Saturday, June 26, 2010

Glenn's latest post on Obama's embrace and extension of Bush II's anti-terror policies, as usual on this topic, is depressingly accurate. In particular, at stake is the claim that the President can, at will, assassinate anyone suspected of being a terrorist -- and, by extension, that the President can literally have anyone on the planet murdered, detained, tortured, or anything else he feels like.

I'm starting to wonder whether a case can be made that liberals should support the Republican nominee for President in 2012.

Crazy? Probably. Let's see some objections.

"No matter how bad Obama is, the Republican nominee will undoubtedly be worse." True!

"Obama has been a pretty solid president on most issues." True!

So why the angst over this one issue? In the first place, because it's not just one issue; it's the key question of ... well, of whether we are actually a free people. Overstatement? Maybe! But think about the implications of the doctrine that the President can unilaterally kill anyone on the planet, at will, by invoking the word "terrorist."

(1) The term "terrorist" is deeply ambiguous and can be applied to a range of people.

(1a) Because the President is doing the application, by his own judgment and subject to no external check, the word can extend well beyond its current meaning (which is already pretty ambiguous).

(2) Think about what happens when the demonizing word of the day is no longer "terrorist." What if it goes back to being "Communist"?

(2a) Think about McCarthy for a moment -- for liberals, he's one of American history's greatest monsters, right? Did he ever advocate for the right to assassinate suspected Commuinsts? If you were a left-leaning filmmaker in the 1950's, would you rather be blackballed or murdered?
All of a sudden, Obama makes McCarthy look like a moderate. How depressing is that?

(2b) What if the demonization word becomes "bourgeois"? Or "counter-revolutionary"? Or, more generally, "enemy of the state"?

It seems to me that if this precedent stands, something absolutely fundamental about America has been destroyed. Arguments about the details of economic policy, say, seem distinctly secondary. We've survived crappy economic policy before; we'll survive it again. But we've never seen this radical Orwell-esque power grab by the government before.

Next objection: the Republicans, of all people, will never rescind this executive power grab.
Response: True. But at least somebody will be opposing them: the Democrats. Liberals. At least we will fight against it again. Republican rule will prove itself disastrous again, and we'll elect another Democrat. And when we do, we will make damned sure that he will end and repudiate these anti-terrorism policies.

Final objection: But Obama said he would fight against it, and then he embraced it. How will we know the next Democratic president will be any better?
Response: True, he did. And ... we won't know.

God, I'm depressed.