Losin’ It

Yesterday President Bush went through the motions of doing his job and met with his economic advisers at Camp David. Afterward he made a statement and took questions from reporters.

MSNBC has a video. I normally wouldn’t ask you to look at a Bush video, except to call your attention to the way the president’s speech utterly lost cohesion when he was talking about Thursday’s wiretap ruling by Judge Anna Diggs Taylor.

If you want to skip the statement part (executive summary: bullshit) and go right to the questions, start the video at 6:10. The first questions are about Lebanon, and Bush’s answers — again, the usual bullshit — were spoken well enough. But it seemed to me that when the questions turned to the wiretap ruling (11:44) he went downhill — stammering, hesitating, changing thought in mid-sentence. He managed to dredge up some stock phrases and speak them forcefully — “this country of ours is at war”; “if al Qaeda is calling into the United States we want to know why they’re calling” — the latter being a non sequitur, and of course no one called Bush on it. But especially after about 13:15 I wondered if he was going to survive to the next clause.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I think the boy’s nervous.

The most-quoted line from Bush’s talk is this: “I would say that those who herald this decision simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live.” I have nothing to add to Tristero’s take on the quote. For more commentary on Bush’s defiance of the law, see TChris at TalkLeft.

As for Bush’s claims about our glorious economy, I call your attention this this article by Ashley Seager in today’s Guardian.

The recent flow of news from around the world suggests that the balance of world economic power may finally be swinging away from the United States – the powerhouse of the past decade or more – towards Japan and Europe, which have lagged behind for many years.

The world economy has put in its fastest growth spurt for decades over the past three years, and is still bowling along at a healthy clip this year, despite a tripling of oil prices since early 2004. China and India continue to grow at breakneck speed but many economists are fearful that the interest rate rises by the world’s central banks this year, led by the US Federal Reserve, could put a swift brake on the world economy next year.

Indeed, the US economy has already slowed, expanding at an annual pace of only 2.5% in the second quarter. With news this week that the 12-member eurozone expanded at an annualised rate of 3.6% in the April to June period, Europe is suddenly growing faster than the US. Britain, too, has recovered from last year’s slowdown and expanded at an annualised 3.2% in the second quarter.

Back to Constitutional issues: Today, The People Who Understand This Stuff Better Than I Do are discussing the reasoning behind Judge Taylor’s decision. This article by Adam Liptak in the New York Times quotes a number of people who say the opinion is not as strongly grounded in legal opinion as it could have been. These people are not necessarily saying the decision was wrong, however. For example:

Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, predicted that the plaintiffs would win the case on appeal, but not for the reasons Judge Taylor gave.

“The chances that the Bush program will be upheld are not none, but slim,” Professor Sunstein said. “The chances that this judge’s analysis will be adopted are also slim.”

Today’s discussion seems to focus on whether the flaws in Judge Taylor’s arguments for her decision matter, since the decision can be supported solidly using other arguments. Professor Sunstein and others seem to believe the appeals court could take a fresh look at the case and side against the government even if they disallow Taylor’s opinion.

Glenn Greenwald argues that those picking apart Judge Taylor’s rhetoric and reasoning are losing sight of the Big Picture.

In the scheme of the profound issues our country faces, obsessing about the inartfulness of this judicial opinion is not unlike those who use a laughably grave tone to write articles about fights between Daily Kos diarists or the latest blogger “scandal” while ignoring our national media’s grotesque failure to scrutinize meaningfully our government’s conduct and claims — particularly on matters of war and peace or threats to constitutional liberties.

Scott Lemieux ain’t so sure:

… having read the opinion carefully I have to say that I side with Publius over Glenn on this one; while I strongly believe that the outcome of the case (at least insofar as the conclusions that the NSA program violates FISA and the 4th Amendment are concerned) was correct, the shoddiness of this opinion really does matter. First of all , this goes beyond mere inarftfulness; Publius is right that it’s ridiculous to claim that there is no dispute over the First and Fourth Amendment claims being made here (indeed, I don’t even agree with the former claim.) And second, if this was the Supreme Court the argument would be merely normative. But since it’s a District Court, the quality of the legal reasoning matters in a pragmatic way as well: this decision is certain to be overturned by 6CA. For lower courts, the quality of the legal reasoning most certainly does matter, and even a court sympathetic to the outcome will have no choice but to overturn this one. The NSA program is unconstitutional–but this argument needs to be made in an opinion that has some chance of holding up on appeal.

