In light of a Department of Justice memo laying out the general rules for assassinating American citizens with drones via a presidential “kill list” - and consequently, without Due Process - it was believed yesterday’s confirmation hearing for John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency Director, the architect of these strikes, would be contentious. It sadly was not, and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s failure to press him on the assassinations of American citizens is nothing short of inexcusable.
As I stated in a post earlier this week, I did not expect the U.S. Senate to check the power it collectively usurped with the CIA; after all, they had a hand in constructing the legal framework for the extrajudicial assassinations of American citizens. The precedence set by this policy endangers the checks-and-balances inherent within a typical constitutional republic.
During a recent closed-door meeting with Senate Democrats, President Barack Obama fended off questions about his controversial drones program, which could put American citizens accused of terrorism in its crosshairs. In seeking to downplay his administration’s use of drones, President Obama claimed that he is no Dick Cheney, whose hawkish foreign policy views carried significant weight in the Bush Administration:
President Barack Obama’s defense to Democratic senators complaining about how little his administration has told Congress about the legal justifications for his drone policy: Dick Cheney was worse.
That’s part of what two senators in the room recounted of Obama’s response when, near the outset of his closed-door session with the Senate Democratic conference on Tuesday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) confronted the president over the administration’s refusal for two years to show congressional intelligence committees Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memos justifying the use of lethal force against American terror suspects abroad.
“This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he said, according to Democratic senators who asked not to be named discussing the private meeting.
Dick Cheney apparently didn’t get that memo. The former vice president spoke positively of President Obama’s drones program last month in an interview with Charlie Rose. Cheney said, “I think it’s a good program and I don’t disagree with the basic policy that the Obama administration is pursuing now in those regards.”
During his 2008, presidential campaign, Barack Obama spoke forcefully against then-President George W. Bush’s expansion of executive power, leading many to believe that he would strengthen civil liberties. In March 2008, Jeffrey Rosen wrote at The New York Times that “[i]f Barack Obama wins in November, we could have not only our first president who is an African-American, but also our first president who is a civil libertarian.”
That was the great “hope” about Obama, to borrow a phrase from his 2008 campaign. There is no question that Bush waged an assault on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by signing the PATRIOT Act, approving warrantless wiretaps, among other concerning policies he enacted.
But since taking office in 2009, President Obama has not only kept these policies of his predecessor in place, but he actually greatly expanded them — and he has done so with the approval of neo-conservatives, who were frequent targets of the Left during Bush’s presidency. During an interview with Charlie Rose on CBS just this morning, former Vice President Dick Cheney praised President Obama’s drones program.
The irony here is thick. BuzzFeed noted recently that there are several aspects to Obama’s presidency that not many Democrats are willing to acknowledge — from the troops surge in Afghanistan to the “kill list” and drones to torture of terrorist suspects — though when Bush pushed them, they absolutely lost their minds.
Some Republican friends of mine have been posting and reposting this video from WeAreChange.org. It’s a great idea for a video, really. They go out and find Obama supporters and ask them about Romney policy issues – well, they say they’re Romney policy issues, but the issues are all things Obama has done or supported since he took office.
Obama supporters talk about how crazy the policies are, how they’re an overreach of government, and then they are told the truth. That’s when we get to see the look of shock on their faces, hear the disbelief in their voices, and watch as they try to find words to explain why all of those bad policies are really ok after all as they try to find words to backup their Chosen One.
But there’s an important piece here that these Republican friends should be careful not to miss: Mitt Romney also supports those horrible policies.
The PATRIOT Act
“With respect to national security surveillance and investigations, I strongly support both FISA as amended and the PATRIOT Act, and I will ensure that we use the full range of lawful authority to obtain useful intelligence about current or future threats to our country.” – Mitt Romney
Indefinite Detention under NDAA
“The Constitution, U.S. statutes, and the laws of war permit detention of enemy combatants — including U.S. citizens — until the end of hostilities, as has been recognized by the Supreme Court.” – Mitt Romney
Back in 2008, Gene Healy, a vice president at the Cato Institute, wrote a great book, The Cult of the Presidency: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, about the way the nation’s chief executive has been transformed over the last several decades. This book, written at the tail of of George W. Bush’s presidency, during which Americans saw a tremendous expansion of executive power, notes the foundation that was laid before Barack Obama ever stepped foot in the White House.
But now that Obama’s first term is nearly completely, Healy is back with another in-depth look at how Obama has continued to transform the presidency. In False Idol: Barack Obama and the Continuing Cult of the President, a new e-book, Healy goes through extraordinary actions taken by Obama over the last four years, including unprecendented power of the nation’s healthcare system, the targeted killing of Americans overseas, and going to launching military action without congressional approval.
Click on the link above to buy purchase the e-book and check out the Cato Daily Podcast below, hosted by my friend, Caleb Brown, to hear more about it:
Many conservatives like to knock Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, as a liberal that like to pick on them and their views. While it’s true that he does poke fun at them at times, Stewart has also criticized President Barack Obama for abuse of executive power, his lack of transparency, his military crusade in Libya, the Solyandra scandal, and the Summer of Wreckovery.
On Wednesday, Stewart again criticized Obama, this time on the “kill list” that the White House put together. He also laid into some of the critics of the intelligence leak, who insist that it came from the White House because it makes Obama “look good.”
Watch Stewart’s reaction to this and more below: