Sunday, May 17, 2009

Opposition to Bush was Largely Opposition to the "R" Next to His Name

As livid as we all are over radical changes we perceive from the current crop of Democrats in office, led by The One, we should also have a smirk on our faces as we watch liberal ideologues and activists over the fact that President Obama- not presidential campaigner Obama- is finding himself reinstituting, surpassing, and keeping in place some of the same policies for which Dubbya was roundly criticized for. The Presidency is larger than the Obamessiah, and the reality is dawning that some Bush policies liberals scaremongered about were rooted in pragmatism and reality.

1. Obama is still prosecuting the war on terror, albeit by a kinder, gentler pc name.

2. He had to scrap his campaign promise to withdraw a brigade a month from Iraq and is basically riding out the success of the Bush surge success 2007-8 and the signing of SOFA under Bush. Really, the McCain plan, the Obama plan, and the Bush plan toward Iraq at this point....not a lot of difference.

3. His Executive Order on closing Guantanamo? Easier said than done. The EO was symbolic window dressing to placate the base and world opinion; to make it appear as if the Administration was moving swiftly toward radical change from Bush era policies, while essentially doing nothing. He vowed to close Gitmo with no plan in place; and now he's finding himself coming full circle right back to where Bush left off. It's ironic that one of the criticisms of the Bush Administration was that they were holding detainees without charge or trial; yet it was exactly what the Bush Administration was trying to do through military tribunals. President Obama suspends those, basically prolonging the "suspension of habeas corpus" Bush was criticized over. And now....hmmm....those military commissions are looking better and better. Senator Webb has also come around to "the dark side". Campaigning out of partisan politics is one thing; governing from an informed position for the good of the nation, quite another. And as Mataharley comments:
Ah yes… a new day, and a fresh, more reasonable attitude. Like day and night. And perhaps, if they’d lay aside their partisan agenda for awhile, they may figure out this is why Bush ultimately didn’t close it when he very much would have liked to have that option as far back as 2006.

4. His Executive Order on harsh interrogations. Basically, it revoked Bush's 2007 EO that basically said the same thing as the one that replaced it, regarding torture. Another symbolic gesture that only has meaning in the court of world opinion.

5. CodePink is not happy with the escalation of a troop surge for Afghanistan. Not making CodePink happy is a good thing....because it means there may actually be a chance to bring about peace and stability in the world.

Why should the anti-war left be so shocked, anyway? Democratic leadership kept shreiking about how "the real war is in Afghanistan".

6. Rendition programs. Happened under Clinton, was disparaged under Bush, continues under Obama.

7. State secret rights. Presidential candidate Obama
did forcefully oppose the Bush administration's use of the "state secrets" privilege to get cases thrown out of civil court. According to the Obama/Biden campaign web site:
Secrecy Dominates Government Actions: The Bush administration has ignored public disclosure rules and has invoked a legal tool known as the "state secrets" privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court.

But now, to the dismay of civil liberties groups, President Obama is using the "state secrets" defense to make the case that the United States government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying and can never be sued for surveillance that might violate federal privacy statutes.

That's what happened on April 2, when President Obama's lawyers invoked Bush's radical theory of executive power to argue for the dismissal of the Electronic Frontier Foundation's litigation against the National Security Agency for the warrantless wiretapping of countless Americans.

8. Wiretaps....channeling Cheney, they're still heeeeeere:

"President Obama promised the American people a new era of transparency, accountability, and respect for civil liberties," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston in the release. "But with the Obama Justice Department continuing the Bush administration's cover-up of the National Security Agency's dragnet surveillance of millions of Americans, and insisting that the much-publicized warrantless wiretapping program is still a 'secret' that cannot be reviewed by the courts, it feels like deja vu all over again."

9. "Torture" memos. Opened up a whole can of worms against Democrats' political interests, didn't it?

10. Thomas Ricks thinks Obama got rolled over by the military into making the decision not to release the detainee photos. The ACLU and Glenn Greenwald feel a sense of betrayal. Niiiiice.

From Greenwald (You HAVE to read the whole thing!):

here is the first paragraph of this New York Times article this morning by David Sanger, summing everything up:

President Obama’s decisions this week to retain important elements of the Bush-era system for trying terrorism suspects and to block the release of pictures showing abuse of American-held prisoners abroad are the most graphic examples yet of how he has backtracked, in substantial if often nuanced ways, from the approach to national security that he preached as a candidate, and even from his first days in the Oval Office.

Here's how the NYT describes the article on its front page:

The opening paragraph of this Washington Post article today says much the same thing:

As a candidate for president, Barack Obama offered himself as a clear alternative to Bush-era anti-terrorism policies. Governing has proven muddier.

