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Obama: A Liberal Cheney

Did you see the opening skit of Saturday Night Live [1] last night? It makes fun of Obama from the right. It’s a satire of an old “Schoolhouse Rock” routine, but this time showing Obama shoving the Bill down the Capitol steps — this, in making fun of his executive order on immigration.

In his column today [2], Ross Douthat analyzes how Obama went from being a candidate critical of the Cheneyite model of the presidency, and what he considered to be Bush’s abuses of executive power, to becoming just like what he criticized. Excerpts:

The scope of Obama’s moves can be debated, but that basic imperial reality is clear. Even as he has maintained much of the Bush-era national security architecture, this president has been more willing to launch military operations without congressional approval; more willing to trade in assassination and deal death even to American citizens; and more aggressive in his war on leakers, whistle-blowers and journalists [3].

At the same time, he has been much more aggressive than Bush in his use of executive power to pursue major domestic policy goals [4] — on education, climate change, health care and now most sweepingly on immigration.

Douthat has been a vocal and forceful opponent of Obama’s immigration move, but I found his contention that Congressional Republicans’ unwilligness or inability to govern in normal ways is an important factor in Obama’s imperialization:

This is the point that liberals raise, and plausibly, in President Obama’s defense: It isn’t just that he’s been dealing with an opposition party that’s swung to the right; it’s that this opposition doesn’t know its own mind, collectively or sometimes even individually, and so has trouble bargaining or legislating effectively.

This reality has made it harder to cut major bipartisan deals; it’s made it harder to solve problems that crop up within existing law; it’s made it harder for the president to count votes on foreign policy. All of which creates more incentives for presidential unilateralism: In some cases, it seems required to keep the wheels turning; in others, it can be justified as the only way to get the Big Things done.

Read the whole thing.  [2] I would add too that most Republicans had no complaints when George W. Bush behaved this way. What you tolerate, you encourage. When the next Republican president takes office, and begins throwing his weight around in the same way, liberals who cheer Obama’s immigration move will have no room to complain.

Like Douthat, I think what Obama did was outrageous, not necessarily on policy (I don’t know enough about immigration policy to say), but as a political matter. No president, Republican or Democrat, should impose such a consequential and far-reaching policy in defiance of Congress. But this one did. Cheney would be proud.

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106 Comments To "Obama: A Liberal Cheney"

#1 Comment By jamie On November 25, 2014 @ 12:20 am

Well, to the extent that the consequences of their racialism hurts my people, then I should have a problem with theirs.

I get that, but you shouldn’t challenge racialism as such.

And if La Raza is racist, you shouldn’t attack them on those grounds, you should attack them because you believe they hurt white people, and then you say how. It’s almost like you want to stick the “racist” label on La Raza and then let liberals finish the job of defeating the “racists” for you, because “liberals are supposed to hate racists if they’re being consistent” (a very questionable thesis). All you’re doing is undermining your own cause at the same time.

You’re a racialist, a racist; if you think what you believe is true you should own that. Screw what people think, screw their prejudice against the mere word. If racialism is true people will accept it. If it’s not, people won’t.

(At this point I’d point out that most people don’t accept racial competition or zero-sum conflict as true or relevant to their lives, and you might want to take that to heart.)

has been a strong core of hatred for, how shall we say, ‘legacy’ US America (or Britain or France or …) that motivates many open-borders folks.

Hatred is too strong a word. I don’t think ‘legacy’ American culture is evil, I think it’s complacent and thoughtless. And if you need walls and guns to protect and nurture it, it’s already a bankrupt house.

#2 Comment By tbraton On November 25, 2014 @ 8:44 am

“But I acknowledge tbratton’s confirmation of my chronology.”

Siarllys Jenkkins, are you referring to your “Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, Johnson” chronology? I thought I straightened that gross error out. It must be very frustrating as a liberal to have to acknowledge that the Democrats Kennedy and Johnson were almost entirely responsible for the disastrous Vietnam War. (It’s very hard to square that history with today’s theme that Republicans are the “war party.”) Just as it must be extremely hard to acknowledge that Barack Obama greatly expanded and lengthened the pointless war in Afghanistan to the point where more than 70% of American deaths there have occurred under his watch and where he just recently “secretly” authorized the expansion of the fighting role of the remaining U.S. troops. Repeat for me the mantra of how Obama wound down the war in Afghanistan and pulled out all of our troops there. (I actually heard an Obama man make the claim this past summer that Obama had already withdrawn our troops from Afghanistan, which left me scratching head in wonderment that anybody could be so ill informed.) I won’t even bring up the subject of Iraq because we all know that George W. Bush is responsible for the reinsertion of U.S. troops there to fight ISIS.

