In the 1990s, a serious malady appeared on the American public square in which citizens were driven over the edge by their antipathy for incumbent presidents. It came to be known as the “presidential-derangement syndrome” and over the course of the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama administrations its victims grew in number. But while it was a given that whoever won last November’s election would have one named after them, we really had no idea what we were in for once Donald Trump moved into the White House. As we’ve seen this past week, presidential paranoia has not only gone mainstream in terms of the public, it’s now found a home in the mainstream media.
Though it was limited at first to the fever swamps of American politics where some on the right first imagined that black helicopters were about to swoop in and steal their freedom or that the Clintons were operating a drug cartel, the derangement virus adapted to the changing political environment in the years that followed. Those deranged by Bush were less marginal than the Clinton victims but shared the belief that the 43rd president was somehow a front for a vast conspiracy and not only blamed him for “lying” the country into war but viewed the entire national-security response to 9/11 as a put-up job intended to mask the theft of liberty.
As awful as the Bush version was, the Obama-derangement syndrome was in many ways even worse as the 44th president’s citizenship was questioned along with his religious faith and anything else about him that anyone could think of. Though Obama’s liberal policies and power grabs were bad enough from a conservative point of view, some on the right preferred to instead spend their energy pondering the authenticity of his birth certificate (see Trump, Donald) or whether or not he was an Islamist mole. We can blame the Internet and the rise of social media for the more pervasive nature of Obama conspiracy theories but even that dispiriting spectacle may turn out to be insignificant when compared to the psychological torment Trump has inspired among not merely the far Left but also mainstream liberals.
Jonathan S. Tobin, “The Paranoid Style of Anti-Trump Politics”, National Review, 2017-02-12.
March 2, 2017
February 24, 2017
Danny Sjursen on the somehow unforeseen problems when “the other party” comes to power:
Many Americans were fond of Barack Obama. He left office with some of the highest approval ratings of his entire term. On foreign policy, as in most matters, he seemed reflective, deliberate, and rational. An effective communicator, he maintained composure and presidential poise, no matter the topic. In rare moments of frustration, Obama channeled “disappointed sitcom dad” rather than “blustering bully.” Love him or hate him, Obama was a gentleman. And that’s the problem. Mainstream progressives – who cried foul at George W. Bush’s every move – looked the other way as Obama expanded unfettered presidential power in foreign affairs. Why? Because they trusted him – his judgment, character, and motives. Maybe that trust was warranted. Here’s the catch: the 22nd amendment. No president may serve for more than eight years, no matter how beloved (by some). Furthermore, each chief executive creates important precedents for his successor. For this reason, many liberals – and perhaps the former president himself – may come to lament Obama’s principal foreign policy legacy: the unbridled expansion of executive power in matters of (endless) war.
Presidential primacy is nothing new, of course. Executive power has gradually expanded for centuries, especially since World War II. The Obama administration eschewed imprudent, large-scale, conventional invasions, but his legacy is also defined by a sustained campaign of extrajudicial killings of terrorists, expanding the range and geographic scope of military operations, and cracking down on media leaks and whistleblowers. In each sphere, Obama’s hawkish behavior surpassed even that of George W. Bush. This is one reason why Republican criticism of Obama’s supposedly “weak” and “feckless” foreign policy was so confusing. Sure, it’s fair to debate the wisdom of the Iran nuclear deal, his handling of the Syrian civil war, and his near-total withdrawal from Iraq. These are thorny issues worthy of complex analysis. But to label Obama a “dove” is just empirically false.
Finally, we turn to the much maligned “crooked” media. Sure, the recent invective between journalists and the Trump administration is spiraling out of control. Yet, even here, Obama’s legacy presents cause for concern. All early campaign rhetoric to the contrary, the last administration was notoriously opaque on certain aspects of national security. In fact, Obama used the controversial 1917 Espionage Act to prosecute more leakers and whistleblowers than all previous administrations combined. While there’s certainly a need for reasonable levels of government secrecy, the classification process and national security state have grown increasingly pernicious. When in doubt, government agencies’ default course is to reflexively classify. No matter their political persuasion, citizens ought to desire a free, fair press. Independent journalists require anonymous sources to maintain the transparency Americans once held dear. More prosecutions and threats of serious jail time will inevitably reduce the likelihood courageous sources will step forward. And given President Trump’s contentious “running war” with the press, Obama’s precedent may only be the beginning.
