This recent article from leading progressive blogger Glenn Greenwald (as well as this one and this one and many others he has been writing lately) shows a very promising phenomenon: the ability of those on the left to reason independently and hold their figurehead to the promises he made in last year’s election. There has been no shortage of Obama administration policies for the left to get upset over, either. Just this month the Obama Administration has decided that the government is immuned to lawsuits related to the illegal NSA wiretapping program. Obama has released the Bush torture memos and indicated he will not proceed against any CIA agent who committed torture. He has ruled that prisoners detained at Bagram in Afghanistan have no legal standing to challenge their detention. All of these issues touch on core beliefs of those on the left that civil rights and freedom from government intrusion apply equally in Democratic as in Republican regimes.
Take the illegal wiretapping case. As many are now aware, the Obama administration moved this month to not only re-affirm but actually strengthen the DOJ position developed under Bush that shelters government workers from lawsuits related to the NSA’s illegal wiretapping program. Under Bush, the “state secrets” privilege was asserted as a viable reason for the government not to have to release any details of their illegal snooping program in court. But as Greenwald pointed out last week, rather than reversing the policy as might have been expected from the “Change” administration, Obama’s DOJ has actually strengthened it. The new DOJ is arguing that all lawsuits arising from the ongoing government snooping program be thrown out in advance, even if the collection of someone’s emails, phone calls, text messages, etc. was demonstrably illegal.
This is a watershed moment in the left’s relationship with the Obama Administration. Until this point, Obama has been their Golden Boy; he could do no wrong. Now, led by Greenwald’s sense of outrage over this flagrant continuation of Bush’s detested anti-civil rights policies, many on the left are finally beginning to question Obama and his motives. “This is the Obama DOJ’s work and only its work, and it is equal to, and in some senses surpasses, the radical secrecy and immunity claims of the Bush administration,” Greenwald writes in his impassioned article. This shock and disappointment spread quickly, with even Obama’s staunchest allies and defenders in the media beginning to finally question whether Obama really wants to reverse the course which made Bush the most detested pesident in living memory. A video of Keith Olbermann’s coverage of the ruling is further proof of this newfound willingness of the left to question their leader.
Consider the cold hard facts:
– Obama broke his vow to end the Iraq war immediately and then his vow to end it in 16 months by finally admitting that the U.S. will simply be leaving combat forces stationed in the country indefinitely.
– Obama reneged on the spirit of his promise to close Guantanamo by making one of his very first Executive Orders be a confirmation that the U.S. will continue the rendition flights which have enabled torture by the U.S. and its proxies at black sites around the world. He then agreed with the Bush Administration (once more) that detainees in Bagram, Afghanistan have no legal rights.
– Obama has shown that he has completely sold out to Wall Street by appointing the very people who created the current financial crisis to come in and “fix” it (perhaps befitting the candidate who received more money from Wall Street than any other.
Nor is the formerly slick PR effort of the Obama machine even any longer attempting to hide their open contempt for the public and their hardships. Appointee after appointee after appointee in the Obama cabinet has turned out to be a tax-dodger, including the head of the treasury himself. And in a recent 60 Minutes interview, while being asked about the extreme gravity of the current economic meltdown, Obama couldn’t help laughing about the situation until the reporter had to ask if he was punch-drunk.