Friday, April 10, 2009

Obama DOJ Surpasses Bush/Cheney Abuses of Executive Power and Secrecy Claims

In an odd kind of way it’s depressing now to see acknowledgement of unpleasant facts that many of us tried to point out back during the Democratic primary such as MSNBC’s substitution of Obama worship for objective news coverage; the many signs that Obama would follow in Bush’s footsteps on domestic surveillance issues; the likelihood that for all his anti-war bluster, Obama would prolong the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; and as highlighted in Liberal Values today by Ron Chusid, Obama’s Bush-like legal immunity and secrecy claims.

But what can I say? The damage has been done, and we’re stuck for the next four years with yet another president the American electorate voted into office on the basis of charm over substance.

In an apparent attempt to save face for the liberal (except for their sexism, misogyny, and ageism) bloggers who burnished the One’s halo throughout the 2008 election, Chusid holds up for praise belated attempts of these self-same bloggers to hold our rock-star president to account:

MSNBC has come under justified criticism for often appearing like a mirror image of Fox during their prime time political coverage. During the campaign they ultimately removed Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews as anchors for political events due to their obvious support for Obama. As Obama comes under increased criticism for the policies of his administration regarding state secrets, Keith Olbermann’s criticism of Obama is receiving considerable attention. While many conservatives were willing to defend Bush regardless of his actions (with other more principled conservatives abandoning the Republican Party) it is clear that even those who supported Obama are concerned with principle as opposed to the type of blind support for leaders seen among Republicans.

Glenn Greenwald has summarized the criticism from Olbermann (including video) as well as liberal bloggers. In a long post with, at present, three updates Greenwald writes:

The fact that Keith Olbermann, an intense Obama supporter, spent the first ten minutes of his show attacking Obama for replicating (and, in this instance, actually surpassing) some of the worst Bush/Cheney abuses of executive power and secrecy claims reflects just how extreme is the conduct of the Obama DOJ here. Just as revealingly, the top recommended Kos diary today (voted by the compulsively pro-Obama Kos readership) is one devoted to attacking Obama for his embrace of Bush/Cheney secrecy and immunity doctrines. Also, a front page Daily Kos post yesterday by McJoan vehemently criticizing Obama (and quoting my criticisms at length) sparked near universal condemnation of Obama in the hundreds of comments that followed. Additionally, my post on Monday spawned vehement objections to what Obama is doing in this area from the largest tech/privacy sites, such as Boing Boing and Slashdot.

This is quite encouraging but should not be surprising. As much as anything else, what fueled the extreme hostility towards the Bush/Cheney administration were their imperious and radical efforts to place themselves behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and above and beyond the rule of law. It would require a virtually pathological level of tribal loyalty and monumental intellectual dishonesty not to object just as vehemently as we watch the Obama DOJ repeatedly invoke these very same theories and, in this instance, actually invent a new one that not even the Bush administration espoused.

To be clear: there are important areas in which Obama has been quite commendable, and I’ve personally praised him fairly lavishly for those actions (see, for instance, here, here and here), but it is simply unacceptable — no matter what else is true about him — for Obama to claim for himself the very legal immunity and secrecy powers which characterized and enabled the worst excesses of Bush lawlessness. Yet in a short period of time, he has taken one step after the next to do exactly that.

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