Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

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Peter van Buren: Silencing Whistleblowers Obama-Style

Supreme Court Edition?

The Obama administration has just opened a new front in its ongoing war on whistleblowers. It’s taking its case against one man, former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Air Marshal Robert MacLean, all the way to the Supreme Court. So hold on, because we’re going back down the rabbit hole with the Most Transparent Administration ever.

Despite all the talk by Washington insiders about how whistleblowers like Edward Snowden should work through the system rather than bring their concerns directly into the public sphere, MacLean is living proof of the hell of trying to do so. Through the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice (DOJ) wants to use MacLean’s case to further limit what kinds of information can qualify for statutory whistleblowing protections. If the DOJ gets its way, only information that the government thinks is appropriate — a contradiction in terms when it comes to whistleblowing — could be revealed. Such a restriction would gut the legal protections of the Whistleblower Protection Act and have a chilling effect on future acts of conscience.

John Nichols: Obama Administration Gets It Precisely Wrong on Trade Policy

It won’t get as much notice as his budget proposal, but President Obama’s “2014 Trade Policy Agenda,” which was released this week, sends an exceptionally powerful signal regarding the administration’s economic vision.

Unfortunately, it’s the wrong signal.

While the president – in his public pronouncements and his budget – is saying a lot of the right things about income inequality and investment in infrastructure and job creation, the White House has yet to recognize the harm that is done to the American economy-and to prospects of economic renewal that the president envisions-by failed trade policies.

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Ukraine Crisis Calls for Less Neocon Bluster, More Common Sense

It is time to reduce tensions and create possibility with Russia, not flex rhetorical muscles and fan the flames of folly.

The escalating crisis in Ukraine has set off reckless missile-rattling and muscle-flexing in this country. My Post colleague Charles Krauthammer sees this as a Cold War faceoff, calling for the United States to ante up $15 billion for Ukraine and send a flotilla to the Black Sea. A front-page headline in The Post on Sunday said that the crisis “tests Obama’s focus on diplomacy over force,” quoting Andrew C. Kuchins of the Center for Strategic and International Studies decrying President Obama for “taking the stick option off the table.” Right-wing and Republican posturing fills the airwaves.

The Obama administration has responded to the crisis by flexing its own rhetorical muscle. When Vladi­mir Putin ignored Obama’s warning that “there will be costs” if he sent troops into Crimea, Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the “brazen act of aggression,”vowing that “Russia is going to lose (and) the Russian people are going to lose,” suggesting “asset freezes (and) isolation with respect to trade (and) investment” while promising economic assistance of a “major sort” for whatever government emerges in Kiev. Cooler heads such as Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock described Obama’s warnings to Putin as “ill-advised” and argued that “whatever slim hope that Moscow might avoid overt military intervention in Ukraine disappeared when Obama in effect threw down a gauntlet and challenged him. This was not just a mistake of political judgment – it was a failure to understand human psychology – unless, of course, he actually wanted a Russian intervention, which is hard for me to believe.”

Ari Berman: Willie Horton Politics: Senate Votes Against Civil Rights

Today, the US Senate voted 47-52 not to confirm Debo Adegbile to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. Every Republican senator and seven Democrats voted against Adegbile’s nomination.

Adegbile, the former director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, was superbly qualified for the position. He was endorsed by the American Bar Association and high-profile lawyers on both sides of the aisle, and presciently defended the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court last year. He would’ve made an excellent head of the Civil Rights Division.

But Adegbile was the victim of a vicious right-wing smear campaign, attacking him because LDF defended Mumia Abu Jamal’s right to a fair trial. All across the right-wing media echo chamber, on Fox News and conservative blogs, the words Adegbile and “cop-killer” were plastered in the headlines. The Fraternal Order of Police came out against his nomination, even though a court agreed with LDF that Abu Jamal had not been granted a fair trial-a basic right in American society regardless of whether he did or did not commit the crime.

Hina Shamsi: Death without Due Process

Obama violating the ideals he pledged to uphold

The White House is once again weighing whether to kill an American citizen overseas as part of its “targeted killing” program.

This extrajudicial killing program should make every American queasy. Based on largely secret legal standards and entirely secret evidence, our government has killed thousands of people. At least several hundred were killed far from any battlefield. Four of the dead are Americans. Astonishingly, President Obama’s Justice Department has said the courts have no role in deciding whether the killing of U.S. citizens far from any battlefield is lawful.

The president, it seems, can be judge, jury, and executioner.

This is not the law. Our Constitution and international law strictly limit extrajudicial killing, for good reason. In areas of actual armed conflict, killing can be lawful because of battlefield requirements. Outside that context, an extrajudicial killing is legal only as a last resort, and only in response to a truly imminent threat. This makes sense: If a threat is imminent, there is no time for judicial review. In every other context, the Constitution requires the government to prove its case to a court before it kills. After all, allegations aren’t evidence – the difference between the two is due process.