The New York Times editorial page endorsed President Obama’s election, twice. And in commenting on his tenure as Chief Executive it has always, but always, tried to spin things in the best possible Progressive light, fudging only a little, admonishing hardly at all, when the constitutional usurpations of the erstwhile King kept growing in outrageousness. Even the extrajudicial killings of American citizens by pilotless drone only beckoned the call for more transparency, as if somehow by knowing about the manner with which citizens would be summarily executed by their government would make up for the lack of procedural niceties trampled upon when imposing death from the Oval Office.
But now, the Times has had it. The phone records imbroglio has finally got its dander up. The vitriol is visceral. Here’s a sample from the lead paragraphs to their June 6, 2013 editorial page opinion:
Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.
Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.
The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.
It is a serious thing when a national news organization, one that had up to then been a stalwart supporter of the President, flatly accuses his Administration of having lost all credibility, i.e., of being a pack of liars. Alas, Obama has the support, for once, of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page column, Review and Outlook, which defended the monitoring, of what we can assume are pretty much all the phone calls of all the people all of the time (how democratic!):
Well, another day, another Washington furor. This one is over a National Security Agency phone data monitoring program, but unlike the other White House scandals there seems to be little here that is scandalous. The existence of the program was exposed years ago and such surveillance is a core part of the war on terror, if we can still use that term.
Indeed, another day, another Washington furor. What might it all add up to?
In the preface to Bill O’Reilly’s vastly popular book of historical fiction, Killing Lincoln (click to read my review), O’Reilly compared the assassination of Julius Caesar to that of Abraham Lincoln’s. Which was hardly apt. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated as part of a deranged Southern conspiracy to assassinate the Union’s leadership, in the vain hope, perhaps, that the Confederacy might rise again from the ashes of defeat. Julius Caesar was assassinated by members of the Roman Senate for having usurped their power when Caesar turned his legions on Rome and effectively declared himself emperor.
Barack Obama seems to think he is the modern-day expression of everything the mythological Lincoln ideal embodied. If O’Reilly is correct that Lincoln is analogous to Caesar and Obama is correct that he is analogous to Lincoln, then Obama is analogous to Caesar. Which is apt.
The Roman Republic forever died when Caesar crossed the Rubicon to turn his legions on Rome. Never again would Rome be ruled by a deliberative, representative body. The Roman Senate became a figurehead organization. Obama crossed the Rubicon when he turned his drones on US citizens. The constitutional republic died in a hard scrabble Muslim country on the southwest corner of the Arabian peninsula. Hereafter, just as was the case in post-Caesar Rome, every American Chief Executive will rule at his own whim. If the US Constitution does not prohibit the killing of American citizens by its government at its government’s whim, then the US Constitution is meaningless.
It was easy to see that a Progressive Democratic President like Obama would be a more dangerous threat to liberty and constitutional rule than any Republican might have been. The imperial impulse in the Presidency is a fundamental force of political governance, held at bay only by the power of the opposition (something the founders, in designing the Constitution, well understood). When the opposition, of which the New York Times editorial board was a prominent factor, finally elected its own President, the transformation of the office to something akin to Emperor was inevitable. The New York Times got their man, and supported their man through all his imperialistic predations, until this, a niggling invasion of privacy. Now it is too late. The power has acceded. The only body politic with any chance of reversing the course towards imperial rule is the Republican Congress. And as the Wall Street Journal, generally a mouthpiece for Republican causes, makes clear, it doesn’t mind much of anything the President does, so long as the Administration can claim some connection, however tangential, to the War on Terror.
Lincoln is regarded as a hero to the republic because he saved the Union. Barack Obama, who fancies himself a Lincoln legatee, has destroyed what remnants of a republic remain.