Punishing Climate-Change Skeptics

Some in Washington want to unleash government to harass heretics who don’t accept the ‘consensus.’

By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and ANDREW M. GROSSMAN

March 23, 2016 6:29 p.m. in the Wall Street Journal

Galileo Galilei was tried in 1633 for spreading the heretical view that the Earth orbits the sun, convicted by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, and remained under house arrest until his death. Today’s inquisitors seek their quarry’s imprisonment and financial ruin. As the scientific case for a climate-change catastrophe wanes, proponents of big-ticket climate policies are increasingly focused on punishing dissent from an asserted “consensus” view that the only way to address global warming is to restructure society—how it harnesses and uses energy. That we might muddle through a couple degrees’ of global warming over decades or even centuries, without any major disruption, is the new heresy and must be suppressed.

The Climate Inquisition began with Michael Mann ’s 2012 lawsuit against critics of his “hockey stick” research—a holy text to climate alarmists. The suggestion that Prof. Mann’s famous diagram showing rapid recent warming was an artifact of his statistical methods, rather than an accurate representation of historical reality, was too much for the Penn State climatologist and his acolytes to bear.

Among their targets (and our client in his lawsuit) was the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank prominent for its skeptical viewpoint in climate-policy debates. Mr. Mann’s lawsuit seeks to put it, along with National Review magazine, out of business. Four years on, the courts are still pondering the First Amendment values at stake. In the meantime, the lawsuit has had its intended effect, fostering legal uncertainty that chills speech challenging the “consensus” view.

Mr. Mann’s lawsuit divided climate scientists—many of whom recognized that it threatened vital scientific debate—but the climate Inquisition was only getting started. The past year has witnessed even more heavy-handed attempts to enforce alarmist doctrine and stamp out dissent.

Assuming the mantle of Grand Inquisitor is Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D., R.I.). Last spring he called on the Justice Department to bring charges against those behind a “coordinated strategy” to spread heterodox views on global warming, including the energy industry, trade associations, “conservative policy institutes” and scientists. Mr. Whitehouse, a former prosecutor, identified as a legal basis for charges that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO, the federal statute enacted to take down mafia organizations and drug cartels.

In September a group of 20 climate scientists wrote to President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch encouraging them to heed Mr. Whitehouse and launch a RICO investigation targeting climate skeptics. This was necessary since, they claimed, America’s policy response to climate change was currently “insufficient,” because of dissenting views regarding the risks of climate change. Email correspondence subsequently obtained through public-records requests revealed that this letter was also coordinated by Mr. Whitehouse.

Reps. Ted Lieu (D., Calif.) and Mark DeSaulnier (D., Calif.) followed up with a formal request for the Justice Department to launch an investigation, specifically targeting Exxon Mobil for its funding of climate research and policy organizations skeptical of extreme warming claims. Attorney General Lynch announced in testimony this month that the matter had been referred to the FBI “to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for what we could take action on.” Similar investigations are already spearheaded by state attorneys general in California and New York.

Meanwhile, Mr. Whitehouse, joined by Sens. Edward Markey (D., Mass.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), sent letters to a hundred organizations—from private companies to policy institutes—demanding that they turn over information about funding and research relating to climate issues. In his response to the senators, Cato Institute President John Allison called the effort “an obvious attempt to chill research into and funding of public policy projects you don’t like.”

Intimidation is the point of these efforts. Individual scientists, think tanks and private businesses are no match for the vast powers that government officials determined to stifle dissent are able to wield. An onslaught of investigations—with the risk of lawsuits, prosecution and punishment—is more than most can afford to bear. As a practical reality, defending First Amendment rights in these circumstances requires the resources to take on the government and win—no matter the cost or how long it takes.

It also requires taking on the Climate Inquisition directly. Spurious government investigations, driven by the desire to suppress a particular viewpoint, constitute illegal retaliation against protected speech and, as such, can be checked by the courts, with money damages potentially available against the federal and state perpetrators. If anyone is going to be intimidated, it should be officials who are willing to abuse their powers to target speech with which they disagree.

That is why we are establishing the Free Speech in Science Project to defend the kind of open inquiry and debate that are central to scientific advancement and understanding. The project will fund legal advice and defense to those who need it, while executing an offense to turn the tables on abusive officials. Scientists, policy organizations and others should not have to fear that they will be the next victims of the Climate Inquisition—that they may face punishment and personal ruin for engaging in research and advocating their views.

