Monday, June 10, 2013

The President Problem and the Chinese Connection

Now that we know who Our Leaker is, we can begin to sort the situation out a little bit better.

Edward Snowden (This is his real name? So British, so peripherally royal, so... apparently benign. At least he's no Muslim!), a Booz Allen employee, former NSA and CIA employee, former Special Forces military trainee, former... well, what hasn't he done... outed himself in a lengthy but not terribly informative interview published over at the Guardian yesterday.  He's certainly a very well-presented young man, easily the most articulate spokesman for The Cause that was likely to be found. That the interview took place in a Hong Kong hotel, and indeed, so far as I was able to figure, the Revelations from him have all emanated from his perch in Hong Kong where Young Snowden has sought refuge if not asylum is more than a little interesting, given the visitation of China's Premier Xi with the President at the Annenberg spread in Rancho Mirage over the weekend ostensibly dealing with such matters as... cyberwarfare.

Go figure.

The Cause is what, exactly? Remind me again.

Oh yes, according to Young Snowden and his interviewer Glenn Greenwald, The Cause is The Debate. That's all they say they want, The Debate. "What kind of country do we want to have?" Snowden claims that he has not revealed anything that would compromise either any individual or the National Security State itself. All he has done, he says, is let people know something of what's really going on in that National Security State.

Message: You are being spied upon, and at an analyst's whim, you can be investigated and destroyed, with no recourse or appeal. Domestic surveillance is that penetrating and that pervasive. Is this the kind of country we want to have?

That's not The Debate that's under way, however. Far from it. The Debate that is underway is almost entirely a matter of Getting Obama, as seen in the inordinate number of blame-casting anti-Obama screeds that this and the other "scandals" promulgated subsequent to the Correspondents' Dinner have triggered.

It's all about the Persons of the President and those around him, not so much what's been going on -- something we're still only vaguely aware of. Domestic surveillance per se is certainly not the issue, as neither Snowden nor Greenwald -- among many others -- are intrinsically opposed to it. What they seem to be railing against is not the surveillance itself, it is instead a matter of how the surveillance is carried out, by whom, under what controls if any, and to what use the information is put. As far as I can tell, universal domestic surveillance is fine in their view as long as a) we know it is going on; b) it is done according to clearly stated and enforceable rules and regulations with adequate public review and oversight; c) certain categories of people are exempt from scrutiny (ie: media, perhaps the highest levels of corporate leadership, elected officials, maybe some others).

Because that is (apparently) not the way the various surveillance programs work now, revealing them is the surest way to engage The Debate that will lead to the proper sort of domestic surveillance. Or so it would seem.

The Obama Administration is to blame for the current faulty surveillance programs, and (of course) for lying about them to the public. It's what Presidencies do, after all. But in this case, it is worse than any ever in the history of the world, because Obama campaigned on Hope and Change, and he has Betrayed Us!!! Obama is personally to blame for this. No President has ever been as deceptive and deceitful as this one, ever.

Of course, this is all politics, the same sort of factional war-gaming that's been going on forever in the halls of power, but with the added thrill of potentially being able to Get yet another President, and that's always fun.

