Long ago, Tom Bethell of The American Spectator instituted a new award: the Strange New Respect Award. It was bestowed on “once-reliable conservatives who won liberal praise by adopting liberal policies.” (We have quoted the magazine’s editorial director, Wlady Pleszczynski.) Which brings us to Esquire’s American of the Year awards — one of which has just been bestowed on Chief Justice John Roberts. The magazine said that he had committed a gross wrong in the Citizens United decision, which, according to the magazine, “legalized political corruption for the foreseeable future.” But he made up for it with the pathetic Obamacare decision. The magazine said that his ruling saved the Court’s “credibility” and preserved its “institutional integrity.” “When he passed Obamacare, he made the Supreme Court of the United States his.” Congratulations, Justice Roberts: You have won the admiration of people who think it is the Supreme Court’s job to pass laws.
Two weeks after Election Day, Jesse Jackson Jr. resigned his seat in Congress. He had been elected to a tenth term. Jackson is a Chicago Democrat. He has spent much of the last year being treated for a psychological disorder at the Mayo Clinic. He is under investigation by the FBI and the House Ethics Committee for financial improprieties. He probably could have been reelected unto eternity. The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, said, “We are grateful to him and his family for their longstanding record of public service to our country.” That they have served themselves is plain; that they have served our country is less so.
During the election stretch run, President Obama directed his administration to develop rules for approving drone attacks. He seems to have concluded that unregulated assassin-in-chief powers were fine in his own righteous hands but a danger if Mitt Romney were to be elected president. The New York Times, which earlier this year described an Obama who is steeped in the just-war reflections of Augustine and Aquinas and personally combs intel files to compose a terrorist hit list, reports that the effort to write the rules has relaxed since the president’s reelection. Administration officials fret over international criticism about the killings, which they justify as part of a war they occasionally say is over, and assert their need for flexibility in unilaterally deciding who shall be killed even as troops are withdrawn and combat operations wind down.
Congress continues to pick its way through the confusion surrounding the Benghazi attack. David Petraeus finally testified (and no one, thank God, asked him about Paula Broadwell). He said the CIA’s first set of administration talking points flagged al-Qaeda’s Libyan affiliate and local jihadists as the attacking force, but that the attribution was later deleted so as not to alert the terrorists that we were pursuing them. (They fought an hours-long gun battle outside and inside our consulate, leaving many dead behind: They didn’t think we would identify them?) U.N. ambassador Susan Rice used the whitewashed talking points on her talk-show round robin. So either she is a hackish mouthpiece, or she actually doesn’t know much about a country in which we have intervened. Neither explanation recommends her to be secretary of state. The real issue, however, is neither her nor Petraeus, but the overall direction of the administration. Who whitewashed the talking points in the first place? Who blamed the attack on an anti-Muslim YouTube video? Cui bono? The Obama reelection campaign, which argued that al-Qaeda was on the run (“Osama bin Laden is dead,” as Joe Biden said). Who then made these obfuscating decisions — the president? Some campaign hack? Can Congress tell us?