Since the end of the Bush Administration, mainstream liberal opposition to expansions of Executive power has almost completely disappeared. It didn’t take long, either; as noted by Ed in February 2010, only 97 House Democrats opposed renewal of the Patriot Act. And as Adam Serwer pointed in Mother Jones back in May:
Liberals have been largely content to use Obama’s body count to defend his foreign policy record without confronting the moral implications of our vastly expanded covert battle against Al Qaeda and its affiliates…That’s a tragic abdication of responsibility that will have profound implications for national security in the future.
Serwer is correct, though admittedly both Democrats and Republicans have been hypocrites when it comes to changing political viewpoints – many Republicans in Washington were fine with deficits and the individual mandate until 2009, after all. However, this version of political partisanship is getting ridiculous, as two recent examples show.
First, just yesterday Serwer reported that some in Congress are beginning to remember the institution is a co-equal branch of the federal government. Serwer cites two measures making their way through Congress, and a little digging through the links he provides shows that while one Democratic Senator, Pat Leahy, joined with Republican Senators Grassley and Cornyn to put pressure on the President, all other Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee were satisfied to continue allowing Obama near-absolute freedom to kill American citizens.
The other was brought to my attention by my good friend Nick R. Brown. Nick has put together a video, seen below, outlining how a number of Bush-era Executive Orders on Iraq have recently been extended by President Obama. From Nick’s post:
If liberals are truly the party of peace, the party that stems from the generation of the ’60′s era mantra, “Question Authority,” and the party that protested in mass against the Bush-era wars, then why are we still not seeing the same outcry in regards to Obama’s continuation of Iraqi and Afghani policy and his new CIA led “secret” war in Pakistan using drones?
Again, hypocrisy is always a problem in Washington, but by and large the nation’s non-conservative media has decided to ignore this particular hypocrisy. One liberal has kept the pressure up on Obama, however, and was kind enough to e-mail a quote for this post. From Salon’s Glenn Greenwald (emphasis not added):
Many partisans seem to believe that Constitutional constraints are necessary only when a bad person — meaning someone from the other party — is in power.
Conservatives spent the Clinton years protesting secret wiretapping courts and government encryption powers, only to turn under during the Bush years and cheer for the implementation of every radical expansion of executive power and surveillance programs.
Meanwhile, liberals who spent the Bush years screeching about the evils of eavesdropping and detention without judicial review or transparency are now perfectly fine with Obama’s seizure of the far more extreme power of assassinating people without judicial review.
Everyone can learn from the admonition of Thomas Jefferson (“In questions of power…let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution”) and John Adams (“”There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty“).