White House Won't Apply Haiti Precedent To Honduras

In the wake of the weekend uprising in Honduras that drove President Manuel Zelaya into exile and the Honduran Congress’s subsequent election of congressional leader Roberto Micheletti as interim president, the Obama Administration refuses to recognize the new regime — even though the succession to the presidency is in total accordance with Honduran law.

In not recognizing Micheletti (who was elected to serve until the end of Zelaya’s term in January), the Obama Administration demonstrated a sharp difference from the response of the Bush Administration to the last coup in the Carribbean.  That was in February 2004, when Haiti’s President Jean-Bertrand Arisitide was overthrown following widespread reports of his government’s intimidation of opponents.  After weeks of trying to convince Aristide to have a dialogue with opposition leaders, the Bush Administration promptly recognized newly-minted President Boniface Alexandre.  As Alexandre was chief justice of Haiti and next in line to the presidency, his succession was fully in line with the Haitian Constitution.  (Alexandre served the remainder of Aristide’s term until February 2006, when current President Rene Preval was elected).

At the White House press briefing Monday (June 29th), I noted the similarities between the coup and succession in Haiti five years ago and those in Honduras over the weekend and asked why the Administration did not follow precedent and recognize Micheletti as president.

“Because I think what we saw over the course of the weekend was a severe disruption in any sort of democratic norm,” Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told me, not offering any specifics as to how it differed from that in Haiti in 2004, “We’re seeking to restore that democratic norm in Honduras and haven’t changed the recognition of who we believe is the President of that country.”

Since the ’04 succession of Haiti’s Alexandre was fully constitutional, it did not violate the Inter-American Democratic Charter, signed in Lima, Peru on September 11, 2001 by the 34 member nations of the Organization of American States.  The Charter condemns what it calls “an unconstitutional [italics added] interruption of the democratic order or an unconstitutional aleration of the constitutional regime that seriously impairs the democratic state.”

Although President Obama has said that the coup against Zelaya was “not legal,” there is no solid evidence that Honduran law or the rules of the OAS have been violated.  Noting that Zelaya himself defied the Honduran Supreme Court by attempting to hold a referendum that might have led to his being able to run for re-election, Mary Anastasias O’Grady wrote in today’s (June 29th) Wall Street Journal: “Honduras is fighting back by strictly following the constitution.  The Honduran Congress met in emergency session yesterday and designated its president as the interim executive as stipulated in Honduran law.  It also said that presidential elections set for November will go forward.  The Supreme Court said that the military acted on its orders.”  

Will Obama Help “Cap And Traders” In House?

Three days after the House narrowly (219-to-212) enacted the controversial “cap and trade” legislation, I asked Gibbs if, in the President’s calls to Democrats urging their support, did he promise any political and campaign assistance to some of those in endangered districts or were on the fence before the vote.  

Conceding he wasn’t “in those calls” when Obama made them, Gibbs did assure me that “the President affirmed his commitment to support the policy position that they were taking in helping to explain to their constituents and to the American public the great benefit of this bill in creating jobs and lessening our dependence on foreign oil, which is a national security problem and an environmental problem.

“I know he is a strong advocate for the legislation and that came through in the calls.”  

Will First Obama Veto Be Over F-22s?

The White House and Congress seem headed for a showdown over defense spending, as the Senate voted yesterday to restore funding for seven more F-22 aircraft.  The President intends to veto the defense appropriations bill primarily because of the F-22 aircraft funding, as his top spokesman made clear to White House reporters yesterday and on Friday.  .

At the Friday (June 26th) briefing, I asked Gibbs if the veto threat still stood.  He told me: “Absolutely.”

“Secretary[of Defense Robert] Gates has outlined a very robust plan to change our defense procurement and to invest in weapons systems and in manpower that make the most sense for the future, “ Gibbs told me, “He and others have determined that that’s [F-22s] not part of that program.

“[I]f that money [for spending on the F-22] is contained in the bill, the Secretary of Defense and advisors here,” the President’s top spokesman emphasized, “would recommend that the President veto that bill, yes.”