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Short-sightedness Isn’t Hypocrisy

krystal-ball-msnbc

The gang at Weasel Zippers blast the headline, “MSNBC Host Admits She’s A Hypocrite: Trusts Obama To Assassinate Americans With No Due Process, Wouldn’t Support Bush If He Did It.” Not seeing any obvious hypocrisy in trusting one president and not another, I was intrigued.

MSNBC’s co-host of The Cycle, Krystal Ball, took on the notion circulating in the media that liberal supporters of President Barack Obama are engaging in hypocrisy when they defend the executive’s authority to execute drone strikes on Americans overseas. Some claim that they would never support this power if the president were a Republican. Ball agreed with this point, conceding that she would not support President George W. Bush having this authority. However, she said that Obama is a “fundamentally responsible actor” while Bush regularly “displayed extraordinarily lapses in judgment.”

Ball said that she did harbor some reservations about the way in which the drone program has been administered by the Obama administration. Overall, however, she said that she is comfortable with Obama having the authority to execute American citizens overseas extra-judicially.

Hmm. Still no hypocrisy. She thinks Bush made decisions that “displayed extraordinary lapses in judgment” but thinks Obama a “fundamentally responsible actor.” One is free to agree or disagree with her on that assessment but, if that’s what she believes, then it’s a perfectly rational basis for thinking that Obama, not Bush, can be trusted to make the right call on something as sensitive as killing Americans believed to be terrorists.

The problem with Ball’s approach, however, is that we’ll eventually have a president that she won’t trust again. Maybe–and I know nothing about Ms. Ball other than that her name is somewhat amusing and that she apparently has a show on MSNBC–that’s simply the next Republican president. Maybe she’ll make a non-partisan evaluation of trustworthiness. Regardless, that president will operate under the same rules as the man she believes “fundamentally responsible.” That’s why it’s far better to put one’s faith in institutions, not men.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That’s why it’s far better to put one’s faith in institutions, not men.

    But not too much faith. Institutions after all are made up of men.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. Just Me says:

    This is where her ignorance is showing.

    Anything the executive does is a power of the president-the office-not the person who happens to be president. The government doesn’t operate on a “power by media approval” system.

    She is too busy thinking ‘Well I like Obama and think he is a great decision maker, so this power in his hands is no big deal” without thinking that this power is now one the President has.

    Also her belief that Obama is more trustworthy and a better decision maker is opinion. Powers shouldn’t be granted based on the media’s opinion of a president’s ability to make decisions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    We will not always be blessed with a Nobel Peace Prize-winning Constitutional scholar professor lecturer and LightBringer as president, and we need to remember that we might one day elect a lesser being — maybe even a (gasp!) Republican to that higher office. We should be careful what powers we imbue the office with, as that office will not always be held by His Divinity, Barack Hussein Obama. Perhaps we should declare him President For Life, or pass laws that the Extraordinary Powers he has to ignore Constitutional restraints will expire with his term of office.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 15

  4. billy says:

    Point taken. But shit for brains is shit for brains. I think we can call her a dumb partisan at this point without risking too much “slander”.
    Whether that’s partisan to the democrats or just hero worship partisan of obama, it’s still partisan. “I think he’s a responsible decision maker” hardly proves she’s considered it seriously.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  5. Andre Kenji says:

    The only question that I want to ask: what has this women has done to appear on TV? Is she an expert on anything? If she is not, why is she on TV?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Andre Kenji: According to Wikipedia, she’s a businesswoman, CPA, and failed Congressional candidate. In addition, she’s hot, has a porn star name, and can speak in complete sentences.

    Ain’t that enough?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  7. Scott O says:

    “Overall, however, she said that she is comfortable with Obama having the authority to execute American citizens overseas extra-judicially.”

    Reality check. She did not say that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  8. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “Perhaps we should declare him President For Life, or pass laws that the Extraordinary Powers he has to ignore Constitutional restraints will expire with his term of office. “

    I think it’s funny you’d have us believe that you oppose Obama because he’s “ignored Constitutional restraints.”

    FWIW, I’m consistent on this issue. I wouldn’t care if Bush, Obama, Clinton, or Nixon were killing terrorists with drones. Too bad, so sad.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): I think it’s funny you’d have us believe that you oppose Obama because he’s “ignored Constitutional restraints.”

    It’s one of several reasons. And I’m far from alone. His grand Libyan adventure was patently illegal. And courts have ruled against him on his moratorium on offshore oil drilling permits and non-recess recess appointments.

