Glossing over Obama's inexcusable civil liberties record

Glenn Greenwald - 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."

But is it really that surprising that many people did believe that Obama actually meant what he said, given that the entire campaign was predicated on his self-proclaimed uniqueness as a candidate and his over-arching intent to rid our political culture of corroding cynicism and to restore hope and faith in the political process? If Obama ran a campaign which purposely elevated the hopes of so many people -- particularly younger and new voters -- while secretly harboring the knowledge that he did not feel at all bound by what he was promising, isn't that a fairly serious indictment of his character, as well as a dangerous game to play for the Democratic Party? And during the time he was vigorously supporting Obama's candidacy last year, did Matt ever point out that Obama didn't really mean what he was saying when he spoke about these matters -- a fairly significant point to make when commenting on the election? If Obama had no intention of "reducing the power of the executive branch," why did he repeatedly proclaim that he would? Read more.


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