protectionist, interventionist, anti Israel and generally head in the sand on foreign policy left of the Democrat party. Assuming he is the nominee, the policy prescriptions are surely going to come more and more to the forefront as the election approaches, and he is surely going to appear steadily more unelectable. The scary thing is that in an Obama – McCain battle I clearly support McCain. It goes without saying that his record on things like free speech is appalling, but I think he would be okay on foreign policy and he wouldn’t wreck the economy. I have no confidence whatsoever in these regards with respect to Obama. The Clintons are horribly venal and statist, but my feeling is that the chances of a major league screwup in Hillary’s hands is less than with Obama.

    Except, the Republican party has nominated someone who has a career of distancing himself from the Republican party and thus becoming a darling of the vaguely left media. (Excuse the clumsiness of my terminology. I try to use the word “liberal” in the US sense, but in the end I just can’t do it). So the Republican rank and file may not support McCain and get out and vote for him in the way he needs. If Hillary was the nominee then I am sure that their visceral hatred of her would be enough to energise them, but without that I am not sure what might happen. I am still thinking more with every day that passes that McCain is going to president though.

  • Nick M

    I agreed with your analysis until very recently. I now think Barack “Change” Obama has a pretty good shot at it. It’s a sobering thought. At first I thought “Good” he’s giving that awesome moo, Clinton, a kicking in the trouser suit but now I’m worried the bugger can go the whole way.

    War with Israel? Oh dear God! On behalf of the Palestinians? Jesus-fucking-Christ! Yeah, let’s lend some heavy metal to the cause of Hamas. Hell, it’s all part of the Great War on Terror (not Islam which is lovely, of course). What planet are these fuckers living on? I thought BBC News 24 was bad enough this morning when it referred to Hamas as “an organisation the Israelis view as terrorists”. No, Beeb, that ain’t just the opinion of the Israeli government, it’s a fact. Oh, they won the election in Gaza fair and square (then chucked their opponents from the roof) but does that “legitimise” them? No, it doesn’t. If anything it says that the Gazans are a plurality of gits.

    Every other fucker on this planet is trying to better themselves and their societies and yet a bunch of disgruntled camel-fuckers in a dusty shit-hole get more news footage than all of India. Perhaps they ought to come to Europe or the US and see what can be built if they put their minds to creation rather than destruction… What madness am I talking? They have an example to follow just next door in Israel.

    Yeah, let’s have US foreign policy encouraging mysticism and tyranny across the Islamosphere. Why not?

    Obviously Allah wants his children to live in shit and rant and rave ad infinitum.

    I have had a gutful of Islam. I suspect I’m far from alone.

  • Laird

    Nick, you are far from alone. The premier problem in today’s world isn’t “Muslim terrorists”, or even “Islamic extremists”, it the Muslim religion itself. If it were truly a “religion of peace” Muslims across the world would be loudly expressing their outrage at what “a few lunatics” have done to their fine religion. What there is instead is deafening silence. Muslims fall into two groups: fundamentalist extremists and their enablers. There are no others.

  • Jacob

    Obama, on his voting record, is the most leftist Senator. It would surprise me a lot if such extremist becomes president. The year is young, much can, and will, happen until November.

  • RAB

    What Nick and Laird said.

    Perry. 😉

  • Nick M

    I think it’s vastly more complex than that. I have met many muslims who are decent folk. The problem is that our governments actively enable the moonbat fringe of Islam.

    I know what this sounds like but most “muslims” aren’t real “muslims”, History and culture has rounded their corners somewhat as it has with Christians, Jews and Hindus etc.

    My problem is with UKGov aiding Wahabbist Islam in a demented attempt to buy it off. It can never be bought off. The Islam of the Prophet is absolutely raving mad and aggressive and it will never, ever stop… The Islam of the average Joe in a corner-shop is different but… Well, what do you expect from our Lords and Masters? How many of them have stood behind a Burkha in Netto?

    I am an agnostic and by and large (I work for a Christian Organisation) I am happy with Christian morality so why aren’t they?

    Is it because, when we go right back to the Qu’ran and Hadith, it’s absolutely, fucking, obnoxious?

    Or is it because the moment you say Allah controls everything we are left with nothing.

    I do not, and never will, buy that. I am an independent moral actor.

  • William H. Stoddard

    At least Samantha Powers is somewhat honest about the fact she feels the US Bill of Rights is a regrettable limitation on untrammelled democratic politics. I wonder how many politicians would be so candid?

    Well, from Wikipedia,

    In 2005, Paul introduced the We the People Act, which would have removed “any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of … reproduction” from the jurisdiction of federal courts. If made law, either of these acts would allow states to prohibit abortion.


    In 2005, Paul introduced the We the People Act, which would have removed from the jurisdiction of federal courts “any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction” and “any claim based upon equal protection of the laws to the extent such claim is based upon the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation.”

