From time to time, my conservative friends and followers have accused me of being blind. They have asserted that my admiration for Barack Obama has no bounds; therefore, I have completely lost my objectivity. No, I don’t think I’m blind, but I have cut this president a significant amount of slack. I am hoping that the president begins to craft policies on civil liberties that parallel progressive ideals and his rhetoric. For the last couple of months, I feel as though I’ve been watching an episode of The West Wing, an episode where President Bartlet is not really making decisions but is instead just sticking his toe in the water to see how it will play politically.
I watched the President’s speech last night with great anticipation. I was almost salivating. I was hoping the president would boldly do something, anything. Now, I’m not one of those who has been criticizing the president for not fixing the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. I know that he is not an engineer and does not have a degree in oceanography or hydrodynamics. He is the president of the United States, however, and he should have and could have introduced some programs, to be reimbursed by BP, for the Gulf Coast residents. He could have and should have asked Congress to introduce legislation to restore the Superfund. This fund would be used to clean up toxic spills like this. The fund would be paid for by taxes and fines on industry. He did none of this. Basically he said nothing new. I found it extremely disappointing.
Let me get back to civil liberties — out of all the issues I had with the Bush administration, this was the worst. The Bush administration claimed that the president had the power to detain somebody indefinitely, without trial. The Bush administration claimed that to protect the United States they should be able to snatch somebody and take them somewhere without any judicial oversight — renditions. All of this has been endorsed by the Obama administration. As a matter fact, in court, the Obama administration has been arguing to keep all of the Bush administration’s transgressions in place. I was hoping that Barack Obama would slowly and steadily phase out these transgressions. Not only has he not phased them out, he has aggressively embrace them. Mister President, as one of your biggest supporters, I ask you to stop this.
Glenn Greenwald has a lot more:
When ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero last week addressed the progressive conference America’s Future Now,he began by saying: “I’m going to start provocatively . . . I’m disgusted with this president.” Last night, after Obama’s Oval Office speech, Jon Stewart began his show with an 8-minute monologue on Obama’s executive power and civil liberties record which, in essence, provided just some of the reasons why Romero’s strong condemnation is so justified. None of this will be remotely new to any readers here, but it’s still nice to see its being distilled so clearly by a voice which even the most hardened Obama loyalists have decided is a credible and trustworthy one (at least when he’s mocking Sarah Palin and exposing Fox News; we’ll see what reaction this provokes from them, if any). One point: contrary to the blatant strawman incessantly raised by those loyalists, note that the criticisms here are not grounded in complaints that Obama has failed to act quickly enough to usher in progressive policies — let’s repeat that: the vast bulk of criticisms of Obama are not grounded in complaints that he has failed to act quickly enough to usher in progressive policies — but are insteadbased on horrendous policies which Obama himself has affirmatively and explicitly adopted as his own, many of which directly contradict what he vowed to do as President (speaking of which: see this NYT Editorial today lambasting what it describes as the Obama administration’s disgraceful and inexcusable conduct in the Maher Arar case):