Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 30, 2009

OBAMA'S WRONG, EVEN WHEN HE'S RIGHT.... As post-election developments in Iran spiraled into violence, many on the right were outraged -- or, at least they pretended to be -- that President Obama didn't thump his chest more. The administration, conservatives said, should take a firm stand in support of democracy and liberal principles.

In the wake of the coup in Honduras, it seemed the administration was taking steps that even these conservatives would like. The president spoke up personally yesterday to criticize Zelaya's ouster. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on for the "full restoration" of democracy in the country.

So, the right is finally pleased, right? Wrong. The same people who loved democratic principles in the Middle East two weeks ago aren't especially concerned about the overthrow of a democratically elected president in central American this week.

On the June 29 edition of his Fox News show, Glenn Beck said of Zelaya's ouster: "They installed their own man, drawing a quick rebuke from Cuba, Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, and our president." Beck added: "Wow, good company we're keeping ourselves with." Similarly, on the June 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, in arguing that Obama was "sending the wrong message to our allies and our foes," Beck stated: "I'm telling you, the policies that we have seem to always embrace our enemies and slap our friends across the face. It just doesn't make sense to me."

Apparently, if Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega take a stand against a coup in a foreign country, far-right media personalities believe the United States should necessarily take the other side and support the coup, because, well, Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega are "bad."

This attitude was endorsed, not only by Glenn Beck, but also by Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Drudge, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer. In fact, offering the kind of sophisticated, high-brow analysis we've come to expect, Krauthammer argued on Fox News, "[A] rule of thumb here is whenever you find yourself on the side of Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and the Castro twins, you ought to re-examine your assumptions."

Now, I realize that developments in Honduras are not cut and dried, at least when it comes to identifying "good" guys and "bad." Zelaya was poised to work outside the law to stay in power, and his opponents worked outside the law to remove him from office.

But the analysis we're getting from the lines of Kristol and Krauthammer aren't focused on the merits of the situation. They're not even addressing the up-until-recently-popular principle of defending democracy at all costs. Instead, they're offering a child-like approach to foreign affairs (if Chavez opposes a coup, coup = good).

For what it's worth, the European Union has also condemned the coup in Honduras, putting the United States on the same side as our traditional allies. Reflexive conservative hackery notwithstanding, it's not unusual for international governments to criticize the overthrow of democratically elected leaders.

Meanwhile, in Honduras, tear gas was used to break up protests yesterday, and the "provisional" government cracked down on international media and blocked Internet access for its citizens. They sound like the kind of developments Kristol and Krauthammer might otherwise find interesting.

Steve Benen 1:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

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Krauthammer argued on Fox News, "[A] rule of thumb here is whenever you find yourself on the side of Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and the Castro twins, you ought to re-examine your assumptions."

I'll be sure to take this into account if I ever find myself on the same side as Drudge, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer.

Or I'll just shoot myself.

Posted by: e henry thripshaw on June 30, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

For wingers the common denominator in all of these situations is "Who's our friend and who's our enemy?" The liberty-and-democracy blather is just that; it's just standard-issue jingoism. Dan Larison at Eunomia skewers this attitude nicely from the right. In the end, all these happenings in the world get inserted into a play in which we Americans have the starring [indeed the only really important] role. Everyone else is either Snidely Whiplash or an emperiled Pauline.

Posted by: David in Nashville on June 30, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Can we bomb Honduras now?

Posted by: Capt Kirk on June 30, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

and blocked Internet access for its citizens. It sounds like the kind of developments Kristol and Krauthammer might otherwise find interesting.

Not unless they can turn it into a Twitter commercial.

Posted by: Danp on June 30, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

re: Zelaya was poised to work outside the law to stay in power ..."
Is this true ? Recently I read of a statement from him that if the poll (and my impression is that this was analogous to a proposition in California) result was positive, he would be out of power before the constitution could be changed. So, what is the corect version of events ?

Posted by: rbe1 on June 30, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK
Zelaya was poised to work outside the law to stay in power

uh, no, he had already stepped outside the law, using brute force and intimidation to violate orders of the Supreme Court.