    Does that count? I personally find it hard to see how denying federal courts jurisdiction is consistent with the Constitution being “the supreme law of the land” or with Amendment XIV, section 1. It looks a lot like replacing a government of (constitutional) laws with untrammeled democratic politics to me. Even if Paul believes the courts will be making bad decisions, this strikes me as a dangerous remedy. And yet for some reason a lot of American libertarians were very enthusiastic about Paul.

  • No, not really, because all that is is an argument for state’s rights (all of which have constitutions). Paul is indeed for constitutionally limited government, just more limited at the Federal level (and in euro-speak he believes in subsidiarity). But frankly what makes your point off target is that Paul has not argued for changing the USA from a constitutional republic into a direct democracy, which is materially different to the more arcane issue of where the government gets constitutionally limited.

    As Paul is very big on what he thinks is the actual meaning of the constitution, he think that fact the ‘right to privacy’ does not in fact exist as an enumerated right matters. I have a slightly different take: it is an unenumerated right and is no less a right just because the US Constitution does not in reality mention it by name (for those who care A IX covers that too). Uneumerated rights are no less real just because they are not wrapped in 18C legal-speak.

  • Laird

    Nick, I have no doubt that there are individual Muslims who are “decent folk”, as you put it. However, these “decent folk” are not standing up and saying that the radicals are wrong. That makes them enablers, and just as culpable as the actual actors who strap on pipe bombs. Also, many of them support the radicals financially, either directly or through contributions to their mosques.

    I refer you to an essay (Link) in today’s (March 3) Wall Street Journal by Alan Dershowitz (with whose views I don’t often agree) on Muslim mothers who encourage their children to become suicide bombers. It’s chilling. “We are going to win, because they love life and we love death,” said Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah. That about sums it up.

    Islam is a monomaniacal Dark Ages religion which more than anything worships death. Dershowitz’s conclusion is spot on: “We must stop them before they export their sick and dangerous culture of death to our shores.”

  • J

    However, these “decent folk” are not standing up and saying that the radicals are wrong. That makes them enablers, and just as culpable as the actual actors who strap on pipe bombs.

    I’ve never gone on a protest against paedophiles. I’ve never publicly stood up and denounced them. Does that make me an enabler, and just as culpable as the actual child abusers?

    I’ll go further – I buy books from a second hand bookshop. They guy who runs it is a bona-fide weirdo. Full on beard, broken glasses, greasy hair and dirty clothes. He’s practically a caricature of a child molester. I’ve never reported him to the police. I give him money every couple of weeks. I don’t ask questions.

    Am I doing something wrong here? If so, what? If not, how is this different to Muslims who don’t speak out and mind their own business?

  • William H. Stoddard

    The phrase “direct democracy” strikes me as a red herring here. I do not believe for a moment that Obama, or his looniest supporter, wants to get the entire American electorate together in one room to vote on foreign policy, health care, or any other issue; or that he wants them all to vote online; or that he wants to hold a national referendum instead of having senators and members of congress legislate—which is what “direct democracy” usually means in the political discourse I’ve encountered. I think Obama, as a senator, has accepted representative democracy as an institution.

    The terminology I would use here is that of the opposition of majoritarianism to supermajoritarian constitutionalism. That is, in practical American terms, if a legislature passes a law, are the courts entitled to nullify it? That they are has been established American law since 1803 (Marbury v. Madison), and was clearly intended by the authors of the Constitution, per Hamilton’s statement that “A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It, therefore, belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.” And the extension of constitutional law to bind the states has been established since 1868, when the XIVth Amendment was ratified.

    In recent years, protests about courts overruling legislative decisions have come predominantly from Republicans, who tend to describe the courts in question as “legislating.” This hasn’t always been the case; in the 1930s, it was Democrats who were protesting against the “nine old men.” And it could be the Democrats again, if the current Supreme Court blocks some of Obama’s plans (assuming he gets elected!). But such protests are always dangerous; one of these years they may prevail, and we may see a United States where the legislature can do as it likes, and no one can stop it—and then say goodbye to our tattered remnants of the rule of law. Anything that undermines judicial review is favorable to state authority.

  • Paul Marks

    John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy were complicated people – sometimes in favour of bigger government, sometimes actually attacking the concepts of the Welfare State (and not just attacking them in order to seem interesting – there was real doubt at work).

    Even Bill Clinton can quote Hernado De Soto (it is not just Bill’s staff) and had connections with the Democratic Leadership Council.

    But Senator Obama is uncomplicated.

    He did well at Harvard by absorbing and repeating (and believing) every bit of collectivism he was taught.

    Even arch collectivist Senator Clinton can play games at times.

    I remember her at a debate being replying to a question on education by talking about charter schools and so on.

