Eric Lewis, a lawyer with Lewis Baach, wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times on Obama’s “second chance” to assert the human rights ideals he espoused in getting elected the first time. It’s quite humorous, actually.
Here’s his answer to Obama’s critics on the left:
The president’s critics on the left must accept that he has fundamentally altered the George W. Bush-era human rights landscape: he ended torture and released the torture memos. He closed the C.I.A.’s secret prisons. He has constrained his own authority, accepting the binding effect of international law and rejecting his predecessor’s overly broad theory of executive power. And he tried to close the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay and move trials from military tribunals into civilian courts.
Indeed, Obama ended torture. Now he simply orders the killing of anyone suspected of harboring anti-American sentiments. There is no torture in death, perhaps prior to death, but death itself is the cessation of pain.
But he constrained his own authority? How quaint an idea. By claiming to accept the binding effect of international law, or at least paying homage to it, he gets a pass as having rejected his predecessor’s overly broad theory of executive power. Don’t listen to what he says. Listen to what he does. And what he does is order the assassinations of US citizens, something his predecessor never felt his broad theory of executive power encompassed. Both men ordered the killings of foreign nationals in defiance of international law. Only Obama has killed his own citizens.
And really, the only effort Obama has made in trying to close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay is by not adding to its rolls. Dead terrorist suspects need not be incarcerated.
Then Mr. Lewis details where Obama has failed:
Yet when it comes to human rights and security, Mr. Obama has become trapped by his instinctive distaste for political combat. He backed off, under pressure, from his pledge to close Guantánamo. He allowed Congress to obstruct his plans to move detainees to the United States, even when their innocence was beyond doubt. He reversed himself on trying terror suspects in civilian courts. He embraced the principle of indefinite detention without trial, albeit with enhanced procedural safeguards. And he expanded the use of drone strikes, including the targeted killing of American citizens, without accountability or oversight.
I doubt Mitt Romney would much think Obama has a distaste for political combat. And that last line says it all–he kills American citizens on his own whim, without accountability or oversight. Mr. Lewis explains what Obama must do to correct things in that regard:
Finally, Mr. Obama must bring drones under the rule of law. The problem isn’t that he can’t be trusted to make careful decisions. By all accounts, he conducts painstaking reviews to ensure that the targets pose genuine threats and the risks of collateral damage are low. But it is unacceptable that these decisions are made without public accountability or oversight and that American citizens, like the Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, have been deprived of their lives without being afforded due process.
It is constitutionally unacceptable that these decisions are ever made at all. American citizens have enshrined in their constitution the right to life, liberty and property, rights which their government can’t impair or imperil without the due process of law. Period. The Constitution, while not a suicide pact, has no “suspected of harboring anti-American sentiments” exception to its protections.
It was quite comical during the last election to watch as Obama supporters tried to legitimize through mental gymnastics that would make a trapeze artist proud their support of a man who had done things so inimical to their professed beliefs, violating every human right and government ideal he had proclaimed in his first election campaign, to their cheers, to hold dear. Obama’s reelection proved that power always trumps principle, and that liberals, just like conservatives; Democrats, just like Republicans, will sacrifice principle (but always claim otherwise) to attain or keep power. In fact, ideals are nothing more than campaign tropes, pretty little symbols around which to rationalize and rally the visceral political impulse to power.
Bush was elected on a conservative platform of limited government, who then set about to vastly expand the government’s breadth and reach. Obama was elected in part to return a sense of humility and rectitude the Oval Office, especially in its conduct of foreign relations, who then vastly expanded the powers of the Chief Executive, to the point of ordering the assassinations of US citizens, along with directing the assassinations of a great many foreign nationals on foreign soil. If the experience of the last twelve years of forgotten principles isn’t enough, what will it take until Americans realize that politics is about power, and only about power?
The framers of the Constitution understood the innate and ubiquitous human impulse to seek power. And they knew the impulse represented the greatest threat to freedom, so designed things so that it would be thwarted at every turn. But they surely could not have fathomed a day would come when the American polity, grown fat and lazy at decades of comfort and peace, would so readily forswear their freedoms for a contrived sense of security. But in allowing their chief executive to kill their fellow citizens on his whim, with nary a whimper whispered in protest, proves them unworthy recipients of the legacy bequeathed them.
Obama’s legacy on human rights to his successor will be that there are none, except those that he decrees. God did not create man with inalienable rights, or if he at one time had, the job has now been outsourced to the US presidency.