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Intellectual Honesty From A Principled Liberal

It was on full display today by Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian:

Progressive willingness to acquiesce to or even outright support Obama's radical policies - in the name of partisan loyalty - is precisely what ensures the continuation of those policies. Obama gets away with all of this because so many progressives venerate leader loyalty and partisan gain above all else.

What's most remarkable about this willingness to endorse extremist policies because you "trust" the current leader exercising them is how painfully illogical it is, and how violently contrary it is to everything Americans are taught from childhood about their country. It should not be difficult to comprehend that there is no such thing as vesting a Democratic President with Power X but not vesting a GOP President with the same power. To endorse a power in the hands of a leader you like is, necessarily, to endorse the power in the hands of a leader you dislike.

Like Bob Herbert's statement - "policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House" - this is so obvious it should not need to be argued. As former Bush and Obama aide Douglas Ollivant told the NYT yesterday about the "trust" argument coming from some progressives: "That's not how we make policy. We make policy assuming that people in power might abuse it. To do otherwise is foolish."

It is not hyperbole to say that the overarching principle of the American founding was that no political leaders - no matter how kind and magnanimous they seem - could or should be trusted to exercise power in the dark, without checks. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1798: "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." Six years earlier, John Adams warned: "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." James Madison, in Federalist 51, explained: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

This is not just basic American political history. It's basic human nature. And the greater the power is - and there is no greater power than targeting citizens for execution - the more urgent those principles are. Watching progressive media figures outright admit that trust in Barack Obama as Leader guides their unprincipled political arguments is only slightly more jarring than watching them embrace that mentality while pretending they're not. Whatever else is true, watching the political movement that spent years marching behind the banner of "due process" and "restraints on presidential power" and "our Constitutional values" now explicitly defend the most radical policy yet justified by the "war on terror" - all because it's their leader doing it - is as nauseating as it is dangerous.

Read the whole thing. I don't agree with all of it, but the part I've quoted is spot on.

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Reader Comments (13)

In the case of Greenwald, I have a problem with the somewhat oxymoronic label of "principled liberal," given his record of sock puppetry and other offenses against journalistic principles. But that aside, it is somewhat nice to see a liberal admitting and identifying what's going on in the Cult of Obama.

February 12, 2013 at 11:46 | Unregistered CommenterRedBeard

I recall Greenwald's sock-puppet issues from the Bush years. I would regard that as a journalistic ethics issue rather than a failure to adhere to his ideological liberal principles, on which he has been one of the few on the Left who has remained consistant under Obama.

February 12, 2013 at 12:14 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

First let me say that I have no problem with so called American citizens who are "clearly" operatives for Al Qaeda terrorist groups being blown away without due process whether it is boosh/cheney or obama that is blowing them away. Most importantly if they are residing outside the border's of the US they are legitimate targets IMO.

If however, they are inside the borders of the U.S. I do not understand why apprehending them would be such a problem as opposed to just killing them without due process. And killing them without due process in this instance is quite simply beyond the pale, again, whether it is boosh or obama.

Mr. Greenwald in his article repeatedly refers to the boosh/cheney (the real bad guy's as he and his see it I'm sure) policies and how they have come forward into the obama administration. What I would like to see is an actual comparative analyses of just what actions took place under boosh/cheney and what actions have taken place, are taking place, under obama.

How many al quaeda terrorists were killed by drones and how many innocents (women and children) died in the process under boosh/cheney compared to under obama? How many 16 year olds (referred to in Greenwalds articel) were targeted and killed by boosh/cheney as compared to obama? How many American citizens were killed inside our borders without due process under boosh/cheney as compared to obama (if any.)

In short, I want to know who the really bad guy is in all of this - if there is a bad guy.

I can certainly appreciate and am glad to see a kool-aid drinker finally beginning to be aroused from his spiked juice coma but he still paints with a thin brush that only holds enough paint for this one issue. Perhaps if he awakens fully he will take the time to look back and see the executive and constitutional power abuses by this administration that has given them the balls to think they can do whatever they damn well please. And as long as Mr. Greenwald's buddy's in the media continue to carry his water for him there is no reason for him to think otherwise.

