Is Obama’s Civil Liberties Record Understandable?

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November 27. 2009

SALON– Earlier this week, Kevin Drum said that “nine times out of ten” Obama’s policies are “pretty much what [he] expected” but that “the biggest one-time-out-of-ten where he’s not doing what [he] expected is in the area of detainee and civil liberties issues.”  Similarly, Andrew Sullivan cited “accountability for war crimes and civil rights” as among the very few issues on which he finds fault with Obama.  Matt Yglesias objects to those observations as follows:

Both Kevin Drum and Andrew Sullivan say they think most people are too hard on Obama, but express disappointment at his record on civil liberties issues. I agree that the civil liberties record hasn’t been exactly what I would have wanted, but I’m continually surprised that people are disappointed in this turn. Of all the things for an incumbent President of the United States to take political risks fighting for, obviously reducing the power of the executive branch is going to be dead last on the list. If you want to see civil liberties championed, that’s going to have to come from congress.

It’s interesting how what was once lambasted as “Constitution-shredding” under George Bush is now nothing more than:  Obama’s “civil liberties record hasn’t been exactly what I would have wanted.”  Also, the premise implicitly embedded in Matt’s argument is the standard Beltway dogma that there would be serious political costs from reversing the Bush/Cheney abuses of the Constitution and civil liberties.  The success of Obama’s campaign — which emphatically and repeatedly vowed to do exactly that  — ought to have permanently retired that excuse. 

Read more at SALON.

By Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com Writer

© SALON 2009

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