Obama’s Presser: Doing the Dishes, the GOP’s Holy Grail and the “Whole Elephant” of NSA Spying

A punchy president gets metaphorical on snooping, Snowden, Obamacare and more

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With his summer vacation just around the corner, maybe Barack Obama was feeling punchy. In his hour long press conference Friday afternoon, the president spoke in some memorably colorful terms about a range of issues. But at the heart of the event was the ongoing controversy over the NSA’s surveillance programs.

Obama opened by announcing several relatively modest steps to allay public concerns about the NSA’s activities, which he stressed are a problem both domestically but also (perhaps moreso) in other countries. Those steps include newly-released documents from the Justice Department and the NSA explaining the legal basis and parameters of the surveillance programs, plans for a group of outside experts to review the issue, and Obama’s willingness to work with Congress to add more oversight and transparency to the data collection process. Obama also said he would support changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, allowing for a more adversarial process at a court often accused of rubber-stamping the government’s requests. “It’s not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs,” Obama said. “The American people need to have confidence in them as well.”

The subject seemed to bring out the writer in Obama, for better or for worse.

“We’ve seen information coming out in drips and in drabs, sometimes coming out sideways,” Obama said of the NSA’s programs. “Let’s put the whole elephant out there and see what we’ve got.” For a deeper dive on his proposed reforms, see this write-up at the national security law blog Lawfare, though they’re not likely to placate critics who long stopped trusting the administration’s statements on on its electronic snooping. (Nor will they appreciate Obama’s caveat, after he asserted that most critics of the surveillance programs are “patriots,” that, “No, I don’t think Mr. [Edward] Snowden was a patriot.”

Obama also threw in a curious metaphor about public trust: “If I tell Michelle that I did the dishes — now, granted, in the White House, I don’t do the dishes that much, but back in the day — and she’s a little skeptical, well, I’d like her to trust me, but maybe I need to bring her back and show her the dishes and not just have her take my word for it,” Obama said. It was not his finest rhetorical moment, perhaps. And predictably, conservatives chortled online.

But the president got in his own digs against the right. Asked about conservative efforts to defund Obamacare that could force a government shutdown this fall, his irritation was clear. Obama disdainfully called the GOP’s fixation with of blocking the law “their holy grail,” adding: “The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have healthcare.”

Sounding exasperated, Obama also lamented the resistance of House Republicans to passing an immigration reform bill. “This is one where you’ve actually got some pretty broad consensus. I don’t know an issue where you’ve got labor, the Chamber of Commerce, evangelicals, student groups, you name it, supportive of the bill,” Obama said. “Let’s get it done.” But Washington has hardly been a place where things get done lately, and there’s no much evidence that’s about to change. Which is why Obama must be looking forward to that vacation.

39 comments
notsacredh
notsacredh

" Obama disdainfully called the GOP’s fixation with of blocking the law “their holy grail,” adding: “The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have healthcare.”

The real GOP Holy Grail is to impeach the President. If it isn't a drone attack on a Tea Party rally on The mall, sneaking a cigarette would do. It's just one thing after another with them. They lost and can't deal with it.

united_we_stand
united_we_stand

As a conservative I am against Obamacare because I oppose corporatism, lobbyists writing bills politicians don't understand, and the idea of forcing people to buy products and services they may not need. Thats a dangerous slope but not as concerning to me as the extent of government spying on citizens. Obama should drop a bomb on the facility in utah and be done with it. But that wouldn't be done with it, we know the government will just keep doing it. The major issue is no one can hold the federal government accountable. Each step towards an authoritarian system is arguably in the interests of the people. States who adopt a more conservative view on the constitution should look for ways to require the Feds obey it, for instance threaten the Federal government they don't get to collect income tax from its people if they violate their rights spying on them.

delta5297
delta5297

The Republicans' unifying goal isn't to prevent Americans from having access to healthcare. After all, the GOP supported an individual mandate decades ago. No, their goal is to oppose anything that Obama says or does, regardless of what it is. Even if Obama said "one plus one equals two" or "buckle your seat belt", they would oppose that.


jmac
jmac

Obama's four proposals (from Public Radio International) 

 Work with Congress to revise Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which allows collection of phone records along the lines of the program first revealed by Snowden.

