Czar Barack

The candidate who criticized Bush-Cheney became the president who continued their legacy

Back in 2007, when Barack Obama was running for president, a mildly surprising bit of news emerged: He and Dick Cheney were eighth cousins. Today, though, it appears that report was wrong. Judging from Obama's record in office, the two are practically brothers.

As a candidate, Obama criticized the last administration for holding Americans as enemy combatants without trial. He faulted it for wiretapping citizens without a warrant. He rejected the Republican claim that the president has the "inherent power" to go to war without congressional consent. He depicted George W. Bush and his vice president as a menace to constitutional limits and personal freedom.

But look at him now. Last week, Obama signed a bill letting him detain U.S. citizens in military custody without convicting them of anything -- not for a month or a year, but potentially forever.

Obama pledges he will never use that power to hold an American. But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the bill originally applied only to non-citizens. Citizens were included, he said, at the request of the White House. Even if Obama doesn't plan to use the power, it will be sitting on the shelf for Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum.

Those who voted for Obama in 2008 expected something different. "The detention of American citizens, without access to counsel, fair procedure, or pursuant to judicial authorization, as enemy combatants is unconstitutional," he told The Boston Globe.

His reversal brings to mind not only Cheney but another Republican. "Obama has eclipsed Nixon in the establishment of an imperial presidency," George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley told me. And Turley voted for Obama.

There is plenty of evidence for that conclusion. Last year, Obama ordered a drone strike in Yemen to kill radical Muslim Anwar al-Awlaki -- a U.S. citizen. The administration claimed it had the legal authority to obliterate him, as well as evidence that Awlaki was engaged in active hostilities. But you'll have to take Obama's word, because he refused to make all this information public.

The targeted killing was justified by a secret legal memo that, The New York Times reported, "provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war."

And the evidence that Awlaki was plotting terrorist attacks, not merely spouting anti-American propaganda? Sorry, also secret. It's possible to make a case that he posed a clear threat to American lives and that the missile was the only feasible way to avert it. But Obama, the vaunted champion of openness, saw no need to bother.

In some ways, though, the president has been perfectly transparent. Note his transparent disregard for both the Constitution and federal law in launching a military attack against Libya.

The Constitution explicitly places the power to authorize war with Congress, not the president. But Obama refused to ask Congress to grant its approval beforehand -- something even George W. Bush did as he prepared to invade Iraq.

Obama also defied the War Powers Resolution, which requires the president to get congressional authorization within 60 days or withdraw. His preposterous position was that the law didn't apply because we were not engaged in "hostilities."

All this was particularly novel coming from someone who, as a candidate, suggested that emperors are for other countries. "The president," he insisted, "does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation."

Libya, however, had neither attacked us nor posed any discernible threat. President Obama exercised a presidential power that Candidate Obama said he doesn't have.

The candidate also denounced the Bush-Cheney administration for unauthorized surveillance of Americans in the United States. But when an Islamic charity sued after being illegally wiretapped in 2004, Obama's Justice Department took the side of the wiretappers.

It argued in court that the lawsuit should be dismissed because it involved state secrets and refused to turn over evidence that the presiding judge demanded. He ruled that the wiretaps violated federal law and accused the administration of advocating "unfettered executive branch discretion" that invites "governmental abuse and overreaching."

The judge is only one of those who have vigorously faulted Obama's handling of executive power and civil liberties. If the president needs to hear a more sympathetic view, he might call Dick Cheney.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • دردشة العراق||

    Thank you

  • Ron Paul will do the same||

    George Zimmer guarantees it.

  • Lou||

    Doubtful. You are suggesting that he do something that flies in the face of his remarkably consistent 20+ yr congressional record.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Even if Obama doesn't plan to use the power, it will be sitting on the shelf for Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum.

    If Obama somehow falls ass backwards into a second term, I guaranfuckingtee he will unabashedly use that on an American citizen. (Possibly even on Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum.)

    I also guarantee this campaign season not one mainstream reporter will press President Obama on doing things Candidate Obama supposedly found morally offensive.

  • '][' {[]} {[]} [[_||

    I need to watch things die
    From a good safe distance.
    Vicariously I
    Live while the whole world dies.
    Much better you than I.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    That right there is some seriously good shit. One of my faves.

  • دردشة العراق||

    Thank you

  • DJF||

    Don't forget that Obama is also following Bush polices in

    Expanding the size of government

    Deficit spending

    Increasing the governments involvement in health and education.