I have no time for Krauthammer or the rest of the neocon kneejerk fools, but in this case the balance of right seems to fall against the elected President - when he starts violating law and judicial rulings, at some point others have to either accede to the illegal overthrow of the constitution, or take action to defend it.

That they deemed there was insufficient time to proceed with first impeaching the president is unpleasant, but I'm not prepared to second-guess the judgement of those on the ground over what is, after all, a matter of procedure, not substance.

And given the threat of foreign military intervention to support the President in the case of impeachment, it's hard even to fault this judgement.

I'm sorry, but this time, Obama, Clinton and the State Department have comprehensively blown it, through reflexive judgement rather than considering the situation on the ground.

Posted by: firefall on June 30, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

What e henry said, minus the shooting.

Posted by: Gregory on June 30, 2009 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

Well when I find myself suddenly on the same side as Hugo and company, I do re-examine my assumptions about the matter -just in case I was wrong. That doesn't mean I need to change my judgment, just that I should take a little while to ask "did I miss something".

I do think fishy things were going on in Honduras, its just that a coup seems a rather radical way to proceed. So rather than setting a poor precedent, it is not so bad to go out against it. It is not like we are going to send in the marines to reverse the thing.

Posted by: bigTom on June 30, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

I find the White House Press Corps just unbearable. I am constantly astonished at the stupid questions they ask over and over again. They are usually referring to 'SOME SAY" (aka conservative talking points). They just parrot whatever the Republicans are complaining about.

Today was especially annoying because there were several times when the question was about why the White House was responding so forcefully with Honduras and weak with Iran. Major Garrett, Chuck Todd and another reporter kept asking the same question. I don't know, maybe it's me, but I can see significant differences between Honduras and Iran. But apparently, the White House Press Corps needs more clarification. They might start by reading this post.

Posted by: Ladyhawke on June 30, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

THIS JUST IN

Minnesota Supreme Court rules in favor of Al Franken, 5-0.

Posted by: Andre on June 30, 2009 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

It's pretty funny for Krauthammer to put forward a rule for when to re-examine your assumptions. I guess we have to take it as read that the rule only applies to non-conservatives, because he's repeatedly demonstrated that the rule for conservatives is "never."

Posted by: Redshift on June 30, 2009 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Just now on CNN Minnesota court rules for Al Franken (again).

Posted by: Ladyhawke on June 30, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Whenevert I see anything---anything at all, mind you---that's supported by the like of...

...Glenn Beck, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Drudge, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer....

...I always revisit my position on the issue, just to make sure that I'm not morphing over to their side---the "dark side"---of the Force....

Posted by: S. Waybright on June 30, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I've been living in Honduras for the last year and right now the positions the mainstream media and the Obama Admin are taking are COMPLETELY wrong and inaccurate. Prez Mel was stepping outside the Honduran Constitution to extend his term (something it TOTALLY forbids). A clear and large majority of Hondurans think Mel is a complete joke and a leftist-poser (he's a ridiculously wealth rancher) who bent towards Chavez when its convenient.

Many articles paint him as a hero of the poor with his raising of the minimum wage, but he did it by 300 percent leading not to a reduction of poverty in Honduras, but massive layoffs (10s of thousands) by the textile factories that couldn't afford (or didn't want) to pay the new wages.

Its said to say, but this is one of the first times I have been not only disappointed, but quite angry with Obama. I'm a raging lefty (teacher... you get it) and he's got it wrong.

I don't condone the military's actions (I think this is a case of two wrongs don't make a right) but what other actions can a country take in defense of its Constitution. The Supreme Court said "no" the military (which is in charge of supervision elections and referendums) said "no" Mel leads a mob to a military base... seizes the ballots for a vote that had been declared unconstitutional. His own party and supporters in the Honduran Congress said he was out of line (and voted on a resolution as such).

This is wrong and we are acting incorrectly. The media and Obama need to understand that this is not the usually military coup = bad. This is a defense of democracy.

