Maggie A's Meanderings




July 21, 2013

The Presidential Pledge I Want a Candidate to Sign

I will vote for a candidate that is willing to sign a legally binding contract pledging to do the following if elected:


As President of these United States of America, I'm going to doing something that modern Presidents don't do. I'm not going to fear-monger or prevaricate or obfuscate. I'm not going to later act like I never said these words or that these words don't mean what they mean. I'm going to talk to you straight. And I'll stick by my words..........

You have as much of a chance of being killed by falling furniture as you do of being killed by a terrorist act. As that is the reality, I think the US government should be putting much less effort and taxpayer dollars in the "War on Terror" --- besides which "Terror" is an emotion that will never be eliminated. Calling it a "War on Terror" was just propaganda by my predecessors.

So as President I will:
  • Work to repeal the Patriot Act
  • Work to pass legislation repealing the FISA Amendments Act and to alter the FISA courts. First, that the FISA court will go back to its original, intended use ---- that of issuing individual warrants based on probable cause only against suspected foreign intelligence agents in the US. Second, there will be a different method of selecting judges for this court, a method that ensures judges have the highest standards when evaluating surveillance requests because the current judges are as incapable of saying "No" as $20 hooker jonesing for a fix. Third, there will also be a process for review so approval of surveillance doesn't sink to the "rubber-stamp" level. Fourth, the number of requests to the FISA court will be published on a continuing basis as will the results of the requests (approved/denied). Fifth, all surveillance requests to the FISA court must be based on probable cause against individual persons or specific groups (certain organizations or businesses). Warrants for mass surveillance that are likely to include a large number of people who aren't suspected of any wrongdoing will be illegal. 
  • Work to repeal the indefinite detention section of the National Defense Authorization Act and to pass legislation making indefinite detention illegal
  • Pardon all whistleblowers convicted by the previous two administrations
  • Reduce Federal government intrusion into the private lives of American citizens who are not suspected of doing anything wrong
Now though I can work for legislation, actually getting that legislation is something that will have to be done in cooperation with Congress and that will require that Congress get off its collective rear and start doing something rather than just obstructing. Even as President that's not in my power.

It is in my power to immediately pardon the whistleblowers. And it is in my power to control the actions of the Federal agencies that are intruding on civil liberties ----- because all of those agencies work for me. So the following changes will happen immediately:

