Pity poor Glenn Greenwald, who thought the left’s opposition to Bush’s counterterror policies was based on something more profound than crude partisan tribalism. Why he thought that, I don’t know: The writing was on the wall when the anti-war movement started dying even as Obama geared up for a surge of tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan. In fact, I’ll bet O now regrets banning enhanced interrogation so soon after his inauguration. At the rate we’re going, we might be seeing 60+ percent support among liberals for waterboarding too.
The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, even though it emerged as a symbol of the post-Sept. 11 national security policies of George W. Bush, which many liberals bitterly opposed.
Obama has also relied on armed drones far more than Bush did, and he has expanded their use beyond America’s defined war zones. The Post-ABC News poll found that 83 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s drone policy, which administration officials refuse to discuss, citing security concerns…
But fully 77 percent of liberal Democrats endorse the use of drones, meaning that Obama is unlikely to suffer any political consequences as a result of his policy in this election year.
Support for drone strikes against suspected terrorists stays high, dropping only somewhat when respondents are asked specifically about targeting American citizens living overseas, as was the case with Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni American killed in September in a drone strike in northern Yemen.
The most generous spin you can put on this for the left is that it’s not so much that they’re gung ho for these policies as that they trust Obama won’t abuse them. Some, for instance, might have opposed them initially simply because they feared that the programs would be expanded in terrifying ways under the dreaded neocon imperialist warmonger Bush. I remember in the last few months of his presidency reading comments online wondering if he’d declare martial law and cancel the election; when you’re that paranoid about a president, you might be inclined to oppose his every move on everything simply to tie his hands as much as possible. One he’s gone, replaced by the smiling Unicorn Prince, the anxiety eases and opposition sags. That’s partisanship 101: Our guy’s one of us and therefore his intentions are good, so if he thought it was important to drop a bomb on Awlaki, eh, I guess he had his reasons. It’s not that they’re endorsing Gitmo, in other words, it’s that they’re endorsing O’s good faith and responsible stewardship. Again, this is the charitable spin.
Even in that case, though, three things are clear. One: Obviously, they have no deep objection to Gitmo or drone strikes on the merits. If the president’s good faith is all that’s needed to sanitize the policies then there’s nothing terribly dirty about them in the abstract. Two: Equally obviously, they’re willing to tolerate the policies being expanded. Had Bush sent drones after a U.S. citizen, it would have given the left aneurysms, but here’s O doing it and everyone’s okay with that. Is that because they think the policy is an affirmatively good thing, or is it simply that Obama hasn’t exhausted his line of trust-credit with the left yet? I was joking in what I said about waterboarding up top, but now I wonder. Three: They’re repudiating their own core argument during the Bush years about the rule of law. Public officials can’t be trusted because even the well-intentioned ones are susceptible to being corrupted by power; only the rule of law, replete with oversight and checks and balances, can keep them honest. Turns out most of the left doesn’t really believe that, but apparently thinks it’s only the ill-intentioned ones — as the Bushitler was alleged to be — who need watching. Both sides are prone to this error when it’s their guy in charge, but go figure that liberals, who trust government to intervene benevolently in all sorts of policy areas, would tolerate Obama being a little more interventionist than they thought he’d be when it comes to killing and imprisoning terrorists.
Ah well. The silver lining for Greenwald and other principled opponents is that these will all become horrible perversions of democracy again if/when Mitt Romney is elected this fall. Once again he and the rest will be the tip of the legal spear against an out-of-control warmonger president instead of a daily dose of online absolution for those who’ve betrayed the cause. In honor of the moment, enjoy this trailer for what I’m calling the greatest movie ever made. It’s totally cool to hoot and laugh at it now, but if Romney wins it’ll be quite crass and insensitive.