Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Obama and EO 13036: New Tea Party Hysteria over Emergency Preparedness

by Nomad

When President Obama announced in no uncertain terms that he would use his executive powers to get around Congressional obstructionism, some on the Right appeared outraged. It's no surprise then they would dig up something from the past to launch yet another call for impeachment. In this post, we explore Executive Order 13036, the Tea Party meme and the source of this quackery.

As we have all come to realize, Republican hysteria seems to know no limit. The latest drum-beat which has the Tea Party radicals dancing frenetically to is now the word "outlaw. It sounds like this: Obama is an outlaw isn't he? And what an outlaw he is? What law has that outlawing outlaw Obama outed today? Impeach that outlaw.
Outlaw? Outlaw.
Quacking ducks make about as much sense. 

I saw this very black and very sinister-looking poster in the twitter-sphere. (I added the "Busted" so it couldn't be recycled.) The memes warned that the president has signed this here executive order- practically a royal decree- giving him the right to take, not just my hope, my dignity, my reason for living but... all my things. "Everything you own" can now be taken away. 

The text- and for a meme asks a lot of reading from its audience- states:
Under Executive Order 13036 everything you own can be taken away under the guise of national security. This order rips our Constitution to shreds. One person has all this power? Are we really living as free people or are we living under a dictatorship? Was it not more than seventy years ago that an ugly short mustache man did the same thing in Europe? I leave you one burning question: What is the real purpose of this Executive Order?
That's right, this outlaw president is planning to violate the Constitution in order to get your household appliances, your flat screen TVs and most importantly, your guns.
The accompanying tweet advised me to Google Executive Order 13036. So, being a curious fellow with a lot of free time, I did as instructed and googled. 

But I somehow doubt many Right-wingers bothered to do so. If they had devoted as little as 2 minutes of independent research- instead of simply joining in with tweet-chanting "Impeach Obama"- they might have realized how they had been- once again- hoaxed by Tea Party fear-mongering.

Nothing New
First of all, this executive order is in no way related to his promise to work around Congress' obstructionism. It may be painted that way but in fact, this order was signed over almost two years ago

According to the government website:
The purpose of this executive order is to delegate authority and address national defense resource policies and programs under the Defense Production Act of 1950. Executive Order 13603 provides the framework and authority for the allocation or appropriation of resources, materials and services to promote national defense.
So, you mean,  ensuring that resources are available for national emergencies is somehow an impeachable offense? We all saw during Bush's administration and Katrina, what happens when governments are not prepared and departments are not coordinated.
In any case, as the description says, this order is only to provide a framework for finding the relief supplies and material in an emergency. It is certainly not an order for action.
(So you can put your bread-maker machine and Ginsu knife set back on the shelf. Obama doesn't want them. For now.)
When an emergency, like a hurricane, a terrorist attack or a major earthquake occurs, local, state and national defense agencies should not be bickering over who does what and where help will come from. What's so hard to understand?

After Katrina, even the Bush administration noted the lack of a suitable framework for allocating resources:
Effective incident management of catastrophic events requires coordination of a wide range of organizations and activities, public and private.... The Federal government cannot and should not be the Nation’s first responder. State and local governments are best positioned to address incidents in their jurisdictions and will always play a large role in disaster response. But Americans have the right to expect that the Federal government will effectively respond to a catastrophic incident. When local and State governments are overwhelmed or incapacitated by an event that has reached catastrophic proportions, only the Federal government has the resources and capabilities to respond. The Federal government must therefore plan, train, and equip to meet the requirements for responding to a catastrophic event.
Wonder why there were no calls from the far right for Bush's impeachment for trying to take everything they owned? Lord knows there was plenty of other reasons.

So where did this nonsense start? Who is responsible?

Granger as the Source
Scopes traces this nonsense back to March 2012 and to Kay Granger, Congressperson from Texas' 12th congressional district. 
Let's start with a detailed examination of Granger as the source. 

Granger's voting record is pretty much what you'd expect from a Texas conservative. She's thumbs up for Constitutionally defining marriage as one-man-one-woman and for making the Patriot Act permanent. She supports banning gay adoptions and ending preferential treatment by race in college admissions. She's voting against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. (In other words, if you are openly gay, employers can fire you.)

When it comes to the subject of abortion, Granger is somebody the Christian Coalition can count on to guarantee that women in Texas have as hard a time as possible in exercising their constititutional right to an abortion. For example, she's voted for banning federal health coverage that includes abortion, for laws restricting interstate transport of minors to get abortions. She has YES on funding for health providers who don't provide abortion info. 

Outside of that subject, Granger has voted against regulating the subprime mortgage industry, against modifying bankruptcy rules to avoid mortgage foreclosures and against revitalizing severely distressed public housing. 

