Jan 29th 2015

The Conditional Sanctity of the Office of the President

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

Hypocrisy is nothing new to either side of the aisle. Short memories and expediency allow for feigned outrage against the latest policy that was, just a short time ago, righteously and patriotically advanced as vital to America's future, depending on who is in and out of power. Such blind partisanship is par for the course for Democrats and Republicans. To catch our attention, then, we must indeed pass a high threshold of double standard to rise above the cesspool stench of national politics.

Somehow the GOP has risen to the challenge. Exhibit A is House Speaker Boehner's invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to Congress as an end-run around the White House policy on Iran sanctions, but we'll get to that a bit later.

When a Republican sits in the Oval Office, nothing gets the blue blood of patriotism pumping faster than an affront to the president. With chests puffed up and flags waving, patriots tell us that the dignity of the office demands respect. During the Bush years of endless war, we cannot forget that any criticism of White House policy was a win for the terrorists. Is your memory of the "treason card" a little vague? Let me refresh as a means of putting Boehner's disrespect in perspective.

Commander in Chief

The ubiquitous Bill O'Reilly said in 2004, and then often later, "You don't criticize the commander in chief in the middle of a firefight. That could be construed as putting U.S. forces in jeopardy and undermining morale."

That admonition seems to have vanished the moment Obama took office. Of our ongoing war on terror, O'Reilly said, "Ever since he was elected in 2008, President Obama's rhetoric has been soft on the Muslim threat." Being in the middle of a firefight no longer seems to matter, because Bill also said, "It is al-Qaeda versus us. We, the American people, we don't need to involve ourselves with Iraqi politics to defend ourselves against terrorists on the march." That war against terrorism on the march is no barrier to Bill, who claimed, "Obama is under siege. His poll numbers are declining rapidly. Almost everywhere you look there is chaos." Sounds much like criticizing the commander in chief in the middle of a firefight, something Bill said we should never do -- when a Republican is president.

Not only did Bill criticize the president in a way he said we never should, but he lied in the process about Obama's poll numbers. Here is the verifiable truth: From Jan. 1, 2014, to Oct. 30, 2014, Obama's approval rating fell from 42.6 percent to 42 percent. The year's peak was 44 percent, and the low of the year was 41 percent. A drop of about one half of 1 percent does not constitute numbers that are "plummeting" or "sinking" or even "dropping." But Bill said they were "declining rapidly," a lie that undermines all else that he said because he based his claims about chaos on that false claim of rapidly falling polls.

Tom Delay, former Speaker of the House, warned that Speaker Nancy Pelosi could be "successful in undermining the commander in chief" with the consequence that Democrats would be "emboldening the terrorists to kill more Americans in Iraq," all because Pelosi and her fellow Democrats had the audacity to question the president's policy in Iraq, as it was clearly falling apart.

Yet Tom "Gerrymander" Delay does not hesitate to undermine the commander in chief if he happens to be Obama. "But this president is violating his oath of office. He's abusing his power. The president of the United States, I don't know where he gets the notion that he can legislate, change legislation, decide what law he'll enforce and not enforce. This is all violating the Constitution of the United States and probably many statutes." Tough criticism of the commander in chief for someone who worried that any such criticism would lead to more American deaths. We are, after all, still fighting the war on terror.

When Sen. Dick Durbin was rude enough to question the policy of torturing prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Karl Rove responded with the missive that "Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."

But Karl, what about conservative motives? Here's Karl on Obama's foreign-policy speech at West Point in May 2014: "The president's speech today is going to further disappoint our allies. They're shaking their heads all over the world. And it's going to further embolden our adversaries. Putin is sitting in the Kremlin laughing." Somehow that does not put our troops in danger.

John Ashcroft was outraged when Democrats voiced some concerns about the Patriot Act. He lectured Democrats, "Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil."

