Obama “Devastating” for Civil Liberties

It’s not just Glenn Greenwald any more; other civil libertarians from the left are beginning to speak out. Jonathan Turley on NPR about his September 2011 LA Times op-ed:

They just have a very difficult time opposing a man who’s an icon and has made history – the first black president, but also the guy that replaced George Bush. And the result is something akin to the Stockholm syndrome, where you’ve got this identification with your captor. I mean, the Democratic Party is split, civil libertarians are split, and the Democratic Party itself is now viewed by most civil libertarians as very hostile toward civil liberties.

More here.

10 thoughts on “Obama “Devastating” for Civil Liberties

  1. I think you forgot to put a piece of policy in your post that specifically indicates this “devastating” impact on civil liberties. I really dislike it when this blog tries to get all FoxNews-like and partisan. It seems really low and naive (and/or sinister). Let’s face it: neither party is any better than the other at promoting or protecting civil liberties. I mean, it was Gingrich who was going after the COURTS a couple months ago for cryin out loud. The Bush admin invented a war and the DHS. Honestly, if Romney had a hope in hell of beating Obama (and he doesn’t) then he would change squat. Bashing the Democrats is a waste of time, everyone knows they’re corrupt. And sneaky. I think it’s more productive to debate theory.

  2. I wasn’t trying to make a partisan point (I’m not a partisan), but to note an apparently growing rift between Obama and some of his former supporters. That rift seems politically noteworthy.

  3. I agree that while this kind of talk from Republican-leaning civil libertarians (Ron Paul) is not news, hearing it from the Democrat bench is indeed “politically noteworthy”. Thank you, Jason.

  4. It’s no more ‘politically noteworthy’ than to point out the internal strife eviscerating the Republican party’s federal organization in this primary. What little troubles the Democrats are having keeping their footmen in line is pithy in comparison to the renegading egotism and populist rage of Newt Gingrich.

    With regards to this article let’s be specific: the only concrete criticism of Obama (that is, something Obama has actually done or not done) was the fact that he has not prosecuted those involved in Guantanamo. Maybe this is what should be debated. Is it right to prosecute individuals following orders? Is this the president’s job? Who gave those orders and why are they not being punished — oh, wait! The office of the presidency sanctioned torture; but now it is the office of the presidency who is to hold itself accountable for its own actions? This is an anachronism. Just imagine the legal implications of this simply asinine suggestion: an anti-abortionist is elected next year, and prosecutes all former living presidents for genocide, which was legal until the new guy came into power and made it otherwise. This would entirely disrupt any semblance of coherency the courts have left. It’s the same sort of shortsighted silliness that kept the financial oligopolists afloat after 2008: inconsistency seems like ‘the right thing to do’ in this one particular instance, and so in order to appease people’s frustration with their own ignorance it is permitted. The law is (or at least requires the aesthetics of) an eternal, universal institution. You cannot simply change policy such that the formerly legal actions are punishable after the fact. This issue lies near the heart of constitutionalism.

    There is nothing inherently illegal about Guantanamo. The United States has bases everywhere, and while this is indeed a problematic element of US foreign policy, I highly doubt Obama would win many votes of approval for ending this century-old tradition overnight. He did ask for closer monitoring of the interrogation process. To take further action than that request would have been suggesting (admitting) that the US executive entered into illegal activity, which — since long before Watergate — has been a non-possibility, ESPECIALLY by the executive itself. Furthermore, I have heard of no such cases of torture since. I think this issue is far more complicated than the article makes it out to be (it is basically a non-article, with little that can be referenced, and a lot of emotional ignition), Obama has a lot to politically lose vs. gain on it, and I read what he is doing as essentially an attempt to save-face for his country by preserving the legitimacy of the executive.

    Not that, in my eyes, he really can. But my point is that he is essentially doing what he has to, and that criticizing him for it must be either: a) an attempt at partisan propaganda, or b) an incomplete understanding of the issue at hand. Perhaps you simply haven’t thought through what the legal implications of an investigation into Guantanamo might be, or what it is you concretely would like to see the president do — until then, I’m afraid this is more akin to the rhetoric-style of Occupy than a serious discussion of libertarian philosophy.

  5. Assassinating people on his say-so alone? Codifying indefinite detention on his say-so alone? Escalating deportations? Reneging on his promise to end medical marijuana raids? For civil libertarians, these are important issues. If you’re not a civil libertarian, that’s fine, but many are – and are deeply concerned about the records of both Democrats and Republicans on these issues.

    1. Now you are resorting to ambiguous arguments outside of the article to smear-attack the president (you might source your exterior references so that people can follow what your saying).

