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Thursday, July 01, 2010

Dumb or Dishonest?

Mary Anastasia O'Grady asks "Why Lift the Travel Ban to Cuba Now?" O'Grady has to be one of the most annoying columnists I have read: she repeatedly makes statements that show her either to be a dishonest propagandist or dumb. (My guess is the first, but I don't know.) Let's look at her column from earlier this week.

She starts off, "Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Honduran Supreme Court's decision to order the arrest of Manuel Zelaya, a power-hungry Hugo Chávez acolyte who tried to remain president for life."

Now, what Zelaya attempted to do, as far as anyone who is not a mindreader is concerned, was to change the Honduran Constitution to allow the president a second term. Whether he then intended to "remain president for life" is no more than a suspicion on O'Grady's part -- he explicitly said he would step down at the end of his term even if the constitution was changed.

"It's something to celebrate: Thanks to the bravery of the court and the Congress, which voted to remove him from office, democracy was saved."

Wow, what courage -- with the Army behind them, these folks "braved" kicking a lone man out of the country! They must have been sweating that one. But in any case, her claim that this "saved democracy" is ridiculous. What they did was, in fact, deny the Honduran people the chance to vote on a new constitution -- now that may or may not have been a good idea, but it certainly was anti-democratic.

"Yet a nagging question remains: Why were the Obama administration and key congressional Democrats obsessed, for seven months, with trying to force Honduras to take Mr. Zelaya back?"

Because he was removed from office in a military coup? (O'Grady, either idiotically or dishonestly, refuses to admit this is what happened.)

Now she turns her "attention" to Cuba, and claims, "With so much risk involved, any policy change [to permit Americans to travel to Cuba] will depend heavily on being able to trust the motives of U.S. leaders."

Say what? What is this huge "risk"? What dark motives might be behind the move to lift the ban? Do Democrats plan to have American travelers captured in Cuba and used as slave labor?

"Proponents of the ban point out that a wave of European, Canadian and Latin American visitors since the mid-1990s hasn't changed a thing."

Yes, as opposed to the travel ban, which... Doh!

Just pathetic, partisan hackery.

11 comments:

  1. Yeah when it comes to the embargo of Cuba I like to ask, "Suppose the US hadn't imposed an embargo when Castro took power. Might he then have remained in office for life? That would have been awful!"

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  2. I'm not a fan of the Cuban embargo, but I don't really see anything dumb or dishonest about Ms. O'Grady's prefatory remarks about Honduras. Your criticisms, it seems to me, all hinge on Mr. Zelaya's motives. If, as she claims, Zelaya wanted to change the constitution so he could remain president for life, then it seems perfectly reasonable to describe such actions as brave and a defense of democracy (and, in any event, describing Zelaya's removal as a "military coup" when it was provided for by the constitution, ordered by the Supreme Court and signed off on by the congress seems a bit lacking).

    It's true that assessing Zelaya's motivations requires a degree of speculation. But so what? What is either dumb or dishonest about a pundit offering an assessment of a public figure's motivations in an opinion piece? That Zelaya, whatever his protestations to the contrary, was really trying to alter the constitution so he could rule for life seems like a reasonable interpretation of his actions, and it's hard for me to see why someone writing about the subject shouldn't be allowed to say so.

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  3. "and, in any event, describing Zelaya's removal as a "military coup" when it was provided for by the constitution, ordered by the Supreme Court and signed off on by the congress seems a bit lacking"

    Have you READ the Honduran Constitution? Because I have, and I would guess you are just mindlessly repeating what you have read some op-ed columnist claiming. In fact, a mutual friend sent O'Grady the analysis of the constitutional background of Zelaya's ouster I wrote for my PhD dissertation, and the fact that she continues to spout this one-sided view leads directly to my title for this post.

    "What is either dumb or dishonest about a pundit offering an assessment of a public figure's motivations in an opinion piece?"

    Well, the fact she doesn't express this "Here is what I SUSPECT Zelaya was up to" and instead states it as a bald fact.

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  4. "if Zelaya wanted to change the constitution so he could remain president for life, then it seems perfectly reasonable to describe such actions as brave and a defense of democracy"

    It would be reasonable to describe them as a defense of constitutionalism, or republicanism, both of which involve deliberately restricting democracy to prevent the people from, for instance, electing a president for life.

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  5. BA: [D]escribing Zelaya's removal as a "military coup" when it was provided for by the constitution, ordered by the Supreme Court and signed off on by the congress seems a bit lacking.

    GC: Have you READ the Honduran Constitution?