 Make the intelligence programs more transparent. In his comments Obama outlined a host of small proposals that would be reflected in a new website about the government's intelligence gathering operations.

 Make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Obama didn't provide concrete details, but alluded to the idea of adding a public ombudsman to the court, to argue against the government in certain circumstances.

 Convene a team of outside experts to review U.S. surveillance programs in light of changing technology and propose changes for the future.


shepherdwong
shepherdwong

“No, I don’t think Mr. [Edward] Snowden was a patriot.”

Be careful, professor, that goes to motive. And, for that matter, your treatment of the 1st and 4th Amendments of the Bill of Rights doesn't exactly commend you as a patriot, or your oath of office.

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

The "watcher in chief" pledges to watch the watchers to protect the privacy rights of the watched. 

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

Thousands of Internet users thank Snowden via virtual notes.

Photos of the netizens holding notes with grateful messages for the ex-spy have been posted on ThankSnowden.com, launched by the digital rights group.

JimStarowicz
JimStarowicz

"Lets put the whole elephant out there!"
For it was the 'elephant' rubber stampers that put it all into play and then the flag wavin country ran from the accountability, All the accountability!!

arvay
arvay

This would be funnier if the subject -- the imposition of a national security state -- were not so serious,

The NSA is already sharing data about Americans with other agencies.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/08/05/the-nsa-is-giving-your-phone-records-to-the-dea-and-the-dea-is-covering-it-up/

Who doesn't think that this is just the beginning of a development that George Orwell would recognize? 

His light-hearted approach is both intellectually insulting (yes, your leaders think you're stupid and easily manipulated) and covers a gimlet-eyed approach that includes killing American citizens without charge or conviction -- according to rules that are secret, as are the people who decide who gets killed, the power to nullify habeas corpus and secret judges that "approve" the internal spying in secret, by the terms of secret criteria. 

So we read your mail. get over it. I'll appoint a commission.

Let's face facts. 

Our vaunted Constitution is null and void. It is enforced only when the leadership class finds that convenient. 

The information and  powers that are being distributed to US agencies are going to generate chaos -- as the a-holes layered in various bureaucracies start acting on the vast sea of data that will be available to them. Mistaken arrests, financial ruin, tax investigations, harassment -- just imagine the potential. That will be in addition to and mixed in with the purposeful meddling with and surveillance of American citizens. 

As the domestic civil liberties equivalent of those drone strikes goes forward, there will be a lot of collateral damage. 

Brace yourselves.

More than a million people have top secret clearances. If Obama & Co. don't like Snowden, just wait until more entrepreneurial individuals realize  that there are customers -- both domestic and foreign -- who will pay handsomely. 

So the damage inflicted by Osama bin Laden continues, we have destroyed freedom in order to save it. 

TiborSzáraz
TiborSzáraz

Ę͖̥̗͙̳̬͈̗̙̆̍̈͑́̽́͆̕͠Ñ̨͕̹͙͕̹͍͔̯̓̎́̀͂̔̐̕͠ͅǪ̩͙̻̱̳͕̭̺̩̇̑̿̄̈́͆̈́́͊̕Ư̡̨̙̝͓̙͖̬͎̯̆͆͛̎́̀̑͘̚G͚̗̬͇͔̣̖͕̤͎̀̏̾͋̔̉̔̊͘͘H̪̖̝͇̭̫̩̠̜̖̿̎́͗̌̓̀́̄͠ ̬͍̦̼̫̬̲̪̪̒͛̌̀͆͗̌̆̄̉͜í̧̗͎̬̞͕͍̱͈̹̾͋̌̊͋̉̀͑̓s̡͎̠̘̰̪͚̭̬̪͐̓͒̂͋̓̉͛̇͝ ̨̢̖͎͕̣̰̺̳̍͆̾́͋̎̓͛͘͜͠ë̺̥̪͙̣͍̟̬̖̞́̑́̋̐̓̂̉̕̚ñ̹̥͇͍̞͚͍͙͖̞͐͑͗͊͛̀̋̈̚õ̧̳̳̩̳̮̺̲͎̻͌́͆̋̇̿̒̽̀ừ͓͙̙̠̠͓̯̹̟̗̂̒͒̓̋̌͠͠g̥̼̥͚͎̻̝͚̝͎̑̃̐̈́̐͌̏̽̕̕ḧ̰͚̪͎̰̮̻̜̞͚́͗̔̓̅̄͑͆̕͠.


