Meet the new boss …
Salon's Glenn Greenwald is becoming less enamored of President Obama as we get more proof that presidents, of whatever party, like to expand executive power, and the eight years of President Bush's doing this were not some aberration changeable by a different surname following the word "president."
He notes three specific cases in just the past week.
"On Friday, the Obama administration announced that it would no longer use the Bush-identified label 'enemy combatants' as a ground for detaining Terrorist suspects, an announcement that generated headlines suggesting a significant change from the previous administration. But the following day, after reviewing the legal brief the administration filed setting forth its actual position regarding presidential powers of detention," Mr. Greenwald noted, the New York Times' William Glaberson found that the Obama administration had asserted powers "not significantly different."
The second case Mr. Greenwald cited was a bit lower-profile. The United States is negotiating a treaty governing intellectual property that privacy and government-transparency groups charge "would criminalize peer-to-peer file sharing, subject iPods to border searches and allow Internet service providers to monitor their customers' communications." Some liberal and libertarian groups refiled a Freedom of Information Act request last month with the Office of the Trade Representative. And got rebuffed again, being told that "the documents you seek are being withheld in full — in the interests of national security."
Mr. Greenwald called "the Bush-mimicking claim" of a national security interest in this case "stunning" and "patently inconsistent with the fanfare over expanded 'transparency' during Obama's first week."
And then we come back to presidential signing statements, on which Mr. Obama issued a "pretty-worded" and "headline-generating" announcement of "a modest approach" toward presidential signing statements, "one of Bush's principal instruments for literally ignoring the law," Mr. Greenwald wrote. "Yet two days later — literally — Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill and appended to it a signing statement claiming that he had the Constitutional authority to ignore several of its oversight provisions."
Not yet the end
David French, director of the Alliance Defense Fund's Center for Academic Freedom, thought he had seen it all.
"But the Spokane Falls (Washington) Community College has proven me wrong," he wrote at the National Review blog Phi Beta Cons before describing the case, now the subject of a pending lawsuit.
Student Beth Sheeran and some pro-life Christian students wanted to distribute their literature and post some in a campus display case.
"The college said no. Well, actually, they did more than that. They told the group that its materials (which, among other things, highlighted the toll abortion takes on African-American children) were 'hate.' They also told the group they couldn't post pro-life material unless they also displayed pro-abortion propaganda as well. In other words, if the group wanted to make its voice heard, then it had to also help distribute the other side's message," an incredulous Mr. French wrote before warning that "the story gets worse."
"When Beth and other members of her group resisted the university and pledged to go forward with the pro-life event, administrators actually showed up at the group's planning meeting, threatened them with expulsion, and distributed absurd 'Stop the Hate' materials under the college's 'bias reporting' program," he wrote.
The Center for American Progress, to pair with reports by Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin claiming that the country is moving left, put up an interactive quiz last week to answer the question "How progressive are you?"
The 40-question test asks respondents to rank from 0 to 10 their level of agreement with a variety of propositions. The score is on a 400-point scale, with Americans' average score being 209.5.
It is possible to be "very conservative" while still scoring in the triple digits. So I heard.
Competence on display
Know how liberals are supposed to be so cosmopolitan and culturally aware? And how the Bush administration was so filled with incompetents?
"Brazil is already grumbling about the treatment of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who will sit down with Obama this weekend and is the first Latin American leader to visit the White House under the new administration," wrote Joshua Keating at the Foreign Policy blog Passport. He went on to quote an Associated Press account for the details.
"Silva aides said the trip was pushed forward from Tuesday because of the St. Patrick's Day holiday — making Latin America once again look like an afterthought. Then, the White House announcement misspelled his name as 'Luis Ignacio' and put 'Lula' — a nickname that decades ago became a legal part of the Brazilian leader's name — in quotes," the report read.
This comes on top of the widely criticized protocol during a visit by Britain's Gordon Brown and the language botch of a gag gift from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"I know Obama's got bigger things to worry about, but there is a whole office of protocol that's supposed to take care of these things. If they can put together a Stevie Wonder concert, they should be able to arrange White House visits from the world's most important leaders with a little more class than this," Mr. Keating wrote.
End of a bill
About 10 days ago, there sat before the Connecticut Legislature a bill specifically targeting the Catholic Church that would have used state incorporation law to force a congregational governing structure on the church, contrary to its laws and teachings on its hierarchical nature. Certain positions of authority would have been barred to bishops and clergy and reserved for laymen, despite the contrary requirements of canon law.
The Diocese of Bridgeport issued a call for Catholics to mobilize against "the irrational, unlawful, and bigoted Proposed Bill #1098," which the diocese called "a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a similar statement, calling the bill "not even close to constitutional — It violates the First Amendment in at least two different ways. It targets the Catholic Church explicitly and exclusively, and it inserts the State into theological controversies regarding how the Church should be structured and governed."
The Catholic blogosphere quickly joined in and spread the word around the country. Typical was Thomas Hoopes of National Catholic Register, who dubbed the bill as "a miter box — for bishops' miters." By Tuesday, the bill had been pulled until its constitutionality could be determined, but a demonstration against it set for Wednesday in Hartford went ahead anyway and drew 3,500 people.
"Caught 'em red-handed," wrote Thomas Peters of American Papist. "Well done, everyone, Remain vigilant."
• Contact Victor Morton at firstname.lastname@example.org.