How Democrats learned to stop worrying and embrace the imperial presidency

Imagine, for a moment, that these were George W. Bush’s policies at work. A quest for regime change in Libya, conducted without even a pro forma request for Congressional approval. A campaign of remote-controlled airstrikes, in which collateral damage is inevitable, carried out inside a country where we are not officially at war. A policy of targeted assassination against an American citizen who has been neither charged nor convicted in any U.S. court.

Imagine the outrage, the protests, the furious op-eds about right-wing tyranny and neoconservative overreach. Imagine all that, and then look at the reality. For most Democrats, what was considered creeping fascism under Bush is just good old-fashioned common sense when the president has a “D” beside his name…

Now that Democrats have learned to stop worrying and embrace the imperial presidency, the United States lacks a strong institutional check on the tendency toward executive hubris and wartime overreach. The speed with which many once-dovish liberals rallied behind the Libyan war — at best a gamble, at worst a folly — was revealing and depressing. The absence of any sustained outcry over the White House’s willingness to assassinate American citizens without trial should be equally disquieting.