I did expect that Obama upon becoming president would not actually usher in the state of change that he so famously promised.
His actions as a Senator and Nancy Pelosi’s endorsement of him, the same woman who shielded - and continues to shield - the Bush White House from any prosecutions for its manifest and multitudinous crimes, as well as the powerful backing given him by major political and economic players, demonstrated that Obama would not and did not represent any major departure from the Bush years.
If you examined closely his arguments and speeches – as I did in a number of articles, such as this one – what stood out was Obama’s strategic agreement and tactical disagreement with the Bush Doctrine.
He endorsed and accepted, in other words, the underlying logic, but advocated shifts in the manner by which that logic was to be realized.
What I did not expect, however, was that once in office, Obama would not merely uphold the Bush Doctrine’s main tenets, but that he would go even further in carrying forward the fundamental trajectory of Bush and Cheney (a trajectory, by the way, that began under Ronald Reagan.)
While Clinton’s presidency furthered the neoliberal agenda (e.g., NAFTA) and he went after welfare, upheld capital punishment and introduced rendition, his presidency did represent some easing of the GOP’s reign in certain, more superficial respects.
I expected Obama’s administration to be something like this, and certainly this was underscored by his packing his cabinet and advisers with Clinton retreads.
But Obama has not done a Clinton.
This is abundantly clear with regard to foreign policy (see, by the way, David Swanson’s excellent recounting of Tuesday’s White House press conference). Obama is pursuing a less unilateral tact and stressing the need for talks and multilateral actions, a common tactic by Democratic presidents.
As I wrote once, however, the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats in foreign policy is that the GOP says: “No Talking. The bombing starts now!” The Democrats say: “First we talk. Then we bomb.”
Moreover, Obama’s pursuing a foreign policy that is, if anything, more aggressive than Bush and Cheney’s by expanding the wars on Pakistan and in Afghanistan. (See Sunsara Taylor on the “O’Reilly Factor” regarding the issue of foreign policy following this post.)
What I want to focus on in this brief essay, however, is specifically Obama’s policies on government surveillance.
The Obama Administration has claimed an executive power so extreme, so incredible, and so outrageous that it surpasses anything that Bush and Cheney dared to claim: Obama’s claim of “sovereign immunity” means that any of their wiretaps or surveillance of any kind, those that they claim in the name of national security and those that are ordinary criminal ones or any others, are not subject to being sued for wrongful governmental actions unless you can prove that the government “willfully” released the information they obtained “publicly.”
They will never admit this, but if you are exercising ubiquitous spying this includes spying on your political rivals in Congress, in State Legislatures, Gubernatorial mansions, States Attorney Generals’ offices, journalists' cell phones and offices, and on any political dissidents. Free speech and free assembly believers take note. Consider the chilling effect this has on anyone in public office or in the larger society who differs with Big Brother.
This means that Obama has not only reneged on his campaign promise to support a filibuster of the Telecom Immunity Bill – a famous betrayal on his part when he instead voted for the bill that gave the telecoms a free pass for violating the law by going along with the Bush White House’s demands that they capture all of our electronic communications (something which, to his credit, the head of Qwest refused to do and then was punished by the White House for his standing up for what was legal and proper).
It means that Obama has not only retained the apparatus of a spy state under his watch. That would be bad enough by itself, but there’s even more.
Obama has gone beyond and asserted the government’s right to have no restrictions on its spying and declared the government immune from prosecution for any of its misconduct.
“Sovereign immunity” is what Obama’s DOJ is calling it.
The term is apt.
No one since the time of kings has dared to assert this kind of power in the U.S., let alone implement such unrestrained power.
What defense can Obama have for such egregious behavior? What defense do those who are still seduced by Obama’s charisma and empty promises have for this?
Yes, Obama’s not Bush and he’s not Cheney.
He’s more dangerous than they were, because he’s getting away with things that Bush and Cheney didn’t even try.
Obama’s smarter than Bush for sure. He’s more skillful. When he’s lying to us he does it in full sentences.
How much more time do you want to give the man until you decide that you’ve had enough and it’s time to take him on for what he truly is?