Trump Will Have Vast Powers As President. Thanks, Democrats.
by Gaius Publius
I don't want to let this go by without a mention. There have not been many voices in the mainstream Democratic ecosystem that have taken Obama and his Democratic administration for taking Bush II's war on civil liberties and putting it on steroids.
It's been left to those of us at the margins of the conversation, i.e., not on MSNBC or in the Washington Post, to notice, for example, that via the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), the executive branch can order indefinite detention of U.S. citizens. Or that Obama's drone kill program normalizes executive execution. As Jonathan Turley wrote in 2012:
On Monday, March 5, Northwestern University School of Law was the location of an extraordinary scene for a free nation. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder presented President Barack Obama's claim that he has the authority to kill any U.S. citizen he considers a threat.How does this not mean that President Obama asserts the White House right to order you killed?
Seems silly to say it that way, doesn't it? I mean, Obama's one of the good guys (i.e., a Democrat), and he'd never use that power frivolously, right? (Actually, of course he would, but not against anyone you would care about — meaning, ethnically European — except in jest.)
Now all that power that our vengeance-seeking, retributional nation thought was "safe" in Obama's hands will be handed to Donald Trump.
Civil Liberties in the Age of Trump
Suddenly, on the cusp of the Age of Trump, the Washington Post sees a problem (emphasis added):
Glenn Greenwald: Trump will have vast powers. He can thank Democrats for them.Not to mention the extra-judicial detention and murder mentioned above. The cause of the problem, of course, is Barack Obama. The news is that the Post is now willing to notice this:
Liberals liked executive authority as long as Obama wielded it. Now they've set a precedent.
Liberals are understandably panicked about what Donald Trump can carry out. “We have a president-elect with authoritarian tendencies assuming a presidency that has never been more powerful,” Franklin Foer wrote this past week in Slate. Trump will command not only a massive nuclear arsenal and the most robust military in history, but also the ability to wage numerous wars in secret and without congressional authorization; a ubiquitous system of electronic surveillance that can reach most forms of human communication and activity; and countless methods for shielding himself from judicial accountability, congressional oversight and the rule of law — exactly what the Constitution was created to prevent. Trump assumes the presidency “at the peak of its imperial powers,” as Foer put it.
[B]eginning in his first month in office and continuing through today, Obama not only continued many of the most extreme executive-power policies he once condemned, but in many cases strengthened and extended them. His administration detained terrorism suspects without due process, proposed new frameworks to keep them locked up without trial, targeted thousands of individuals (including a U.S. citizen) for execution by drone, invoked secrecy doctrines to shield torture and eavesdropping programs from judicial review, and covertly expanded the nation’s mass electronic surveillance.The other cause of the problem, of course, is that partisan Democrats and other Obama supporters found all of this completely acceptable. (I don't mention Republican enablers here, since they will almost always find authoritarian rule acceptable.)
Blinded by the belief that Obama was too benevolent and benign to abuse his office, and drowning in partisan loyalties at the expense of political principles, Democrats consecrated this framework with their acquiescence and, often, their explicit approval. This is the unrestrained set of powers Trump will inherit. The president-elect frightens them, so they are now alarmed. But if they want to know whom to blame, they should look in the mirror.Something to keep in mind as you cringe considering the Trump possibilities, or when you fall back into Obama nostalgia.
Constitutionalizing State Violence
Just as one likely cause of Clinton's electoral loss was Obama's mad push to pass TPP before leaving office, one certain cause of all of Trump's abuse of executive power regarding indefinite detention, death-by-drone, and mass-surveillance of citizens (with the resulting blackmail opportunities this clearly offers) ... is that Barack Obama normalized what Bush II did, gave it the color of law, and a bipartisan blessing.
What both parties agree can be done, can be done by either party. It's the other way our Constitution gets amended. Or, as Greenwald puts it:
By putting a prettier liberal face on these policies, and transforming them from a symbol of GOP radicalism into one of bipartisan security consensus, the president entrenched them as permanent fixtures of the American presidency. As [Bush DoJ official Jack] Goldsmith put it, Obama’s actions were “designed to fortify the bulk of the Bush program for the long-run.”Yes, he did say "designed to fortify" the Bush program "for the long run." In other words, Obama's actions were deliberate, to secure for the executive branch by law what Bush had secured by taking.
Trump will have vast powers as president, powers that we will not be able to curtail. Thank you, Mr. Obama, and thank you, complicit Democrats. I hope we don't forget you, as the vice grip tightens, that your hand was on it too.