By William Fisher
OK, Obama won. Clearly. Unequivocally. He displayed the tightly controlled anger and frustration at Romney's many falsehoods (though he owed one victory assist to CNN's moderator, Candy Crowley.
It was Candy who verified that when Governor Romney accused the President in the Rose Garden ascribing the US diplomatic deaths in Benghazi to "a demonstration" and not to a terrorist attack, he was plainly lying and he knew it.
But, unlike his previous appearance, Obama bounced into the ring raring to fight, to demonstrate his presidentialness and his knowledge of the critical issues. He did that. He won.
Now it's still early the next morning and I haven't had enough coffee to do a complete Lexis-Nexus word search, but the debate notes I made in real time may be just as good.
Those notes tell me there was not a single mention of the key words being so attentively awaited by the people who've been called "the professional left."
Guantanamo, indefinite detention, military commissions, due process, rule of law, the Obama "kill list" of those -- including citizens -- who can be snuffed out by a drone strike "authorized" by the President, years of military solitary confinement for "the leaker," Bradley Manning, torture of prisoners in the slammer at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan, death in that country's notorious detention center known as the "salt pit," "extraordinary renditions" still being planned and executed, AT&T off the legal hook for invading privacy by collaborating with the Intelligence Community in spying on the phones and emails of people exercising plain vanilla Constitutional rights. No prosecutions of the CIA lawyers and interrogators who fashioned the legal rationale for torture and implemented what the world now calls "enhanced interrogation" methods.
In addition, here were the thousands of actions under the predatory talons of the FBI, the NSA, and so forth, plus a long litany of other violations of our own constitutional laws and those of other countries.
As far as I can calculate, neither candidate addressed even a single issue from this panoply of fear shown above.
I found this both predictable and scary. Predictable because the President, and even less his challenger, has ever been accused of being a "liberal," heaven forfend.
(You needn't be a Liberal, or even a Democrat, to be worried about all the liberties you have lost since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I offer as "Exhibit A" a lawyer who worked for Ronald Reagan and whose ideas are about as conservative as his former bosses. His name is Brice Fein and he has been speaking out against human rights and legal abuses since long before 9/11. He belongs to a Republican Party that barely exists today. I hope Bruce will keep sounding off and that eventually he and others like him will restore the GOP to its former rational self.
Obama started out in 2010 with the electoral wind at his back. On his first day in office he vowed to close the military prison at Guantnamo Bay, where detainees slated to have been released months -- years -- ago are still there, exactly where they started and no closer to freedom for the innocent.
Scary because they weren't released. Except the ones who committed suicide. They're back home now.
When the electoral air was all filled with "hope and change" and "yes, we can, "Was Obama simply pandering to the Left -- whose votes were a big help in getting him elected? After all, if he threw them all under a bus at this stage, where could they go? Vote for Romney? No way. Not vote at all? A possibility.
More disenchanted bodies widening the enthusiasm gap -- and that could cost the president his job in a close election. And if he beats Romney, he will have to contend, in his second term, with a large and growing gaggle of organizations that have only one overarching interest -- the restoration of human rights and the return to the rule of law.
But in a second Obama term, I would not expect hundreds of groups like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty, and Human Rights First -- and thousands of individual human rights defenders -- to be quite so patient and seemingly understand as their first-term counterparts.