If there is any negotiated settlement to this situation it needs to be the restoration of Mel, an agreement that he will not pursue his violations of the Constitutional, and the respect of the electoral process when the next presidential elections are held later this year.

Posted by: Dan on June 30, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, the European Union has also condemned the coup in Honduras, putting the United States on the same side as our traditional allies.

Are you referring to the krauts and the frogs?
The same weasels that wouldn't put their necs on the line with us in Iraq?

Traditional, schmaditional, gimme new allies like those in the "coalition of the willing"!

What do Latvia and the Czech republic have to say?

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on June 30, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

That's real funny. Those Republicans are real comedians. So let's move on to a relevant discussion about Honduras.

Perhaps whether or not the Hondurian Junta can succeed in supressing the internet when the Iranians and Chinese are having so many problems doing the same.

Posted by: Kurt on June 30, 2009 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

We can have all kinds of fun with Krauthammer's twisted logic. "If Chavez, Ortega and the Castro twins oppose child pornography, then maybe you ought to re-examine your assumptions [and support it]."

Is it really that hard for the MSM to find and contribute a higher percentage of sane, coherent right-wingers to the punditocracy?

Posted by: Drew P on June 30, 2009 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Central America belongs to us, don't you liberals know that? Geez.

Posted by: Conservatroll on June 30, 2009 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

For all Facebookers, please join the Glen Beck is Crazy group. Self explanatory.

Posted by: eadie on June 30, 2009 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

(if Chavez opposes a coup, coup = good).

It's even simpler than this for that crowd.

If Obama favors it, they automagically oppose it. Regardless of what "it" is.

Posted by: ckelly on June 30, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

What's an international government?

Posted by: Hiram Cross on June 30, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently, if Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega take a stand against a coup in a foreign country, far-right media personalities believe the United States should necessarily take the other side and support the coup, because, well, Hugo Chavez and Daniel Ortega are "bad."


They aren't called "reactionaries" for nothing you know.

Posted by: majun on June 30, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Actually Obama should have stuck to his Iran policy in regards to Honduras. The coup was supported by both the Supreme Court and members of the Hondurian Congress, even members of Zelaya's own political party. There was no reason to say anything about an internal Hondurian matter, any more than we should say anything about Iran.

Is it just me or is Ron Paul the only consistent politician in this country when it comes to foreign policy?

Posted by: Sean Scallon on June 30, 2009 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

In fact, offering the kind of sophisticated, high-brow analysis we've come to expect, Krauthammer argued on Fox News, "[A] rule of thumb here is whenever you find yourself on the side of Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, and the Castro twins, you ought to re-examine your assumptions."

Shorter cold war version: Yeah, he's an sob, but he's our sob.

For the conservatives nothing much has changed. All this crying about upholding principles of democracy and liberty is just a way to beat up their domestic opponents, should that opportunity offer itself.

BTW: Has John McCain already been seen on TV announcing that he is standing with the people of Honduras?

Posted by: SRW1 on June 30, 2009 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Constitution of Honduras

Following a Constitutionally specified procedure to remove a chief executive is not a coup. Reinstating a Constitutionally removed chief executive, as Clinton, Obama, and Chavez want, would be a coup.

Having sat out the Iranian political crisis, the administration ought to have sat out the Honduran political crisis at least long enough to have read the Honduran Constitution, and to have evaluated whether the Honduran Congress, army, and Supreme Court acted legally, as they did.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on June 30, 2009 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK
Having sat out the Iranian political crisis, the administration ought to have sat out the Honduran political crisis at least long enough to have read the Honduran Constitution, and to have evaluated whether the Honduran Congress, army, and Supreme Court acted legally, as they did.

While you may disagree with their conclusions, the Administration rendered a specific, legal conclusion (to wit, that the action was illegal) on the action in Honduras. So they did evaluate whether what was done was legal. Their conclusions differed from yours, clearly. However, since I don't read Spanish well enough to evaluate the text of the Honduran Constitution myself—and since I certainly am not familiar with how it is applied, generally—I'm going to need more of an argument than your link to the text of the Constitution to be convinced that there is even a colorable argument that your interpretation is the correct one.

