Earlier in the week we read the Andrew Sullivan piece which lauded President Obama’s accomplishments and criticized those of us on the left, pundits and citizens alike, for not focusing on the long game. Sullivan barely touched the issue of executive over reach, indefinite detention of American citizens, rule of law issues and erosion of the Bill of Rights. He plainly intimated that as long as “we don’t torture”, we’re good to go. I don’t think so.
Here is a rebuttal to Sullivan’s piece I discovered in The Atlantic. It’s interesting that it was framed as a question to candidate Obama considering we’re working on our own 50 Questions.
After reading Andrew Sullivan’s Newsweek essay about President Obama, his critics, and his re-election bid, I implore him to ponder just one question. How would you have reacted in 2008 if any Republican ran promising to do the following?
(1) Codify indefinite detention into law; (2) draw up a secret kill list of people, including American citizens, to assassinate without due process; (3) proceed with warrantless spying on American citizens; (4) prosecute Bush-era whistleblowers for violating state secrets; (5) reinterpret the War Powers Resolution such that entering a war of choice without a Congressional declaration is permissible; (6) enter and prosecute such a war; (7) institutionalize naked scanners and intrusive full body pat-downs in major American airports; (8) oversee a planned expansion of TSA so that its agents are already beginning to patrol American highways, train stations, and bus depots; (9) wage an undeclared drone war on numerous Muslim countries that delegates to the CIA the final call about some strikes that put civilians in jeopardy; (10) invoke the state-secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits brought by civil-liberties organizations on dubious technicalities rather than litigating them on the merits; (11) preside over federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries; (12) attempt to negotiate an extension of American troops in Iraq beyond 2011 (an effort that thankfully failed); (14) reauthorize the Patriot Act; (13) and select an economic team mostly made up of former and future financial executives from Wall Street firms that played major roles in the financial crisis.
Maybe we’ve already discussed these issues enough here and there is already agreement, but I thought the author of the piece raised questions that I’d like to hear the answers to. If anyone thinks I’m happy about this, look again. I was an Obama supporter in 2008 and even 2009, now, I’m not so sure.
Conclusion from The Atlantic:
Obama has transgressed against what is arguably Congress’ most essential check on executive power — its status as the decider of when America goes to war — and he has codified indefinite detention into law, something that hasn’t been done since Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. But at least he doesn’t torture people! How low we’ve set the bar.It isn’t that I object to Sullivan backing Obama’s reelection if his GOP opponent runs on bringing back torture. Is he the lesser of two evils? Maybe so. But lauding him as a president who has governed “with grace and calm” and “who as yet has not had a single significant scandal to his name”? If indefinite detention, secret kill lists, warrantless spying, a war on whistleblowers, violating the War Powers Resolution, and abuse of the state secrets privilege don’t fit one’s definition of “scandal,” what does?