In the comments to Scott’s post, Ann Bartow and Glenn G. argue that Taylor’s opinion amounts to a summary judgment and wasn’t meant to be the final word. I take it the fact that the government’s “evidence” is secret, meaning Judge Taylor couldn’t discuss it specifically in her opinion, is a factor here. See also J.B. at Balkinization, who thinks Judge Taylor had tactical reasons for approaching the case as she did.

12 thoughts on “Losin’ It

  1. Maha,
    Maybe Goergie-boy is losing confidence in AG the AG and his legal staff and their opinions.
    I didn’t think he looked and sounded nervous, I thought he looked and sounded demented.
    It was all fun to be the Big War Chief with the cod-peice on the air-craft carrier, but then, people actually expected you to be competent and know what you were doing. That wasn’t part of the script, was it?
    Georgie, you were sometimes great at looking and sounding like the part. The problem is, you’re a really bad actor who’s miscast in the wrong play….
    Unfortunately, the critic’s in Congress refulse to close the show. Hopefully, the public will.
    I’ll vote for that…

  2. I didn’t think he looked and sounded nervous, I thought he looked and sounded demented.

    He looks and sounds demented to me all the time, even when his syntax is hanging together. There’s something about the way he grins at the wrong times that creeps me out. But I still think he was struggling after the 13:15 mark.

  3. Maha,
    You’re right, I should have added “as usual.”
    But, if you ever notice, when he talks about war and violence, he never misses a syllable. He actually looks and sounds like he’s sort-of competent. Look at the video’s. It’s because he likes war and violence.
    It’s when he’s trying to be empathetic that his ticks, twitches and malapropism’s are abundantly evident. That’s because he doesn’t have an empathetic bone in his head, let alone his body.
    Freud, Jung and Adler would have loved to study this boy…

  4. but I think the boy’s nervous.

    The judge who ruled against the wiretaps made one powerful statement..There is no power that exceeds the Constitution. Bush can claim that we don’t understand the nature of the supposed enemy, but it won’t overcome the truth of the judges statement. As it stands now…Bush is a criminal.

    And I absolutely hate when Bush parrots his..” If al Qaida is calling” bullshit line. It’s an affront to intelligence and reason and grates against my emotions.

  5. c u n d gulag — yes, of course, but in this case he wasn’t trying to be empathetic; he was defending his spy program. And he’d been sailing along pretty well through most of his little appearance and suddenly lost it.

  6. Maha,
    You’re right! I never thought of that!!!
    Uh-oh, if he muff’s THAT stuff, we all need to worry. He didn’t just lose his train of thought, the entire choo-choo went off the rails and down the cliff.
    He needs more hate and war.
    Can anyone spell I-R-A-N? How about N-U-K-E? It’s not just the “N” that they have in common, there’s also a “W” there somewhere. It’s just silent – for now…

  7. I haven’t seen the tape yet as of writing this, but, based on what I’ve seen before, Bush is totally dependent on others to develop his talking points for him. It’s pretty clear that the decision against the government caught the BushCo crowd by surprise, and as reporters began to ask questions of various administration personnel, you didn’t see the usual pre-rehearsed meme. I think Bush just panics when he hasn’t been spoon-fed his one-liners and this was probably one more instance.

  8. Bush is totally dependent on others to develop his talking points for him.

    Of course, but it’s hard to believe the courtiers didn’t anticipate a question about the Taylor decision and prep His Highness for it.

  9. Have now seen the tape. He reminded me of watching someone who can’t swim desperately trying to tread water. You’re correct. He totally lost it, with even his arms flailing about. My question is, why does he keep talking and just shoving his foot into his mouth deeper and deeper? He could have let his answer stand after the first one or two sentences, but he just kept rambling on. Bizarre.

  10. Yeh, the monkey cage sure got rattled towards the end, the decider doesn’t like to be challenged.

  11. I noticed on the video of Bush that he’s still trying to peddle the line item veto..What part of the line item veto being unconstitutional doesn’t he understand.?

    I can see the rebellious child in Bush. He doesn’t like to be told he can’t have his own way. Not a good quality to carry into adulthood.

  12. How does a Mac user who refuses to use MSE watch this video?
    Seems MSN really likes MS more than N

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