    Banker bailouts

    Obama and Bush are practically brothers. I suspect that Obama’s true birth certificate says that he is the illegitimate love child of Barbara Bush and Reverend Wright.

  • '][' {[]} {[]} [[_ sez: O = W||

  • ||

    Five years ago, I would have dismissed what I'm about to say as paranoia, but now I truly believe if Obama is reelected, or any GOP candidate other than Ron Paul is elected, we will see concentration camps on American soil by 2014.

  • Rich||

    "Concentration camps"? Please. We may see "Worker Improvement Training", perhaps, or "Terror Preemption Facilities". Contest?

  • Restoras||

    More likely De-Education Camps - oh wait we already have a public school system.

  • Jan U Wary||

    Change Enhancement Camps

  • Victor Viking||

    "Change You Will Believe In"

  • '][' {[]} {[]} [[_Right in Two||

    Angels on the sideline,
    Puzzled and amused.
    Why did Father give these humans free will?
    Now they're all confused.

    Don't these talking monkeys know that
    Eden has enough to go around?
    Plenty in this holy garden, silly monkeys,
    Where there's one you're bound to divide it.
    Right in two.

    Angels on the sideline,
    Baffled and confused.
    Father blessed them all with reason.
    And this is what they choose.
    And this is what they choose...

    Monkey killing monkey killing monkey
    Over pieces of the ground.
    Silly monkeys give them thumbs,
    They forge a blade,
    And where there's one
    they're bound to divide it,
    Right in two.
    Right in two.

    Monkey killing monkey killing monkey.
    Over pieces of the ground.
    Silly monkeys give them thumbs.
    They make a club.
    And beat their brother, down.
    How they survive so misguided is a mystery.

    Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability to lift an eye to heaven conscious of his fleeting time here.

    Cut it all right in two [x4]

    Fight over the clouds, over wind, over sky
    Fight over life, over blood, over prayer,
    overhead and light
    Fight over love, over sun,
    over another, Fight...

    Angels on the sideline again.
    Benched along with patience and reason.
    Angels on the sideline again
    Wondering when this tug of war will end.

    Cut it all right in two [x3]
    Right in two.

  • joe||

    D-

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Dude, Tool rocks.

  • Officer Rivieri||

    First of all, you better learn how to speak. I'm not 'man.' I'm not 'dude,' I am Officer Rivieri.

  • Jeff Lebowski||

    The Dude Abides.

  • ||

    I wanted to be an Officer too but I scored too high on the IQ test.

  • ||

    The sign over the gate will read:

    "Hope Will Make You Free."

  • Placidly||

    Well played.

  • MItch||

    FEMA camps?

  • sarcasmic||

    I'm not so sure about concentration camps.
    More likely opposition will be treated as a mental illness.
    It's not like it hasn't been done before.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P.....viet_Union

  • Victor Viking||

  • sarcasmic||

    youtube is blocked

  • ||

    I don't know about the exact date but I think you're right.

    Likewise, I think in my lifetime (and I'm over the hill) we'll see a president declare himself El Presidente For Life and drop the pretense referred to as "elections". And I'm not sure that it will seem all that different from the way things are now.

  • FEMA||

    Well we just put out bids for our celebrated FEMA camps. I'm sure teh wun will not let a good crisis go to waste.

  • Number 2||

    Obama is no fool. He knows that the anti-war movement, like the drug reform movement, the civil liberties left, and the transparency lobby, is so thoroughly brainwashed into thinking "Democrats good, GOP bad," that he can do whatever he wants to them, break all the promises he made to them, and contradict his words to them, and they will stick with him notwithstanding. Politically, he has nothing to lose, and only the potential for gaining, by throwing them all under the bus.

    And the same goes true for most of the mainstream media as well.

  • sarcasmic||

    Likewise the GOP knows that, despite the fact that they have never once acted on their debt, deficit and government reduction rhetoric, they'll get the conservative vote anyway.

  • Doctor Whom||

    We've always been at war with Eastasia in favor of Keynesian voodoo, an expansion of Medicare, and getting the federal government more heavily involved in education.

  • J_L_B||

    It's true that nothing Obama has done or will do could ever keep the left from voting for him. However, 2006 and 2008 showed that, while conservatives won't cast a vote a liberal, they will stay home if they feel betrayed.

  • Tony||

    Some of us appreciate that there is no third option, and nothing the GOP has done has indicated they've stopped being the worse option.

  • Lowdog||

    If only everyone like you went ahead and voted their conscience instead of being so certain there is no third option that they hold their nose and vote for terrible people to run the country, why, other parties might gain power, and the Rs and Ds would have to reevaluate their positions a little.

