“I am concerned for the security of our great nation, not so much because of any threat from without, but because of the insidious forces working from within.” — Commanding General Douglas McArthur
A few weeks ago, a friend sent a YouTube link of a conversation between a radio show host and a man identifying himself as a police lieutenant in North Carolina, who claimed America was about to slide into internal war and martial law, saying the ATF is recruiting from local and state law enforcement agencies to form an internal security force to suppress domestic insurrection. The catalyst for the insurrection would be a collapse of the American economy, intentionally triggered, leading to a complete collapse of the social infrastructure, giving the government a pretext to consolidate power.
My response to her was that this was elements of truth mixed with a heavy dose of conspiracy theory, and suggested she’d feel better if she’d prepared her family for any emergencies by making sure they can defend themselves, and have enough supplies for their basic needs. After all, these things would be useful in situations other than the one she described, whether it be a home invasion by armed thugs, or the aftermath of a natural disaster where there was no access to electricity, fresh water, or food for an extended period.
I hoped that had calmed her fears, but the more I thought about it, the more I could understand how someone could come to these types of conclusions in light of the political environment unfolding in our country today.
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.”
While he isn’t exactly friendly to the free market point of view, you have to hand it to Oliver Stone, at least he’s consistent in his criticism of presidents who overstep their constitutional boundaries.
During a recent interview, Stone, who directed JFK and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, told the Russia Today that the United States “has become an Orwellian state” and called President Barack Obama a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
While many on the Left have given silent consent to the policies of the current administration, including reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act and robbing Americans of due process through indefinite detention and drone strikes, Stone expressed shock and outrage at Obama, who was supposed to be “a great hope for change.”
“I think under the disguise of sheep’s clothing [Obama] has been a wolf,” Stone told the Russia Today. “That because of the nightmare of the Bush presidency that preceded him, people forgave him a lot.”
He added, “He has taken all the Bush changes he basically put them into the establishment, he has codified them.”
Stone, who has recently co-authored a new book with Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, showed concern for what contempt President Obama has shown during his first term and what his second term may have in store. He explained, “[W]e are going into the second administration that is living outside the law and does not respect the law and foundations of our system and he is a constitutional lawyer.”
“Without the law, it is the law of the jungle,” Stone noted. “Nuremburg existed for a reason and there was a reason to have trials, there is a reason for due process – ‘habeas corpus’ as they call it in the United States.”
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.
As the presidential inauguration comes upon us today, I can’t help but think that we’re seeing Bush’s fourth term. Barack Obama, while talking up a good liberal game on international peace and social issues, is really quite similar to his Republican predecessor. He has widely broadened the use of drones pioneered with Bush 43. His signing of the NDAA act authorizing indefinite detention is merely a sequel to the PATRIOT Act Bush signed in 2001. And his recent executive orders on guns have elicited much the same outrage from conservatives that liberals had over Bush’s signing statements.
Combined with staying the course on military spending, staying the course on not making any significant reforms to entitlements, staying the course on the War on Drugs, and staying the course on corporate bailouts…
…and I’m wondering if George W. Bush ever left.
Certainly, there are differences. George W. Bush championed a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman, while the Obama Administration has just given up on defending the Defense of Marriage Act. Obama is also far more supportive of a woman’s right to choose, while George W. Bush was pro-life (mostly). But on nearly all other issues, ranging from torture, to war, to government spending, our 44th president is little more than an “expansion pack” to our 43rd — doing the same things, only worse.
In light of the Sandy Hook tragedy, renewed calls for gun control is hardly surprising. This isn’t unusual. People, now terrified that the same thing could have happened to their children, turn to their elected officials to do something to make the problem go away.
This isn’t the first time this has happened either. After 9/11, people wanted something that would make sure this would never happen again. What we got was the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, and the Patriot Act. The Fourth Amendment was gutted in an effort to catch “terrorists.” Our ability to travel freely is now interfered with by a group of people who look more like the cast of a sitcom than a barrier against terrorist acts. But the politicians “did something.”
Now, in light of Sandy Hook, we find ourselves at the same crossroads. Battle lines are being drawn as you read this. People who don’t even consider themselves pro-gun control are calling for limits in the round capacity of magazines. Others are expecting gun rights advocates to defend reasons why certain features should be legal, rather than understanding that they don’t change the function of the weapon in any way and therefore a ban would be idiotic.
The kneejerking is normal. On May 31, 2012, I went through it myself. That’s the day I learned that Kimberly Lynn Layfield was murdered in a shooting at the Cafe Racer in Seattle, Washington. Kim was a good friend of mine from high school, someone I treasured knowing more than almost anyone else. My initial reaction? That my views on guns had been wrong for all these years. (For the record, I don’t know where Kim or her family stood on gun control on that day, nor how her family stands on it now)
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
In a new video from Learn Liberty, Professor Brad Smith, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), discusses a scenario where Congress passes a law, in order to ensure that parties weren’t being infiltrated by terrorists, that would require all Americans to disclose their political activity — call it, as he says, the “PATRIOT II Act.” . This information, says Smith, would be made available in an online database for all to see, including prospective employers and neighbors. You would no doubt say that this is an invasion of your privacy.
But it may surprise you to find out that such a law, though not under the pretenses outlined by Smith, already exists. The Federal Elections Campaign Act of 1974 allows the government to track campaign donations and spending, making it available online for anyone to see.
With the Citizens United decision a frequent target of President Barack Obama, who constantly lies about the impact of the case, and Democrats and the rise of so-called “super PACs,” the debate over campaign disclosure laws deserve more debate and discussion, as well as attention paid to privacy.
There has been an image going around on new media sites recently noting that the language supporting civil liberties in the 2008 Democratic Party platform — including specific lines calling for revisiting the PATRIOT Act, reining in executive power, and the surveillance state — is now missing from the current platform. Christina Lopes and Tom Knighton have already noted civil liberties have fallen to the side, and the frustration from advocates of the issue toward President Barack Obama.
In yesterday’s Cato Daily Podcast, Caleb Brown chatted with Julian Sanchez about the omission of civil liberties from the Democratic Party’s platform, President Obama’s record on the issue, and the silence from many of those who previous called for curtailing government overreach on civil liberties:
I’m going to have to disagree with my colleague Kevin on the Brandon Raub case. Sure, I get that he is no martyr. (First of all, he isn’t dead. Yet.) But neither is there any cause for the man to picked up by the FBI and involuntarily put in custody for “psychiatric evaluation.”
We all know the comments on his Facebook wall. Kevin listed some of them. Yes, they looked like Mr. Raub was deeply frustrated with this country, and they were, I admit, a bit threatening. (“I’m coming for some heads,” “There will be justice,” etc.). But is that grounds for arresting him? I find that very doubtful.
If my mother had posted what she had said to me on a daily basis as a kid to a Facebook wall, she would no doubt be arrested. That’s because, half the time I did something very stupid and aggravating, she would shout “I’m going to kill you!” Now that’s a statement many would take as one of intent to kill. But did my mother ever intend to murder me? Of course not. (She might say otherwise, but really, she never wanted to hurt me.) Yet some overzealous law enforcement officer or child protective services agent might have seen that and had my mother locked up, for really no good reason.