Laying bare the myth of Obama’s beneficial presidency

How good can a president be when he continues the hated acts of his predecessor? How valuable can that president’s support be when they challenge the predecessor’s wrongdoing but remain virtually silent about continuing the same bad policies?

Glenn Greenwald on Bill Moyer’s Journal in a web exclusive (video, transcript) had this to say about President Obama’s continuation of rounding up people around the world and locking them up for as long as we like.

[O]ne of the principle controversies of the Bush Administration, one of the defining aspects of their radicalism, was the idea that we can take human beings who we don’t capture on a battlefield, who we simply abduct and pick up, who we suspect of engaging in terrorism and put them into cages for years or decades without having to charge them with any crime.

That — simply based on executive authority — the ability to point to someone and say, “This is a terrorist,” then justifies the elimination of all due process and putting them into prison forever. Obama, several months ago, said that he not only believes in that power, but wanted Congress to enact a statute that would permanently enshrine this theory of law into Presidential power.

He gave up on that because there was going to be difficulty in terms of getting the bill that he wanted passed through the Congress. So, instead what he did was he embraced the Bush/Cheney justification as to why the President can do that, which is that the Congress implicitly authorized it.

And so, we’re continuing our scheme of indefinite lawless detention, free of due process, free of any charges of any kind. Where we can pick up people anywhere around the world and put them into cages. He’s actively defending that power in Afghanistan, by saying that people who we abduct far away from the battlefield, far away from Afghanistan, and then ship to Afghanistan and imprison at Bagram have no rights even to habeas corpus, which the Supreme Court said at least that Guantanamo detainees have.

And so, that’s just one example where for years liberals yelled and screamed vehemently that Bush was subverting the Constitution and degrading the American culture, political culture, by asserting this power. And yet, here you have Barack Obama not just refusing or taking his time undoing it, but himself actively defending and advocating it. And there’s very little outcry. And that repeats itself in terms of the state secrets privilege. And the effort to block accountability for torture victims. And a whole variety of other powers that Bush and Cheney asserted to great controversy.

Glenn Greenwald

The Left has profoundly mischaracterized Obama’s campaign promise to end the use of Guantanamo Bay: during the campaign this was widely celebrated as a reason to vote for Obama. But even if that prison is destroyed and never to be used again, the US maintains a system of prisons around the world (some unknown to us, I can only guess). It’s reasonable to believe that in those other prisons the US tortures (whether directly or by proxy hardly matters) and detains people indefinitely. Shifting the site of illegal unethical behavior is not the same as ceasing that behavior.

Obama’s support for your civil liberties is profoundly lacking. You’ll recall his administrations support of the telecommunications corporations’ illegal wiretapping which surpassed the Bush administration.

I hope that by the time Obama’s first term is over we can look at his presidency and name a dozen seriously beneficial things he has done for the US (ideally, 12 things John McCain would have been unlikely to do). Not being Bush isn’t good enough.