April 26, 2012

Abuse of Power is in the Eye of the Beholder

It's usually hyperbole when something is tagged "beyond parody," but this comes mighty close.

Andrew Rosenthal of the New York Times explains why George W. Bush's abuses of power were so appalling, whereas President Obama's abuses of power are just fine becauseā€¦ well, the real reason, obviously, is because Obama is his guy. That's a familiar line of thinking, and we all do it to a degree, dressing up blind loyalty to our cultural reference group with flimsy, occasionally reasonable-sounding rationalization. It's just comparatively rare, and thus striking, that the dynamic is on display so nakedly in such a prominent context. Usually, they don't actually put it in writing.

So, that's the real reason. As for the stated reason, it's a bit hard to credit. Rosenthal appears to believe that Obama's use of executive orders to evade the inconvenience of the legislative and judicial process has been solely in aid of things like "jobs for veterans and fuel economy standards." Wheras, in fact and of course, Obama has continued, and in many cases amplified, nearly every one of his predecessor's abuses (i.e. the precise ones that Rosenthal and his fellows in the commentariat found to be such a grave danger to the republic and the commonweal way back when. What a difference a D makes.)

The other thing of which he seems to be unaware is that, as with Bush but arguably to a greater degree, a major motivation for advancing policies through this means is not to circumvent an uncooperative legislature: Congress seems quite willing, now as then, to rubber stamp pretty much any attack on civil liberties that an expansion of executive power might entail, for the asking. Rather, it is to keep the policies secret and shield them from public and judicial scrutiny.

Or maybe he is aware, but prefers not to mention it, which is even worse. Whether it's Team Blue or Team Red in charge, it's still tyranny. But, as Rosenthal concludes, "there may be no alternative." God help us.

(via Jacob Sullum at Reason, who has more, of course.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at April 26, 2012 06:50 PM