Both articles quote the hardest-core Bush supporters as heaping praise on Obama for what he has done in the area of "national security," terrorism and civil liberties ("Pete Wehner, a member of Karl Rove’s staff in the Bush White House [and a current National Review writer] applauded several of Mr. Obama’s decisions this week"). Indeed, all week long, and even before that, the greatest enthusiasm for Obama's decisions on so-called "terrorism policies" and civil liberties (with some important exceptions) has been found in the pages of The Weekly Standard and National Review.

Can anyone deny what the NYT and Post are pointing out today? This is what happened this week alone in the realm of Obama's approach to "national security" and civil liberties:

Monday - Obama administration's letter to Britian threatening to cut off intelligence-sharing if British courts reveal the details of how we tortured British resident Binyam Mohamed;

Tuesday - Promoted to military commander in Afghanistan Gen. Stanley McChyrstal, who was deeply involved in some of the worst abuses of the Bush era;

Wednesday - Announced he was reversing himself and would try to conceal photographic evidence showing widespread detainee abuse -- despite the rulings from two separate courts (four federal judges unanimously) that the law compels their disclosure;

Friday - Unveiled his plan to preserve a modified system of military commissions for trying Guantanamo detainees, rather than using our extant-judicial processes for doing so.

It's not the fault of civil libertarians that Obama did all of those things, just in this week alone. These are the very policies -- along with things like the claimed power to abduct and imprison people indefinitely with no charges of any kind and the use of the "state secrets privilege" to deny torture and spying victims a day in court -- that caused such extreme anger and criticisms toward the Bush presidency.

What would it say about a person who spent the last seven years vehemently criticizing those policies to suddenly decide that the same policies were perfectly fine or not particularly bothersome when Obama adopts them? How could that be justified? What should one say about a person who vehemently objected to X when Bush did it, but then suddenly found ways to defend or mitigate X when Obama does it? Just re-read that first paragraph from the NYT article today. What should a rational person say in response to what it describes?

Of course, one area where President Obama is behaving even more like Bush than Bush, is in the area of spending. Fiscal conservatives have been consistent, criticizing Bush over uncontrolled spending, alongside liberal opponents. Now that it's a big government Democrat in the Oval Office, with the exception of blue dog Democrats and pragmatists, where's the outcry from the left?

At least one side has been consistent.

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Blogger Chuck said...

Incredible that the NYT is not running state secrets on the front page anymore to embarass Obama. Must not be as important to get the "truth" now.

Sunday, May 17, 2009 5:18:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Smithy, RE: "President Obama’s decisions this week to retain important elements of the Bush-era system for trying terrorism suspects and to block the release of pictures showing abuse of American-held prisoners abroad are the most graphic examples yet of how he has backtracked, in substantial if often nuanced ways, from the approach to national security that he preached as a candidate, and even from his first days in the Oval Office."

My opinion? All the speculation about why Obama suddenly reversed his earlier intention is contingent on understanding the way Obama thinks.

Remember, Obama is a narcissist. Whatever decisions he makes are predicated on glorifying himself, and himself only.

There appears to be an assumption among practically all commentators and bloggers, regardless of political ideology, that the photos contain proof of abuse or even torture.

But if that were true, Obama, in his ongoing campaign to denigrate America and aplogize for America, would not hesitate for a minute in exposing incidents of abuse and/or torture of detainees at Guantanamo.

Thinking as Obama thinks, it would seem to me more likely that the photos show no abuse or torture of any kind. Obama would recognize that the release of the photos, in that case, would prove that the United States is not guilty of mistreatment of detainees, and thus, would not serve to advance his agenda.

Now, those who say Obama did the right thing in not releasing the photos, are correct, but not for the reasons stated. Most believe the release of the photos would anger our enemies and as a result, endanger our troops in the field.

It was the right thing to do, because releasing those photos would show our enemies that we are not willing to employ serious enhanced interrogation methods, and are indeed a toothless tiger, as bin Laden suggested.

Terrorist have long suspected there is nothing to fear from an Obama-led America, but my belief is the photos would remove all doubt.

Monday, May 18, 2009 8:59:00 AM  
Blogger shoprat said...

Now if he would do the same thing with his economic policy and home social policy as he is doing with his foreign policy.

Monday, May 18, 2009 9:24:00 AM  
Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

I believe your "R"-word point is precisely on target, as it turns out those votes were not necessarily FOR Mr Obama as much as they were votes AGAINST Bush and the GOP.


Monday, May 18, 2009 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger SkyePuppy said...

Everything is OK, as long as your name ends in "D."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009 9:51:00 PM  

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