The first President who was Got in my lifetime was President Kennedy who was shot in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and we have had a President Problem ever since. No President since then has been able to get through his term(s) of office unsullied if not actually driven from the Throne by forces arrayed against him. Johnson was forced to issue his famous, "I shall not run and I shall not accept" statement from the Throne after the nation erupted in disobedience and riots over the war in Vietnam and aspects of racial discrimination. After more assassinations in 1968 -- MLK, Robert Kennedy -- Nixon won the Presidency, which he held onto barely into a second term before he was forced out of office due to overt criminality which he, bless his heart, claimed was not criminal because the President was doing it. Ford, who followed Nixon, was our first unelected president, as Nixon's vice president had been forced out for his own corruption and criminality, and Ford was chosen by... lot? Who knows? At any rate, he was appointed to the position of Vice President when Spiro Agnew was removed from office, and he stepped in to the Presidency when Richard Nixon resigned. Ford was essentially a nonentity placeholder -- except for this: both Donald Rumsfeld (as SecDef) and Darth Cheney (as Chief of Staff)  became national players under Ford, and we would be privileged to witness the result of their decades of public service (or what you will) under Bush II. Monstrous. Ford was followed by Carter, a highly moral man but deeply flawed President, who couldn't seem to get his act together at any time during his brief tenure, primarily because -- I've always thought -- he was popularly elected as a cleansing agent and the Washington Establishment (Digby's "village," my "Palace") would have none of it. Out he went. Then it was Reagan's turn to hold the office, though what he actually did in it is still somewhat of a mystery, especially after he was shot, and it appeared that a formerly shadowy cabal (Haig, Bush the Old, others) took over. At any rate, Reagan's term(s) of office were transformative to be sure, economically terrifying and disastrous for many Americans, and genocidal for millions abroad. He left office under a cloud of suspicion over the grotesquerie of the Central American campaigns, the Iran-Contra monstrousness, the routine corruption and corporate favoritism that was a feature of his regime, and his personal problems with Alzheimer's. He was followed by his apparently sane Vice President, George Bush the Old who promptly got us into a monstrous war with Iraq that left hundreds of thousands dead and who otherwise led the nation into unprecedented levels of instability. Of course, the minute the Presidential Throne was taken over by the Clintons, the Apocalypse drew nigh. The Clinton years were an endless round of "scandals" leading to the revelation of sexual peccadilloes leading to a ridiculous failed impeachment. It was certainly a Show, but as for the rest? The Clinton years consolidated the Reagan Revolution... from a political standpoint, it was the final stand -- and final rout -- of what little of a "left" was left in politics and government. While the Clintons are riding high now, the Clinton years had some really disastrous political aspects, many of which would be brought to the fore by the Clinton successor, George Bush the Lesser, who was installed in office under as dark a cloud as had ever hung over the Presidency, elected by a majority of the Supreme Court, contrary to law and the Constitution, because they could. The Bush II regime was perhaps the most gawd-awful in American history (I'm not familiar enough with the Bad Presidents of the 19th and early 20th Century to say with certainty) leading to millions dead and made refugee as a result of wars, economic collapse, terrorist attacks and so on. The Bush years were an unprecedented nightmare for the nation and for much of the world, a nightmare from which there has been no recovery, despite the intention of redemption with the election (twice now) of Barack Obama and the nearly complete disappearance of Bush the Bad.

In my view, this record of presidential disaster following the murder of President Kennedy should be seen as part of the problem of the presidency itself, an anachronistic quasi-imperial position that should never have been instituted, but once it was seen to produce such imperious problems (which was almost immediate with George Washington) should have been abolished. But it wasn't and we are now where we are.

The efforts to blame particular presidents for whatever is wrong miss the point: the presidency itself gives rise to wrong on a massive -- and apparently increasing -- scale, and attacking or replacing the person who sits on the Presidential Throne does not change that. After so many essentially failed presidencies, as enumerated above, it should begin to dawn on observers that the presidency is itself the problem, and until that is dealt with, nothing else will be resolved.

Constitutionalists, of course, will never get that because of their worship of the Holy Writ that provides for the Presidency. So long as the Constitution is considered sacred, the Presidential Problem will remain.

What's been going on lately with the various "sudden" scandals of the Obama Administration, all of which have been known of for months if not years, strikes me as a deliberate and calculated move by a certain faction within the Shadow State if you will to either bring this particular presidency to an end or to so hamstring it that there is no internal choice but to follow the dictates of that faction. I call it the continuation of the Cheney regime.

But what of the China Connection? I don't think we can totally ignore the coincidence of the domestic spying revelations and the visitation of the Chinese Premiere together with the hightailing of the leaker to Hong Kong -- which is part of China, no matter the apparent efforts to give it some kind of Libertarian gloss.

This will shake out in ways we can't completely anticipate, but I'd say we can expect to see little of The Debate, and a great deal of stomping around and bombast. It's hard to imagine that any of the factional players are in any way interested in overturning or reversing the American slide into authoritarianism. Instead, they are still competing among themselves over who will have the reins of the Security State going forward.

China is likely to be the model.

But then we knew that, didn't we?

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