Way back at the beginning of February, just a few weeks into his presidency, Barack Obama shocked his supporters by sending his lawyers into court in an attempt to maintain some of the extraordinary autocratic presidential powers created under George W. Bush. The case involved torture, kidnapping, illegal imprisonment, government secrecy, and Executive Branch dominance over the other branches of government. People had been kidnapped by agents of the Bush Administration, flown to secret prisons in foreign countries where they were tortured, without any trial through which they could defend themselves – and now, those people were suing the American government for compensation, and in order to expose the truth.
President Barack Obama opposed them. Obama’s lawyers declared that, as President, Obama could hide evidence of the extraordinary rendition, the kidnapping, imprisonment and torture of the plaintiffs. Obama could refuse to comply with a subpoena for information about these terrible abuses, his lawyers said, just because he’s the President. Obama could just declare the information a state secret, without providing any evidence to support the connection of the information to national security interests. Obama, like Bush before him, was claiming that the President could act without any Judicial Branch check on his authority.
It was plain as day that Barack Obama’s actions were not matching his rhetoric. Obama’s high minded speeches about change were being followed by Obama’s actions to preserve the worst abuses of power under George W. Bush. So, Obama’s supporters were faced with a choice: They could continue to support the ideals that had led them to support the 2008 Obama campaign, or they could continue to support Obama, the individual. The two were no longer compatible.
Most Obama supporters chose to support Obama, the individual, rather than to hold true to their ideals. Of course, they didn’t describe this decision in those terms. Instead, they came up with excuses for Obama. Prime among these was that Obama just needed more time to clean up the messes Bush had made. Just wait, they told us, and we’d see Barack Obama doing the right thing.
Now, months later, has Obama done what he promised? Has he changed course? Has he now moved to right the wrongs associated with extraordinary rendition under George W. Bush?
On Friday, Obama’s lawyers intervened again in a court case brought by people who had been kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured through Bush’s rendition program. This time, in the case Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen, lawyers sent by Obama told the court that the legal rights of the plaintiffs should be disregarded. Obama’s assertion: Allowing information about the Bush Administration’s program of illegal imprisonment and torture through extraordinary rendition “would pose an unacceptable risk to national security”. Obama claimed extraordinary rendition as a state secret that no one could force him to reveal.
Think about the implications of this argument. If exposing American methods of extraordinary rendition really would create a risk to national security, that would mean that the government, under Obama, is still engaging in extraordinary rendition, or plans to in the future.
Is this what Obama supporters voted for? Did they work to elect a new President in order to see that President defend the policies of George W. Bush?
Barack Obama is charismatic. He has a pleasant demeanor. When he gives speeches, he speaks of high ideals.
The President of the United States is not, however, the Speaker-in-Chief. The President is the chief executive. It is the deeds, not the words, of the President that matter.
Obama’s deeds are matching Bush’s deeds, and it’s not because Obama hasn’t had enough time to get it right, or is too busy with the economy. President Obama is taking extra time to uphold the politics of fear established under President Bush.
People who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, if they are to be honest, need to stop denying the problem. They need to make a moral choice: They need to decide whether they will accept the rotten ideas of George W. Bush simply because they are now embodied in the more stylish person of Barack Obama.
There are some who are choosing to remain true to their ideals, rather than following the amoral Obama cult of personality. Among these people is Ben Wizner, attorney with the ACLU. Responding to Friday’s action by Obama’s lawyers, Wizner made the following observation:
“The Obama Administration has now fully embraced the Bush administration’s shameful effort to immunize torturers and their enablers from any legal consequences for their actions. The CIA’s rendition and torture program is not a ‘state secret;’ it’s an international scandal. If the Obama administration has its way, no torture victim will ever have his day in court, and future administrations will be free to pursue torture policies without any fear of liability.”
Obama supporters, are you okay with this or not? If not, what are you going to do about it?