The principle of the First Amendment, the Supreme Court recognized in Dennis v. United States (1951), is that “speech can rebut speech, propaganda will answer propaganda, free debate of ideas will result in the wisest governmental policies.” For that principle to prevail—in something less than the 350 years it took for the Catholic Church to acknowledge its mistake in persecuting Galileo—the inquisition of those breaking from the climate “consensus” must be stopped.

Messrs. Rivkin and Grossman practice appellate and constitutional litigation in Washington, D.C.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/punishing-climate-change-skeptics-1458772173

Don’t bring Garland into 2016 presidential circus

President Obama has announced Judge Merrick Garland, of the United States Circuit Court for the District of Columbia, as his choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Although Judge Garland is certainly a credible candidate for the court, the Senate should postpone consideration of his nomination until after the new president takes office in January 2017. This has nothing to do with Judge Garland, but is the indispensable measure to protect the Supreme Court’s institutional legitimacy.

Scalia’s seat must be filled, but there is emphatically no constitutional timeline that either the president or the Senate must follow in making a new appointment. If that process is undertaken now, the nominee will for all intents and purposes become a “candidate” in this election and the Supreme Court — and by extension the federal judiciary in general — will be further politicized with concomitant damage to the legitimacy of the only unelected, and emphatically non-political, branch of the federal government.

There is little doubt that the electorate, left, right and center, already harbors deep doubts about the efficacy, legitimacy and even good will of all governmental institutions and that the Supreme Court’s own standing has been steadily undermined by relentless attacks on its decisions from all parts of the ideological spectrum. Although the court remains more popular than Congress and about as popular as the president, at the same time it is a counter-majoritarian institution and, as a result, its legitimacy is inherently far more brittle than that of the elected branches of government.

It is particularly vulnerable to the perception that it is acting politically, rather than scrupulously applying the Constitution and statutes to adjudicate cases. As Alexander Hamilton famously explained in The Federalist, delineating the separation of powers among the three federal branches and defending the proposition that the judiciary was to be “the least dangerous” branch, it was to “have neither Force nor Will, but merely judgment; and must ultimately depend upon the aid of the executive arm even for the efficacy of its judgments.” But, with no electoral constituency to supports its legitimacy and authority, that judgment must be respected. Unfortunately, after three generations as a central force in effecting various types of social and political changes, the Supreme Court’s judgments are respected mostly by the “winners” of the relevant political battles it has determined to resolve.

This state of affairs, particularly when coupled with the fact that a number of intense battles between Congress and the president and the president and the states — implicating both the core separation of powers issues and pivotal matters of public policy — are now on the court’s docket, and will remain there for the foreseeable future, requires that both Congress and the president work to support and protect its legitimacy as a non-political institution.

The problem here, and the most likely explanation for the court’s declining approval ratings, is not what issues the court decides — as early as the 1830s Alexis de Tocqueville noted that “scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question” — but how it decides. Or, perhaps more to the immediate point, how it is perceived to decide those issues.

With this in mind, having a protracted battle over the confirmation of a new justice unfold in the middle of an already bitter national election would be the worst thing to happen. Each side has its “litmus” tests, whether it is the overturning of the Supreme Court’s decisions on campaign expenditures and gun control on the left, or its decisions on abortion, same-sex marriage and Obamacare on the right. Nominating and confirming a justice with such litmus tests dominating the process — as they certainly will — would reinforce the impression that the court is indeed a political institution and would damage its reputation, legitimacy and efficacy beyond repair.

President Obama indisputably has the constitutional right to make appointments to the Supreme Court, but only by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. As a full partner in this process, the Senate would be entirely justified — indeed, it would be responsible and prudent — to postpone any consideration of a nomination to fill Justice Scalia’s seat until after the new president, Democrat or Republican, is inaugurated. And this would not be a slight or injury to President Obama, who has already appointed two Supreme Court justices. His term is in its final year, and filling seats on the Supreme Court is not a personal, presidential entitlement. The Senate majority leadership has concluded that postponing the confirmation process is appropriate, and it is perfectly entitled to do so. Having the Supreme Court function for a time with eight members will not destroy the republic, while making any new justice an election year football would gravely damage the court as an institution — an institution that is necessary to the republic’s survival and prosperity.