November 19, 2016
It may have been awkward for Democrats who watched Obama go further, faster than George W. Bush on deportations, surveillance, assassination, and even torture, but they can finally get their groove back on in protesting Donald Trump’s use of exactly the same tools Obama has been using for the last eight years:
Even the extreme legal theories of the George W Bush administration were mild compared to some of the “compromise” positions Obama’s DoJ argued for, and now Donald J Trump gets to use those positions to further its own terrifying agenda of mass deportations, reprisals against the press, torture and assassination, and surveillance based on religious affiliation or ethnic origin.
When it came to things like closing Guantanamo, Obama argued for limits on establishing offshore black-sites and military tribunals, but refused to shut the door on them. So maybe Trump won’t be able to use Gitmo to house the people he has kidnapped by his CIA, but he can use the legal authority that Obama argued for to set up lots of other Guantanamos wherever he likes.
Likewise torture: Obama decided that it was better to move and and bury the CIA torture report, and had his DoJ block any attempt to have torture declared illegal, which would have given people opposing Trump’s torture agenda with a potent legal weapon that is now unavailable to them.
Obama argued that the president should be able to create kill lists of Americans and foreigners who could be assassinated with impunity, and argued against even judicial review of these lists.
Then there’s Obama’s war on whistleblowers — his administration invoked federal law against more whistleblowers than all the other presidents in US history, combined — and his aggressive assertion that journalists have no right to protect their confidential sources. These will be of enormous use to the Trump presidency, which has already promised to use executive powers to persecute hostile journalists who try to hold it to account.
It’s sad that partisans of the current administration can only seem to see the problems in granting the president more powers when those powers are about to be wielded by a president of the other party. A wee bit too late to repent, my friends.
August 12, 2014
Megan McArdle on the direct relationship between the implementation of Obamacare and the rise of the Tea Party:
I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it. From the Tea Party’s perspective, you had an unpopular program that should have died in the same way, and for the same reasons, that Social Security privatization did: because sensible politicians saw that, no matter how ardently they and their base might desire it, this was out of step with what the majority of the country wanted (and no, you cannot rescue the polls by claiming that the only problem with the law was that it wasn’t liberal enough; when you dig down into what people mean when they say that, the idea that there was ever a majority or a plurality that was secretly in favor of Obamacare collapses).
The rage was similar to what progressives felt as they watched George W. Bush push the country into a war in Iraq. That defined and animated the anti-war movement (which is why said movement collapsed when Bush left office, and not, say, when Bush agreed to a staged withdrawal of our forces). Yes, those people would still have hated Republicans, even if there had been no Iraq War. But they would not have been as passionate, as organized or as powerful without it.
Liberals tend to write off this anger as racism, as irrational hatred of Barack Obama, or as perverse joy in denying health care to the poor, but at its root, it’s the simpler feeling that your country is making a mistake and you can’t stop it because the people in charge are ignoring the obvious. Yes, a lot of money and energy was poured into the Tea Party by rich backers, but rich backers cannot create a grassroots campaign unless the underlying passion is there in the voters (paging Karl Rove and Crossroads). The Obama administration created that passion with Obamacare.
[…] I’ve written before about how my Twitter feed filled up with comparisons to 1932 the night that Obama took the presidency, and it’s quite clear to me that the Obama administration shared what you might call delusions of FDR. It thought that it was in a transformative, historical moment where the normal rules of political caution didn’t apply. The administration was wrong, and the country paid for that.
July 16, 2014
Nick Gillespie on why the shift from Bush-era policies in the Middle East and elsewhere to Obama-era policies wasn’t so much a shift as a continuation:
Obama’s foreign policy certainly hasn’t lacked for the use of force. It has, however, lacked for successes, as became clear during an unintentionally hilarious yet telling State Department press conference in May. State’s Jen Psaki said that, in her view, “the president doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he’s done around the world.”
“Credit for what?” one reporter interrupted. “I’m sorry, credit for what?” The others in the room started laughing.
Around the same time, NBC’s Richard Engel, who is not known as a staunch critic for the administration, was asked to name a few countries with which relations have improved under Obama. His reply? “I think you would be hard pressed to find that…I think the reason is our allies have become confused.”