      What was specific in that particular article, however (before the implication that the president is not criticized because he is black…what?), was the frustration that Obama has not prosecuted those involved in the torture allegations, acts which were committed legally during the second Bush era. The basis of civil liberty, if your unaware, is the consistency and equality of the rule of law. There was nothing, as unsettling as it may seem, about these actions which were ‘illegal’ — the system in fact allowed for these actions. You cannot prosecute people for anything that is not illegal. If you have a problem with the military court system, US bases abroad, the executive sanction of unwarranted violence abroad, or anything of this nature — fine, I’ll agree with you. But these are not specifically ‘Obama-issues’, and it is your singling out of Obama as the sole bearer of guilt in this dilemma that makes me suspicious.

  6. For those of us who were hopeful that Obama would be better on civil liberties than the previous administration (and even voted for him), his record has been awful. His policies are at best the same as Bush when it comes to civil liberties. So, yes, these are “specifically ‘Obama-issues'”. And I think it is interesting to note that these criticisms are spreading to outlets like NPR which, while it is better than some, tends to toe the official line on war and terrorism issues.

    Also, the “you just don’t understand, we HAVE to hold people in indefinite detention without charges” argument is morally bankrupt.

  7. If you are naive enough to believe that a democrat social-organizer was going to be any sort of improvement when it comes to civil liberties then I’m afraid you just don’t understand democrat ideology, for one. Their whole platform is based on the ‘redistribution of wealth’, which involves forcing people to surrender their property to other people. Government-run schools, hospitals, infrastructure projects, welfare programs all need to be funded by someone who can afford to pay for it. Hardly a classical liberal concept.

    I think there were a number of other reasons for voted in Obama, but they sure didn’t have anything to do with an improvement upon civil liberty. A splitting fear of Palin and the irresponsibility of the former Republican regime might have had something to do with it. A minute symbol of progress in American civility by way having finally elected a president who wasn’t a white may have played its part. But liberty? Neither party stands for that in the least (with the possible occasional exception of Ron Paul). You have to go with the lesser of two evils.

    As to the ‘moral bankruptcy’ of my argument (if I were to stop defending myself here I would be upholding the same standard of argument as yours above), in the article – should you care to read it – this Turley fellow says that Obama should be prosecuting those involved in the allegations of torture. I’m saying that this exceeds his jurisdiction and is a bigger threat to American civil liberties than the existence of a military base in Cuba.

    If you have a problem with Guantanamo, and I sure do, then you need to support your opinion. Why that one base, exactly? Because you saw it on the news? Why not those all over Latin America, Japan, Europe, the Middle East? Do you think that shutting down Guantanamo will be the thing that rectifies America’s foreign military presence? No! This was a poster-boy to begin with, and your obsessing over this particular scratch on the side of a car-wreck is a testament to the simple-mindedness that the media discourse perpetuates in its viewers! There is no point in shutting down this base if there are dozens across the globe; it would just be a nuisance generals would smirk about for a long time coming.

    If you seriously think that Guantanamo should be shut down, you might consider the ends, exactly. Because someone got waterboarded there? Because someone was detained without charges? Your country just arbitrarily invaded and occupied Iraq for a decade, killing thousands and thousands of completely innocent people. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it likely won’t be the last. If you believe in the human liberty then the problem is interventionism, the CIA, and the military-industrial complex, not Obama leaving open one base in the Gulf. The Republicans party will cry hypocrite all day long just to get back into office again and do the exact same thing as Obama (my personal opinion is that they are generally even worse), and this tendency leads me to think that articles of the breed above are politically or financially motivated, and otherwise rather unserious. Maybe the guy wants some attention and he knows criticizing the president will get him some. Maybe he just got miffed at a press conference. Who knows what he was thinking, but his suggestion that it is the president’s responsibility to prosecute the accused torturers acting over four years ago is ridiculous, and the idea that shutting down one US base makes any difference in the world is pathetically short-circuited.

  8. Hey Jason unrelated to this thread, but once primary season settles down I’d be interested in you looking at some of your past attempts to chart the libertarian vote through contributions and votes for Ron Paul in the 2008 Republican Primary and look at his 2012 performance. I know you tried to extrapolate out a prediction for 2012 based on Paul’s stronger performance earlier on in places like Iowa, but I’d like to know down the road how his 2012 performance compares to the 2008 performance. Is it just stronger everywhere, or does he end up outperforming in certain areas/states/regions. Would be interesting for libertarian-leaning Republicans looking at long term strategy.

  9. Yep – in the relatively short run I hope to update my RP forecasts for the remaining primaries and caucuses. It’s looking as if his support is not “overdispersed” as it was in 2008, perhaps because the incremental gains since then have been among voters who are more like non-RP voters and not particularly motivated to turn out.

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