Written by Phil Guarnieri Friday, 25 January 2013 00:00
If you blinked, you missed it. In fact, the silence from Democrats and the media who chronically warned of the dire threat being posed to the American Republic speaks volumes. Indeed, condemnations back then of the president and his accomplice Dick “Darth Vader” Cheney were deafening and quotidian.
Yet, with the full support of the Obama Administration, Washington renewed the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that was scheduled to expire at the end of 2012, without hearing so much as a cat’s meow. So what happened to Attorney General Eric Holder who was so aghast over these tactics of White House-directed eavesdropping that he accused the President of the United States as acting in direct defiance of federal law?
What can we conclude about Messrs. Obama and Holder now that they have adopted the methods of their political enemies: Have they been born again? The verisimilitudes between the respective administrations are too conspicuous to deny congruence. What happened is the Obama Administration was hit by a Mack truck with the license plate: Reality.
After the 2008 presidential election, I wrote in a mayor’s message that now that Mr. Obama is responsible for national security and the safety of the American people he would not, as he promised as senator, filibuster or support a filibuster of any bill that granted telecom companies immunity from lawsuits for cooperating with intelligence agencies. It took no great prescience to know that President Obama and Senator Obama would differ on this issue. Nor is the absence of any vitriol about Obama being an enemy of civil liberties surprising, even though his predecessor was tarred and feathered for actions essentially indistinguishable.
I suppose Bush 43 could find consolation in the old saw that “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” But I understand the political dynamic. Richard Nixon could open the door to Red China with little angst being expressed by most Republicans because of his irrefutable anti-communist reputation. If George McGovern had been elected president, the outcry of him making such an overture would have been overwhelming. Similarly, Bill Clinton could safely enact welfare reform, but not Ronald Reagan who would have been crucified as being cruel and callous toward the poor. So I understand the forces at play, it’s just interesting about who becomes associated with an “Imperial Presidency,” as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. first called it.
It’s not as if the threats facing the United States can be attributed to some theatrical illusion; a phantasmagoric vision conjured by those warmongers in the Pentagon whose building less than 12 years ago was aflame with burning jet fuel. Not since Pearl Harbor has there been a fire alarm as big as 9-11. After that dagger to the heart, it would have been criminal for Americans to go back to the guilelessness of Henry Stimson, Secretary of State under Herbert Hoover, who shut down the Foggy Bottom’s Code Bureau on the grounds that “gentlemen don’t read other gentlemen’s mail.”
I can’t think of anything more aposematic than terrorists determined to do great harm to this nation. America had no choice but to embark on a defensive posture that was offensive in nature. The tools of mass murder are very ascertainable; hence hostile acts don’t have to be actual, only imminent for resistance to be justifiable. What’s the sense of political society if it can’t defend itself —- even if that means pre-emptive action? For those who find this proposition morally suspect or logically untenable, than let them be enlightened through the alembic of the subtle and nuanced mind of Thomas Aquinas, who thoroughly vetted out (Just War Theory) the complicated shades of steering between militarism and pacifism in a manner universally satisfactory for those who have done the hard thinking on the subject.
We can cavil about the loss of civil liberties, but as Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once lectured to Constitutional absolutists, “The Bill of Rights is not a suicide pact.” It would serve us well to remember that no American statesman violated the maxims of civil liberties more persistently and ruthlessly than the sainted Abraham Lincoln and no one was more careful of them than his revolutionary counterpart, Jefferson Davis.
There are no hard and fast rules when reconciling national security with civil liberties, but I think a bi-partisan consensus is and has been bridged ever since Obama has been president, since Democrats are now more likely to support such initiatives. That consensus should roughly be defined as follows: The protection of civil liberties should be assessed in direct proportion to the threats facing the nation. I’m pleased the Commander in Chief is exercising the presidential prerogatives inherent in the Article II war powers as well as being steadfastly unapologetic to the left in using some stringent anti-terrorist measures, including many utilized by the Bush Administration.
Thus far the Obama Doctrine, to the extent there is one, can be defined as one energetically disposed to use intelligence and high-tech Drones to battle not only international terrorism but to also avoid military actions that might quagmire American troops in enemy territory. We can debate the merits of that strategy, but clearly President Obama has moved from an earlier tepidness in marshaling resources to fight America’s enemies to more vigorous means to thwart their designs. In other words, I think President Obama as opposed to candidate Obama realizes America has a terrorist problem. Too bad he doesn’t see that America also has a spending problem.