(A key difference between this case and the one with Iran is that the essential facts are in dispute between the parties in Iran; AFAICT, the legality is in dispute in Honduras but the essential facts are not, and are, in fact, mostly self-evidence on their face.)

Posted by: cmdicely on June 30, 2009 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Following a Constitutionally specified procedure to remove a chief executive is not a coup.

The Honduran constitution refers to the military rousting the president and putting him on a plan in his pajamas? Who knew?

And Obama didn't sit out the Iranian political crisis, you dishonest jackass. He handles it just right -- much better than your boy Bush's record shows he likely would have.

There's a certain satisfaction in seeing Marler drop his pretense as an honest commentator -- which fools no one anyway -- and revert to his partisan bullshit. What's disgusting is him doing so in support of military adventurism and authoritarianism.

Posted by: Gregory on June 30, 2009 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

The difference between Iran and Honduras, of course, is that the unrest in Iran is about very partisan disagreements over an election. The unrest in Honduras is about a blatant military coup. It makes perfect sense for Obama to stay out of another nation's election problems while condemning another country's illegal coup.

Posted by: Shade Tail on June 30, 2009 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK
For what it's worth, the European Union has also condemned the coup in Honduras, putting the United States on the same side as our traditional allies.

So has essentially every country on the planet, since the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against the coup by acclamation.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 30, 2009 at 5:49 PM | PERMALINK

Having sat out the Iranian political crisis, the administration ought to have sat out the Honduran political crisis at least long enough to have read the Honduran Constitution, and to have evaluated whether the Honduran Congress, army, and Supreme Court acted legally, as they did.

I'm almost given to believe that your parodist wrote this.

The Honduran constitution is amended ALL the fucking time. Honduras has had SIXTEEN CONSTITUTIONS since 1825 and these were variously amended, particularly to the recent ones.

Had Zelaya tried to run for office again the Supreme Court could simply have ruled it illegal at that time; removing him from the presidency for a crime he had not committed is hardly defensible -- although there you are defending it anyway because presumably you think you can score political points for your failed ideology.

Had Zelaya's referendum on term limits actually passed, it is quite possible that the Assembly might have been moved to find a way to change or rewrite the Constitution given the will of the people.

Posted by: trex on June 30, 2009 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

So has essentially every country on the planet, since the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against the coup by acclamation.

Yes, and pointedly every other Latin American country with governments ranging from the political right to the political left condemned the coup as illegal -- and yet there is little Matty Marler with his fist in the air and his foot in his mouth telling us otherwise.

Posted by: trex on June 30, 2009 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

trex: The Honduran constitution is amended ALL the fucking time. Honduras has had SIXTEEN CONSTITUTIONS since 1825 and these were variously amended, particularly to the recent ones.

The link that I provided included the ammendments through 2005. As hinted by another commentator, it does not require that an arrested president be clothed in pajamas.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on June 30, 2009 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

As hinted by another commentator, it does not require that an arrested president be clothed in pajamas.

More to the point, nor does it mandate that a president be deposed for asking for a referendum.

Posted by: trex on June 30, 2009 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely: While you may disagree with their conclusions, the Administration rendered a specific, legal conclusion (to wit, that the action was illegal) on the action in Honduras. So they did evaluate whether what was done was legal. Their conclusions differed from yours, clearly. However, since I don't read Spanish well enough to evaluate the text of the Honduran Constitution myself—and since I certainly am not familiar with how it is applied, generally—I'm going to need more of an argument than your link to the text of the Constitution to be convinced that there is even a colorable argument that your interpretation is the correct one.

I hope that you are correct about their rendering a judgment. But I do also wish that they had maintained the position, as they did with Iran, that it was an internal matter for Hondurans to settle on their own. Obama might have said that the world was "bearing witness" to how they resolved the matter.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on June 30, 2009 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

trex: nor does it mandate that a president be deposed for asking for a referendum

It does prohibit a president from initiating a process that might result in extending his tenure of office. Such a process has to be started by the legislature. That was why the ballots had to be printed in Argentina, and why the court ordered the referendum be stopped, and that the president be arrested when he tried anyway. And it does give the legislature the power to remove the president from office.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on June 30, 2009 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Mary Anastasia O'Grady - Glenn Beck in drag

This woman is situated in Mexico and is not highly regarded by anyone to the left of dick cheney. She is laughed at just like limbaugh.