First under Bush and now under Obama, the one constant in American foreign policy is a lack of any conceivable constraint on whatever the president deems expedient at any moment in time. This is disastrous, especially when it comes to military and covert actions, because it precludes any serious public discussion and prioritization.
That’s not just bad for the U.S. It’s also bad for our allies, who have no framework by which to structure their own actions and expectations. The president is allowed to both declare red lines and then to ignore them when they are crossed, to dispatch troops or planes or supplies according to whim. In all of this, Obama in no way represents a break from Bush, but perfect continuity.
As The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake wrote for Reason back in 2010, the roots of this particularly strident new sense of imperial power can be traced back to the authorization of use of military force (AUMF) signed into law just a few days after the 9/11 attacks.
“Just as President Bush said the 9/14 resolution gave him the wartime powers to detain, interrogate, capture, and kill terrorists all over the world,” wrote Lake, “so too does President Obama.” Until recently — and because of pushback from characters such as Rand Paul, his fellow Republican Sen. Mike Lee, and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden — Congress has been especially deferential to all aspects of executive power when it comes to foreign policy and war-making.
The results are plain to see in the still-smoldering battlefields across the globe and the rapidly deteriorating situations in places as different as Ukraine, Egypt, and even the U.S. border with Mexico. When the executive branch has carte blanche to act however it wants, it can’t act effectively.
June 22, 2014
Nick Gillespie reports on the one war we should be happy to lose once and for all:
It turns out that Dick Cheney isn’t the only Bush administration muckety-muck still fighting the last war.
Even as the former vice-president took to the pages of The Wall Street Journal to blame Barack Obama for the deteriorating situation in Iraq, George W. Bush’s drug czar, John P. Walters, is arguing in Politico that no, really, victory in the war on drugs is just around the corner. We’ve just got to hold the line, don’t you see, especially against Barack Obama, “whose administration has facilitated marijuana legalization” despite also setting a record for federal raids against medical pot dispensaries in California.
More important, insists Walters, is that you understand “Why Libertarians Are Wrong About Drugs.” Well, OK. I know I’ve been wrong about drugs at times. For instance, I seriously worried that Colorado might have taxed its fully legal pot out of reach of most buyers, thus allowing a black market to thrive. But it turns out that the biggest problem in the Centennial State is how to spend extra tax revenues generated by pot sales, which are coming in 40 percent higher than expected. Oh yeah, and crime is down in Denver.
Recognizing that public opinion increasingly backs treating pot similar to beer, wine, and alcohol, Walters explains that the “the libertarian commitment to freedom should absolutely be acknowledged and, in a time of growing state control, defended. But, when it comes to drugs, libertarians have yet to grasp just how much drug abuse undermines individual freedom and erodes the very core of the libertarian ideal.”
This is simply the old, unconvincing argument that currently (read: arbitrarily) illegal drugs rob individuals of the ability to act rationally or purposefully and thus present a special case in which freedom must be disallowed. This canard is as worn as out as a meth addict’s gums. The same thing was said about booze in the run-up to Prohibition, of course: The man takes a drink and then the drink takes the man and all that.
May 23, 2014
April 30, 2014
Victor Davis Hanson sketches out the way US foreign policy changed when Barack Obama was elected:
The first-term foreign policy’s assumptions went something like this. Obama was to assure the world that he was not George W. Bush. Whatever the latter was for, Obama was mostly against. Given that Bush had left office with polls similar to Harry Truman’s final numbers, this seemed to Obama a wise political approach.
Second, policy per se would be secondary to Obama’s personal narrative and iconic status. Obama, by virtue of his nontraditional name, his mixed-race ancestry, and his unmistakably leftist politics, would win over America’s critics to the point where most disagreements — themselves largely provoked by prior traditional and blinkered administrations — would dissipate. Rhetoric and symbolism would trump Obama’s complete absence of foreign-policy experience.
Third, Obama had a clever recipe for concocting a new disengagement. He would mesh the increasing American weariness with intervention abroad and fears over a shaky economy with his own worldview about the dubious past role of the United States. The result might be that both libertarians and liberals, for differing reasons, would agree that we should stay out of problems abroad, that a struggling lower class and middle class would agree that money spent overseas was money that could be better spent at home, and that critiques of America’s past would seem not so much effusions of leftist ideology as practical reasons why the United States should disengage abroad.