  • All warrants requested by any Executive Branch Federal agency will follow the Constitution and will only be requested when there is probable cause. These warrants will be for individual people or specific narrow groups (as in certain organizations or businesses). 
  • My administration will no longer do mass surveillance of the American public whether of their paper mail, email, computer usage, telephone calls or texts. All "meta-data" gathered on people who are not suspected of wrong-doing will be deleted.
  • Instruct the DOJ to file suit against the "indefinite detention" section of the National Defense Authorization Act. (Though I will have to check with White House counsel to ensure it's legal for us to do this as filing a suit like this has probably never been done before.)
  • There will no longer be routine denials to FOIA requests to any Executive Branch Federal agency. All denials will have to have a hearing where they will be individually reviewed. The hearing will be done by a committee (minimum of 6 people for quorum) and will include at least 60% of people independent of the agency that received the request. Denial of the FOIA request will require a two-thirds majority. The person/organization making the FOIA request will have the right to be represented at the hearing. Redacting more than 10% of the information on a document will also require a two-thirds committee approval.
  • Federal law enforcement agents involved in shooting a civilian will no longer be investigated by their own agency. Instead independent investigators (including non-government investigators) will conduct the inquiry. Federal law enforcement agents found to have acted improperly in shooting a civilian will be subject to the same level of prosecution as any resident of the US. If the agent was found to have acted improperly, the agency the officer works for will issue a public apology admitting fault and make financial reparations.
  • The United States of America will no longer torture prisoners. We're better than that. And it's also against our Constitution. (Yes, water boarding is torture. I will listen to anyone who disagrees with that after they themselves are repeatedly waterboarded then are forced to watch while their entire family and everyone they love are repeatedly waterboarded. If, after that, that person still doesn't think waterboarding is torture, I'll hear their opinion then. Any takers? I didn't think so.) Nor will we send people to other countries to be tortured. The butcher is on the same moral level as the person who eats the meat.
  • POWs will be treated humanely --- as we would want our people treated if taken prisoner. Every attempt will be made to determine if the prisoner was actually fighting against us or was someone who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Simply hating the American government is not an act of war or else we'd be locking up people from this country. Have you seen Congress' approval ratings?) If it was someone who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, that person will be released with an apology and assistance to resume his interrupted life.
  • I as President will no longer condemn American citizens to death. Any citizen I believe has committed a crime against the United States will have a trial and be condemned to death by a public court. I'm telling you up front that this one is not going to be easy. Because either I will have to get Crosby v. United States overturned so I can try them in absentia and then send drones to execute the SOBs or I will have to send our soldiers in to bring these people back and American casualties will happen. But our Constitution guarantees the right to trial and as President it is my sworn duty to follow the Constitution not subvert it because it's inconvenient.
  • The TSA will stop feeling-up little children who are boarding planes (that must make "TSA screener" an open invitation to pedophiles). The TSA will not be screening anywhere except airports. And hands-on screening will go back to pre-9/11 levels.
  • I will no longer use so-called "Free Speech Zones" for Presidential appearances. I will issue an Executive Order that no one who works for me can use "Free Speech Zones" for their public appearances. This is America -- we are a Free Speech Zone.
  • I will require that Secret Service Agents on protection details for me and my family and for my employees acknowledge that other people still have Constitutional rights. Any Secret Service Agent who violates someone's Constitutional rights or otherwise commits a crime while on duty will be prosecuted.
Now the reality is that freedom and safety are in balance with one another.
And I said I would speak straight. It is possible that these changes may result in some additional deaths by terrorism here in the United States. Therefore, I am telling you in advance that even if there is a successful terrorist act during my administration, I will refuse to over-react because of political pressure and rampant public hysteria. And let's face it, you, the American people, are big into rampant public hysteria though it's a reaction whipped up by the 24 hour news media who are trying to garner ratings and who know how easy it is to whip you, the American public, into a panic.

But let me remind you that in this society we accept 11,000 gun homicides a year, 49,000 smoking homicides a year and almost 100,000 people killed by medical errors every year. The number of deaths from terrorism will not be anywhere near those numbers. So, as President, I don't believe in putting my administration's focus and billions and billions of dollars on a problem that kills so few people.
In closing, let me quote Benjamin Franklin:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

As President my administration will support the side of liberty.

Now I specify that a candidate that wants my vote is going to have to sign a legally binding contract. That's because I thought Obama was going to be doing a lot of these things based on what he said as a candidate. But I waited for the first two years he was in office for him to do any of these roll back any of the Bush-43 invasions of civil liberties and expansion of government powers and instead saw Obama doubling-down on Bush's policies.

Now I'm not naive. I realize that Presidents don't have as much power as some people like to pretend they do and other people like to imagine they do. No President could wave a magic wand and fix the behemoth that is the American economy. No President can impel bipartisan cooperation in the cesspool of money-grubbing, power-hungry corruption that is Congress ---- a Congress filled with too many who are the servants of their ego and mastered by their ambition or, in other words, a Congress too full of themselves to cooperate even if it benefited the country. So even at the time, I thought all those people in 2008 running around saying "Change" were going to be in for a major letdown. But there were certain things that it was in Obama's power to do. He controlled the transparency level of his administration. He set the direction for DOJ prosecutions. And, most of all, he was the boss of all those agencies that were doing the spying and the searching, so it was in his power to change the actions of those agencies. That was the "change" I expected Obama to do.

And what did Obama do? None of those things.

So you can say I was disappointed in Obama. I didn't expect much. But I got less.