    But Senator Obama just came out with the mantra about more money.

    In his entire life (family, school, university, Chicago political machine) he has never really been expossed to anticollectivist ideas. Indeed he has been taught (from his most early years) that any such ideas are simply manifestations of either class interests or the ruling ideology of society. The idea that pro private property ideas might be CORRECT is not possible in his mental universe.

    He has no real doubts – and never will.

  • Paul Marks

    “direct democracy”.

    This can cause some confusion (at least to people who did not waste their youth fighting the left in various places).

    Such words as “direct democracy” do not mean a referendum on lots of things – or old New Hampshire or Swiss rural Canton style gatherings to vote.

    Remember Senator Obama was a “community organizer” – this is different from an old style Chicago political soldier or ward captain (like his wife’s father).

    A “community organizer” is someone taught to believe in guided democracy – where “the people” (especially “the poor”) are guided and educated to support what is their “true interest”.

    After all, left to themselves, the people might vote for lower taxes or for the death penality for murder, or…..

    As a point of interest, Hillary Clinton did her university thesis on the leading community organizer of 1960’s Chicago.

  • What is so surprising about Barrak Mohamed Hussein Obama not liking Israel?

  • Laird

    J, that is a total red herring.

    There is no worldwide organization of active pedophiles strenuously advocating that pedophilia is the “one true way” and that every non-pedophile should be killed. Pedophiles don’t strap bombs on their children and conduct wholesale murder of innocents as a means of advocating their beliefs. When they start doing this; when the minister of your church stands up at the lecturn and preaches that the violent advancement of pedophilia is a fundamental tenet of your religion; when your church’s bishops, speaking in your name, call for murderous jihads against nonpedophiles; if you don’t voice your opposition, then yes, you will be an enabler, too.

  • Geoff

    J, You become an enabler when you do not speak out, when the pedophile proclaims that he speaks for everyone of his type, and proclaims that you are one of ‘his type’. And he goes on to state that ‘you support him’. And you say nothing….
    (The lines that begin “First they came for the communists….” comes to mind… Fr. Niemollor).

    In the case of Islam, absence of evidence IS evidence of absence. Today, the Anglican Church of Canada is rendering itself into two chunks, over theological issues. When Islam starts to do the same, I’ll start having second thoughts about how I classify Muslims. In the meantime, they rank well to the left of the centre of my bell curve on lots of measures.

  • I’ve never gone on a protest against paedophiles. I’ve never publicly stood up and denounced them. Does that make me an enabler, and just as culpable as the actual child abusers?

    Of course not. However it may well make you an object of distrust if you were, say, a member of a club with many outspoken paedophiles in it. Then I might wonder if you did not feel any need to disassociate yourself you the kiddie fiddlers. Absent that sort of thing, there is simply no reasonable basis to think you might be a paedophile.

    Likewise if you were a member of an evangelistic religion whose holy book advocated the force backed imposition of your religion on others, and you did not say “Even though my religion calls for all sorts of loony things, I, Mr. J, do not follow those principles” or “I follow the vastly less loony Indonesia or Bosnia traditions, none of this Wahhabi shit for me!”…then why should I not at least suspect you might well do so, particularly if you have the outward cultural trappings of an alien culture and religion? It may not be correct but it is hard a baseless supposition.

  • Geoff

    “There is an interesting article on Martin Kramer’s Sandbox blog about Obama adviser Samantha Power. The article points out the extraordinarily daft 2002 foreign policy suggestions made by her and Michael Ignatieff (who I have met a couple times… nice enough for a total Guardianista)…”

    Well Michael Ignatieff is no longer a total Guardianista. He moved back to Canada, ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party, and got elected to Parliament, where he is now the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada. And since Stephane Dion, the leader of said party, is a compete twat, Michael figures he may inherit the leadership and have a chance to return the ‘natural governing party’ to its anointed and chosen place.

    If anyone here were a real conspiracy freako, the fact that the world has a ‘never done anything’ politico, steeped in communist mind-think from an early age running for president in the USA, and one of *his* previous ”never-done-anything-but write-about-it’ advisors lurking in the corridors of power of the US’ largest trading partner, should cause lightning bolts to flash under their foil cap!

    Damn, it would make a good plot outline for a 1972-era Ludlum spy-thriller: Communist moles have son, groom same for politics: ideological fellow-traveller/useful idiot acts as advisor…super deep mole about to get elected to the White House. (Hmmm, needs Harrison Ford playing Jack Ryan in the movie version….)

  • Interesting. It was back in the 1990’s in London when I met him (we were both rather interested in the Balkans at the time, so I ran into him a couple times at various talks about the former Yugoslavia). He did not strike me as an idiot at the time but I must confess I did not follow his later career.