David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Lee A. Casey served in the U.S. Justice Department under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/03/16/supreme-court-nomination-merrick-garland-elections-2016-politics-constitution-column/81855264/

Apple, the FBI and free speech

A court order that compels the iPhone-maker to write and then sign new code may violate the First Amendment.

by David B. Rivkin, Jr., and Andrew M. Grossman, in USA Today

February 19, 2016

It would be one thing if Apple could carry out a court order that it unlock an iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorists simply by waving a magic wand. But encryption isn’t magic; the order requires Apple to write and digitally sign a security-degraded version of its iOS operating system. That raises serious First Amendment concerns because the order amounts to a government-compelled speech.

The FBI picked this fight to set a precedent. For years, it’s been locked in a “crypto war” with Silicon Valley over how to provide law enforcement access to users’ data. So far, Apple, Google, and other companies have rebuffed demands to implement government back doors that defeat encryption and other security measures, arguing that such bypasses weaken security and facilitate abuses by criminals, corporate spies and foreign governments.

Apparently unable to identify a true ticking-time-bomb scenario to bring to court, the FBI settled for the next best thing: obtaining encrypted data off the workplace phone of shooter Syed Farook. The phone’s encryption is keyed to a passcode, and Apple’s software erases data after ten incorrect passcode attempts. So the government, relying on an aggressive reading of the 1789 All Writs Act, obtained an order directing Apple to “bypass or disable the auto-erase function” and make it possible to cycle through all possible passcodes.

While the FBI has previously obtained warrants requiring Apple to extract unencrypted data from devices running older software, this appears to be the first time that it has sought to conscript a company to write new software to circumvent security features. If it prevails, such a precedent will govern future cases.

That makes it all the more important that the courts get the legal principles right this time around. Overlooked so far in this debate is the First Amendment’s prohibition on compelled speech. The Supreme Court has affirmed time and again that the right to free speech includes the right not only decide what to say but also what not to say. Representative cases have upheld the right of parade organizers to bar messages they disapprove and of public employees to refuse to subsidize unions’ political speech.

Computer code can be speech: no less than video games (which the Supreme Court found to be protected), code can convey ideas and even social messages. A new encryption algorithm or mathematical technique, for example, does not lose its character as speech merely because it is expressed in a computer language instead of English prose.

That’s not to say that all code is absolutely protected. But there’s a strong case to be made where code embodies deeply held views on issues of public policy and individual rights — such as the right to be free from government surveillance. Forcing a person to write code to crack his own software is little different from demanding that he endorse the principle of doing so.

And that leads to the most troubling aspect of the court order: it does, in fact, demand that Apple endorse the government’s views by requiring that it digitally sign the software so that it can run on an iPhone. A signature speaks volumes: agreement, endorsement, trust, obligation. Apple says all those things when it decides to sign a new version of its operating system.

The government can’t force a person to sign a petition and endorse a political view. But that is exactly what it demands here: to compel Apple to endorse a version of its own software that runs precisely counter to its values. At the very least, that is one more reason for a court to reject the government’s aggressive legal position in this case.

David B. Rivkin, Jr., who served in Republican administrations, and Andrew M. Grossman, who is an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute,, are attorneys at Baker & Hostetler. 

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2016/02/19/apple–iphone-fbi-san-barnardino-terrorism-free-speech-column/80569422/

 

Justice Scalia kept constitutional originalism in the conversation — no small legacy

by David B. Rivkin Jr. & Lee A. Casey, in the Los Angeles Times

“I’m Scalia.” That’s how Justice Antonin Scalia began to question a nervous lawyer, who was mixing up the names of the nine Supreme Court justices during oral arguments on the controversial 2000 case Bush vs. Gore. His introduction should have been unnecessary, because if any justice dominated the contemporary Supreme Court stage, it was Scalia.

By turns combative, argumentative and thoughtful, Scalia was a stout conservative who transformed American jurisprudence in 34 years on the bench. He was also charming, witty and cordial, able to maintain a close friendship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps his leading intellectual rival on the Supreme Court’s left wing.

