Saturday, May 25, 2013

Obama v. Obama

As scandal after scandal continues to swirl around him, it's becoming increasingly clear that Barack Obama's biggest challenge may not be from the Republican Party after all. Benghazi as a coverup story is quickly going the way of the Loch Ness Monster and, with respect to the IRS mess, the real culprit appears to be the Supreme Court which, thanks to Citizens United, allowed an unprecedented and alarming growth of soft, untraceable money into hundreds of 501(c)(4) groups. That decision, if not reversed, threatens to destroy the very republic.

No, Barack Obama's real nemesis is the man staring back at him in the mirror. That's right, folks, the chief enemy of Barack Obama is none other than Barack Obama. Worse, he appears to have declared war on himself, or at least on the man that most of us voted for.

Lost in all the fake scandals is the sad, but undeniable truth that the President is facing some rather serious scrutiny from progressives and libertarians alike over certain policies that are deeply disturbing to say the least and have far-reaching consequences both for his legacy and for the country.

The worst of these is the one involving the Department of Justice. The unwarranted and completely over-the-top seizure of phone records and emails of journalists should concern everyone regardless of political affiliation. It is one thing to protect vital national interests; it is quite another to subvert the Constitution to do it. With all the talk about Nixon lately, Obama's Justice Department is starting to resemble that of another former Republican's: George Bush.

There is no way to soft soap this. Apologists for the Obama Administration miss an important point. While freedom of the press was never meant to be taken carte blanche, what Eric Holder's department is doing is so egregious and abhorrent, it has become a lightning rod for constitutional scholars who are naturally concerned about what this might mean for journalism down the road. Whatever else you may think about the AP and Fox News, neither of them are in the same league as WikiLeaks.

It's also rather hypocritical for the DOJ to go after "whistle blowers" while at the same time turning a blind eye to the shenanigans that brought about the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. To date, there has not been one prosecution of an executive from the financial industry over this scandal; not one! I've heard of golden parachutes but perpetual get out of jail free cards rises to the level of obscene. James Rosen is labeled a "possible co-conspirator" under the Espionage Act, yet Lloyd Blankfein and Jamie Dimon are walking the streets, free men, while actively lobbying Congress to rewrite the financial laws that will gut Dodd-Frank and also ensure their immunity from prosecution for any future calamity their criminal escapades will no doubt bring about.

Now that's scandalous!

But it doesn't end there. Obama's use of drones to carry out strikes against high-level terrorists has drawn the ire of many progressives who have expressed concern over its moral and ethical implications. What does it say about a nation that supposedly cherishes freedom and champions human rights that it would send an unmanned weapon into a sovereign nation for the express purpose of killing a civilian? Many Middle-East experts have warned that the strikes, while surgically successful, have undermined our standing within that region. That is quite an indictment, given the protracted wars during the Bush years.

I must confess I am of two minds on this one. On the one hand I am cognizant of the threat many of these individuals pose to the United States. Barack Obama, as commander in chief, certainly has an obligation to defend the homeland from those threats. He hasn't the option of being a sheep among wolves, I get that. But if there has been one constant and consistent theme within the Middle East over these many decades it has been this: America is seen, and rightly so, as a nation that has propped up ruthless dictators and exploited valuable resources for its own narrow interests; interests that were often inimical to those of the native populations in that region. It is hard to imagine that Obama's drone program isn't causing still more damage to an already badly tarnished reputation. Is Obama missing the forest for the trees? Put another way, have we not lost the war in our pursuit of winning a battle?

And last but not least we come to Gitmo. It was just over four years ago that a newly sworn in President Obama promised to close down the prison. To this day it remains open and over 100 detainees are on a hunger strike and are being forced fed to keep them alive.

At a recent press conference, Obama was interrupted by a heckler over the unnecessary delay. Yes, it is true that Congress had a lot to do with Gitmo staying open by imposing restrictions on the transfer of detainees, but the fact remains that the White House bungled the whole thing by coming to the table with its own plan late and then leaving Congressional Democrats "twisting in the wind." Whether by design or circumstance it sure looked as though the Administration wanted the prison to remain open.

Now, four years later, Obama is reopening a sore wound. Is he serious? Only time will tell. Holding a press conference is one thing; taking action is another. The DOJ, drones and Gitmo. That's quite a trifecta.

The President confessed that he is “troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.” But it isn't the ability of investigative journalists to do their jobs that should worry him most; it's the overreach of government that would send such journalists to prison merely for doing those jobs that is the crux of the matter.

He then quoted James Madison when he said, "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." I would submit that the only true warfare going on here is the one raging within Obama's soul. And the only way for him to preserve his own freedom is to resolve those inner conflicts and contradictions that are slowly eating away at him and his presidency.

Who is he? What does he stand for? And, most importantly, what legacy does he want to leave behind? For a man who has had an extremely difficult time drawing a narrative and defining himself, Barack Obama is now at his own personal "crossroads" as it were.

The next move is his.


Links: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/05/obama-debates-obama-drones-91856_Page3.html#ixzz2UK65pr00

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/05/24/1211507/-Banksters-lobbyists-writing-financial-bills-to-water-down-nbsp-Dodd-Frank

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/23/how-obama-bungled-the-guantanamo-closing.html

http://www.thenation.com/blog/174458/five-501c4-groups-might-have-broken-law#

1 comment:

Peter Fegan said...

An earlier version of this piece stated that James Rosen "could face possible jail time." While it is certainly possible for Justice to indict and prosecute him, I thought it more appropriate to simply state that he was labeled a "co-conspirator."

With respect to the failure to close Gitmo, the delay was not "inexplicable" as I originally stated. It was, however, unnecessary.

Both changes have been made.