But Ashcroft miraculously recovered from patriotic fever in time to criticize Obama, an attack that somehow does not diminish our resolve as it did when we criticized Bush. Ashcroft, for example, takes issue with Obama's effort to close Guantanamo Bay, saying, "The idea somehow there is something evil about Guantanamo, I think it is a bankrupt idea." Calling Obama's policy bankrupt is no problem, giving no comfort to our enemies.

Office of the President

Hypocritical attacks on Obama are not confined to criticisms of him as the commander-in-chief. We should not forget that a low-level Representative cried out "You lie!" during Obama's 2009 State of the Union address when he discussed healthcare reform. Fortunately, leaders of both parties condemned the outburst. But consider the culture and history of personal attacks on Obama that made such outrageous public disrespect possible. Those attacks have been as relentless as they have been vicious.

Sarah Palin routinely questioned and still questions Obama's patriotism. A typical missive about Obama: "This is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country." But she does not stop there. She said on Fox News, "When I hear Barack Obama speak at this point ... it is nauseating to me." Can you get more discourteous of a president? Imagine the outcry if a prominent Democrat said those words of a Republican president. Would we not hear that such comments are shameful, unpatriotic, America-hating, and disrespectful to the office of the president? Yet we hear nothing from conservatives.

Michele Bachmann lamented Obama's embrace of an "agenda of Islamic jihad." Imagine the outrage if that were said of a Republican president. Of course we have the inevitable comparison to Hitler, the most recent from Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas). Again, imagine the outrage if reversed. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. I need not cite references for all the accusations that Obama is a secret Muslim, or a non-citizen, or a radical Christian who hates America. The overall theme is that Obama is a traitor who deliberately wants to put our troops in harm's way. Compare this to the viscous GOP attack on any dissent when Bush was the commander-in-chief.

How about these sentiments, collated by Geoffrey Stone in an article tracking the extreme nature of vile attacks on the president:

• "Dump This Turd" (with image of Obama)
• "Somewhere in Kenya A Village is Missing Its Idiot"
• "Pure Evil" (with image of Obama)
• "I'm Not Racist: I Hate his White Half Too" (with image of Obama)

Here are some others I have seen (I do live in Texas) or that have been brought to myattention:

• "Obama is a lying, racist, American-hating socialist"
• "Obama, Kenya believe him"
• "B.O. Stinks"
• "Dinglebarry" (with image of Obama)
• "Obama: One Big Ass Mistake America"
• "Obama Bin Lyin'"
• "2012: Don't Re-Nig"
• "Two Things Coal and Barak Obama Have in Common: 1) There both Black [sic]; and 2) Americans should BURN BOTH" (it should be apparent that grammar is not a strong suit of the stupid)
• "Vote the right guy, the white guy"
• "Chairman Oba-Mao"
• "It's True, I Do Hate America" (with image of Obama)
• "Barak Obama the Antichrist"
• "Obama makes me throw up in my mouth"
• "Obama Hates America"

Clearly, conservatives no longer believe in the dignity of the Oval Office -- that is, until a Republican next sits there. I challenge anybody to come up with attacks of similar nature against any other president. Yes, the left hated and still hates Bush, but I defy you to find equivalent levels of vile hatred thrown at a president. Bush was called stupid and inept (well...), but Obama's critics go way beyond this with a drumbeat of ugly attacks wholly unrelated to his actions as president, some of which are undeniably motivated by race. The only president who comes close to this level of vitriol is Abraham Lincoln, but the etiquette of the times prevented the use of words like "turd" to describe the president of the United States.

Sure, name calling by itself is harmless, and all of the above is happily protected by the American commitment to free speech. The point is not to claim that such speech causes any damage but to reveal a culture in which the office of the president deserves no respect, precisely the opposite of what conservatives claim when a Republican is in the White House. What this speech reveals is the deep, corrosive hypocrisy of the GOP and the conservative movement.

Separation of Powers

Which brings us to Speaker John Boehner.