Appointed to the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., by President Reagan in 1982, Scalia was elevated by Reagan to the Supreme Court in 1986. Scalia was, first and foremost, an “Originalist” — the title of a popular play about the justice that premiered last year in the capital. Scalia was not the first to argue that the Constitution must be applied based on the original meaning of its words — that is, the general, public meaning those words had when that document was drafted, rather than any assumed or secret intent of its framers. He did, however, supply much of the intellectual power behind the movement to reestablish the primacy of the Constitution’s actual text in judging.

With Scalia on the bench, academics, lawyers and jurists left, right and center were forced to confront originalist theory, which many had previously dismissed as hopelessly simplistic.

If there was one predominant thread running through Scalia’s cases it was a determination, consistent with his originalism, to limit the unelected judiciary’s power to the exercise of “merely judgment,” as characterized by Alexander Hamilton in a Federalist Papers passage that Scalia loved to quote. His view of the proper judicial role was driven by his belief that the Constitution assigned judges a modest part to play, both as to the types of issues they could resolve and the instances in which they could overturn choices made by elected officials.

Although the Constitution took disposition of some issues off the political table, Scalia understood that it nevertheless established a republic where on most matters the majority would rule. Individual liberty, he believed, was protected not only by specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights, but also by the system of checks and balances—limitations on the authority vested in government and the structural separation of powers among the three federal branches, as well as between the federal government and the states.

Indeed, Justice Scalia did as much or more to limit the scope of judicial power than any of his predecessors, particularly with respect to “standing” (who might have a sufficient case or controversy to litigate in federal courts), and his insistence that judges could enforce the law only as written, which could never be trumped by personal policy preferences.

It should come as no surprise that Scalia was not a great coalition builder or deal maker, joining only those majority opinions consistent with his guiding principles and dissenting in all other instances. For him, politicking and judging were simply incompatible.

He bristled at the idea that judges were the custodians of a “living Constitution” whose meaning they could change in accordance with “evolving standards.” As Scalia wrote dissenting from the court’s 2005 death penalty decision in Roper vs. Simmons: “On the evolving-standards hypothesis, the only legitimate function of this Court is to identify a moral consensus of the American people. By what conceivable warrant can nine lawyers presume to be the authoritative conscience of the Nation?”

Few justices could turn a phrase like Scalia, a talented writer. In one famous example, dissenting from a 1988 opinion upholding the now-defunct Independent Counsel Act, Scalia defended presidential power to control executive branch appointees by noting that “frequently an issue of this sort will come before the Court clad, so to speak, in sheep’s clothing…. But this wolf comes as a wolf.”

His pen could also be sharp. Recently, for example, in response to the majority opinion upholding a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Scalia excoriated his colleagues: “The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational pop-philosophy; it demands them in the law. The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.” Love him or hate him, agree or disagree, no one can say that Scalia ever pulled a punch.

Scalia’s ultimate impact on American law will continue to unfold for decades to come, but one thing is certain. Before he joined the Supreme Court, judicial opinions could resolve constitutional issues with little discussion of that document’s original meaning. Today, jurists must at least confront it, even if they then resolve the issues based on the Constitution’s supposed living character. That is Scalia’s achievement, and it is no small thing.

David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey are constitutional lawyers who served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0216-rivkin-casey-scalia-legacy-originalism-20160216-story.html

Pulling the Plug on Obama’s Power Plan

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is dead and will not be resurrected. The cause of death was hubris. As a result, the plan’s intended victims—including the national coal industry, the rule of law and state sovereignty—will live to fight another day.

On Tuesday the Supreme Court put President Obama’s signature climate initiative on hold while a lower court considers challenges brought by industry opponents and 27 states. That stay will remain in effect through the end of Mr. Obama’s presidency, until the Supreme Court has a chance to hear the case—in 2017 at the earliest. The stay sends the strongest possible signal that the court is prepared to strike down the Clean Power Plan on the merits, assuming the next president doesn’t revoke it.

Not since the court blocked President Harry Truman’s seizure of the steel industry has it so severely rebuked a president’s abuse of power.

The dubious legal premise of the Clean Power Plan was that Congress, in an all-but-forgotten 1970s-era provision of the Clean Air Act, had empowered the Environmental Protection Agency to displace the states in regulating power generation. The EPA, in turn, would use that authority to mandate a shift from fossil-fuel-fired plants to renewables. The effect would be to institute by fiat the “cap and trade” scheme for carbon emissions that the Obama administration failed to push through Congress in 2009.

