In Case You Needed Another Reason to Dislike Obama
by J. Andrew Zalucky
Or Diane Feinstein for that matter.
Last September, Mother Jones published an article which detailed the absolute capitulation of the Democratic Party on civil liberties in their 2012 platform, as compared to their strong language on the subject in 2008. For several reasons, civil liberties doesn’t play into the daily political thinking of most liberals and “progressives”. This is in part due to the prevalence of social issues on the agenda of the contemporary left. Some of these are honorable ones of course, but just as many have descended into the same territory that much of their agenda has wallowed since the “crack-up” of the early 1970’s, that of political correctness and identity politics. Talk to the average, garden-variety progressive about Obama’s terrible record on civil liberties and they will either avoid the topic or change the subject. Go ahead, ask one of them about the warrentless-wiretapping of American citizens. I can bet you a lot of money that most progressives would resort to the same response they almost always have: “But it’s Bush’s fault in the first place!” This is of course a complete dodge of the question, as Obama and the Democrats went into 2009 with a HUGE majority in both houses of congress and did nothing about it. Go ahead, ask them about the National Defense and Authorization Act, or ask them about Obama’s “kill list” which the New York Times published a story about last year…on the front page no less! Most of them will not have read the story, and even more of them don’t give a damn about it. Even the leader of the Democratic National committee displayed an appalling ignorance on the subject.
Most of Obama’s defenders will say:
“oh, but he says he supports Gay marriage now, that means he’s a good guy! So if you don’t like him, you’re a racist AND a homophobe!”
::cue the emotional storming out of the room before I can respond::
Actually, the only reason Obama said it was because Joe Biden basically threw him under the bus by saying it first. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy that gays can openly serve in the military now, and that they may all be afforded the same rights to join together in marriage as us straight people have. But this was in no way a stand on principle from the President. Aside from Biden’s slip, the only other reason Obama said it was to fool his base into thinking he was a Liberal in any sense of the word. In doing so, he acted exactly how Conservatives act when they get in trouble with their own base. Whenever their poll numbers are down, all Conservatives need to do is mouth off about some nonsense like prayer in public schools, outlawing abortion, or get some preacher to say nice things about them and watch as the damn breaks and the positive numbers from Rasmussen skyrocket and vapid, banal op-eds come out in Time and Newsweek about how they’ve “turned the corner”. This is precisely what Obama did here, just in the other direction.
And while there are plenty of people on the center-left and further off who know quite a lot about economics, most seem to know next-to-nothing other than some vague complaints about the Bush tax cuts and even more vague notions of what “paying your fair share” is all about. Talk to them about interest rates, patent laws, or the need to make our welfare state more affordable- and the silence will be enough to deafen the insects in the room. Mention the Keynesian idea of the “liquidity trap” to them and they’ll think you’re talking about being passed out after too many PBR’s (granted, I’ve surely had nights like that myself, but that’s beside the point).
Now to his already proud record Obama can add what Glenn Greenwald reports on in The Guardian last month- Oregon Senator Ron Wyden (D), with his fellow Liberal Democrats, along with Libertarian Republicans like Rand Paul (R-KY), sought to make changes to a renewal of George W. Bush’s NSA warrantless-wiretapping program, an attempt which was struck down by the Obama Administration and fellow Democrats like Diane Feinstein:
In other words, Obama successfully relied on Senate Republicans (the ones his supporters depict as the Root of All Evil) along with a dozen of the most militaristic Democrats to ensure that he can continue to eavesdrop on Americans without any warrants, transparency or real oversight.
What reforms were being proposed exactly?
Wyden…had two amendments: one that would simply require the NSA to give a general estimate of how many Americans are having their communications intercepted under this law (information the NSA has steadfastly refused to provide), and another which would state that the NSA is barred from eavesdropping on Americans on US soil without a warrant. [Senator] Merkley’s amendment would compel the public release of secret judicial rulings from the FISA court which purport to interpret the scope of the eavesdropping law on the ground that “secret law is inconsistent with democratic governance”;…But the Obama White House opposed all amendments, demanding a “clean” renewal of the law without any oversight or transparency reforms…The Democratic Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, took the lead in attacking Wyden, Merkley, Udall and Paul with the most foul Cheneyite accusations, and demanded renewal of the FISA law without any reforms.
In other words, any basic oversight or legitimacy is out of the question when it comes to matters of “National Security”. Not that measures like these actually make us any safer from terrorist attacks, as Greenwald brilliantly points out:
“Feinstein insisted that one could support their amendments only if “you believe that no one is going to attack us”. She warned that their amendments would cause “another 9/11”. She rambled about Najibullah Zazi and his attempt to detonate a bomb on the New York City subway: as though a warrant requirement, let alone disclosure requirements for the eavesdropping program, would have prevented his detection.
Greenwald goes on to say how “Just four or five years ago, objections to warrantless eavesdropping were a prime grievance of Democrats against Bush.” and that “Progressives loved to depict themselves as stalwartly opposing right-wing radicalism in defense of Our Values and the Constitution.”
But now that it’s an Democratic President, not to mention an “inspiring”, “transformational” President, the message from Obama supporters has become:
I suppose someone could say to me, “Gee Drew, for a guy on the center-left you seem to be awfully critical of your fellow Liberals and Progressives!”
If you want to stand up for civil liberties and the virtue of individual rights and self-government as enshrined in our Constitution, this obligates you to be more critical of the people who claim to be “on your side”, not less. And in the same context, one should reserve the most venom for a President who pretended to care about civil liberties in 2008, when even as a Senator, he voted for a provision which “gutted the 30-year-old FISA statute that had been enacted to prevent the decades of severe spying abuses discovered by the mid-1970s Church Committee.”
Blaming Bush for everything is the adult equivalent of the crying 3-year-old on the playground:
“But Mommy, he started it!!!”
By that standard, we might as well just blame Nixon for everything (though that is tempting).
For too long, self-proclaimed Liberals and Progressives have given President Obama a free pass on these issues. Aside from writers like Glenn Greenwald and Conor Friedersdorf, much of the press has done the same.
This needs to stop and it needs to stop right now.