Finally, to the degree that any problems still persisted, Obama could either contextualize them (given his legal training and community-organizing experience), or talk loudly and threaten. For example, by referencing past American sins, by an occasional ceremonial bow or apology, by a bit of psychoanalysis about “macho shtick” or the schoolboy Putin cutting up in the back of the room, an exalted Obama would show the world that he understood anti-social behavior and could ameliorate it as a counselor does with his emotional client. The world in turn would appreciate his patience and understanding with lesser folk, and react accordingly. Again, in place of policy would be the towering personality of Barack Obama. And if all that did not work, a peeved Obama could issue deadlines, red lines, and step-over lines to aggressors — and reissue them when they were ignored.
November 13, 2013
Ethanol was supposed to be an environmentally friendly substitute for gasoline, and it was renewable … but it’s not living up to promises:
With the Iowa political caucuses on the horizon in 2007, presidential candidate Barack Obama made homegrown corn a centerpiece of his plan to slow global warming. And when President George W. Bush signed a law that year requiring oil companies to add billions of gallons of ethanol to their gasoline each year, Bush predicted it would make the country “stronger, cleaner and more secure.”
But the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.
As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.
Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama’s watch.
Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.
Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, contaminated rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can’t survive.
The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy. But the Obama administration stands by it, highlighting its benefits to the farming industry rather than any negative impact.
September 18, 2013
In the October issue of Reason, Matt Welch talks to Jeremy Scahill about the changes in the role of the President from mere executive branch head to virtual dictator:
Jeremy Scahill has emerged in 2013 as one of the most trenchant and scathing critics of President Barack Obama’s prosecution of an open-ended war and unprecedented tactical framework launched by George W. Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney. “Obama,” Scahill writes in his new bestseller Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield (Nation), has gone from a candidate campaigning against Cheney’s War on Terror abuses to a president guaranteeing “that many of those policies would become entrenched, bipartisan institutions in U.S. national security policy for many years to come.”
Scahill’s 642-page critique, and the accompanying IFC documentary of the same name, picks up the journalistic baton from late-Bush-era books such as Charlie Savage’s 2007 Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy and Jane Mayer’s 2008 The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals. But while those books helped galvanize an anti-imperial, pro-civil liberties left in opposition to Republican politicians, Scahill’s tome, and his ongoing commentary on Twitter and for The Nation, stands as a harsh rebuke to those on the left who sold out those principles once Democrats regained power in Washington. “I think if McCain had been elected,” Scahill explains, “liberals would be crying impeachment over some of the stuff that Obama has done.”
Scahill, the 39-year-old author of the 2007 bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Nation), is steadfastly a man of the left — he has worked in the past with documentary polemicist Michael Moore and progressive Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. But he’s also a skilled and intense reporter with good sources inside the shadowy worlds of American special ops, rendition, torture, and assassination. If Democrats finally begin to hold the Obama administration to the standards by which they once judged its predecessor, Scahill will be a prominent reason why.
July 30, 2013
In The Atlantic, James Fallows explains why the NSA’s digital overreach has likely harmed US long-term interests in many different ways:
In short: because of what the U.S. government assumed it could do with information it had the technological ability to intercept, American companies and American interests are sure to suffer in their efforts to shape and benefit from the Internet’s continued growth.
American companies, because no foreigners will believe these firms can guarantee security from U.S. government surveillance;
American interests, because the United States has gravely compromised its plausibility as world-wide administrator of the Internet’s standards and advocate for its open, above-politics goals.
Why were U.S. authorities in a position to get at so much of the world’s digital data in the first place? Because so many of the world’s customers have trusted* U.S.-based firms like Google, Yahoo, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, etc with their data; and because so many of the world’s nations have tolerated an info-infrastructure in which an outsized share of data flows at some point through U.S. systems. Those are the conditions of trust and toleration that likely will change.
The problem for the companies, it’s worth emphasizing, is not that they were so unduly eager to cooperate with U.S. government surveillance. Many seem to have done what they could to resist. The problem is what the U.S. government — first under Bush and Cheney, now under Obama and Biden — asked them to do. As long as they operate in U.S. territory and under U.S. laws, companies like Google or Facebook had no choice but to comply. But people around the world who have a choice about where to store their data, may understandably choose to avoid leaving it with companies subject to the way America now defines its security interests.