The legal defects inherent in this scheme are legion. For one, in a ruling two years ago the court held that the EPA couldn’t conjure up authority to make “decisions of vast economic and political significance” absent a clear statement from Congress. Thus, the EPA may have the authority to require power plants to operate more efficiently and to install reasonable emissions-reduction technologies. But nothing authorizes the agency to pick winners (solar, wind) and losers (coal) and order generation to be shifted from one to the other, disrupting billion-dollar industries in the process.

The agency also overstepped its legal authority by using a tortured redefinition of “system of emission reduction.” That statutory term has always been taken to give authority to regulate plant-level equipment and practices. Instead the EPA contorted the term to apply to the entire power grid. That redefinition, while necessary for the EPA to mount its attack on traditional power sources, violates the rule that federal statutes must be interpreted, absent a clear indication to the contrary, to maintain the existing balance of power between the federal government and the states. Federal law has long recognized states’ primacy in regulating their electric utilities, the economic aspects of power generation and transmission, and electric reliability.

Worse, the Clean Power Plan commandeers the states and their officials to do the dirty work that the EPA can’t. The agency seeks to phase out coal-fired plants, but it lacks any ability to regulate electric reliability, control how and when plants are run, oversee the planning and construction of new generators and transmission lines, or take any other of the many steps necessary to bring the plan to fruition.

Only the states can do those things, and the plan simply assumes that they will: Because, if they refuse, and the federal government forces coal-plan retirements, the result would be catastrophic, featuring regular blackouts, threats to public health and safety and unprecedented spikes in electricity prices.

The EPA defended this approach before the Supreme Court during legal arguments leading up to Tuesday’s stay order as a “textbook exercise of cooperative federalism.” But the textbook—our Constitution as interpreted by the court in case after case—guarantees that the states can’t be dragooned into administering federal law and implementing federal policy. Their sovereignty and political accountability require that they have the power to decline any federal entreaty. The Clean Power Plan denies them that choice.

No doubt the court was swayed by evidence that the states already are laboring to accommodate the plan’s forced retirement and reduced utilization of massive amounts of generating capacity. Given the years that it takes to bring new capacity online, not even opponents of the plan could afford to wait for the conclusion of judicial review to begin carrying out the EPA’s mandate.

By all appearances, that was the Obama administration’s strategy for forcing the Clean Power Plan, legal warts and all, into effect. After the court ruled last term that the EPA’s rule regulating power plants’ hazardous air emissions was unlawful, the agency bragged that the judgment wouldn’t make a difference because the plants had already been forced to comply or retire during the years of litigation. The Clean Power Plan doubled down on that approach.

It’s one thing for a rule to be unlawful—which happens, and rarely merits a stay—but another for it to be lawless. This one was lawless. That is why the court had to act: to reassert the rule of law over an executive who believes himself above it.

Messrs. Rivkin and Grossman practice appellate and constitutional law in Washington, D.C., and are counsel in the case on behalf of plan challengers. Mr. Rivkin served in the White House Counsel’s Office and the Justice Department in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/pulling-the-plug-on-obamas-power-plan-1455148680

Hillary’s Rationale for Opposing Citizens United Fell Apart in Last Week’s Debate

by DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. & DARIN BARTRAM

February 9, 2016 in the National Review Online

Few politicians have railed more loudly against the Supreme Court’s 2010 key First Amendment decision, Citizens United v. FEC, than the star of the Citizens United–produced political documentary (Hillary: The Movie) that provided the factual basis for the decision. But forget about the kind of independent advocacy at issue in that case or even highly regulated campaign contributions. At last Thursday’s debate against Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton grandly asserted that she could not be bought or influenced even by huge amounts of money flowing directly into her own pocket from mega-corporations such as Goldman Sachs. She angrily denied the corrupting influence of money in politics when she is the one cashing the check. Having done that, on what possible basis can Secretary Clinton oppose the kind of independent speech unleashed by Citizens United?

It has become a matter of Democrat orthodoxy that Citizens United has been a disaster, because it enables groups of citizens, including those organized in the corporate form, to freely engage in political speech. To many Democrats, that is tantamount to buying elections and politicians. Secretary Clinton’s opposition to Citizens United is well known and a central plank of her presidential campaign. Just last month, in noting the six-year anniversary of that decision, she accused the Court of having “transformed our politics by allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.”

While slamming the Supreme Court’s decision, Hillary Clinton has pledged something that most presidential candidates shy away from: a litmus test for future Supreme Court nominees if she is elected, to ensure they would vote to overturn Citizens United. She has also endorsed partially repealing the First Amendment to enable the government to restrict political speech for a variety of purposes, including the alleged need to equalize the ability of diverse voices to participate in democratic governance. Presumably, films like Hillary: The Movie wouldn’t make the cut.

The Supreme Court in Citizens United concluded that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political advocacy by corporations, labor unions, and associations, because such speech expenditures do not pose a threat of quid pro quo corruption or even the credible appearance of corruption. They simply expand the marketplace of ideas. The decision led to the establishment of super PACs, regulated groups that can receive unlimited donations from individuals and corporations to spend on political and policy advocacy. It also permitted well-established national advocacy groups — whether the National Rifle Association or the Sierra Club — to become energetically engaged in political speech and debates.

It would perhaps be unreasonable to ask Clinton to live under the campaign-finance regulations she claims to favor rather the ones that exist today and under which her Republican opponents operate. (To be sure, Senator Bernie Sanders has managed to nearly match her in the polls notwithstanding his lack of a quasi-official super PAC.) Not surprisingly, Sanders has distinguished himself from Clinton by noting her cozy relationship with Wall Street firms and repeatedly called attention to the huge speaking fees Clinton has received from Goldman Sachs and others, as well as the millions of dollars in campaign and super-PAC contributions from the finance and pharmaceutical sectors that support her candidacy.

At the Thursday debate, Clinton clearly had had enough. She said that Sanders was engaging in a “very artful smear” when he repeatedly highlighted these fees and contributions. She accused him of insinuating that someone who “ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought.” Clinton also very forcefully said, “You will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation I ever received.”

By asserting that she can take money from these groups, including honorary fees to spend as she sees fit for personal rather then political benefit, and that she has not been even slightly influenced by all this largess, she has disavowed the corrupting influence of money in politics far beyond anything contained in Citizens United. Money corrupts the typical politician, she seems to be claiming; but she alone is a person of such moral probity that, like Marlow venturing into the jungle in Heart of Darkness, she can escape unchanged — even when companies such as Goldman Sachs are cutting checks to her personal account. Does Clinton honestly believe it would be more corrupting if, rather than paying off Clinton directly, Goldman instead sponsored TV ads in support of her candidacy? Of course not — the very idea is ludicrous.

We will probably never know whether Secretary Clinton’s assertion at the debate of Sanders’s “very artful smear” was rehearsed, or spontaneous. What is beyond doubt is that Secretary Clinton just gutted the basis for her long opposition to the Citizens United decision.

David B. Rivkin Jr. served at the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel Office during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. Darin Bartram practices constitutional law in the Washington, D.C., area.

Source: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/431009/hillary-clintons-citizens-united-opposition-hypocrisy-illogic

Putin’s anti-Obama propaganda is ugly and desperate

By Paula J. Dobriansky and David B. Rivkin Jr. in the Washington Post

January 4, 2016, at 7:13 PM

Although international relations are not conducted under Marquess of Queensberry rules and political satire can be expected from one’s foes, intensely personal attacks on foreign leaders are uncommon except in wartime. While Soviet-era anti-American propaganda could be sharp, it did not employ slurs. But in recent years racist and scatological salvos against foreign leaders have become a staple of official Russian discourse.

Turkish, German and Ukrainian officials are cast as sycophantic stooges of the United States. While slamming Ankara at a December news conference for shooting down a Russian plane that violated Turkish airspace, Russian President Vladimir Putin opined that “the Turks decided to lick the Americans in a certain place.” Sergey Glaziev, a senior adviser to Putin, has called Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko “a Nazi Frankenstein,” and Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin compared Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to “a rubber doll from a sex shop.”

The ugliest vilification campaign, however, has been reserved for President Obama. Anti-Obama tweets come openly from government officials. Rogozin, while commenting on Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, compared Obama to a Tuzik, Russian slang for a pathetic small dog. Irina Rodnina , a well-known Duma member, tweeted doctored images of Barack and Michelle Obama staring longingly at a banana.

