Ah, But Are You Like George W. Bush?

I’ve been in an car dealer service waiting room all morning, so I’m late to the story about Barack Obama telling Jello Jay Rockefeller he’s not as bad as Dick Cheney.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) confronted the president over the administration’s refusal for two years to show congressional intelligence committees Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel memos justifying the use of lethal force against American terror suspects abroad.


In response to Rockefeller’s critique, Obama said he’s not involved in drafting such memos, the senators told POLITICO. He also tried to assure his former colleagues that his administration is more open to oversight than that of President George W. Bush, whom many Democratic senators attacked for secrecy and for expanding executive power in the national security realm.

“This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he said, according to Democratic senators who asked not to be named discussing the private meeting.

Aside from the fact that — as I’ve pointed out — Obama is actually worse than the last year of the Bush Administration, when Acting OLC head Steven Bradbury was sharing OLC memos with Congress, I’m struck that Obama seems to forget he is the President, not the Vice President.

The comparison still is inapt. George Bush didn’t write any Executive Orders pretending to be transparent and his classification Executive Order effective empowered Dick Cheney to classify and instadeclassify at will (an authority that John Brennan seemed to use while he was in the White House).

But like Bush, Obama has people working for him who are as allergic to oversight as Dick Cheney. I pointed out yesterday, for example, that Obama’s Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, thinks he shouldn’t even answer questions in open session and tried to stop publishing the number of people with security clearances.

Under Bush, DOD hid pictures of coffins; under Obama DOD just started hiding numbers of drone strikes.

Cheney went to the mat to hide who he had met with on his Energy Task Force. Obama’s National Security Council went to the mat to hide any mention that the President had authorized the torture program — and they hid it, they explained, because they were still using that very same authorization (though to do thinks like engage in targeted killings).

Obama seems to be hiding behind his own stated good intention (even while he admitted to Democratic Senators he would feel the way they do now if he were still in the Senate) just like Bush hid by his stated good intention that no one would leak the name of a CIA officer. Both, meanwhile, were either ignoring or pretending to ignore the sheer paranoia about secrecy of the men that work for them.

10 replies
  1. What Constitution? says:

    Sad to watch Obama grope for a lowest common denominator — especially when that which he protests he is not is what, in truth, he most closely approximates. Sorry, Barry, but thou doth protest too much.

    Here’s a guy who accepted a Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded on the sole basis that people thought he “wasn’t George W. Bush”, only to thereupon normalize or shield Bush’s excesses. Now he can only hope to distinguish himself from the one person deemed actually responsible for the structural evil of Bush’s regime — but in suggesting he’s not that guy, he only demonstrates that his own “contributions” to the decimation of the structure and integrity of American government are most like the very most vile principles underlying Cheney’s manipulations of Bush. Nice work, Barry.

  2. TarheelDem says:

    So informative to see an administration that claims to believe its job is to assert Presidential prerogatives within a tensional environment of checks and balances (Vietor, for example) how bristly they get when someone checks them and demands balance of power within the federal system.

    Seems to me the prescription for the other two branches plus the “fourth estate” is more pushback on substantive issues.

    Unfortunately we are stuck with the Nosethumbers and Thumbsuckers two-ring circus for a Congress and the runaway pachyderm for a Supreme Court. And the bulk of the fourth estate? Whiny little Villagers begging to be petted.

  3. allan says:

    Phrasing a self-defense that way shows either complete cluelessness of how his actions are now being viewed, even by those who should be his supporters, or sociopathic indifference.
    Neither is reassuring. And we’ve got more than three and a half years to go.

  4. scribe says:

    It’s not just paranoia. It’s cowardice.

    Cowards torture.

    Cowards kill the people inconvenient to their narrative, rather than prosecute alleged criminals.

    Cowards look to elide the difficulties inherent in their own lawbreaking by appealing to “Getting along” or finding a way to finesse this or that requirement. Adopting compromise as a principle, rather than as a tool.

    I’ve seen a lot of moral cowards in my days on this planet, people who did not have the courage to stand up for right and wrong and instead looked for the easy way out. But, in reality, George W. Bush and Richard Cheney had more moral courage in their little fingers than Obama does in his entire being. Bush and Cheney stood for torture, degradation and lawbreaking in the service of their cowardly little egos, but they didn’t pussyfoot around it. They came out and did it.

    Obama, OTOH, can’t even measure up to that low standard.

  5. P J Evans says:

    If he’s not learning from experience, maybe we should encourage impeachment this year, in hopes of not losing everything in next year’s elections.

    I expected to be disappointed by him. I didn’t expect him to be worse than Shrub.

  6. phred says:

    My favorite aspect to this whole story is this bit from the article you linked EW:

    “Rockefeller also charged that after Brennan was confirmed, the administration clammed up again and “went directly back to the way they were from 2001-2 to 2007.””

    Buyer’s remorse there Jello Jay??? I wonder how the world might have been different if ALL BUT 3 Democrats had voted against Brennan’s appointment, rather than for it.

    What could possibly make Jello or any of the rest of the Democrats in Congress think they have any influence at all over the President, when they rubberstamp every last thing he does?

    I’m not sure which infuriates me more Jello’s naivete or stupidity or abject refusal to make any real waves. The news copy is delicious, but useless. Sickening.

  7. Stu Wilde says:

    There is a colorable argument to be made that obama is behaving just as hideously as bush [on a variety of fronts], and to even make this comparison illustrates how much the Executive has deteriorated. I did not support this POTUS because there were subtle signs he might be inclined to behave this way, so I am not patting myself on the back, but my point is those who supported him must be sick to their stomach to watch how things have evolved since 2009.

    How surreal it must have been to hear obama defend himself by invoking cheney…

  8. JohnT says:

    my point is those who supported him must be sick to their stomach to watch how things have evolved since 2009

    They won’t see it. They’re codependent

    PS reply to Stu @ 9

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