Enough is enough. We're calling for the Impeachment of Barack Obama. And if you agree, you can join us right now. 
http://tinyurl.com/obamamove

GaryRMcCray
GaryRMcCray

While trying to get sir Thomas Moore's head impaled on the Washington Monument, the King pledges to the serfs to provide oversight to the Kings security agencies.

Mixed Metaphor and much Hypocrisy!

ahandout
ahandout

If there's nothing to be concerned about regarding the NSA, then why is Obama telling us that he ordered a review, we should be concerned, and we now get to see more of that elephant?

united_we_stand
united_we_stand

@jptrader Allowing private bankers to print wealth in the hopes it energizes the economy, democrats once criticized as 'trickle down economics'. Now under Obama it is taken to astronomical levels but they say not a peep distracted from wars and economic disaster by his agenda for change; immigration, gay rights, and socialized health care. 

jmac
jmac

@jptrader Are you upset about the four modest proposal to change NSA?   The cartoon is juvenile.  

jmac
jmac

@dakinsky And what if you're "them".  You could be. 

 There's a fine line between security and personal freedom.   NSA is examining "all email messages in and out of the country searching them for clues associated with terrorism or foreign intelligence."  (NY Times)  N.S.A. rules  permit "the agency to search for Americans’ names and identifying information in data about foreign targets gathered from large Internet companies." (The Guardian)

I personally don't have a problem with that, regardless of who's president.  Al qaeda is active and dangerous.  We can ignore it and have another 9/11.   W.  ignored them as he pushed for Star Wars.   He didn't want to hear about those pilots taking private lessons.   

jmac
jmac

@shepherdwong  Did you read SNowden's statement today, shepherwong?   He's out attacking the press for their wishy-washy role after 9/11.

Of course, I agree with him.  It's too bad he didn't agree with me at the time - he signed up a year after 9/11 to fight Bush's war, lost that job, then took a surveillance job where he bragged that wars were great.  Of course they were, until he lost that job.

He's got a great lawyer trying to save his hide.  I believe him as much as I would believe Bush coming out today and attacking the NY Times for listening to  his own  in-house sweetie, Judith Miller.   History wouldn't fall for that one. 

Snowden is as pathetic as George W. Bush.    

MarkAnderson1
MarkAnderson1

@arvay Granted what you said.  If you get rid of the NSA, more terrorist strikes will succeed.  How many, is too many?  1,000 people a year, 5,000?  It's like the second amendment, apparently that's worth many more thousand a year to people who own guns.  Freedom to choose has a price, I believe it's worth it, freedom has a price.  As far as the constitution being null and void, that's a simplistic argument, certainly not a fact.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@TiborSzáraz Just like you called for the impeachment of George Bush for signing the Patriot Act.   

jmac
jmac

@Sibir_Russia I'm not clicking on the video, but obviously, just like Snowden, these jerks aren't protesting anything but Obama.  

If you want to get someone, you have to have something.  

jptrader
jptrader

@jmac  i defend your right to be wrong. the cartoon clearly pokes fun at Obama's penchant for going after political elephants. do you not get that?

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@jmac "Of course they were, until he lost that job."

He quit a pretty good job and a pretty good life to make his much less pleasant choice. And he was a kid when he decided to fight Al Qaeda after 9/11, much younger than others (who should have known better) who have come to their senses since then (see: John Cole). Anyway, I can't know his motives any more than you or Obama can. All I know is that he's right about government overreach and the wishy-washy press. YMMV.

arvay
arvay

@MarkAnderson1 @arvay

"If you get rid of the NSA, more terrorist strikes will succeed."

Possibly, but I'm not suggesting that. Agencies that actually protect Americans have a valid purpose, but ending freedom to save it goes a bit too far.

Among the parts of the Constitution made null and void are the Fourth Amendment, overruled by the NSA, habeas corpus, nullified by the asserted and implemented authority to kill, arrest and detain without charge -- powers arrogated by and awarded to the president by term of secret criteria and in a bill he signed into law. 

