Obama Aide: A Strong President Doesn’t Check With Lawyers

We have seen in the Republican primary how candidates have engaged in a type of race to the bottom in embracing torture and suggesting that they would launch attacks against Iran and other countries. In this debate, the law and the Constitution are often dismissed as weak considerations for a strong president. Not to be outdone in such macho posturing, the Obama campaign has mocked Mitt Romney for even suggesting that he would consult with lawyers before launching attacks or taking critical actions. Stephanie Cutter, President Obama’s Deputy Campaign Manager, delivered the message on MSNBC that Obama was strong because he didn’t need no stinkin’ lawyers.

Cutter appeared on MSNBC to offer this analysis of Romney:

The most egregious falsehood would be the President’s position on Iran, whether it’s Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, attacking the President for not being tough enough on Iran. Ask any foreign policy expert out there, we have the toughest sanctions in place today than we’ve had in decades thanks to this President.  . . . Now look at Mitt Romney. What he didn’t say on the stage tonight is that just four years ago, when asked the same question on Iran, he said he’d have to check with his lawyers. That does not make a Commander-in-Chief, somebody who has to check with his lawyers.

Of course, Obama has shown repeatedly that he has the “strength” to not only ignore lawyers, but ignore the law. On torture, he promised CIA officials that they would never be prosecuted despite his acknowledgment that waterboarding is torture — a war crime under controlling treaties. On Libya, he launched a war without achieving authorization from Congress. [For full disclosure, I represented the members challenging this war in federal court]. For areas ranging from privacy to detention, Obama has proven the type of strong leadership that Cutter describes. Her comments vividly illustrate that the White House has little concern for the objections by civil libertarians and will continue to model Obama on the image of George Bush — the strong leader who refuses to be weakened by lawyers.

Cutter’s comments should be condemned by the President but they will not be. It was not even challenged on MSNBC at the time or in later segments. After all, this election is only about “them” and not “us.” Moreover Cutter was reading from a script that has been followed since the very beginning of Obama’s term. The image of the strongman, so popular in places like Russia, has found a place in the United States. In this new paradigm, the law and the Constitution are synonymous with weakness. Even consulting with lawyers is an indication of a lack of character and strength.

By the way, Cutter is a lawyer (trained at Georgetown).

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent piece on the comments.

196 thoughts on “Obama Aide: A Strong President Doesn’t Check With Lawyers”

  1. Elaine M.

    I do trust God to provide for my bills and he has NEVER let me down. Even in the worst economy I am doing well because of his grace. You should give him a try.

  2. Saturday, Feb 25, 2012 10:04 AM Eastern Standard Time

    Interview with Sen. Russ Feingold

    By Glenn Greenwald


    During his 18 years in the U.S. Senate, Russ Feingold was easily one of the most interesting, intelligent, and independent elected officials. He frequently deviated from and vocally criticized his Party’s orthodoxy, and was by far the most stalwart voice among Senate Democrats in combatting the influence of corporate money in politics and defending civil liberties, especially in the post-9/11 era. His courageous sole vote against the Patriot Act in the weeks after 9/11 — underlined by a vigorous speech on the Senate floor in October, 2001, warning of the “loss of commitment in the Congress and the country to traditional civil liberties”– evinced all of those attributes. Those are the attributes that led me to advocate for his 2010 re-election and for readers here, in response, to donate over $50,000 in one day to his campaign.

    At the same time, Feingold — even as he voices often vehement criticisms of his Party and of Obama — has been and remains a loyal Democrat. He was just named one of 35 national co-chairs for President Obama’s re-election campaign. He argues that whatever flaws plague the Democratic Party — and they are substantial, he will be the first to tell you — the GOP has become so extreme that their defeat is imperative. To the surprise of many people, he gave an interview last week to The Huffington Post in which he appeared to support President Obama’s due-process-free assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki.

    Feingold has just released a new book, entitled While America Sleeps: A Wake-up Call for the Post-9/11 Era, which recounts his years in the Senate, especially in the post-9/11 era. Unsurprisingly, the book is an unusually candid account of many of the conflicts he had with both parties and is well worth reading for that reason alone. The book also provides his assessment of the current political landscape. I interviewed him this morning for roughly 20 minutes and was able to explore some of these issues and apparent paradoxes with him: we spoke about Obama and civil liberties, the relative silence of progressives on these issues (which he denounces as “embarrassing” in his book), his position on Awlaki (which is more nuanced than has been depicted), the state of campaign finance and corporate money in elections, and several other issues.