Our Constitution creates checks and balances in the separation of three equal branches of government: the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch. That happy balance includes the quaint notion that only the executive branch conducts diplomacy with other nations. Article II vests responsibility for foreign affairs in the president, as head of both the armed forces and the foreign-policy bureaucracy. Our Constitution says that the president is the sole organ of communication with foreign countries. Only the president has the power to negotiate and sign treaties, which also must be ratified by two thirds of the Senate.

But Republicans have become so blatantly disrespectful of this president that even those boundaries are no longer binding. In a clear breach of protocol, Boehner invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress on the issue of Iran without consulting the White House. Sadly, Boehner's move is naïve by playing into the hands of Iranian extremists who are looking for any excuse to reject any agreement on nuclear disarmament. While the president is in the midst of sensitive, technically complicated negotiations, Boehner's actions could easily rupture the fragile alliance with Russia, China, and Europe's major powers as they seek to contain Iran. Netanyahu mistakenly believes that undermining the president is his path to security for Israel.

Regardless of the issue at hand, we have to marvel at what Boehner did. No matter his personal feelings about Obama, he could only undermine his own president in foreign policy if he simply had no respect for the office of the president. Compare the GOP position during the Bush administration, when any criticism or effort to oppose Bush was tantamount to treason, with the GOP position today, when the Speaker of the House of Representatives acts to weaken the presidency with blatant acts of subversion. The GOP has moved from the position that any attack on the president is anti-American to approving heartily of attacks on the president when that commander in chief is Obama to taking official actions that are counter to our own Constitution and show a clear disrespect for the office. This journey from one extreme to the other on the question of respect for the presidency is really unprecedented. That juxtaposition of contradictory positions is what makes this level of hypocrisy historic. You could not make this up.



Dr. Jeff Schweitzer is a marine biologist, consultant and internationally recognized authority in ethics, conservation and development. He is the author of five books including Calorie Wars: Fat, Fact and Fiction (July 2011), and A New Moral Code (2010). Dr. Schweitzer has spoken at numerous international conferences in Asia, Russia, Europe and the United States.Dr. Schweitzer's work is based on his desire to introduce a stronger set of ethics into American efforts to improve the human condition worldwide. He has been instrumental in designing programs that demonstrate how third world development and protecting our resources are compatible goals. His vision is to inspire a framework that ensures that humans can grow and prosper indefinitely in a healthy environment.Formerly, Dr. Schweitzer served as an Assistant Director for International Affairs in the Office of Science and Technology Policy under former President Clinton. Prior to that, Dr. Schweitzer served as the Chief Environmental Officer at the State Department's Agency for International Development. In that role, he founded the multi-agency International Cooperative Biodiversity Group Program, a U.S. Government that promoted conservation through rational economic use of natural resources.Dr. Schweitzer began his scientific career in the field of marine biology. He earned his Ph.D. from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. He expanded his research at the Center for Learning and Memory at the University of California, Irvine. While at U.C. Irvine he was awarded the Science, Engineering and Diplomacy Fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.Dr. Schweitzer is a pilot and he founded and edited the Malibu Mirage, an aviation magazine dedicated to pilots flying these single-engine airplanes. He and his wife Sally are avid SCUBA divers and they travel widely to see new wildlife, never far from their roots as marine scientists..To learn more about Dr Schweitzer, visit his website at http://www.JeffSchweitzer.com.



To follow what's new on Facts & Arts please click here.



     

 


This article is brought to you by the author who owns the copyright to the text.

Should you want to support the author’s creative work you can use the PayPal “Donate” button below.

Your donation is a transaction between you and the author. The proceeds go directly to the author’s PayPal account in full less PayPal’s commission.

Facts & Arts neither receives information about you, nor of your donation, nor does Facts & Arts receive a commission.

