The real score in Bush II v. Obama on civil rights: the country loses

Persecuting medical marijuana merchants. Sending drones after U.S. citizens. Trying to restrict access to the Plan B birth control pill. Making special investigations of right-wing groups. Fishing through the records of Associated Press reporters.

It looks as if the Obama Administration is continuing in the disgraceful tradition of the Bush II Administration when it comes to trampling on the rights of the citizens of the United States.

Of course, we could look on the bright side: At least we aren’t torturing anyone anymore.

Despite healthcare reform and a much-needed increase in taxes on the wealthy, the Obama presidency has basically come down to not being Bush II-Cheney. In fact, didn’t Obama win what has turned out to be an undeserved Nobel Peace Prize for not being Bush?

Here are some of the ways that Obama has proven to be nothing more than “not Bush”:

  • We started no new wars and reduced our commitments in the two that Bush II started.
  • Evacuating and caring for people went a whole lot better after Sandy than after Katrina.
  • The Benghazi confusion looks like a well-executed Busby Berkeley number compared to the utter incompetence with which Bush II’s folks handled the early occupation of Iraq.
  • There are no additional prisoners at Guantanamo under Obama.

But the Obama Administration uses the same excuses and justifications as Bush II did for its actions: national security; the president has the right to supersede the law; somebody low down on the totem pole goofed.

Obama’s politics are centrist in most ways, and he has certainly put together a more competent team than Bush II did.  But it shares the basic operating principles of the Bush II Administration when it comes to civil rights and flaunting the law. Of course, most administrations since Lincoln’s 150 years ago have tried to gain power for the executive branch in areas related to security, defense and civil liberties.  Obama is merely following in the often illegal footsteps of not just Bush II, but also of Reagan, Carter, Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, both Roosevelts and Wilson, among others.

We shouldn’t forget that some of the most egregious executive abuses have been covered up, e.g., Reagan’s deal to sell arms to Iran if it held the hostages until after the 1980 election or the fact that there was no military reason to drop the atom bombs. Then there was the collective willingness of the political and media classes to assume that bad intelligence and not the lies of Bush II and his people was what misled us into thinking Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The Obama decision not to pursue criminal cases against the architects of the Bush II torture policy fits nicely into this tradition.

It seems as if only those willing and wanting to expand the power of the executive branch ever get the financing to make a legitimate run at the presidency. Or perhaps once in office, the seductions of power and the inertia of past executive abuses by our continuing government entice the new president to think his (and maybe one day her) actions are different, allowable or absolutely necessary for national security.  Whatever the reason, every president chips away a little bit more of our freedom.

The tragedy is that most people and the mass media are so afraid of terrorism and crime that they don’t mind this whittling away of basic rights. That is, of course, except the one right that doesn’t exist except in twisted interpretations of the second amendment: to own and carry guns without restriction.


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