It’s a painful fact of life that hope is all too often the cause of naivety and the enemy of truth. When President Obama was elected, I hoped he would rollback the Bush Administration’s dangerous erosions of our civil liberties. Consequently, I have been slow to grasp that President Obama is not rolling back a thing.
Instead of doing as I had hoped, it seems evident that he is consistently moving to make permanent the dangerous new powers granted to the presidency by the Bush Administration.
Barack Obama has perfected a three-step maneuver….
First: Denounce your presidential predecessor for a given policy…. Second: Pretend to have reversed that policy upon taking office with a symbolic act or high-profile statement. Third: Adopt a version of that same policy….
The results can confuse people into thinking President Obama has actually reversed a Bush policy when, in fact, he hasn’t.
For instance: Late last week, the Administration announced it would cease categorizing people as “enemy combatants”. The category of “enemy combatant” was created by the Bush Administration to provide cover for indefinitely detaining terrorist suspects without charging them with a crime. So, the Obama Administration’s rejection of the label seemed to many people to amount to a rejection of the notion the president had the power to indefinitely detain people without charges. Hence, the announcement generated headlines suggesting a significant change was taking place.
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration seems to have no intention of rejecting the Bush Administration’s power grab. The Obama Administration has filed a legal brief setting forth its actual position (.pdf) and that brief shows the Obama Administration does not significantly differ from the Bush Administration in what it thinks is its rightful power to detain people indefinitely without charges.
You need not be too cynical to suspect the Administration is trying to confuse people into thinking President Obama stands for certain civil liberties that he does not, in fact, support.
I remember reading about a conversation someone had with President Truman several years after Truman retired. Truman and his guest spent most of their time discussing presidents. At some point towards the end of their conversation, it occurred to the guest that, so far as Truman was concerned, a great president was someone who expanded the powers of the presidency, an average president was someone who merely maintained the powers of the presidency, and a poor president was someone who gave up any of the powers of the presidency.
It doesn’t seem too far fetched these days to suspect that President Obama substantially shares President Truman’s notion of what constitutes a great president. On a personal level, I like and admire Barack Obama. But these days, I’m finding myself increasingly forced to remember that a politician is a politician is a politician. No matter how likable they are, no matter what hopes we might place in them, we must be wary. Freedom and liberty need to be zealously defended no matter who is in office.