Facts & Arts does not pay the author, nor takes paid by the author, for the posting of the author's material on Facts & Arts. Facts & Arts finances its operations by selling advertising space.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Essays

Sep 25th 2020
EXTRACT: "We now know the potentially appalling long-term effects of suffering cruelty from others, including damage to both physical and mental health. The benefits of being compassionate towards oneself, rather than treating oneself cruelly, are also increasingly recognised..... And the idea that we must suffer to grow is questionable. Positive life events, such as falling in love, having children and achieving cherished goals can lead to growth..... Teaching through cruelty invites abuses of power and selfish sadism. Yet Buddhism offers an alternative - wrathful compassion. Here, we act from love to confront others to protect them from their greed, hatred and fear. Life can be cruel, truth can be cruel, but we can choose not to be."
Sep 19th 2020
EXTRACT: "Over his incredible career, David Attenborough has seen more of earth’s natural wonders than almost anyone. To hear him talk, with such clarity, about how bad things are getting is deeply moving. Scientists have recently demonstrated what would be needed to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. As Attenborough says in the final scene, “What happens next, is up to every one of us”. "
Sep 15th 2020
EXTRACTS: "The Anglo-Australian multinational company Rio Tinto – the largest iron ore mining company in the world – demolished two 46,000-year-old Aboriginal rock shelters in May.......The Dampier Archipelago of Western Australia is home to thousands of Aboriginal pictographs, and perhaps the oldest surviving rock art in the world. Indeed, Australia’s Indigenous art represents the longest uninterrupted tradition of art in the world – going back over 50,000 years......Aboriginal people represent the oldest continuous culture in the world...."
Sep 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution was a defining event that changed how we think about the relationship between religion and modernity. Ayatollah Khomeini’s mass mobilisation of Islam showed that modernisation by no means implies a linear process of religious decline.....Reliable large-scale data on Iranians’ post-revolutionary religious beliefs, however, has always been lacking...........In June 2020, our research institute, the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in IRAN...conducted an online survey......The results verify Iranian society’s unprecedented secularisation."
Sep 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Just as you can upgrade your old computer’s operating system, culture can evolve even if intelligence doesn’t. Humans in ancient times lacked smartphones and spaceflight, but we know from studying philosophers such as Buddha and Aristotle that they were just as clever. Our brains didn’t change, our culture did."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Our lab in Cambridge, England, is working with a promising new family of materials known as halide perovskites. They are semiconductors, conducting charges when stimulated with light. Perovskite inks are deposited onto glass or plastic to make extremely thin films – around one hundredth of the width of a human hair – made up of metal, halide and organic ions. When sandwiched between electrode contacts, these films make solar cell or LED devices."
Sep 2nd 2020
EXTRACT: "Bryant, a black man, was sentenced to life in prison for trying to steal hedge clippers from a Louisiana carport storage room in 1997. He has already served twenty-three years for this petty crime, and on 31 July the Louisiana Supreme Court denied a request to review his life sentence. The denial followed a lower appeals court’s 2019 decision that concluded “his life sentence is final.” The only judge on the Louisiana Supreme Court to dissent (or even issue an opinion) was Chief Justice Bernette Johnson. She wrote a stinging rebuke, observing that Bryant’s “life sentence for a failed attempt to steal a set of hedge clippers is grossly out of proportion to the crime and serves no legitimate penal purpose.” "
Aug 18th 2020
EXTRACT: "In 2016, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that as high as 40 percent of prisoners should not be in prison—”behind bars with no compelling public safety reason.” There are literally thousands of young prisoners, Black and white, who are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for non-violent offences. It is unfathomable that we as a society are spending billions of dollars every year to sustain such pointless cruelty, to inflict needless pain on individuals, fathers and mothers, who pose no threat at all to the public."
Jul 31st 2020
EXTRACT: "From a Kantian standpoint discrimination based on race – or religion, or gender – is fundamentally wrong. It is wrong, first of all, because it is dehumanizing, a denial of human dignity. When I racially discriminate, I am denying the person’s intrinsic self-worth, I am, in fact, denying their very right to exist, whether I know it or not. The moral law demands that I treat every individual as a free person equal to everyone else. If the moral law grants each of us a kind of infinite worth, it does not grant someone greater worth than anyone else."