  • Tony||

    There is no third option and it has nothing to do with people's consciences. And what third option? Libertarian cranks like Ron Paul? Yeah it'd be nice to have a president who believes in liberty but I'm not willing to sacrifice the economy to get it.

  • Hmmm||

    I disagree with the premise that electing Paul would sacrifice the economy.

    However, even if true, people used to be willing to die for liberty (ie sacrifice everything). Now, you wouldn't be willing to sacrifice some imagined economic prosperity for it?

  • Tony||

    I don't believe in RP's definition of liberty.

  • Ballz||

    ?

  • seguin||

    Tony doesn't think people should be free to do what they choose, they should be free to live on other people's backs.

  • Hmmm||

    That seems to contradict the implication made in your previous comment.

    Also, the definition of 'liberty':
    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/liberty

    Does that definition match yours? If so, how does that differ from Paul's? If not, then I think you might believe in something other than 'liberty'.

  • Paul||

    What 'economy'?

  • Emperor Wears No Clothes||

    "Yeah it'd be nice to have a president who believes in liberty but I'm not willing to sacrifice the economy to get it."

    No, but you're willing to sacrifice my wallet to get it.
    Coward.

  • KP||

    You appreciate that there is no third option?

  • Team Blue||

    Tony would suck the devil off if it meant not having any republicans.

    I think he fantisizes about putting republicans in the gas chamber or the ovens.

  • Tony||

    I don't like it a bit--there's a lot I'd do to reform our system of government and elections.

  • KP||

    Yet you don't, you continue to entrench the status quo.

  • Tony||

    I didn't realize I had that much influence.

    Big changes take generations in this country. So all you can do is work with the system you have and make the best possible incremental choice each time one is available to you.

    What do you propose, exactly?

  • Ballz||

    stop voting for shit sandwich?

  • Emperor Wears No Clothes||

    I prefer Giant Douche.

  • KP||

    If each choice is an increment downwards (i.e. every typical Red V Blue election). Then simply not participating (i.e. not voting or not picking between Rev & Blue) is the most obvious answer.

    Simple really.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    "So all you can do is work with the system you have and make the best possible incremental choice each time one is available to you."

    And a succession of Presidents centralizing government and granting themselves increasingly larger means of absolute control is "the best possible incremental choice" HOW, exactly?

  • MItch||

    Its you and the other sheep collectively that influence the lack of a third option.

  • Ballz||

    true dat

  • Tony||

    What a shock, you got nothing. If you can't answer that question, you've figured out why I'm right.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    "Some of us appreciate that there is no third option, and nothing the GOP has done has indicated they've stopped being the worse option."

    And some of us aren't quite as delusional as yourself.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    "Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep 'til noon." -Mark Twain

  • '][' {[]} {[]} [[_||

    Ron Paul is no fool. He knows that the anti-war movement, like the drug reform movement, the small government libertarians, and the free market lobby, is so thoroughly brainwashed into thinking "Ron Paul good, Teams Red and Blue bad," that he can do whatever he wants to them, break all the promises he made to them, and contradict his words to them, and they will stick with him notwithstanding. Politically, he has nothing to lose, and only the potential for gaining, by throwing them all under the bus if he gets elected.

    And the same goes true for most of the mainstream media as well.

  • Concerned Citizen||

    Name a promise that Paul has broken.

  • Paul ain't Prez yet.||

    He'll break 'em if he gets in. It's because he doesn't understand things, and will be forced by circumstances to break his promises.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    He is more likely to be impeached for refusing to budge on something like the budget.

  • Ballz||

    he'll be assassinated by bankers

  • seguin||

    I'm thinking more likely commies, but frankly, it'll be a tight race.

  • The Sheep||

    Four legs, good! Two legs, better!

  • Anthony Weiner||

    Three legs, best!

  • Mike M.||

    He's already using it on Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the man who perpetrated the Fort Hood Massacre more than two years ago. The bill was specifically passed so that they would never have to put him on trial.

  • ||

    I love the President. He's doing a terrifc job slapping down the GNOPERS and setting the Liberal agenda. President Obama isn't in the top 4 of all Presidents, he's the best President we ever had. pam.1018@hotmail.com

  • Reilly Wananoe||

    Is that gNOpers or GnOPers? I'm confused.

  • George O.||

    Great Comment....good way to avoid using your critical reasoning skills and be in line like the rest of the sheep.

    Next time just swallow ok?

  • George O.||

    Refering to Pam of course.

  • joe||

    This is like the worst chat room ever.