  • With each new post about Obama here at Samizdata I continue to lean further towards the “I realize the republicans need better candidates, but good lord this Barack fellow is completely out of his effing mind and shouldn’t even be allowed near kitchen utensils never mind leader of the free world” vote. I mean if he isn’t pissing off our neighbors he’s threatening Pakistan (unhelpful) or trying to appease Iran (about as likely as calming down a roomful of super-models with their drugs taken away).

    The whole “let’s let the democrats have this one, there isn’t a real conservative on the ballot this time” vote seems to be just enormously irresponsible at this point.

    Was this the same reality back in 1976? I was but five years old at the time so I have no idea.

  • Kevin B

    If anyone here were a real conspiracy freako

    You called?

    Seriously I’ve thought for a while that the old KGB and Stasi had gone the Gramsci route and recruited and placed agents in Western universities, and that the fruits of that long march have taken over many of the institutions. That’s the only way I can get my head around a lot of what is going on in the world.

    The antics of many in academia, the media, the law and increasingly politics only make some sort of sense if the drivers of that idiocy are simply bent on destruction for destructions sake.

    With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the head has been removed, but the body still thrashes about in it’s death throes and the damage is still being done.

  • I just read some review of Ms. Power’s pulitzer prize-winning book “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide” wherein she apparently blames the major genocides of the last 100 years on -who else?- The US.

    Rwanda? Our fault.

    Bosnia? Yep, ours again.

    Armenians? But of course.

    But the best part of course is how Ms. Powers felt about our intervention on behalf of the Iraqi’s, who were victims of atrocities that were on the level of genocide by any reasonable standard. I’ll give you two guesses and the first two don’t count.

    Why do they even have a foreign policy school at Harvard if these two nitwits are the end result?

  • kishnevi

    Actually, I read her remarks as being anti-democratic: that sometimes the leaders have to ignore what the people want for the benefit of the people.
    Which is thoroughly leftist, of course.

  • nick g.

    Hey, Tman!
    You can add ‘Invasion of Aboriginal Lands’ to the list of America’s crimes. Obviously, if the colonies had not been so revolting, convicts would have continued to be sent to america, and Australia would have taken longer to settle- I doubt if the French would have settled here, as they had trouble getting people to colonise Quebec. Therefore, the Germans would probably have taken over, and they would not have needed to be nasty to their neighbours, therefore no WW1, no Hitler and WW2, and no Holocaust… say, you ARE responsible for the holocaust! Now you know why some people don’t worship George Washington!

  • Nick M

    You’re wrong to see “all muslims” as united entity. Most of them don’t give a toss. Most of them don’t really know their religion. I would wager that applies to most religions, certainly ones that people are born into.

    It’s the timing that is unfortunate. Britain has quite a history of “paki-bashing” and that had nothing to do with religion just basic racism. I have heard a great many people say things like, “I don’t mind the blacks but I can’t stand the Pakis”. Usually this is backed up by some tale of being short-changed in a corner-shop or the “fact” that the local curry house has alsatians in the freezer. This situation has been extended by our Lords and Masters into “Islamophobia” which they are trying to make into a new form of racism.

    Sad, pathetic and misguided. Clearly these same Lords and Masters haven’t lived in Lenton, Stepney or Levenshulme. They just don’t realize that every bone they throw to Islam actively prevents Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants from assimilating. These Lords and Masters probably think my “Islamophobia” is appallingly right-wing and reactionary. What they don’t realize is quite how patronising they are to their “muslim” citizens.

  • JohnnyL

    “But, sadly, we don’t just have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy.”

    I interpreted this quote entirely different than everybody else here has. I understood that she was referring to Israel as the liberal democracy and she our going to war against a democratic government to be a possible problem as it is not something that we in the US generally tend to do and that we need another benchmark set of principles to use when intervening against those”who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people.”

    Maybe my possible misreading of Power is do to her remarkably bad writing.

  • Paul Marks

    No doubt the Arch Collectivists Senator Clinton and Senator Obama will join up at some point and use the vast amounts of money and hoards of demented followers to destroy the Republic and the world – but…..

    I have a fantasy (I will not say “I have a dream” for obvious reasons) that they continue to fight each other.

    That the next six weeks or so see a to-the-death struggle in Pennsylvania – with all the savage abuse, leg breaking and blatent fraud that both Clinton and Obama learned in Chicago.

    Then on to the a chaotic Convention in Denver with both sides using every trick in the book and making themselves vile – even in the eyes of the main stream media.

    As I have already said, it will not happen – the two will kiss and make up at some point.

    However, it is a pleasing fantasy.

  • Paul Marks

    S. Power is gone now – but not for the odd article this post points to.

    No the lady was fired because she said (to a journalist for “The Scotsman”) that Hillary Clinton was a monster who would do anything for power.

    In short the lady was dismissed for telling the truth.

    After all the Democrats have to kiss and make up at some point.