Still, I will reluctantly admit that I vomit-voted for Obama in 2012. It's because when it came to these issues there was no difference between Obama and Romney, no difference between Democrat and Republican. (Witness how both sides of Congress knew about the NSA spying on hundreds of millions of innocent Americans and said nothing even though they had immunity through the
Constitution's Speech or Debate Clause. And look at how many of them came out in support of the NSA spying on hundreds of millions of innocent Americans.) It's a sad period of American life when no political party with power will defend the rights of its citizens. So there was no difference between Romney and Obama when it came to government surveillance.

However, there was a difference between Romney and Obama when it came to the economy. It's not that policies under Obama haven't resulted in the rich getting richer while the rest of us get poorer --- they have. But I was afraid under Romney that this policy was going to be ramped up with the rich getting even richer while the rest of us getting even poorer. Frankly, Romney is a man with far too great an ability to compartmentalize. In his personal life, he seems to be a decent man. In his professional life, his credo seems to be Gordon Gekko's "Greed is good" and was someone whose goal was to increase wealth by any means and didn't scruple at sucking on the taxpayers' teats. I was seriously worried about what a Romney administration would do to the economy in conjunction with a Congress that not only has a history of making itself rich, but likes to keep its rich friends rich. So when I voted, I voted for Obama even though it made me want to vomit, hence, my term "vomit-vote."

This next election, I can only hope (I can only hope because I don't think it's going to happen) that the two major parties will nominate someone who as President will put risks into perspective and understand that the way to economic well-being in this country isn't about just generating more wealth for the wealthy. We've had that for more than twenty years now ----- if making rich people richer were going to trickle down to the middle and lower classes and economically raise up them up, IT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED BY NOW. IT HASN'T. Over the past 20 years, the rich have been getting ever richer with more and more corporate welfare and fewer and fewer taxes on them. (Ask yourself why capital gains --- something all rich people earn--- are taxed at a fixed low rate while savings/checking accounts (which are what the rest of us have) are taxed like regular income.)

Now I don't think that it's solely in the President's power to change the corporate welfare society that we've become or to ensure that someone like Romney actually paid a 35% tax rate instead of Romney paying about the same percentage of Federal income taxes that I do even though he's worth a quarter of a billion dollars and I'm living off my savings because I'm out of work. Changing any of that would include Congress. And I don't think that Congress keeps on favoring the rich and the big corporations because they think it's suddenly going to help the middle and lower class have a fairer share of this country's wealth. That would be the definition of insanity --- doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Congress doesn't expect different results from its corporate welfare/favor the rich policy. As much as I despise Congress, they actually aren't insane. Congress keeps doing it because they like the results that come from the rich getting one hell of a lot richer. It helps keep them in power and being in Congress gives them a chance of becoming one of those rich people.

I don't actually think there's a snowball's chance in hell that either of the two main parties will nominate anyone who as President would put risks into perspective and understand that the way to economic well-being in this country isn't about just generating more wealth for the wealthy. And, since I don't think a President can actually do much about that second goal, I will go for what is theoretically achievable and that's what's in my "Presidential Pledge." Everything in that pledge is within the President's power to do. So I'll reiterate. I will vote for any candidate ---- from any party ---- that will sign a legally binding contract to do what's in that pledge. Because, frankly, I didn't like the taste of vomit.

Good/Angel Candidate Obama versus Evil/Devil President Obama

No, I don't actually think that Candidate Obama was an angel of light and that President Obama is the devil ----- I'm exaggerating for effect. But I hope it makes my point that the candidate he promised us is very different from the president he gave us.
Image modifications by and the modified image is under
GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 as specified by the Wikimedia Commons page.
Left image modified from public domain Senate photo. Right image modified from photo by Elizabeth Cromwell, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you agreed with this piece, read "Terrorism Not Real Danger - Losing Freedoms Is Real Danger." You also might enjoy "4 Proposed Amendments to the US Constitution" or "Impeach Them All." To see where I got the gun and smoking death data, read "Guns and Smoking" which lists all the original sources.

For more on my take on politics, read "My Credo as a Liberal" or look in the
Archive for any piece marked "Politics."



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