  • Anthony Weiner||

    You're not trying hard enough.

    Hard. Enough.

  • joe||

    Is sarcasmic your other fake name?
    I think it is.

  • Weiner / Holder 2012||

    Worst. Guess. Ever.

    Weiner Holder for prez 2012

  • Tony||

    The US government has been acting outside of the niceties of the constitution decades before Bush and Cheney came along when it comes to so-called national security. The Cold War was hardly tea and sandwiches. In a way they did a service to the cause of goodness by being so disastrously inept even at covert shenanigans. They boasted about using torture as an intelligence gathering tool, seemingly unaware that torture is obviously illegal and obviously unproductive as an interrogation method. The Bush/Cheney need to swing their unilateral executive dick around did, at the very least, shed light on some of the worst abuses of the US government. They were hardly the first though, and Obama won't be the last. You shouldn't expect president Jesus Christ to give up power once it's been granted him. That's part of the tragedy of it.

  • Loki||

    Actually president Jesus Christ probably would give up power. Unfortunately any mere mortal politician won't. That probably includes Ron Paul (he'll need all that extra-constitutional power if he actually wants to enact any of his stated agenda) should he get elected.

  • KP||

    I don't think you'll find many libertarians who disagree with president being a tragedy.

  • Detainiee||

    I bet we still are waterboarding....Team mainstream media just doesnt investigate it....yay! team blue

  • Tony||

    We're not, at least officially. I'd hope we weren't doing it secretly either, since apart from being illegal and immoral, torture isn't a fruitful method of interrogation.

  • ||

    torture isn't a fruitful method of interrogation.

    And your now an expert on that too?

  • Tony||

    I've read experts on it.

  • KP||

    Why refer to experts when it's so "obvious"?

  • YoungLiberalAsshole||

    It works better when talking down to opponents, er, I mean, fellow citizens.

  • ThatSkepticGuy||

    " The Cold War was hardly tea and sandwiches. In a way they did a service to the cause of goodness by being so disastrously inept even at covert shenanigans."

    Yeah, like the Venona Files and those Cuban propaganda radio transmissions that Oswald used to listen to.

    OH WAIT, LOLZ

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Well Obama may be following in Bush's footsteps on some things but he's breaking new ground in others.

    For instance, he just made some recess appointments when Congress wasn't actually in recess. There's an editorial about that in today's Wall Street Journal.

    Bush never did that.

  • Barack Obama||

    Fuck 'em.

  • Nancy Pelosi||

    To all our conservative enemies:

    na-na na-na boo-boo!

  • Yet Another Dave||

    Bush did make recess appointments while Congress was in recess, though - which Senator Obama lambasted him for doing, as it undercut the Constitutional system of checks and balances.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Many presidents have made recess appointments. The Constitution allows for that.

    It doesn't allow for recess appointments when Congress isn't in recess.

  • Yet Another Dave||

    That Bush made a recess appointment or two, not really my point (though I do think it undercuts checks and balances).

    The point is that *Senator* Obama apparently thinks that *President* Obama has abused his authority. Or more true to the point, like most politicians, he thinks that it's only wrong when the other party does it.

  • ||

    And he is the first to officially put out a hit on an American citizen.

  • first||

    Kiki has joined the line-up of our fabulous LiveCam girls. She blends sexy charm with wit and intelligence. Always elegant, always fashionably stylish and super smart - that’s Kiki.

    This beauty is fluent in English so she can share your thoughts and desires as well as add some of her own. Kiki sparkles with fresh ideas and she is bubbling with creative talent. She is creating a buzz on the Ukrainian music scene. The lyrics she writes reach out and grab her audience. Her published poems are bringing a whole new dimension to the phrase “Romantic poetry”. We saw at a glance that Kiki is sophisticated and sharp. Her raw passion is just below the surface.

    She is ready, here and now, to share all this intimately with you.

    http://www.hegre-art.com/models#action=show&id=223

  • ||

    Both mass murderers, only difference; one cheated into the war criminal position, and one lied his way in, but was elected !

  • libya - get your facts right||

    "Libya, however, had neither attacked us nor posed any discernible threat"

    not true, steve - ever heard of lockerbie (i.e. pan am 103)? and pan am 73, which was revenge for this

  • ||

    The current WHO(White House Occupier) is proving to be a very articulate mouthpiece for the Pentagon-Wall Street elite who financed Barack's campaign back in Spring of 2008 precisely because "Punahou Barry" assured them he would serve as their loyal (White) house servant!

  • دردشة زين العراق||

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement