It’s good to be the king

Barack Obama steadily accumulates king-like powers, an affinity for an imperial presidency that he deplored when Bush/Cheney displayed that trait in office.

PolitiFact finds that in the way he has gone to war against Libya, Obama has done the ‘Full Flop’, their term for an unambiguous 180-degree switch from what he said as a candidate, which was that, “The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”

But that is not the only ‘Full Flop’ by Obama. As a candidate he advocated strong transparency and praised whistleblowers as important in preventing waste, abuse, and inefficiency and promised them greater protections. As president, he now attacks whistleblowers and journalists with a passion that exceeds even Bush/Cheney. The mainstream media did not seem to care as long as the targeted whistleblowers were merely government employees. Now that the ever-deferential New York Times is also being targeted, it will be interesting to see how they respond.

Glenn Greenwald talks about how Obama is now even attacking our Miranda rights. But everything is sunny in Obama Land where he can do no wrong and his reputation as a constitutional scholar remains unsullied.

[T]he good thing about being Barack Obama is that you’re justified in what you do even when you first do X and then do Not X.

Thus, when you argue that wars need Congressional approval, you’re standing up for the Constitution; when you start a war without Congressional approval, you’re a humanitarian. When you announce you will release torture photos in the government’s possession, you’re a stalwart defender of transparency; when you change your mind two weeks later and announce you’ll conceal those photos, you’re standing up for The Troops. When you give Miranda warnings to Terrorism suspects, you’re honoring the Rule of Law and protecting American values; when you turn around and deny those very same rights, you’re showing your devotion to Keeping us Safe.

Barack Obama must be channeling Mel Brooks as King Louis XVI in the film The History of the World, Part 1 who did anything he wanted without suffering any consequence, all the while saying, “It’s good to be the king.”

Obama is enabled in this by the amount of deference he receives from his followers, which is similar to what Bush/Cheney received from their fans. For example, Kevin Drum is a blogger at Mother Jones who can be labeled a centrist. He recently wrote about his concerns about Obama’s decision to attack Libya:

So what should I think about this? If it had been my call, I wouldn’t have gone into Libya. But the reason I voted for Obama in 2008 is because I trust his judgment. And not in any merely abstract way, either: I mean that if he and I were in a room and disagreed about some issue on which I had any doubt at all, I’d literally trust his judgment over my own. I think he’s smarter than me, better informed, better able to understand the consequences of his actions, and more farsighted. I voted for him because I trust his judgment, and I still do.

This is quite extraordinary. It is one thing to say that when someone whose judgment you respect disagrees with you, it gives you pause. That pause presumably makes you investigate further until you can justify your prior judgment or learn something new that changes your view. It is quite another to say that you would simply take that judgment over your own when you disagree.

One could also say that on an issue which one has no expertise to evaluate and arrive at a reasonably informed judgment because of the technical knowledge involved (say climate change or details of evolutionary theory or cosmology or monetary policy), one goes with the judgment of people whom one trusts to have the required expertise and judgment.

But that is not the case with Libya, which involves principles and policies that can and should be publicly articulated as part of the process of persuading the Congress and the nation that going to war is justified, unless one thinks that Obama has reasons that he cannot divulge to the country. But then we are entering “We have secret information that Saddam Hussein has WMD” territory and we know how that ends up.

James Madison got it right when he said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”


  1. says

    dere is no doubt that obama has take a U turn !!!
    every action a president make doesn’t only made by him but by higher authorities !!!
    president is like a machine who will only seen in front !!! 🙂
    wen somebody not president he can say anything like obama did !!! but after u become president then u realize what is goin on y previous president take that action and y he didnt back out !!!

    its not only president but all the top brass r doing in libya !! dont blame only president for it !!! 🙂

  2. says

    “James Madison got it right when he said, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedoms of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.””

    I love this quote! As a libertarian thinker, I wasn’t crazy with either choice of candidate in 2008. I voted McCain, but after the dust settled I at least hoped that Obama’s change rhetoric was legitimate and not just lip service to the masses. It’s the same story as usual though.

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