Republicans and the mainstream media have traditionally portrayed Democrats as being soft on defense. But over the weekend, President Barack Obama went a long way to finally putting an end to that myth. On Friday, the president green-lighted a secret operation to hunt down terrorist leader Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan, and by Sunday, US special forces units had killed the architect of the 9/11 attacks.
In finally getting bin Laden, Obama made good on a campaign promise, while accomplishing what Republican President George W. Bush had failed to do during his seven-plus years in office after 3,000 Americans had died. Indeed, Obama's actions made it clear that he had refocused the intelligence community's priorities in the past two years toward getting bin Laden and breaking up al Qaeda — after Bush had led the country astray with his unnecessary war in Iraq.
Simultaneously, Obama also masterfully took down the GOP's leading presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Last week, the president convinced the state of Hawaii to waive its rules and finally release his so-called long-form birth certificate to put an end to blatantly false rumors by Trump and so-called birthers that he wasn't born in the United States.
Even though the disclosure of the certificate plainly revealed Trump's shallow intellect and craven need for attention, the reality TV star nevertheless claimed credit for forcing Obama to release the document. So, then on Saturday night, Obama decided to finally put Trump in his place. At the White House Correspondents Association dinner in Washington, DC, Obama roasted the New York real estate mogul and his frivolous show, Celebrity Apprentice, noting how Trump had decided in one episode to solve the thorny issue of steaks not being cooked correctly: "You fired Gary Busey," the president mused. "These are the kinds of problems that would keep me up at night."
The audience roared with laughter as Trump sat stone-faced, visibly unhappy at the public take-down. But Trump and the rest of the country wouldn't find out until Sunday night, when Obama announced the death of bin Laden on national TV, just how biting the joke was. While the Democratic president was focused on getting a mass-murdering terrorist that had eluded capture for more than a decade, the leading GOP presidential candidate was stressing over whether to "fire" washed-up actors.
Yoo Reveals True Colors
Meanwhile, a notorious East Bay Republican revealed again last week that he is little more than a partisan huckster. Throughout much of the past decade, UC Berkeley law school professor John Yoo staked his academic and legal reputation on the argument that the US Constitution calls for a powerful presidency. But in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published last week, Yoo revealed that he only believes in unfettered presidential power when a Republican occupies the White House.
Yoo became infamous while on sabbatical from Cal, working as a lawyer in the Bush Justice Department. In a 2002 legal memo, Yoo even went so far as to claim that the Constitution gave the president the power to ignore US and international law, and order suspected terrorists to be tortured. In fact, Bush pointed to Yoo's so-called torture memo as justification for ordering the harsh and abusive treatment of prisoners.
Ultimately, however, an embarrassed Bush Justice Department distanced itself from Yoo, rescinded his memos, and investigated him for professional misconduct because his ideas were so extreme. In the end, however, the Obama administration decided that Yoo should not be formally sanctioned or disbarred based on the premise that he could not have known how absurd his legal opinions were because he believed so strongly in them. Yoo, however, has now made a mockery of that decision.
In his op-ed, the tenured Cal professor wrote, apparently with a straight face, that President Obama was on the cusp of overstepping his presidential authority because he's contemplating an executive order that would force government contractors to disclose their campaign contributions. Yes, you read that right. Republican presidents can torture, but Democratic ones can't require transparency from contractors who get taxpayer money.
This is not the first time, however, that Yoo has displayed his true partisan colors. During the 1990s, he argued that President Bill Clinton had overstepped his presidential authority, too, even though Clinton came nowhere near to ignoring US and international law as Bush did when he authorized the torture of Guantanamo Bay detainees.
So will UC Berkeley finally do anything about a professor who essentially abandons his legal opinions, and effectively refutes his own work? Don't count on it.
Quan Unveils Budget Scenarios
In Oakland, Mayor Jean Quan unveiled three budget scenarios to close the city's $58 million budget gap. The mayor clearly supports the third scenario, which assumes that public-employee unions will make substantial concessions and that city voters will approve an $11 million-a-year parcel tax. That scenario also would result in the fewest layoffs and service cuts. The first scenario, by contrast, is an all-cuts budget that assumes public-employee unions will refuse to make concessions and that the parcel tax will lose. It would result in the layoff of 368 city employees, and would require the closure of some fire stations and city library branches. The second scenario, which assumes employee concessions but no parcel tax, would result in the layoff of 145 city workers.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau reinstated men's gymnastics after alumni raised $2.5 million to save the program, the Oakland Tribune reported. The move means that Cal is not eliminating any collegiate sports. ... Oakland City Attorney John Russo accepted an offer to become Alameda's city manager and was expected to make an official announcement this week, the Alameda Journal reported. ... Oakland City Councilwoman Jane Brunner temporarily tabled her plan to gut the city's lobbying law and will consult with the local League of Women Voters, which advocates for greater governmental transparency. ... The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum will be renamed Overstock.com Coliseum after the giant online retailer agreed to pay the Coliseum Authority $1.2 million a year for naming rights. ... And the White House anonymously threatened to ban veteran San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci for video-recording protestors at an Obama fund-raiser without authorization.