Until this past week, President Obama seemed to wearing the Teflon mantle himself. Nobody was paying much attention to the fact he's been on a detached rampage of drone assassinations, and prosecuting whistleblowers, and spying, and claiming he could imprison people without charge or trial. Because nobody was paying much attention, he's been virtually untouchable in this regard, even by his Republican frenemies. They agree wholeheartedly with his evisceration of the Bill of Rights. He is only finishing what they started, after all.
But now that the mainstream media are finally taking a long-overdue look at his unprecedented powers, they're actually starting to compare Obama to The Worst President of All Time -- George W. Bush. An Obushma is born, and he walks among us.
The New York Times ran a front page story on the topic in its Sunday edition. Even such Obama-friendly media stars as Melissa Harris-Perry and Rachel Maddow have suddenly awoken from their self-inflicted partisan comas and joined the bandwagon of noticing that the president has morphed into an emperor. And what a difference a week makes in the polls:
A majority of voters believe President Obama has been no better than his immediate predecessor, President George W. Bush, when it comes to balancing national security with the protection of civil liberties, according to a new poll for The Hill.
Thirty-seven percent of voters argue that Obama has been worse than Bush while 15 percent say he has been “about the same.”
The results cannot be fully explained as party line responses. More than one in five self-identified Democrats, 21 percent, assert that the Obama administration has not improved upon Bush’s record. So do 23 percent of liberals.
The results are especially striking given the liberal hopes that attended Obama’s election, the opprobrium he heaped upon Bush’s national security policies during the 2008 campaign and his early promise to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.The majority, however, still approve of the drone program itself. But give them time. They'll no doubt change their tunes when they see, or more likely hear, their very first drones in the friendly skies above their own little chunks of real estate.
The majority also very likely have no idea what it is, exactly, that they approve of. David Carr of the New York Times today joined Public Editor Margaret Sullivan in criticizing the lack of media attention to the New Age of Orwell, but he also blamed the paranoid secrecy of the Obama Administration coupled with an apathetic Congress and an apathetic public for the perpetuation of the vicious cycle of ennui in the face of the destruction of our own civil liberties:
If the Congress — and perhaps the public — doesn’t know about the drone program, it isn’t for lack of coverage. Perhaps the reason so many people are in the dark is because they want it that way. After all, if the bad guys are on the run without risking legions of boots on the ground, what’s not to like?
For many people, of course, there is plenty not to like. Michael Isikoff of NBC News obtained a 16-page white paper outlining when the government contends that it is legal to kill Americans who join Al Qaeda. His reporting helped make the drone issue part of the confirmation hearings, leading to this statement on Thursday to the Senate Intelligence Committee from Mr. Brennan, which sounded like a parody of Washington doublespeak: “What we need to do is optimize transparency on these issues, but at the same time, optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.”
Congress, in spite of the pointed questions aimed at Mr. Brennan last week, has been remarkably incurious since the program began.
“Some 3,500 people have died in 420 strikes, and Congress has yet to hold a single public hearing on this issue,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It has happened in the dark because we have allowed it to, and the press has far and away been the lead actor in surfacing this issue.”But let's face it. The media approach to terrible truths resembles a cat walking across a wet floor. (h/t Raymond Chandler) As I pointed out in a comment in The Times yesterday, the paper of record, for example, still squeamishly softens torture into "harsh interrogation techniques."
Euphemisms are the enemy. They are the words of propaganda that enable tyrants to literally get away with murder.
The victims of drones are invariably declared to be "militants" by both government and journalists. Or, if they're really lucky, "suspected militants." The White House definition of militant is any male in the prime of his life.
Homicides by presidential fiat become bland "signature strikes." Ordering a hit is rendered as innocuous as the president putting his signature on a piece of legislation renaming a post office.
A relentless campaign of state-sponsored American terror so severe as to border on potential genocide becomes the "disposition matrix". (John Brennan coined this Philip K.Dick-ish term.)
Maybe we'll get lucky and the United Nations will accuse this administration of war crimes. Maybe we'll get even luckier and the 70% of Americans who are still just fine with drone strikes will wake up, smell the burning of the Constitution on its funeral pyre and rescue it through the sheer strength of our numbers.And speaking of Obushma, wasn't it a striking coincidence that a whole slew of Bush Famiglia emails was hacked by a guy named Guccifer, and made public the exact same week as the infamous White Paper was released? If you're going to compare Obama to Bush, then it's just about the right time to rehab The Worst President's image, don't you think? It would not surprise me if the so-called hacking -- complete with humanistic (albeit primitive and narcissistic) self-portraits of George in the bathroom was not a deliberate leak by the Bushes themselves. (prepping for a Jeb run in 2016). Here's what I wrote in response to Maureen Dowd's column yesterday:
I wonder if Guccifer might really be Dubya. The hacked emails do show this rather unpopular plutocratic bunch in a surprisingly human light. The self-portraits are too suspiciously flattering. Bush has actual feet instead of the cloven hooves we suspected were hidden in his Gucci cowboy boots! (Lucifer>Guccifer) The image of his buff torso looks to be an homage to his bromance with fellow shirtless despot Vlad Putin.
Where are the emails where Babs disses the poor victims of the latest natural disaster? Where's the lowdown on the off-shore bank accounts, the military service and drug cover-ups, the efforts of Jeb to sell out Florida education to the highest bidder? What a downer. I smell a rat.
I also smell a rat around the white paper leaked right on the eve of John Brennan's senatorial love-fest on drone assassinations. I wouldn't be surprised if the so-called leak came from the White House itself, to take the shock and awe right out of the proceedings. By the time Brennan appeared, the American public was already bored with the novelty of having a hit squad in the Oval Office. Presidential assassinations are already the new normal. The parallel humanization of a protected war criminal painting self-portraits in bathrooms reeks of propaganda to make us forgive and forget. The PTBs desperately want us to be so numbed that we accept that the Constitution, except for the 2nd Amendment, is just a piece of paper. There will be no prosecutions of torture, murder or banks.Let's not forget that more Americans believe in the devil than believe in Darwin. Two-thirds believe that Satan is an actual living being. The Devil made Barry and Bush and Reagan and Nero and Caligula do it. And the Devil Wears Prada. So does the soon-to-be ex-Pope, who at least has enough sense to quit as the mental and physical bars of fate finally begin to close around him.
|Bathtub Justice... Or Not|