The New York Times had an article over the weekend about President Obama’s emulation of so many Bush policies in the war on terror, including a great many policies that he once strongly criticized as unconstitutional abuses of executive authority. It included this quote from my former governor, Jennifer Granholm:
For four years, Mr. Obama has benefited at least in part from the reluctance of Mr. Bush’s most virulent critics to criticize a Democratic president. Some liberals acknowledged in recent days that they were willing to accept policies they once would have deplored as long as they were in Mr. Obama’s hands, not Mr. Bush’s.
“We trust the president,” former Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan said on Current TV. “And if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms because we wouldn’t trust that he would strike in a very targeted way and try to minimize damage rather than contain collateral damage.”
Oi vey. Really? And the idea that Obama isn’t going to always be president doesn’t figure into such reasoning at all? Even if you do trust Obama to exercise unilateral authority to decide who can and can’t be killed, would you trust Mitt Romney? Or Marco Rubio? Or whatever Republican president we may have in the future? The precedent has been set, largely because the leadership of both parties is locked in a bipartisan consensus that as long as a president says they’re doing it for national security, screw the constitution and our treaty obligations. So much for the idea of the rule of law.
And I’d like to be able to accuse Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Dianne Feinstein and other Congressional Democrats of being hypocrites on this, but the truth is they’re not. None of them ever lifted a finger to stop Bush from committing horrendous abuses of executive power. The Patriot Act passed overwhelmingly and has been reauthorized more than once, not only without any demand for reforms to protect privacy but with the explicit demand from Reid and Obama that it be passed without any such safeguards. The FISA reauthorizations passed easily, despite Obama’s promise to filibuster the bill when he was in the Senate if it included telecom immunity (and it did, and he not only didn’t filibuster, he voted for the bill). There have been no prosecutions for torture or illegal surveillance and Obama’s use of the State Secrets Privilege has ensured that there will be no judicial oversight as well. So it’s not really hypocrisy, it’s a bipartisan consensus to say “screw the constitution.”