    Presidents don’t make laws. Not even Nobel Peace Prize-winning LightBringers who get frustrated with his party not having absolute power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  10. bill says:

    first off who watches msnbc? and who would listen to a reporter with a porn/stripper name…..unless she was on msnbc? and who is surprised at hypocrisy on any mainstream news show? answer- not me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  11. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “And I’m far from alone.”

    That’s almost certainly true. Millions of people have conjured plenty of bogus reasons to oppose the president. “He kills Americans with drone strikes” is just the latest in a long line of sad examples.

    His grand Libyan adventure was patently illegal.

    Ha! Another guy mistaking an argument for a fact….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. Ed in NJ says:

    “that’s simply the next Republican president”

    hyperpartisan Republican projection much?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Who mentioned the drone strikes? I didn’t bring those up.

    And please, explain how Obama’s Great Libyan Adventure was NOT in violation of the War Powers Resolution. But remember that Obama didn’t say that the WPR was unconstitutional, he said it simply didn’t apply there because he said so. Senator Obama was a firm believer in the WPR.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  14. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “Who mentioned the drone strikes?”

    Um….did you read this post before commenting? If not….read it now. You will find your answer.

    And please, explain how Obama’s Great Libyan Adventure was NOT in violation of the War Powers Resolution.

    You made the charge. You make the case.

    I’ll just say this about the “illegal” allegations: Not only did Congress not try to stop him, neither did any court, and when the orders were handed down the chain of command, the orders were carried out. And that’s not even mentioning words like “NATO” and “UN Security Council.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Make the case? It practically makes itself.

    The WPR requires that the president report to Congress within 60 days of US forces entering hostilities, and begin withdrawing if he doesn’t get approval within 90 days. Obama didn’t give any reports to Congress until after day 90 from when we started dropping bombs and missiles on Libya, and never got authorization for it.

    As far as “Congress didn’t object,” that smacks of George Carlin’s defense for driving violations: “Cop didn’t see it, I didn’t do it.” If someone blows past me on the highway at 90+ and no cop pulls them over, did they break the law or not?

    And since you brought it up, Obama had time and inclination to get the assent of NATO and the Arab League, but couldn’t be bothered to make his case to the American people and their elected representatives. While that in itself isn’t illegal, it’s certainly illustrative of where his priorities lie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. James Joyner says:

    @Ed in NJ: A lot of people, and certainly the type of people who are show hosts at Fox and MSNBC, are hyperpartisan. As I say, I had never heard of this woman and don’t know if her views on Bush and Obama are pure knee-jerk partisanship or based on an honest evaluation. At the end of the day, it doesn’t much matter, though, since the power she wants to give Obama because she trusts him will go to future presidents regardless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “Obama had time and inclination to get the assent of NATO and the Arab League, but couldn’t be bothered to make his case to the American people and their elected representatives.”

    I see….so it’s less about violating the WPR and more about not consulting the American people.

    Sorry, but sounds like you have a pretty weak case there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Andre Kenji says:

    There is a recent BBC´s Panorama where a reporter did what few reporters cared to do: she traveled to Pakistan and talked with people that lived in the area where drones are used:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dHGY1jnfLdk

    I think that drones are a good reason to oppose Obama, specially when you know that there are real people in these attacks. And I also think that Obama should have sought authorization for War with Libya from Congress: specially because sending some special forces to help the new Libyan government to curb activists linked to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb would be helpful.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): You really don’t get the point. I can’t tell if you can’t, or won’t. Either way, the point is this: the law required Obama to get the consent of Congress, and he didn’t. I brought up the other two as evidence that his non-compliance wasn’t a matter of opportunity, but of will. He can’t argue that the situation was too urgent to notify Congress if he had time to plan it out with NATO and the Arab League.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  20. @Andre Kenji:

    “I think that drones are a good reason to oppose Obama”

    Oh, if that were the case…

    Truth is, anyone on the right would have far worse ideas and any viable alternative on the left (Clinton?) would have no problem with drones.

    I guess I just find it funny that there is no sense of scale in this discussion on drones. When I was born, the US had the capacity (and willingness!) to turn an entire continent into smoldering radioactive dust.

    But drones are the bridge that’s too far? A little perspective on this issue would be nice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  21. KariQ says:

    the notion circulating in the media that liberal supporters of President Barack Obama are engaging in hypocrisy when they defend the executive’s authority to execute drone strikes on Americans overseas.

    Now this strikes me as odd, since I’ve been seeing a lot of criticism of Obama from the left over the drone strike issue. In fact, among the liberals I read and pay attention to, I’ve seen nothing but criticism of it, no support at all. I’m not saying that there is no one out there making that argument, but it’s far from the mainstream opinion on the left as far as I’ve seen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  22. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    ” Either way, the point is this: the law required Obama to get the consent of Congress, and he didn’t. “

    Do you think Congress would have tried to stop him? Or do you think they would have given their stamp of approval?