Nobody in Russia gets to freelance propaganda-wise. Thus, anti-Obama rants, even when coming from prominent individuals outside government, have Putin’s imprimatur. Russian media personalities, including Dmitry Kiselyov, the host of the widely viewed “News of the Week” TV roundup, often deliver racist slurs, as compiled by Mikhail Klikushin on the Observer Web magazine. Evgeniy Satanovskiy, a Russian academic and frequent guest on Kiselyov’s program, recently also referred to Obama as a “monkey,” prompting derisive laughter and applause from the audience. Meanwhile, the famous nationalist comedian Mikhail Zadornov regularly deploys the term “schmoe” — a slang Russian prison acronym for a person who is so debased he deserves to be defecated upon — alongside Obama’s name. “Obama schmoe” has become ubiquitous enough to be scrawled on the runway of Russia’s Latakia air base in Syria.

Russia’s print and electronic media channels carry stories depicting Obama as lazy and incompetent. Shops sell bumper stickers, posters, T-shirts and cardboard cut-outs with images of Obama as an ape and a chimney sweep. One Russian city held a contest inviting children to kick Obama’s cardboard image. Obama has been burned in effigy on numerous occasions, and zoo animals have been named after him, including a black piglet at the Volgograd zoo.

This despicable onslaught is not just the random venting of a narcissistic Kremlin leader but also an indispensable component of Putin’s efforts to mobilize domestic support for his policies and enhance his standing. The fact that this propaganda campaign is working — Putin and his policies remain popular — is attributable to several factors.

First, the Kremlin controls the news and entertainment media. Journalists who have refused to toe the official line have been fired, jailed or killed. This state monopoly, particularly when combined with the palpable failure by the West to communicate effective rebuttals to Russian audiences, has enabled the regime to mold Russian perceptions on every major policy issue.

Second, these propaganda themes skillfully capitalize on nostalgia felt by the Russian people about Moscow’s imperial past, which is often perceived in a highly idealized light. The repression of the Soviet and Czarist periods has been played down, and a key related theme is that Russia has always been the victim of foreign machinations and intrigue.

But Putin’s propaganda campaign also bespeaks of certain desperation. The Russian economy is in free fall, buffeted by both falling oil prices and Western sanctions. Fuel shortages and the resulting disruption of deliveries of key commodities pose a particular challenge to the Kremlin. Corruption and mismanagement are rampant and have drawn the ire of the Russian people.

There is widespread labor unrest in cities where private-sector workers have not been paid for months at a time. There also have been months of strikes by long-distance truckers protesting extortionist road fees and corruption. Even fire and rescue first responders employed by the federal Ministry of Emergency Situations have not been paid in months. That emergency personnel in such major cities (and places where revolutions have started in Russia’s past) as St. Petersburg and Moscow, with responsibilities for handling public protests, have gone without pay underscores the precariousness of Russia’s finances and the risks it is forced to incur.

Against this backdrop, and lacking either democratic or ideological legitimacy, Putin’s government is increasingly brittle. As the Kremlin doubles down on its aggressive foreign policy and increases domestic repression, it has also intensified its global propaganda efforts. Moscow has heavily invested in its broadcasting assets, with the satellite network RT being the pivotal component, giving it an unprecedented ability to reach domestic and foreign audiences.

All Americans should be outraged by the Kremlin’s messaging campaign and support a robust U.S. response. To present such a response effectively to global audiences, Congress should promptly enact bipartisan legislation proposed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) and ranking Democrat Eliot L. Engel (N.Y.) to revitalize America’s public diplomacy infrastructure. Winning the global battle of ideas is an essential part of fostering a stable democratic world order. Consistent with our core values, the United States must lead in challenging Moscow’s racist propaganda and highlighting the moral narrative of democracy, tolerance, human rights and rule of law.

Paula J. Dobriansky was undersecretary of state for global affairs from 2001 to 2009 and is a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. David B. Rivkin Jr. is a constitutional lawyer who served in the Justice Department and the White House under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/putins-anti-obama-propaganda-is-ugly-and-desperate/2016/01/04/57647c48-b0c4-11e5-b820-eea4d64be2a1_story.html