As for Eisenhower’s responsibility for the Bay of Pigs operation, do you sincerely believe that this experienced general who oversaw the largest amphibian invasion in the history of the world (Operation Overlord) would not have closely reviewed and challenged the CIA’s half-baked scheme to invade Cuba before implementing the plan or that he would have implemented a half-baked scheme that relied on such unwarranted assumptions? JFK had the same correlation to Eisenhower’s military expertise as he had to LBJ’s legislative expertise. JFK’s legislative program was stalled in Congress (despite Democratic control) before his assassination, and it was LBJ who managed to get enacted into law the very same program following JFK’s assassination. LBJ was acknowledged to be one of the greatest legislators in American history before he was named as VP nominee by JFK. JFK was a legislative lighweight back bencher in the Senate before being elected President, with very little knowledge of how legislation got enacted into law. There is a direct connection between JFK’s botched Bay of Pigs operation and his decision to greatly expand our role in Vietnam. Both clearly were the result of an inexperienced amateur in over his head. There is a vast gulf between the myth and the reality of JFK, probably the greatest of any politician in American history.

#3 Comment By Aegis On November 25, 2014 @ 9:52 am

@tbraton: “As for Eisenhower’s responsibility for the Bay of Pigs operation, do you sincerely believe that this experienced general who oversaw the largest amphibian invasion in the history of the world (Operation Overlord) would not have closely reviewed and challenged the CIA’s half-baked scheme to invade Cuba before implementing the plan or that he would have implemented a half-baked scheme that relied on such unwarranted assumptions?”

He also oversaw the Italian campaign and Market-Garden. So yeah, maybe.

#4 Comment By Chris 1 On November 25, 2014 @ 9:56 am

The use of executive authority to resolve such a massive issue is not something we should applaud in a democracy, no matter who the executive is, or of which party

One other point: the “Imperial Presidency” is always a threat, and historically it is quite American to complain about a POTUS who acts like a king whenever the President does something the other party does not like.

And in every era we’ve had Congresses that made the political calculation that monkeywrenching government was preferable to governing, in the hope that the nation’s worsening condition would be blamed on the other party.

Today’s GOP is the party that will not govern, it philosophically does not believe that governance of citizens itself is legitimate, and thus governmenal power exists only to reward friends and punish enemies; the essence of cronyism. This philosophical abdication of governance by one party is deeply problematic in a two-party system.

#5 Comment By jamie On November 25, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

As for Eisenhower’s responsibility for the Bay of Pigs operation, do you sincerely believe that this experienced general who oversaw the largest amphibian invasion in the history of the world (Operation Overlord) would not have closely reviewed and challenged the CIA’s half-baked scheme to invade Cuba […]

Of course he wouldn’t, he trusted the Dulles to develop and execute these operations. According to Halberstam, Eisenhower was completely out of the loop for the Guatemalan and Iranian coups the CIA arranged, only being informed about operational details afterwards.

Eisenhower might have been a war skeptic but he was committed to containment, he had an almost magical belief in the power of covert operations and he trusted the Dulles’s implicitly to handle these at a remove from him. He only became disabused of this after Gary Powers.

#6 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 25, 2014 @ 6:38 pm

tbratton, now you’re making me yawn with deja vue, and your misplaced triumphalism proclaiming that you have straightened out gross errors is quite unbecoming.

When I was a child, I cheered LBJ’s speeches about standing firm in Vietnam (as did most Republicans), but but the time I was fifteen, let alone a man, I gave up such childish things. You don’t remember chants like “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” I wan’t using that language, but to say that those who found the war a mistake failed to blame “liberals” for it is either ignorance or absurdity.

Since you indulge in the common fantasy that all you decry are liberals, of course you can pin on liberalism all that you decry. Very tautological. As I recall, liberals were indeed blamed for the war, the limited, half-way, progress on civil rights, in short, liberals were too far right and too Establishment for our taste. At least get your labels straight.

As for Eisenhower’s responsibility for the Bay of Pigs operation, do you sincerely believe that this experienced general who oversaw the largest amphibian invasion in the history of the world (Operation Overlord) would not have closely reviewed and challenged the CIA’s half-baked scheme to invade Cuba before implementing the plan…

I certainly would have expected him to have shown better judgement, but you cannot prove a man innocent of acts he actually committed by expostulating that he surely should have known better. The operation was approved, mobilized, funded, and equipped on Eisenhower’s watch. Perhaps a bit of hubris over how successful his little coup in Guatemala appeared to be at the time.

It is indeed hard to square the position of the Democratic Party in 1966 with today’s notion that the Republicans are “the war party.” If only the GOP had nominated George Romney… But then, it is hard to square the position of the Democratic OR the Republican Party in 1868 with today’s notion that blacks are Democrats and the White South is solidly Republican. These labels don’t mean much that is particularly enduring.

Strange as it may seem, I am not now and have never been an official or unofficial spokesperson for any Obama campaign, nor for the White House staff, so I cannot take responsibility for anything those who hold such responsibilities may have said. I am responsible for my own words.

As to your passionate determination to denounce JFK as a rank amateur and incompetent, as H.L.Mencken used to write to each and every one of his critics, “Dear sir, you may be right.”