February 12, 2013 at 12:15 | Registered CommenterTijuana

Mach, I understand your context in regard to a liberal having liberal principles, although I might argue that the word "principles" be changed to something like "steadfast dogma." ;-) But that's just me, picking nits and being a curmudgeon again.

February 12, 2013 at 12:36 | Unregistered CommenterRedBeard

Obviously, foreign actors engaging in hostile actions, or planing such actions, should be fair targets for drone strikes. The problem is when such actors are not foreign but US citizens. The correct course of action would be for our government to present evidence that the citizen in question has taken up arms against the US and has essentially renounced their citizenship. I think that would satisfy the requirements of due process.

February 12, 2013 at 13:03 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

I would also stipulate that the option of drone strikes should only be available to agencies that operate outside US borders (US military, CIA).

February 12, 2013 at 13:21 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

Perhaps via the constitutional test for treason. Shouldn't be at all hard to prove in the case of a U.S. citizen traitor who joins those who are shooting at us.

February 12, 2013 at 13:27 | Unregistered CommenterRedBeard

"...that operate outside US borders (US military, CIA)..."

My fear is that such a guarantee of non-internal use is nearly worthless. Not only under this administration, but more so with this current gang of thugs.

February 12, 2013 at 13:31 | Unregistered CommenterRedBeard

"The correct course of action would be for our government to present evidence that the citizen in question has taken up arms against the US and has essentially renounced their citizenship. I think that would satisfy the requirements of due process."

Present evidence to "whom?" And how does one ensure that a debate doesn't break out over the evidence stalling the process ad infinitum?

A single judge? A group of judges? Congress? (heaven forbid)

February 12, 2013 at 14:33 | Registered CommenterTijuana

Why not both? Evidence should be presented to and reviewed by a judicial court (I'm thinking the FISA court would do), and congressional leadership plus the intell committees should be fully briefed on the program.

February 12, 2013 at 15:03 | Registered CommenterMachiavelli

No mention in the SOTU for four dead Americans in Benghazi. I guess 3-D printing was more important.

Where was Barry for eight hours on the night of September 11, 2012 when four Americans were murdered?

February 13, 2013 at 08:24 | Unregistered CommenterThomas Miller

Tom, I think the term you're looking for is "AWOL."

Some C-i-C we have there. If he were a soldier, he would have been court martialed for dereliction of duty.

February 13, 2013 at 08:32 | Unregistered CommenterRedBeard

Just came across this argument put forth by Krauthammer over at NRO (the full article can be found there) in defense of obama's "Drone War." He, of course, makes the case with greater clarity than I ever could. Nevertheless, his argument is in complete agreement with my sentiments precisely.

"Who has the authority to decide life-and-death targeting?

In war, the ultimate authority is always the commander-in-chief and those in the lawful chain of command to whom he has delegated such authority.

This looks troubling: Obama sitting alone in the Oval Office deciding what individuals to kill. But how is that different from Lyndon Johnson sitting in his office choosing bombing targets in North Vietnam?

Moreover, we firebombed entire cities in World War II. Who chose? Commanders under the ultimate authority of the president. No judicial review, no outside legislative committee, no secret court, no authority above the president.

Okay, you say. But today’s war is entirely different: no front line, no end in sight.

So what? It’s the jihadists who decided to make the world a battlefield and to wage war in perpetuity. Until they abandon the field, what choice do we have but to carry the fight to them?

We have our principles and precedents for lawful warmaking, and a growing body of case law for the more vexing complexities of the present war — for example, the treatment of suspected terrorists apprehended on U.S. soil. The courts having granted them varying degrees of habeas corpus protection, it is obvious that termination by drone is forbidden — unless Congress and the courts decide otherwise, which, short of a Taliban invasion from New Brunswick, is inconceivable.

Now, for those who believe that the war on terror is not war but law enforcement, (a) I concede that they will find the foregoing analysis to be useless and (b) I assert that they are living on a different and distant planet.

For us earthlings, on the other hand, the case for Obama’s drone war is clear. Pity that his Justice Department couldn't make it."

February 17, 2013 at 11:21 | Registered CommenterTijuana

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