Gingrich’s Defense of a Self-Pardoning Administration: From Bad (12.19) to Much Worse (12.21)

On the Diane Rehm Show of 12.19.16, former Speaker of the House Gingrich offered that a Trump Administration could simply pardon its own advisors to remove those advisors’ unlawful conflicts of interest:

I think in the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon. I mean, it is a totally open power, and he could simply say look, I want them to be my advisors, I pardon them if anybody finds them to have behaved against the rules, period. And technically under the Constitution he has that level of authority.

An administration like this would be – not merely technically, but in fact – a lawless one (where law was used to negate the demands of the law).

Two days later, Gingrich repeated his assertion that a president could act this way (revealing it as a trial balloon of sorts, “I’m not saying he should. I’m not saying he will’):

The Constitution gives the president of the United States an extraordinarily wide grant of authority to use the power of the pardon. I’m not saying he should. I’m not saying he will. It also allows a president in a national security moment to say to somebody, “Go do X,” even if it’s technically against the law, and, “Here’s your pardon because I am ordering you as commander-in-chief to go do this.”

Under this reading of the Constitution, what couldn’t a commander-in-chief do, in the name of national security?  The answer is that there is nothing he could not do, or (affirmatively formulated) that he could do anything and thereafter pardon those responsible.

Note also the change in circumstances on which Gingrich grounds his remarks: on 12.19 he’s talking about conflicts of interest within an administration, but by 12.21 he’s discussing use of state power under a claim of national security. Perhaps Gingrich thinks the change in circumstances limits the scope of how a president might use the pardon power, but it fact his later example actually expands dramatically the power of the chief executive.

The 12.19 example’s use of pardons might involve wrongful but non-violent business conflicts; the 12.21 example’s use of pardons would exonerate the use of violent force (whether used abroad or domestically) of any possible magnitude against supposed national enemies.

Gingrich’s new second formulation is worse than his first: any location, any amount of force, thereafter subject to pardon by the president of the United States.

Someone the President-Elect Admires

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, overseer of a contentious and bloody crackdown on drug dealers and users, boasted on Monday about having personally killed criminal suspects when he was mayor of Davao City.

“In Davao, I used to do it personally — just to show to the guys that if I can do it, why can’t you?” Mr. Duterte told business leaders at a meeting in Manila, explaining how he goaded police officers to gun down suspects.

“And I’d go around in Davao with a motorcycle, with a big bike around, and I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble also,” he said, according to The Manila Times. “I was really looking for a confrontation, so I could kill.”

Via Rodrigo Duterte on Killing Criminal Suspects: ‘I Used to Do It Personally.’

See also Philippine President Duterte unveils his Trump impression, complete with profanities. (“Oh, President Duterte,” Duterte’s Trump impersonation begins. “We should fix our bad relations. It needs a lot of, y’know, you just said something good here. And you’re doing great. I know what’s your worry about these Americans criticizing you. You are doing good. Go ahead.”)

‘A Long Ride Toward a New China’

Looking for inspiration? Chinese blogger Zhang Shihe, writing under the pseudonym ‘Tiger Temple,’ defies an oppressive state to report on the hardships and corruption of rural life in China. It’s an understatement to say that he goes to extraordinary lengths – quite literally – to tell others’ stories and reveal injustices done to them. There is no American blogger who has a task, fortunately for our society, even remotely so difficult or commendable:

Every summer, the 59-year-old Chinese blogger Zhang Shihe rides his bicycle thousands of miles to the plateaus, deserts and hinterlands of North Central China. In this Op-Doc video, we meet Mr. Zhang, known to his many followers online as “Tiger Temple,” as he goes to great lengths to document the stories of struggling rural villagers whose voices are seldom heard in China’s state-monitored media.

In a country with one of the most sophisticated media and Internet censorship systems, Mr. Zhang and other bloggers must exercise great caution when writing about politically sensitive content — often skirting the label “citizen reporter.”

…. In 2010, he was taken by the police and put under house arrest for 10 days, during the country’s annual parliamentary meetings. News spread quickly. That day he received more than 2,000 text messages — good wishes poured in from concerned friends and readers who supported his efforts to help flooded villagers, defrauded farmers and the Beijing homeless. On this day, he said, he “felt the true power of the Internet.”

In 2012, Mr. Zhang was forced by the police to pack up his Beijing apartment and leave the city indefinitely. He now lives and blogs in the city of Xi’an with his elderly mother. As the summer months near, he prepares to set off on his seventh year of grueling bicycle trips deep into the countryside to continue his reporting.

Cross-posted at Daily Adams.

Communists fabricated documents against Walesa

Of course they did. In the run of their atrocities, this was a day’s light work:

Polish investigators say communist authorities fabricated documents that suggested Lech Walesa was a communist collaborator, to try to stop the Solidarity founder being awarded Nobel Peace Prize.

It says everything one would ever need to know that even the regime understood that nothing could ruin a reputation so quickly as being suspected of collaboration with the regime.

Via WQOW.

Chinese Freeze Before Gov’t Turns on the Heat – World Watch – CBS News

One size fits none —

Since the Communists came to power, November 15 has been circled in red on many Beijing calendars. It’s not Mao Zedong’s birthday. November 15 is the day when city officials dutifully flick the switch to turn on the capital’s centrally-controlled heating system, supplying warmth to most of Beijing’s 22 million residents.

See, Chinese Freeze Before Gov’t Turns on the Heat – World Watch – CBS News.

Preparing Cuba for the free market from the US | PRI.ORG

Easier said than done, though certainly worth doing:

Cuba is flirting with free-market reforms, while Cuban Americans try to help prepare the country for life under a version of capitalism.

(This story’s from the left-of-center Public Radio International — and that provenance offers another of many signs of the inevitable return to free markets in Cuba. Absent is the contention that a type of socialist system offers a serious alternative model. The point’s simply untenable.)

See, Preparing Cuba for the free market from the US | PRI.ORG.

Wall Street Journal: Cuba Unveils Huge Layoffs in Tilt Toward Free Market

There could be few happier headlines than this: Cuba Unveils Huge Layoffs in Tilt Toward Free Market. Few happier because it signals the beginning of the end of the tyrannical regime that has so devastated Cuba. That Castro has lived to see the end of his oppressive life’s work is satisfying. There are, though, many miles ahead….

(This also lends credence, if any were needed, to the recent account from Jeffrey Goldberg that Castro said, “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.” Of course, the Cuban model to which Castro refers never worked as well or as humanely as a free alternative would have. Castro has since tried to deny the remark, but Goldberg’s account was accurate, as confirmed by the remarks of the translator.)

From the WSJ story:

Economic growth could pick up if Cuba continues to open itself to privatization in coming years, but the process will be a slow one, said Arch Ritter, an economist who studies Cuba at Carleton University in Canada. Growth would “require a major change in the way the private sector is treated,” he says. Critical steps would be lowering taxes and loosening regulations for small businesses.