Jul 12th 2020
EXTRACT: "Remember, your wellbeing is extremely important when supporting someone with depression. Take time for self-care so you can model positive behaviours and be replenished enough to provide this crucial support."
Jul 4th 2020
EXTRACT: "--- Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart, for his purity, by definition, is unassailable. --- Author James Baldwin’s words, written in the America of the late 1950s."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Numerous studies have shown that children who grow up in more deprived neighbourhoods tend to have worse physical health as adults compared to those raised in more affluent areas. This is the case even when researchers take into account family income and education, and whether or not parents have major illnesses. In order to address this health disparity, researchers need to understand how those living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods end up with worse health outcomes. Our team’s latest study has highlighted one potential way your childhood neighbourhood may influence your health for years to come. It might do so through changing how the activity of your genes is regulated."
Jun 29th 2020
EXTRACT: "Ruth Poniarski is a painter and the author of Journey of the Self: Memoir of an Artist (Warren Publishing, 2020), in which she tells the story of her decade long struggle with mental illness, a “spiraling malady” which led her into a “pattern of psychosis”. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Poniarski about her life and work, and how she eventually overcame her demons."
Jun 27th 2020
EXTRACT: "I know I’m good in a couple of things, really good in a few things, and that’s enough. My confidence is big enough that I can really let people grow next to me, it’s no problem. I need experts around me. It’s really very important that you are empathetic, that you try to understand the people around you, and that you give real support to the people around you."
Jun 27th 2020
An essay about the "the enormously influential 1940 'Head of Christ' painting by evangelical Warner E. Sallman" pictured below.
Jun 17th 2020
EXTRACT: "The diverse, non-human life forms that live in our guts – known as our microbiome – are crucial to our health. A disrupted balance of these contribute to a range of disorders and diseases, including obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease. It could even affect our mental health..... It’s well known that the microbes living in our guts are altered through diet. For example, including dietary fibre and dairy products in our diets encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. But mounting evidence suggests that exercise can also modify the types of bacteria that reside within our guts."
Jun 13th 2020
EXTRACT: "Bonhoeffer’s life holds an important lesson for us today, regardless of our religious affiliation or lack thereof. And simply put it is this: you are called upon; you are called on behalf of your neighbor. When you are called to be responsible that is not an obligation which you can decline, discharge or acquit yourself of – it is an infinite responsibility, a “forever commitment” as Charles Blow recently put it. And we all must be prepared to make any sacrifice necessary when we are called."
Jun 11th 2020
EXTRACT: "People differ substantially in how much they’re affected by experiences in their lives. Some people seem to be more affected by daily stress, or the loss of someone close to them. On the other hand, some people seem to get through the same experiences relatively unscathed. Similarly, some people benefit strongly from counselling, or having a support system of close family and friends. Others seem better able to manage on their own. But understanding why some people are more sensitive than others isn’t just a question of how they were raised, and the experiences they’ve been through. In fact, previous research has found that some people in general seem more sensitive to what they experience – and some are generally less sensitive."
Jun 7th 2020
EXTRACT: " The root causes of anthropogenic climate change – which has led to the endangering of countless species across the globe – cannot be adequately grasped in isolation from the technological application of modern science. While Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was certainly justified in calling upon American legislators to “unite behind the science,” neither can we overlook the culpability of science in bringing about the environmental crisis. "
May 23rd 2020
EXTRACT: "The QAnon movement began in 2017 after someone known only as Q posted a series of conspiracy theories about Trump on the internet forum 4chan. QAnon followers believe global elites are seeking to bring down Trump, whom they see as the world’s only hope to defeat the “deep state.” OKM is part of a network of independent congregations (or ekklesia) called Home Congregations Worldwide (HCW). The organization’s spiritual adviser is Mark Taylor, a self-proclaimed “Trump Prophet” and QAnon influencer with a large social media following on Twitter and YouTube."