She voted no on on $15B bailout for GM and Chrysler. The bailout was given and, despites predictions of doom, the loan- which Chrysler paid back in 2012, has saved an entire industry.

Notably Granger thought it was unnecessary to monitor TARP funds to ensure more mortgage relief. A very poor decision for which Congress has never been held in account. As you might recall, President Bush's TARP program provided $200 billion to banks to keep them afloat during the meltdown. It was done with, as Dennis Kucinich said, "virtually no strings attached."

The result? Investigators later found among other things, TARP-related accounting fraud, securities fraud, insider trading, bank fraud, mortgage fraud, mortgage modification fraud, wire fraud, false statements, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and tax crimes. The list of investigations is quite stunning and all because of votes against even the most basic monitoring of taxpayer funds.

As a fiscal conservative, she predictably voted against the $60B stimulus package for jobs, infrastructure, & energy. $192B additional anti-recession stimulus spending and against an additional $825 billion for economic recovery package. 

However, despite that , according to the Washington Post, Granger has supported over $50 million in earmarks to infrastructure projects in Fort Worth, Texas that benefited the Trinity River Vision Authority, an organization headed by her son.

So her voting record gives us a pretty clear image of her mind-set, I think. Admittedly that alone doesn't mean she is wrong about everything. 

Fright Du Jour
But as far as her role in the creation of this meme, that began in a long forgotten attempt at misleading or scaring ignorant voters. Here's how Granger explained the executive order in an  email to her constituents: 
This order gives an unprecedented level of authority to the President and the federal government to take over all the fundamental parts of our economy - in the name of national security - in times of national emergency. This means all of our water resources, construction services and materials (steel, concrete, etc.), our civil transportation system, food and health resources, our energy supplies including oil and natural gas - even farm equipment - can be taken over by the President and his cabinet secretaries. The Government can also draft U.S. citizens into the military and force U.S. citizens to fulfill "labor requirements" for the purposes of "national defense." There is not even any Congressional oversight, only briefings are required.
She goes on:
As President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, he has the Constitutional authority to issue executive orders. And while similar orders have been made before by presidents from Eisenhower and Reagan to Clinton and George Bush - it has never been done to this extent. 
And there's a reason - a very legitimate reason. It's an update of an earlier policy. (We shall see why it was necessary in a second.)  So yes, it has never been done before.
It's called progress. 
It is still unclear why this order was signed now, and what the consequences are for our nation - especially during times of peace. This type of Martial Law imposes a government takeover on U.S. citizens that is typically reserved for national emergencies, not in a time of relative peace.
Three points for slipping in the phrase- "government takeover." But there's something wrong here. Do national emergencies not come in times of peace? Ask the victims of Hurricane Sandy  and see what they say, Kay.

The Boring Truth
This interpretation of the Executive Order is simply incorrect, say fact checkers. What we have here is a failure to communication. From Fox News or Alex Jones, or Rush Limbaugh, we can expect such purposeful inaccuracies. However, coming from a member of the House, it's embarrassing.

Note what this EO specifically orders: identify, assess, be prepared, improve, foster cooperation. None of these items claim authority to seize private property and place them at the personal disposal of Obama. What follows after Section 103 are the directives for implementing these rather analytical tasks, mostly in the form of explicit delegations of presidential authority to Cabinet members and others in the executive branch.
Oh drat, that sounds like Ho-hums-ville, USA.

The Executive Order is actually an update from previous policy dating back to 1939. The last update was before the creation of The Department of Homeland Security which controls Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The president's order was one of a series of updates over the years, like 1951 and 1994. If the order indeed gives powers never seen before, it's because we didn't have the Department of Homeland Security in the last update. In all of the other updates, nobody thought it was anything but intelligent forward thinking policy. There is nothing particular sinister in the order and it has been called "boilerplate"- meaning standard stuff. 

According to independent sources, Granger need not have been so distracted from her usual work fighting reproductive health care for women. Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway
The Executive Order itself is nothing more than a restatement of policy that has been in place in decades and grants no authority to the President or the Cabinet that they don't already have under existing law.
So... it's not unconstitutional? 

Cue sound of slowly deflating balloon. Well, that's not very... scary, is it? What's the fun of that? Perhaps for Texas conservatives, it's so much more exciting to be part of the online lynching party calling for the impeachment of the President. After all, he's an outlaw. Outlaw. Outlaw.

And if being prepared is unconstitutional and illegal, then I do hope these hysterical Tea Party twitters will be taking a closer look at that quasi-fascist organization, The Boy Scouts of America.

The easily-agitated extremists on the Right in Texas are already boycotting Girl Scouts and their abortion-flavored cookies. 
So don't laugh too hard.