One of the running jokes in the much-missed television sitcom “Arrested Development” involves the characters, in their extremely rare moments of self-reflection, pondering the choices that have led them into an awkward situation and saying, “I’ve made a terrible mistake.” Now certain writers on civil liberties and watchdog groups – foremost among them Glenn Greenwald of Salon, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – are evaluating Obama’s performance in office, and beginning to have the same epiphany.
It would be naive, of course, to suggest that any of the presidential candidates would have dismantled the audacious structure of state secrecy and executive privilege built up by the Bush Department of Justice. Of course, there were many naive enough to suggest just that; most of those naifs, blinkered by partisan allegiance, refuse to see that Obama is not merely preserving the Bush doctrine, but actually extending it. During the peak of the debate over granting immunity to telecom corporations who cooperated with the Bush administration’s program of illegal domestic wiretapping, a refrain arose: wait till Obama’s in office, then he can sort all this out. So, the EFF waited, and filed suit, and gave Obama’s folks time to think it over. And once they had, they declared that not only had that other guy been right about everything, but also that the government would be right to break its own laws and eavesdrop on whoever, provided they didn’t publicly disclose the information and claimed it was on grounds of national security. Oh, and the case would have to be dismissed because, you know, national security.
As Greenwald notes, “It is difficult to overstate how extremist is [this] argument.” The only comparison that will suffice is to the president’s economic policy so far, which (as reported by Andrew Napolitano) extends to forcing banks to accept bailout money, and then refusing to allow them to repay the loans. This is a takeover more hostile than any Wall Street has ever devised, because it is backed by an entity that claims the full might of the American people. And we have given control of this leviathan to a man who has already at one time or another disquieted absolutely everyone, regardless of political conviction, all in the interest of aggregating more power to himself.
We’ve made a terrible mistake