Update: Also in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations, you’d think that Senator Ron Wyden would get the credit he clearly has been deserving all this time:
For many, many years we’ve covered Senator Ron Wyden’s seemingly quixotic attempts to signal to the American public (and press) that the NSA was doing a hell of a lot more surveillance than most people believed, even those who were carefully reading the laws. Because secrecy rules meant that he couldn’t directly reveal what he’d learned while on the Senate Intelligence Committee, he had to issue vague statements, documents and speeches hinting at things that were going on that he couldn’t actually talk about. Of course, now that Ed Snowden leaked a bunch of documents, it’s shown that Wyden was absolutely correct in what was going on (and that the American public wouldn’t like it).
You’d think that would lead people to have a lot more respect for the incredible efforts he went through to alert people to these issues without breaking the secrecy laws. And, in fact, many more people are aware of those efforts. The Washington Post has a nice article about Wyden’s attempts to bring these issues out and to get a real debate going on them.
However, towards the end, the reporter talks to two different former top lawyers at the NSA, who both appear to be really, really angry about Wyden daring to suggest to the public that the NSA wasn’t playing straight with the American public. First up, we’ve got Stewart Baker, the former NSA General Counsel and top Homeland Security official, who is so anti-civil liberties and pro-surveillance that he’s almost a caricature of himself — including claiming that the Boston bombings prove that Americans need less privacy and that civil libertarians complaining about too much surveillance are the real cause for the September 11 attacks.
May 1, 2013
In The Atlantic, Timothy P. Carney gives us a thumbnail sketch of the rise and rise of crony capitalism in the United States since 2004:
The 2005 and 2007 energy bills required drivers to buy ethanol, created a government loan-guarantee program for private sector green-energy projects, and effectively outlawed the traditional incandescent light bulb. Ethanol and the green-energy finance programs are pretty naked corporate welfare. General Electric and the light-bulb industry lobby supported the light-bulb law, which forces consumers to buy higher-profit-margin high-tech bulbs.
Then, 2008 saw an avalanche of corporate bailouts: Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Then the TARP bailed out all of Wall Street, and later General Motors and Chrysler.
Obama came to power in 2009 and signed an $800 billion stimulus bill supported by the Chamber of Commerce and loaded with goodies for the likes of Google and Solyndra. Obama pushed cap-and-trade with the support of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, a corporate coalition led by GE, which had set up a business to create and trade greenhouse-gas credits.
In June 2009, Obama signed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, a regulatory measure that Philip Morris supported and reportedly helped write — smaller competitors called it the “Marlboro Monopoly Act.” That same month, Wal-Mart, the country’s largest private-sector employer, publicly endorsed the employer mandate in health insurance that became part of Obamacare. The drug lobby wrote significant parts of Obamacare, and the hospital lobby liked the bill enough to file an amicus curiae brief with the Court defending the law from its challenge by states and the small business lobby.
Boeing and the Chamber of Commerce launched a full-court lobbying push in 2011 to save and expand the Export-Import Bank, the government agency Obama loves using to subsidize U.S. Exports — including lots of Boeing jets. In a lesser-known case of regulatory profiteering, Obama hired H&R Block’s CEO to a top position at the IRS, where he crafted new regulations on tax preparers — rules which H&R Block supported and small tax preparers sued to overturn.
April 22, 2013
Steve Chapman on the brutal legacy of torture of suspected terrorists during the Bush years:
The autopsy gave a spare account of how the 52-year-old man died. He suffered blunt force injuries on his torso and legs, and abrasions on his left wrist indicated he had been tied or shackled down. One of his neck bones was fractured. Death came “as a result of asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) due to strangulation,” and it was ruled a homicide.
It’s too much to hope for justice in this case, though. That’s because the homicide came at the hands of the administration of George W. Bush. The victim was an Iraqi whose demise occurred while he was in American custody. He was one of some 100 people who since 2001 have died while our government was holding them, some of whom were tortured to death.
The advocates of “enhanced interrogation” make it sound simple and effective. An uncooperative terrorist gets waterboarded and quickly agrees to spill vital secrets, or gets weary of being cold and sleep-deprived and divulges plots in time to stop them.
Dick Cheney and Co. never dwell on the captives who were subjected to prolonged and escalating brutality that failed to elicit the desired information — possibly because they didn’t have it. Those who favor this approach don’t mention the inmates who will never talk because they are in their graves.
