Glenn Greenwald, whom I don’t wager I’d be able to handle a direct debate with, is still someone whom I deeply respect despite my overall dismay at his constant daily diatribes about Obama while Republicans actively plot to screw up the country.
Glenn’s never been really wrong about the actual liberal case against Obama’s waging of the war on Al Queda (which the press routinely ignored in order to report whatever crazy shit Sarah Palin dreamt up in her fog), and while I support President Obama’s re-election without a doubt, that doesn’t mean I have to agree with everything Obama has done.
So it saddened me to see this poll of those on the left, where most aren’t just plugging their nose, but actively supporting some of the things that we openly and loudly condemned President Bush for.
This is a very important difference, folks. While plenty of liberals are holding their ground, it looks like some are indeed turning around and cheering on the same policies simply because they’re being carried out by a guy with a D next to his name.
Now Glenn takes it too far, for example, in slagging Obama with Guantanamo when not a single politician would let an accused terrorist inside our borders regardless of their actual danger. Resignation is the proper response, not support, but that ambiguity does call into question the poll results. Do people support what’s going on in Guantanamo, or do they support letting the issue go in the face of overwhelming resistance?
Glenn also makes a bit of a leap in not providing poll numbers on drone strikes before Obama. He’s talking about a shift in public opinion with no documentation of previous public opinion? What he does have is the approval of the drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen by birth who was nonetheless in Yemen, purportedly conspiring against the US. Evidence to that fact has just been released, btw. Nevertheless, the precedent of a US citizen being assassinated on presidential orders is extremely troubling for any constitutionalist, and without the presence of an active battlefied, it seems impossible to justify. “Muslim dude in a Middle East country” seems to be what defuses the resistance, which doesn’t give the poll recipients much more credit.
Glenn’s most brutal takedown is, unsurprisingly, reserved for President Obama, who, in deciding not to prosecute the war crimes of the Bush administration, ended up indirectly codifying their behavior as exoneration for future presidents. A President Romney or Santorum could take us straight back to the Bush years with even less fear of repercussion, arguably because Obama let Bush and Cheney get away with it.
To that, though, I believe an addendum belongs. President Obama did not, all by himself, let Bush and Cheney get away with it. The country did, with the mainstream “liberal” media front and center, having largely ignored their crimes, ready to give Republicans as much air time as they wanted to shriek about the horror of the freshly elected Obama leading a “political witch hunt” and actually daring to prosecute the previous president. After all, it is regarded as sacrosanct that Gerald Ford “healed” the nation by pardoning Richard Nixon. While peacetime, prosperity and ratings through the roof had our press ready to watch the Republicans impeach Bill Clinton over lying about a blowjob, the interference of rebellious liberals in the unchecked exercise of power under the banner of “defense” absolutely would not be tolerated. It’s somewhat disingenuous of Greenwald to ignore the fact that Obama would have lit a keg of gunpowder underneath his own ass and been, just like with Guantanamo, completely stifled by Congress.
Glenn seems to consider it obvious that Obama’s actions are at least partially responsible for shifting public attitudes, enshrining Guantanamo and other deviations from American values in the bulletproof shield of “bipartisanship.” I’m sure party identity does play a part in people’s attitudes (look at how much rage Republicans have tried to generate over a health care policy Obama borrowed from them), but when it comes to constitutional principles of human rights, I’m becoming quite convinced that the country as a whole is simply forgetting the values that it was founded upon, and that the erosion is primarily being carried out actively by the Republican Party. Yes, Obama didn’t prosecute, but one of our two parties has declared itself in all but name to be pro-torture (you just stop calling torture torture, see). Yes, Obama didn’t close Guantanamo, but Republicans turned it into what it was. Yes, Obama signed indefinite detention into law, but again, he merely concedes what one party and the Very Serious People absolutely demand. And so on issue after issue, important American values become common political preferences, and our amnesiac press dutifully dribbles on its loafers as it follows along.
Obama didn’t lead, he followed. While a noble, principled fellow like Greenwald is committed to doing the right thing every day regardless of the impact on his life, Obama is a strategic, pragmatic actor who, in alignment with his community organizer roots, doesn’t get ahead of the crowd very far. This works better when he makes some effort to get the crowd mobilized, and all of us can think of a few times Obama could have gotten farther if he’d led a little more and followed a little less. But ultimately that’s a pretty mild sin. If the public isn’t there, we can’t always sit around berating Obama for not getting them there. We’re responsible too.