As for whether or not Pres. Zeleya was somehow outside the law because the Honduran Supreme Court made a ruling, it depends on whether or not you believe that John Yoo saying torture isn't torture relieves torturers of any responsibility. It was a similar type of ruling from the SC. As for "our friends", I'm not sure that we learned the lesson from Reagan's time. If you count totalitarian dictators as friends, then you really lose any moral standing you may have.

The generals who lead the rebellion were all graduates of the US School of the Americas where they were indoctrinated even more than back home in the concepts of might making right and totalitarian governments being superior to wishy washy democracies.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on June 30, 2009 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

And the UN backed Obama up. Now take that, neocons.

Posted by: majii on June 30, 2009 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK

It does prohibit a president from initiating a process that might result in extending his tenure of office. Such a process has to be started by the legislature.

And Zelaya wasn't doing that. He wasn't asking for a referendum on term limits. He was asking for a referendum on whether or not to write a new Constitution to amend term limits. There's a difference.

Why is it that among all the nations on earth, and particularly the other Latin American countries, is it only the right-wingers in Honduras and here in America that think removing Zelaya was a good -- or legimate -- move? Here they are posed with a nation that they are almost completely unfamiliar with, whose politics they don't understand, and that has an approach to constitutional law that is more nuanced than ours -- and yes, I know that you don't know that -- and yet they are certain that the Supreme Court and military were correct in this matter.

Curious that.

Posted by: trex on June 30, 2009 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

majii,

"And the UN backed Obama up. Now take that, neocons."

Hell, in their minds that just reinforces the RightWing's loony position.

Posted by: Joe Friday on June 30, 2009 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

Zelaya was poised to work outside the law to stay in power, and his opponents worked outside the law to remove him from office.

The reason Zelaya was prepared to work "outside the law" is because "the law" does not allow for any amendments to be made to the US-written 1982 "constitution". This document was put in place to keep the right wing in power in Honduras at a time when they were supporting the Contras in Nicaragua (and making money by letting Colombian drug flights land in the country tyo refuel).

Zelaya ran for President and was elected by a large majority, on the campaign promise to find a way to change the constitution. There is no way to do that, so he proposed a popular plebiscite to insure that a majority of the voters wanted to see a change, and then planned to call a constitutional convention to write a new constitution that would include an ability to amend it, and participation by the public in more than ratifying votes. It would also include the ability of the president to stand for re-election. Zelaya stated at the outset that if this was passed into law, he would not stand for re-election.

it's easy, Steve: the "good guys" are Zelaya and the people of Nicaragua. The "bad guys" are the Contra-supporting rightists, allied with the Colombian drug dealers, who asked the US-trained military - they're all graduates of "The School for the Americas," aka "The School for Death Squads", now known as "The Cooperative Institute for Inter-American Security" - what ever you want to call it, it's the school that trains the imperial stooges and has been responsible for all the bullshit in Central America since the ouster of Jacobo Arbenz for the "crime" of wanting the people of Guatemala to own their own country, rather than be beholden to the United Fruit Company (a major client of Sullivan & Cromwell, the New York corporate firm that John Foster Dulles was senior partner in before becoming the Secretary of State who ordered the crime.

For Obama to say "everyone should adhere to the constitution" is to say everyone whould adhere to the document that keeps the far right in power, keeps the people of Honduras sujugated to these US stooges. The Good Emperor Claudius speaks again.

Posted by: TCinLA on July 1, 2009 at 3:23 AM | PERMALINK

Where are you from? Is it a secret? :)
Zoran

Posted by: Zoran on July 3, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

[... - www.washingtonmonthly.com is another relavant source on this topic,[... -

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