April 24, 2009

WSJ: At 90 Days, Bipartisanship Out, Authoritarianism In

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 10:30 am

From its Wednesday editorial (bolds are mine):

Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.

….. until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

If this analogy seems excessive, consider how Mr. Obama has framed the issue. He has absolved CIA operatives of any legal jeopardy, no doubt because his intelligence advisers told him how damaging that would be to CIA morale when Mr. Obama needs the agency to protect the country. But he has pointedly invited investigations against Republican legal advisers who offered their best advice at the request of CIA officials.

“Your intelligence indicates that there is currently a level of ‘chatter’ equal to that which preceded the September 11 attacks,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, in his August 1, 2002 memo. “In light of the information you believe [detainee Abu] Zubaydah has and the high level of threat you believe now exists, you wish to move the interrogations into what you have described as an ‘increased pressure phase.’”

So the CIA requests a legal review at a moment of heightened danger, the Justice Department obliges with an exceedingly detailed analysis of the law and interrogation practices — and, seven years later, Mr. Obama says only the legal advisers who are no longer in government should be investigated. The political convenience of this distinction for Mr. Obama betrays its basic injustice.

….. Just as with the AIG bonuses, he is trying to co-opt his left-wing base by playing to it — only to encourage it more. Within hours of Mr. Obama’s Tuesday comments, Senator Carl Levin piled on with his own accusatory Intelligence Committee report. The demands for a “special counsel” at Justice and a Congressional show trial are louder than ever, and both Europe’s left and the U.N. are signaling their desire to file their own charges against former U.S. officials.

Mr. “Rules for Radicals” may really want all of this after all.

No one who watched during 2007 and 2008 with an open mind could miss the authoritarian streak Barack Obama and his apparatchiks exhibited during the presidential campaign, from the candidate’s petty, seething, grudge-carrying anger (“I’m putting you on notice about my ears”), to harassing everyday people (HT Daily Insults), to intimidating radio stations. So no one should be surprised to see it now that he’s in the White House. That it’s gone beyond things like de facto nationalization of the nation’s largest car company and attempting to micromanage the banking system is, at best, a mild surprise.

Taranto at Best of the Web has correctly identified the seriousness of what were seeing:

What Obama is offhandedly contemplating, then, amounts to a step toward authoritarian government. The impulse behind the push to prosecute is an authoritarian one as well.

…. If those now in power yield to the temptation to use authoritarian means–however well-intentioned their ends may be–they will set a precedent that their opponents, perhaps equally well-intentioned, may one day use against them.

…. It may be that the president can put out this fire only through bold and irreversible action–to wit, by issuing a blanket pardon of former officials and intelligence agents for their actions in the war on terror.

Fat chance. He and his administration won’t even call the War on Terror what it is — or maybe was.



  1. I think the implications of the push to criminalize policy difference goes beyond what WSJ and others are saying at the moment. It takes us out of the realm of being a free country and truly into the realm of a police state. It would also be a violation of the President’s sworn duty to protect and uphold the Constitution. If this is allowed to proceed to the point that the OLC attorneys are actually prosecuted, then I think civil strife is forseeable.

    Comment by GW — April 24, 2009 @ 3:30 pm

  2. #1, I think it’s the beginning of an evolution, or actually devolution, to that point — a devolution that doesn’t take as long as one might think.

    Comment by TBlumer — April 24, 2009 @ 4:27 pm

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