During the last few years of the George W. Bush administration, the Bush/Cheney Impeachment movement grew in strength. Liberals, Progressives and Democrats were becoming increasingly outraged by the illegal activities, the abrogation of international law, the condoning of torture and extraordinary renditions, Guantanamo, the curtailment of civil liberties -- the list was extensive. Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio in 2008 introduced a bill of impeachment in the House of Representatives that listed 35 thoroughly documented impeachable offenses. The Imperial Presidency was on the march and Impeachment was the barrier.
photo by rob kall
The effort never quite made it off the ground and the potential for accountability was laid to rest when the newly inaugurated President Obama declared that we must "look forward, not back." This approach effectively gave immunity to members of the Bush administration who may have engaged in illegal actions including war crimes, e.g., torture, killing of innocent civilians.
A major concern of those many thousands involved as impeachment activists was that failure to impeach would have the potential for the illegal, immoral, egregious activities promoted by the Bush administration being perpetuated, and possibly enhanced, by future Presidents. The Constitution had been shredded, the Bill of Rights was in tatters, the potential for moving from a democratic republic to a fascist state was no longer a ephemeral specter. As Pogo would say, "We've met the enemy and they is us."
For many the election of Barack Obama held the great promise for redemption. The Nation was divided, the economy was moving into very dangerous territory and we were engaged in the illegal occupation of two sovereign countries, Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama promised to get us out of Iraq and close Guantanamo -- and to pursue the "right war" in Afghanistan. He railed against lobbyists serving in his administration and Bush era tax cuts, especially for the wealthy. He also spoke of the values of transparency in government [it is now even less transparent than under Bush] and the value of "whistleblowers" in keeping the government honest [the Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than any previous administration -- the most notable being Private Manning].
Now, the Progessives, who were instrumental in supporting Obama's presidential bid, feel abandoned. They are disappointed and seek desperately for a voice in the White House who represents their views. It is as though Obama, the self-professed coalition and consensus builder, has first identified the positions of the moderate Right and then in a conciliatory effort to arrive at consensus has moved further right. One could say that this is shrewd politics in his effort to move the government forward, however this behavior and strategy has "burned off the Left" and has not achieved much in the way of accommodation from the Right.
I agree that it is infuriating to Democrats when the charge is made that Obama has indeed followed in George W. Bush's footsteps in promoting an imperial presidency and even enhancing his negative record. Unfortunately, the Obama record is largely supportive of that charge. Let's review just a few of the particulars.
Though Bush claimed the right to order the killing of any citizen considered a terrorist or aiding terrorism, to the best of our knowledge only Obama has ordered the killing of at least two US citizens without benefit of trial -- a suspension of "habeas corpus" and denial of a citizen's right to "due process", both guaranteed by the Constitution.
The USA Patriot Act, passed shortly after 9/11, legalized warrantless surveillance and searches of US citizens. These powers were extended and increased by President Obama in 2011.
Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama started a war in Libya and oversaw a geometric escalation of drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries. Both without approval or oversight by Congress.
The Bush administration successfully advocated for immunity from judicial review of corporations that were assisting in warrantless surveillance of citizens, thus preventing citizens from challenging the violation of their privacy. The Obama administration has adopted this position.
So what do we do in this Presidential election year? Yes, President Obama has some important accomplishments that he has achieved and for the past two months he exercised leadership that lay dormant during his first three years in office. Though promising, it is not enough.
It seems clear that, as of this moment, the American voter will have a choice between a very right leaning conservative candidate on the Republican ticket and a right leaning candidate, Obama, on the Democratic ticket.
There appear to be no meaningful campaigns emerging for a progressive third party candidate that could change the debate and help to move the President more to the left. So therefore it is up to us, the people, if we are to move this Nation on a course that reinstates our Constitution, that replaces aggression with diplomacy as a means for conducting foreign policy, that respects our treaties defining what are war crimes. Without our voices and our actions sounding out loud and clear we are destined to continue on the current path.
Our best bet for achieving some, if not all, of these goals is to pressure the President. To give him the courage to do the right thing as a Democrat and the first Afro-American elected President. We can no longer be silent or make excuses.
The Occupy Movement is identifying the issues plaguing our Nation and speaking out. They are also making their points with their actions and their bodies, following the non-violent principles of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. As the movement expands, it is revitalizing the concept of Hope. It is time that the leadership of the Democratic Party also get on board and pressure the President to take risks for the greater good of the 99%. There are many indications that if Obama did, many independent voters and perplexed Republicans -- along with the liberal and progressive voters -- will join in support of his efforts and candidacy.
Failing this, even if Obama were to get reelected, I fear the Nation is going to move further away from a democratic republic form of government and further towards a fascist state. This is our opportunity to influence -- we may not get another viable chance in the foreseeable future.