In the New York Times, Ross Douthat points out that Barack Obama’s main criticisms of George W. Bush had to do with a perceived overreach of executive power:
WHEN George W. Bush was president of the United States, it was an article of faith among liberals that many of his policies were not just misguided but unconstitutional as well. On issues large and small, from the conduct of foreign policy to the firing of United States attorneys, the Bush White House pushed an expansive view of executive authority, and Democrats pushed right back — accusing it of shredding the constitution, claiming near-imperial powers and even corrupting the lawyers working in its service.
That was quite some time ago. Last week the Obama White House invoked executive privilege to shield the Justice Department from a Congressional investigation into a botched gunrunning operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The previous week the White House invoked powers that President Obama himself had previously claimed to lack, unilaterally revising the nation’s immigration laws by promising to stop enforcing them against a particularly sympathetic population.
Both moves were entirely characteristic of this presidency. Obama campaigned as a consistent critic of the Bush administration’s understanding of executive power — and a critic with a background in constitutional law, no less. But apart from his disavowal of waterboarding (an interrogation practice the Bush White House had already abandoned), almost the entire Bush-era wartime architecture has endured: rendition is still with us, the Guantánamo detention center is still open, drone strikes have escalated dramatically, and the Obama White House has claimed the right — and, in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, followed through on it — to assassinate American citizens without trial.
Douthat goes on the note that Obama’s reversals have generated barely a peep from liberals and the Democratic Party.
For the record, we agree with Douthat that some of Obama’s original complaints were overdrawn, and we are glad that he has not followed through on all that he promised when he was running for president in 2008. At the same time, his use of executive privilege has gone far beyond anything Bush or any other president ever contemplated, especially in his decision to stop enforcing immigration laws.
Meanwhile, that Obama still receives support from so-called progressives indicates that both they and he have been engaged in breathtaking hypocrisy over the years. They never cared about the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, or the people being killed there. They never cared about whether the president had received proper congressional authority to wage war. They never cared about rendition, torture, Guantanamo Bay, or the rights of suspected terrorists. They never cared about NSA spying or drone assassinations. They never cared about whether a president would lie to them, stonewall Congress, and claim executive privileged in order to avoid releasing documents showing illegality. They never cared about homosexual rights or gay marriage. They never cared about whether the president was forcing his religious views on others through his policies and executive actions. They never cared about budget shortfalls and government spending. They never cared about whether the president was observing Congress’s right of advice and consent. They never cared about whether the president was giving due respect for decisions handed down by the judiciary.
Yet, for eight solid years, these things were all they whined about, and even today they point fingers at Bush for these “crimes”, when they themselves are doubly guilty.
In the end, the only thing they cared about was getting their own man elected. They had no principles. Truth was not in them. It was and is all partisan politics. Loathsome, despicable, and dishonest, they dishonor the political discourse and their country.
Sadly, some on the right are little better. For example, Mitt Romney rejects some of what Obama has done, but mostly on grounds of policy and on the view that Obama and his team are inept. A consistent conservative position would be that many of Obama’s policies are not just wrong, but unconstitutional and illegal. Let’s be clear: Obama has a right to follow policies he sees fit, but he does not have a right to disobey the law and usurp the constitution. The proper conservative position should thus be disagreement on policy grounds, and outrage over the illegality. Romney is able to show some disagreement, but has no outrage and in fact seems largely oblivious to much of the illegality.
Does Romney really believe in limited executive or federal authority? If so, where does he draw the line?
At the same time, where do conservatives draw the line? While it is proper to acknowledge that Romney will be a better president than Obama and thus should be elected, is he to be given a free pass simply because he is our man? Are conservatives going to hold his feet to the fire on the basis of principle, or surrender to partisan hypocrisy just as the left has done?
This will be the true test of whether or not conservatism will survive the next four years.
- Scandals a Preview of Second Obama Term (commentarymagazine.com)
- Jon Stewart Laments Obama’s Executive Privilege Hypocrisy [Video] (gawker.com)
- Obama faces hypocrisy charge after saving A-G (yahoonews24.wordpress.com)
- Obama asserts presidential powers he once spoke out against (kansascity.com)
- Obama Was Against Executive Power Before he Was For It (whitehousedossier.com)
- The Obama Doctrine and the Rule of Law (powerlineblog.com)
- Why the House Must Impeach President Obama (lonelyconservative.com)
- Can Obama make an executive-privilege claim stick? (hotair.com)