    BA: I haven't. The Constitution is several hundred articles long, and is in Spanish (in which I am not fluent). I have read English translations of some of the relevant articles.

    GC: Because I have, and I would guess you are just mindlessly repeating what you have read some op-ed columnist claiming. In fact, a mutual friend sent O'Grady the analysis of the constitutional background of Zelaya's ouster I wrote for my PhD dissertation, and the fact that she continues to spout this one-sided view leads directly to my title for this post.

    BA: Are you talking about the couple of paragraphs you posted under on your blog, or something more extensive? With all respect for your persuasive and analytical powers, I don't think it's fair to call someone dishonest just because they don't agree with you after having read that excerpt (assuming, of course, that O'Grady even did ever read the thing).

    BA: In the excerpt from your dissertation, you put the word "coup" in quotes because, as you say "one of the chief bones of contention here is whether or not what transpired actually was a coup." How then is it mindless for me to object to your calling what happened a military coup?

    ***

    BA: What is either dumb or dishonest about a pundit offering an assessment of a public figure's motivations in an opinion piece?

    GC: Well, the fact she doesn't express this "Here is what I SUSPECT Zelaya was up to" and instead states it as a bald fact.

    BA: Suppose someone were to open an op-ed by saying "it's now been seven years since George Bush lied us into war in Iraq." One might criticize such a statement on a number of grounds, but it seems silly to say that the problem with it is that the op-ed writer didn't add "I suspect" somewhere in the sentence. If we were talking about a news article, then talk about O'Grady's op-ed as being one-sided would make sense. But the whole point of opinion pieces is to take sides.

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  6. 'In the excerpt from your dissertation, you put the word "coup" in quotes because, as you say "one of the chief bones of contention here is whether or not what transpired actually was a coup." How then is it mindless for me to object to your calling what happened a military coup?'

    1) I was actually objecting to your 'it was provided for by the constitution' -- just what clause in the constitution says the Supreme Court should issue a secret military order, kidnap the president, stuff him in a plane, and fly him out of the country?

    2) In a dissertation in which the Honduran crisis is a minor aside in a long work, it would be silly for me to take any side on the 'coup issue.' But yes, I come down on the side of the UN, the US, the OAS, and the EU -- it was a coup. O'Grady's dishonesty, as I see it, is to present her one-sided narrative as 'the facts'.

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  7. And, re Zelaya's motives: You realize that Zelaya could not have run for re-election in the election that he wanted to have vote on a referendum? In other words, this "plan to become president for life" involved:

    1) Hoping the people voted for a referendum; and
    2) Hoping the referendum allowed him to run again one day; and
    3) Hoping his party would nominate him again one day; and
    4) Hoping that, in that election several years away, he would be elected; and
    5) THEN, he could use his new election to subvert whatever clause in the new constitution certainly would exist to prevent "president's for life."

    In other words, his "plan" to become "president for life" involved hoping that a number of legitimately constitutionalist procedures would all go his way, so that then he might be re-elected years in the future and stage a coup. Instead of just staging a coup right then, when he was already in office.

    Wow, what a plan.

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  8. "I was actually objecting to your 'it was provided for by the constitution' -- just what clause in the constitution says the Supreme Court should issue a secret military order, kidnap the president, stuff him in a plane, and fly him out of the country?"

    Article 313 Section 2 gives the Supreme Court the authority to hear cases against the President and Article 306 allows them to use the military to execute their judgments. Article 205 Section 10 also gives the Congress the authority to interpret the Constitution, and as noted previously, the Congress ratified the Supreme Court's actions (Article 375 also provides that attempts to change the Constitution other than by the methods it provides are invalid, and charges all citizens with the duty of resisting any such attempt).

    I'll grant that kicking Zelaya out of the country (as opposed to simply removing him from office) was illegal and I believe the Honduran government has admitted as much.

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  9. This guy seems to think article 313 perhaps does give the Supreme Court the authority to remove the president from office as it did -- perhaps.

    But I think his more important point is: "The whole mess is filled with judgment calls... It all comes back to the problem that a constitution which declares procedural matters to be forever inalterable is a badly-written constitution."

    So I stick by my contention that:
    1) The Honduran Constitution is a mess in this regard;
    2) The idea that the founding generation should have the power to bind all later generations to anything is absurd; and
    3) O'Grady is smart enough to know 1) and 2), so her position is partisan dishonesty.

    Justin Raimondo, by the way, has written contending that the constitution was written to give the military ultimate power, and these clauses could kind of be read together as "We have the power to stage a coup any time we want... constitutionally!"

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  10. Thanks, Shiny RAM! blackeradderiv, it was an "open-and-shut case" of a coup!

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