The ongoing efforts to prosecute journalists for revealing state secrets undermines the First Amendment quite nicely. Laws against "aiding and abetting" terrorism include donating money to a cause you might support deemed "terrorist" by the AIPAC-led Congress and other restrictions that also nullify the First Amendment. In a capsule, corporations are people and their bribes are protected speech, but if a citizen wants to donate money to someone the government doen't like -- that's a crime. AIPAC s busily woking to add criticism of Israel to that list of "crimes."

http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aa121201a.htm

Be sure not to be late for Hate Week.


roknsteve
roknsteve

@dakinsky Because Bush and Cheney never did any of this for 8 years.  And republicans never said anyone who was against the Patriot Act was a traitor. 

Sibir_Russia
Sibir_Russia

@jmac@Sibir_Russia 

This is the most ordinary Americans who protects the American Constitution, like Snowden.  

They are real Patriots of the United States.

jmac
jmac

@jptrader @jmac No, I don't get it.   I see nothing wrong with attacking the GOP or the NSA politically or otherwise.  

jmac
jmac

@dakinsky @jmac Since you don't think we're in a state of war with al Qaeda, then it's hard to take you seriously.   We just killed two with drones in Yemen.  We're flying them out of Djibouti and a C.I.A. base in Saudi Arabia.  The Arabs apparently appreciate out fight of this global enemy.  NY Times:  The Yemen defense minister met Saturday with the U.S. deputy ambassador, Karen Sasahara, and the two American security officials based in Yemen to discuss security.  The U.S. considers the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda to be the most dangerous threat to the United States.

Do we have to get hit again in the U.S. for you to consider it within the realm of the Constitution to fight this global enemy?  

jmac
jmac

@dakinsky @jmac If you don't like the Patriot Act, complain to your Congressman.   That's how our laws work.

Throwing out the word Constitution just makes you appear a Tea Party nut.  

anon76
anon76

@Sibir_Russia

Didn't Orwell once write an allegorical novel about the hypocrisy in 1917-era Russia?  Something about some animals being more equal than others?  I am guessing that after Snowden sees what happens to government critics in Russia, he'll realize that he hasn't exactly arrived in an open society paradise.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@Sibir_Russia @jmac I've read your comments on various articles and I have to say you are one silly person.  Plus your English sucks.

jmac
jmac

@roknsteve @manlyman  And shrill !    It's also good this column has few comments.   The base can't help themselves but the leadership doesn't seem to be following them this time around.   Image that, Republicans learning something from history.  Wonders never cease.  

roknsteve
roknsteve

@manlyman The good thing is that Pres. Obama is never going to be impeached for using the Patriot Act that was signed by George Bush and you are still a Girly Girl.

jmac
jmac

@manlyman@manlyman  "Tell us something good about Obama."

He's not George W. Bush (I voted for George Bush senior).

  And where were all of you idiots calling for the impeachment of Bush as he lied through his teeth for regime change of a petty dictator who had nothing to do with our towers falling and made a joke about not finding W-e-a-p-o-n-s of M-a-s-s  Destruction when he knew Iraq was weaker than it was when his dad took back Kuwait as he ignored al Qaeda, North Korea, Syria, Iran . . .  

AND he pushed through the Patriot Act.  NSA was doing the same thing under Bush - where was your voice?   

W.  also almost took us to another Great Depression, which Obama kept us from falling into.    Obama also got us health care reform (a Republican health care reform). That alone will put him in the History books - it took us long enough.  




manlyman
manlyman

Jmac you're sounding a little shrill all of a sudden. Your assignment for today: Tell us something good about Obama.

jmac
jmac

@Sibir_Russia @jmac Patriots don't tell the China press how we spy on them.   A patriot doesn't brag that he loves wars because they fund his job, then take a job to dump information once the president's change.   (This is a man who signed up to fight W's war a year after 9/11 - he obviously never read a newspaper and was as ignorant as they come).  

He's a Typical Tea Party blowhard.    He belongs in Russia and I'm glad he made it.   It's too bad he couldn't take the rest of the Tea Party with him.