    If you think the former, you’re naive. If you think the latter, then “Obama didn’t notify Congress in an appropriate manner” is really a procedural complaint that only Congressional members should be making.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Apparently you missed my speeding metaphor, which addressed your “if Congress didn’t complain, then it wasn’t illegal” BS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. @Jenos Idanian #13: No, I caught it. (It’s not a metaphor, by the way, it’s an analogy.)

    I just didn’t find it all that interesting, relevant, or worth responding to, but if you insist….then Carlin’s right, presumption of innocence and all that.

    The law isn’t just something pecked into stone. It’s a process.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): The law isn’t just something pecked into stone. It’s a process.

    Kind of like the Constitution is an “evolving paradigm,” right?

    Wrong. The law IS “something pecked in stone.” It’s clear and it’s permanent, until changed in the prescribed fashions. It just doesn’t change by itself.

    Senator Obama supported the WPR. President Obama says it only applies when he says so.

    It really is that simple.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  26. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “You really don’t get the point. I can’t tell if you can’t, or won’t. Either way, the point is this: the law required Obama to get the consent of Congress”

    And yet, even the Republican controlled House of Representatives, which has opposed just about everything Obama has done, doesn’t agree with you. If they did, they would have done something about it. Unless you’re going to quote George Carlin again and claim the House leadership simply didn’t notice what was going on.

    Or maybe you are a greater legal authority than every court in the nation and the entire Congress. Please do let us know if this is the case — maybe you could open a practice with the Tsar.

    “Moron and Moron, Attorneys at Law.” Got a nice ring to it. My gift to you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  27. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    “The law IS “something pecked in stone.””

    I said “not just.” I guess I should have said “it’s also a process.” But even then, I don’t think you’d get it.

    You’d still consider Carlin “guilty” of speeding, even though no cop saw it, no ticket was written, no plea was accepted and no penalty given. Because you don’t understand how these things work.

    Senator Obama supported the WPR. President Obama says it only applies when he says so.

    So? Grown-ups are allowed to be “hypocrites.”

    I suppose you’d have us believe President Jenos would stick with “principle” when NATO comes calling asking for help.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Andre Kenji says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    But drones are the bridge that’s too far? A little perspective on this issue would be nice.

    the little perspective missing is the perspective from the peasants that are being killed by the drones. They don´t appear on the media, so, no one cares about them. Maybe when terrorists manages to have their own drones people will care about the issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. @Andre Kenji:

    “Maybe when terrorists manages to have their own drones people will care about the issue.”

    Yeah, I’ve heard that before. But I’m not worried about that. Terrorism is a tactic of the weak and powerless. It’s likely that if some terrorist group does get their hands on a drone, they will find better uses for it than terrorist attacks…like targeted killings.

    As for the “peasants” being killed by the drones….yes, there is collateral damage. In any military engagement, collateral damage cannot be avoided. Drones are the worst way to minimize collateral damage…..except for all the others that have been tried.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Septimius says:

    Funny, when Bush was President, I don’t remember the left arguing that his policies were perfectly legal just that he didn’t display the proper judgement when implementing them. I do, however, remember hearing a lot about “shredding the Constitution,” “Imperial Presidency,” and even “war criminal.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “In addition, she’s hot, has a porn star name, and can speak in complete sentences.”

    Oh, look, the troll who stole his name from a Star Wars novel is making fun of someone else’s name.

    If only he could see the layers of irony, as his co-troll would say…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  32. matt bernius says:

    @Septimius:
    That is a fair point. Though I’m not sure what we are to take from it. If we accept that if Republicans didn’t agree with those statements under a Republican president, and today apply them to a Democratic one – then it’s truly an example of “both sides do it.”

    That said, there are numerous commentators on the “mainstream far left” that have been apply those terms to Obama (see Glen Greenwald as example #1). Can you find similar “mainstream far right” examples of people lodging similar critiques on Bush?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. SC_Birdflyte says:

    Sounds like this commentator belongs in a closed room with the Fox Business “commentator” who explained on-air that Germany is so far ahead of us in exploiting solar power because Germany has a lot more sun than the U.S.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Andre Kenji says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    As for the “peasants” being killed by the drones….yes, there is collateral damage. In any military engagement

    That´s part of the problem. Unless we are talking about limitless war with no boundaries there is no declaration of war in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Mali, Libya, Ethiopia and whatever. Besides that, in most situations drones are not as effective as ground troops.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. My reply was spam-filtered….help.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: Is that commentator related to the CNN anchor who wondered if the asteroid that nearly hit Earth was related to global warmening?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @wr: Dude, when your entire argument boils down to “when the Republicans get in the way of Democrats doing whatever they want, we should simply suspend the Constitution,” you really ought to just shut up. As the saying goes, better to be silent and thought an idiot, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. Dazedandconfused says:

    @James Joyner:

    ……will go to future presidents regardless.