Some of the tortured survived the ordeal. But living or dead, they have been consistently ignored by the American people, few of whom realize what cruelties have been inflicted in our name.
The victims were ignored again last week when an independent commission issued a report that said, “Perhaps the most important or notable finding of this panel is that it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture.” The report was released Tuesday — as the Boston Marathon bombs were eclipsing all other news.
March 21, 2013
In short, they don’t believe it’s mere ham-handedness, arrogance, and incompetence — they think it’s only supposed to look that way:
It’s instructive to view ourselves through a Russian mirror. The term “paranoid Russian” is a pleonasm. “The fact is that all Russian politicians are clever. The stupid ones are all dead. By contrast, America in its complacency promotes dullards. A deadly miscommunication arises from this asymmetry. The Russians cannot believe that the Americans are as stupid as they look, and conclude that Washington wants to destroy them,” I wrote in 2008 under the title “Americans play monopoly, Russians chess.” Russians have dominated chess most of the past century, for good reason: it is the ultimate exercise in paranoia. All the pieces on the board are guided by a single combative mind, and every move is significant. In the real world, human beings flail and blunder. For Russian officials who climbed the greasy pole in the intelligence services, mistakes are unthinkable, for those who made mistakes are long since buried.
From a paranoid perspective, it certainly might look as if Washington planned to unleash chaos. The wave of instability spreading through the Middle East from Syria is the direct result of American actions. [. . .]
If the Russians sound mad, consider this: there is another substantial body of opinion that sees an evil conspiracy behind American blundering in the Middle East, and it votes for Ron Paul and Rand Paul. I am not suggesting that Sen. Rand Paul is a paranoid, I hasten to clarify: I have never met the man and don’t presume to judge his state of mind. But his popularity stems in no small measure from conspiracy theorists who think that the U.S. government really is planning to criss-cross the continental United States with killer drones and pick off American citizens on their home soil. A lot of the same people think that America invaded Iraq on behalf of the oil companies (who would make a lot more money if Iraq were zapped by space aliens) or by the Israelis (who never liked the project from the outset). A fair sampling of such paranoia gets posted on the comments section of this site.
Thus we have the strangest pair of bedfellows in modern politics, the Russians and the rubes. Try to explain to them that George W. Bush was a decent and well-intentioned man without a clue as to the consequences of his actions, and they will dismiss it as disinformatsiya. Tell them that the New York Times and the Weekly Standard both believed in the Arab Spring as the herald of a new era of Islamic democracy, and they will see it as proof of a conspiracy embracing both the Democratic and Republican establishments. How, the paranoids ask, could two administrations in succession make so many blunders in succession? It stretches credibility. I wish it were a conspiracy. The truth is that we really are that dumb.
February 20, 2013
Frank Fleming has a minor, niggling concern that we should pay some attention to:
I believe I have noticed a problem with President Obama’s declaring that he can blow up Americans with drone strikes without due process.
Stick with me here; this is a bit of an esoteric argument. Now, like most people, I celebrate every time Obama obtains more power. Now he can do whatever he feels needs to be done for the country and not be burdened with getting the approval of his lessers first. So the more powerful the presidency, the better for us all. But I had a terrible thought: What if one day we get a bad president?
For instance, take this power to kill Americans with drones. No one worries that Obama will abuse such a power — I mean, we’re talking about a man who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize just for existing. It’s not like he’s ever going to use that power to blow us up (though, according to his lawyers, he legally could… and if he did, we’d just have to assume he had really, really good reasons). But just imagine if that power wound up in the hands of a president like George W. Bush. He’d probably blow up people with the drone all day, thinking he was playing a video game (“I’m gettin’ me a high score!”). Or worse yet, think of handing Dick Cheney that power. He’d most likely declare a unilateral war on kittens and puppies, blowing them up from the sky and then collecting the tears of children for some evil Halliburton project.
And the power to incinerate people isn’t the only power I fear could fall into the wrong hands. Like, what about the new authority the government has under President Obama to force people to buy things? That’s great for Obama to have, because he can force people to buy things they really do need to buy, like health care (and maybe in the future other things we all should really have, like hybrids or his memoirs). But think of what could happen if a president not as enlightened as Obama wielded such a power, backed by a Congress full of Republican troglodytes? They could make us all buy AR-15s or Big Gulps or Bibles or other dangerous, awful things.