    This was supposed to be a video interview, but severe technical ineptitude on my part (which ended up blocking much of the screen) has rendered this more of an audio interview (the audio quality is quite good). It is in three parts and can be heard by clicking the players below (note that Part III is an audio player, not a YouTube player: just click the play arrow on the small recorder under “Part III” to hear it): via link above…

  3. Jim:

    “thanks for agreeing with me.”


    I always agree with fools I meet along the way. It keeps me from having to spend so much time trying to straighten them out. I reserve my time for the rational.

  4. Otteray,

    February 24, 2012 at 10:37 pm
    Otteray Scribe

    By the way the scientists you refer to had to study, study and study, God said let there be light and there was light. I would rather trust in him.


    Unfortunately, God’s light hasn’t “enlightened” some of us.

    I wonder if Jim trusts God to pay his bills on time…provide him with electricity…tend to any medical problems he might have, etc.

  5. Or maybe love and marriage:

    Rick Santorum’s Wife Was In Unmarried Relationship With Abortion Doctor
    by DAVID BADASH on JANUARY 10, 2012

    “Rick Santorum‘s wife Karen, before their marriage, was living in an unmarried relationship with the founder of Pittsburgh’s first abortion clinic in the 1970′s, left the doctor to marry Santorum, and at the time both Karen and Rick Santorum claimed to be pro-choice. Further, the doctor, OBGYN Tom Allen, is the same man who actually delivered Karen Santorum (then Karen Garver,) and is 40 years her senior.”


  6. Jim,

    You up yet? Today’s lessons should be about the relevance of Pat Buchanan on the election process.

  7. Jim, I think you have no idea what Dr. Feynman was talking about. No idea at all. That comment was a physicist’s equivalent of a multiple bank shot.

    One of my friends, a physicist, knew him. In addition to being a genius, he was a wit with a dry sense of humor.

    1. Jim & Jessie,
      Going to bed now but I want to thank you for your show. The comical irony you two displayed was a laugh riot and your comic timing was impeccable.
      You also never once strayed from your character.
      Just perfect! A casual observer would have believed that you were just two ignorant people, out of your depth. Heh, Heh, but we know better don’t we?

  8. Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner for quantum electrodynamics, said, “Why nature is mathematical is a mystery…The fact that there are rules at all is a kind of miracle.”12

  9. JIm:

    “The earth is not 6000 years old. Man is!”


    Jim, when you get to Heaven –or wherever it is you are going–Rev. Jerry Falwell wants to talk to you right away about your blasphemy.

  10. This has been fun to observe. I usually just lurk. Thank you for this tribute to the narrow and openmindedness at exactly to same testing levels. Please carry on.

  11. pete,

    Reverend Jim is still one of the funniest characters ever on television. One of my favorite Reverend Jim exchanges went something like this:

    Alex: Does anyone have a Styptic Pencil? I cut myself shaving and I’ve got a big date.

    [everybody shakes their heads and mutters “no” except for Jim, who walks up to Alex, reaches into his own hair and pulls out a Styptic Pencil, presenting it to Alex]

    Alex: Jim, what are you doing with a Styptic Pencil in your hair?

    Rev. Jim: (exasperated, runs hand through hair) The question is, Alex, what are you doing without one?

  12. raff, there are some who would try to turn a legal blog into just that. Fortunately, we have some expert snarkists (I just made that word up) here who challenge foolishness with a mix of fact and fun.

  13. Gene: And the Lord Jim sayeth unto them, “So he who shall, so shall he who.”

    And then the Lord sayeth unto Jim:

  14. Yeah, Bdaman! Who cares! We’ve got our very own Reverend Jim working hard to convert the heathens!


    “When you read and understand what you have read, you then become enlightened with wisdom. You, Jim, have been blessed.”

    Which is not the same thing as being enlightened or wise.

    I’m just sayin’ . . .

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