    Unless Congress rescinds it, maybe.

    http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-107publ40/pdf/PLAW-107publ40.pdf

    I suspect this has been forgotten. Seems to me those who would like to check the Presidential power would do well to remember it, as it makes a very good focal point for discussion and debate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb): Go and read the War Powers Resolution. It doesn’t say Congress must demand an explanation from the president, it says the president must provide the explanation. And it doesn’t say that the president can do what he wants unless Congress opposes it, it says Congress must approve of it. Two positive actions — a report by the president, approval by the Congress. It’s really that simple.

    But if you don’t like my speeding metaphor, how about domestic violence? Should police not arrest battering husbands if the wife doesn’t want to press charges?

    That Congress wimped out does not change the fact that Obama chose to ignore the law. And his choice came first, with Congress’ silence as a reaction.

    There are two respectable ways for presidents to handle matter such as the WPA. One is to confront it head-on and settle the matter. The other is to do like all the presidents from Ford through Bush 2 did — act “consistent with” it, but never acknowledging that it binds them.

    Obama’s third way — to simply say that it doesn’t apply because he said so — is basically thuggery. He told Congress, in effect, that he had the power to ignore the law, and challenged them to call him on it.

    But if you still insist on continuing your argument, why don’t you explain what the current status of the WPA is, and whether it should apply to future Republican presidents. All they have to do now is cite the Obama Precedent.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  40. Matt says:

    There are two issues here:

    1) The utter ignorance (‘short-sightedness’, per James) of Ms. Ball and other liberals who somehow think this Democratic President poring over bombing maps and kill lists will somehow end better than when LBJ did it.

    2) The complete absurdity of us taking seriously anything a woman says who has only achieved even her tiny sliver of visibility today via photographs of her and a sex toy being released during her congressional “campaign”–and her subsequent loss by 35 points in that “race”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  41. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Actually, my argument was that you were a troll with a name you stole from a Star Wars book making fun of someone else’s name.

    I suppose I could have made it a little clearer for you: You are a troll who is such a geek you’ve stolen your name from a Star Wars book who spends his life expressing astonishingly stupid thoughts about politics for the pleasure of annoying people and you’re complaining about the name of a woman who is paid large amounts of money to talk about politics on television.

    Compare and contrast, troll boy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: Oh, wait, you were responding to my earlier point that if what Obama was doing was illegal, the Republican in Congress would have said something about it. How you leap from that to suspending the constitution when the Republicans get in the way — when the whole point was that Republicans were not getting in the way — kind of explains why that woman with the “porn star name” gets paid to talk about politics and you sit in a basement reading Star Wars tie-in books.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  43. wr says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: “That Congress wimped out does not change the fact that Obama chose to ignore the law. And his choice came first, with Congress’ silence as a reaction. ”

    The only people in the country who have standing to object don’t believe that Obama chose to ignore the law. But we’re supposed to ignore that and listen to the great legal scholar known as pseudonymous internet troll.

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  44. gVOR08 says:

    Just FYI – Krystal Ball is her given name. Given by her father, Edward Ball, Ph.D., who did his dissertation on crystallography.

    And why do conservatives so frequently say Obama does illegal things, but so seldom go to court?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  45. gVOR08 says:

    If you listen to the clip, she’s OK with the idea of targeted drone killings, but not with the operation of the program. She wants some oversight. Many on the left, myself included, dislike the whole idea, but she does make two good points:

    - We trust the President with the authority to launch nukes and destroy the entire world; and deep down, aren’t you really more comfortable with “No drama Obama” having control of the nukes than you were with W?

    - Do we really want to restrict presidential authority to only those powers, given hindsight, we’d feel comfortable with W exercising? For me, that would be DC parking enforcement and not much more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: One reason why we should allow a cause of action for children against their parents for “inflicting upon me an intentionally silly name.”

    Poor kid. WIth a name like that, a stint as a babbling news commentator was fated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  47. matt bernius says:

    @Matt:

    2) The complete absurdity of us taking seriously anything a woman says who has only achieved even her tiny sliver of visibility today via photographs of her and a sex toy being released during her congressional “campaign”–and her subsequent loss by 35 points in that “race”.

    An that sums up my problem with “political celebrity” commentators. She’s essentially the liberal equivalent of Chinstine O’Donnell… except O’Donnell has actually accomplished more in her profession.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0