REPOSTING FROM REDDIT:
TL;DR The President’s opponents played the electorate like a fiddle and will get away with it because people don’t seem to realize they’ve been tricked into being angry at the wrong person.
He signed it because if he didn’t, defense spending including benefits to veterans and their families would not have been authorized. The sections of NDAA that many people here seem to have a problem with are sections that were added into the document by primarily Republican legislators and which the President adamantly opposes but was powerless to stop. I’ll repeat that: the parts of this bill that many people here hate were included against the President’s wishes and in a way that he is powerless to stop. The only way he could have stopped these sections from being included would have been to try to veto the bill in its entirety, a move that would have been both political suicide as well as being futile, as Congress would simply have overridden him. He is explicit in his opposition to exactly the parts of the bill everyone here hates, going so far as to detail exactly which sections he opposes and why.
You’ll notice that the bill also restricts his ability to close Guantanamo Bay; this isn’t coincidence. These sections are openly hostile to the President’s stated mandate – they are effectively a giant ‘fuck you’ to the President, as well as a nasty way of eroding the President’s support with his own base. Observe:
- Draft legislation that is almost guaranteed to piss of the President but more importantly piss of his base.
- Attach said legislation to another piece of larger, more important legislation like, say, the Defense Spending budget for the entire year so that any attempt to dislodge the offensive legislation will result in a political shitstorm, as well as place the larger legislation in jeopardy.
- Once attached, begin a PR campaign that highlights the offending legislation and brings it to the attention of as many media outlets as possible – not just the traditional media, but alternative media outlets as well (Fox news, MSNBC, Media Matters, Huff-Po, Infowars, etc.)
- Here’s where it gets tricky: Simultaneously, speak to both your party’s base and the opposition’s. To your base, argue that the legislation is necessary to ‘Keep America safe’ and that the President, by opposing it, is clearly soft of terrorism and endangering the military by trying to strip the legislation out. At the same time, sit back and watch your opponent’s liberal supporters tear into the offending legislation as being dangerous, anti-democratic, and a threat to civil liberties. You know they will; that’s what they care about most. You’ve designed legislation that will make them froth at the mouth. You don’t even have to keep flogging the message; one look at the legislation will be enough to convince most people that it is anathema to everything they hold dear. Because it is.
- Pass the ‘parent’ legislation. Doing so forces the President to sign it or attempt to veto it. Since the legislation in question just so happens to be the military’s operating budget, a veto is out of the question. The President must sign the bill, you get the legislation you wanted, but you also practically guarantee that your opponent’s base will be furious at him for passing a bill they see as evil. Even if he tries to explain in detail why he had to sign it and what he hates about it, it won’t matter; ignorance of the American political process, coupled with an almost militant indifference to subtle explanations will almost ensure that most people will only remember that the President passed a bill they hate.
- Profit. you get the legislation you want, while the President has to contend with a furious base that feels he betrayed them – even though he agrees with their position but simply lacked the legislative tools to stop this from happening. It’s a classic piece of misdirection that needs only two things to work: A lack of principles (or a partisan ideology that is willing to say anything – do anything – to win), and an electorate that is easy to fool.
This is pretty basic political maneuvering and the biggest problem is that it almost always works because most people either don’t know or don’t care how their political system actually functions. The President was saddled with a lose-lose situation where he either seriously harmed American defense policy (political suicide), or passed offensive legislation knowing that it would cost him political capital. To all of you here lamenting that you ever voted for this ‘corporate shill’, congratulations: you are the result the Republicans were hoping for. They get the law they want, they get the weakened Presidential candidate they want. And many of you just don’t seem to see that. You don’t have to like your country’s two-party system, but it pays to be able to understand it so that you can recognize when it’s being used like this.