(The relevant portion of the video begins at the 2:25 mark. Warning: strong language, nsfw.)
Br. Andrew writes concerning President Obama:
I think that it bears repeating here that for all of the hope and talk of change that accompanied this president, he has not only failed to deliver much of anything he pledged during his presidential campaign…
Maybe this is simply hyperbole that I shouldn’t take too seriously, but this isn’t right. As the mid-term Congressional elections are today and the Democrats are headed to significant losses, the narrative around Obama and his supposed "failures" so far in office become extremely crucial. He is already being written off as a one-term President by both friend and enemy alike. There are no guarantees (and I have no crystal ball), but I wouldn't dismiss him so quickly.
The following are what I consider to be some counterexamples to Andrew’s argument:
Obama came into office promising to uphold the treaty between his predecessor (George W. Bush) and the Iraqi government to get combat troops out of Iraq. He held to that deadline.
He promised a health care reform bill and that passed—arguably the most important piece of Democratic legislation since the landmark civil rights legislation of the 1960s. He promised a financial regulatory reform bill, which was also passed.*
Obama even promised to escalate the war in Afghanistan and start unilaterally attacking the borderlands, even into Pakistan (a supposed ally). You might disagree with that policy, but you can’t say he didn’t deliver on his promises. [Change you Can Believe In?]
Now, Obama also wanted to get an immigration reform and climate change reform bill through Congress. He also promised to end the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) Policy.
The American President unfortunately has little to no actual power when it comes to domestic US policy. The US President is not a prime minister. Everything depends (domestically) on the Congress and unfortunately Congress is the least effective of the three branches of the US government (for both structural and cultural reasons--just google Obama un-American and watch in horror). Obama is furthermore saddled with being a member of the pathetic Democratic party.
Even still, without The Republican minority in the Senate employing the non-democratic filibuster at every opportunity, more reforms would have likely passed (e.g. Cap and Trade Climate Bill).
Undoubtedly, there are many areas in which to fault Obama. His mortgage foreclosure plan has been an absolute disaster. He’s failed to make articulate a narrative framework of governance while in power, failing as Democrats have for many years to offer a coherent governing vision (rather than specific policy proposals). He hasn’t responded forcefully to the intransigence of the Republican and conservative establishment.
One area where he has made many promises and actually has the power to make them a reality is in the area of detention policy. He signed an executive order to close Guantanamo Bay, but Congress and in particular members of his own Democratic party, gutlessly sold him up the river in response to right-wing fear mongering concerning terrorist trials in the US criminal system. He has ended torture as US policy.
But in other arenas, he has accelerated extra-judicial (or even illegal) practices begun under President Bush and even started some of his own.
On that note, Andrew continues:
[Obama] has gone even further than W. in challenging the very basis of the democracy America still pretends to be. The right to habeas corpus and freedom from summary execution are even perhaps more important than freedom of speech or assembly or commerce in any system purporting to be government of and by the people.
It needs to be broadcast far and wide that the most recent president of the United States of America – no, not W but rather the much lauded Barrack Obama – has now granted himself the authority to order the extra-judicial assassinations of American citizens overseas.
First off, the title of Andrew's post is The Death of the Republic but then here interchanges (incorrectly in my view) democracy for republic. The democratic institutions of the US are functioning quite well in their most basic sense—elections are occurring which are causing certain politicians to lose their jobs who then cede said jobs by peaceful measures. Hell, the democracy that Obama is supposedly killing according to Andrew elected him. And in honor of today's coming smashing of the Democrats, the House (and possibly the Senate) will belong to the opposition party.
In contrast, a republic is a liberal order of civil rights that are not up for democratic vote. Here Andrew is correct that Obama’s policy regarding habeus corpus is indeed a rather chilling one. Though Abraham Lincoln suspended the same right in a much wider and far more brutal way during the Civil War.
But does this really augur the death of the US republic? We are talking about the US here yes? The same US that for its first 75 years had human slaves? That ethnically cleansed the aboriginal peoples of the country? That under the supposedly sainted Franklin Roosevelt, illegally put its own citizens of Japanese descent into internment camps? That up until the 1960s had legally enforced segregation in the South and still does not recognize gay marriage over the vast majority of the country?
I strongly disagree with Obama’s policy to order the assassination of American citizens abroad, but I think some perspective is necessary before we start proclaiming the death of a republic. In comparison to the aforementioned, the targeted killing of US citizens in trans-national terrorists groups is again quite disturbing but not I would say in the same league as the others.
Here, I think it’s worth mentioning that when we're discussing international policy in an age of trans-national terrorism, Presidents are bound by the logic of democratic popularity and their sense of being Executive Chief to do essentially whatever they have at their disposal. The Supreme Court can only decide that certain Presidential actions are illegal and rule them unconstitutional as occurred during the Bush presidency (with a conservative court btw) in Rumsfeld vs Hamdan. The Supreme Court however cannot make laws and declare what Presidents should do in this regard.
Only Congress can make laws. And Congress is refusing to do its job of setting a national (and frankly bipartisan) framework for what constitutes legal and illegal conduct in the Global War on Terror. Such a legal framework simply does not exist. This is the central argument of the cogent book, Law and the Long War by Benjamin Wittes.
In integral theory, every moment consists of the four dimensions of [UL} subjective/psychological, [LL} intersubjective/cultural, [UR] objective/material, [LR] and interobjective/technological-economic.
I want to focus for a second on the LR technological-economic dimension of existence in regards to terrorism and the law. Jack Balkin, Yale Professor of Law, has coined the term National Surveillance State to describe the rise of technologies of information gathering. As the LR shift, so eventually must the Lower Left, cultural norming dimension of existence, codified in law. With the rise of information sharing technologies, our norms around what constitutes privacy, liberty, national identity, civil rights, they are going to change. It may entail some loss of those rights. I would rather we have that conversation then let it take place in an unconscious manner through the media cycle.
What is occurring right now is a quadratic disconnect between for example the technologies of unmanned aerial drones along with digitized supercheap information gathering technologies and the legal system. The one (the technologies) are out ahead of the other.
I’ll say again that Obama’s policy is certainly a dangerous one, but unless Congress creates a broad legal framework within which the US President can be held accountable any personal attacks on a President (or presidents) is pretty much a waste of time. Even if Obama did not follow up on this policy, his successor I’m sure would. Without the President being bound by a legal framework established by the Congress, the law of democratic elections suggests that any President that has a technology available to him not yet declared illegal (e.g. wiretapping) and doesn’t use it will be demolished in the court of public opinion in an upcoming election. A President needs to be told what are the parameters of what is legal and what is illegal in regards to the War on Terror. Otherwise the President becomes a law unto himself--he makes it up as he goes along. Clinton did, W. Bush did and now Obama is too.
If we want to discuss dangers to the health of the republic—a fascinating topic I think we should debate—then my question is:
What is left of a republic when the masses desire the tyranny of one?
* Here’s Obama’s own words on this point in a recent Rolling Stone interview-
“When I talk to Democrats around the country, I tell them, “Guys, wake uphere. We have accomplished an incredible amount in the most adverse circumstances available”. I came in and had to prevent a Great Depression, restore the financial system so that it functions, and manage two wars. In the midst of all that, I ended one of those wars, as least in terms of combat operations. We passed historic health care legislation, historic financial regulatory reform and a huge number of legislative victories that peopledon’t even notice. We wrestled away billions of dollars of profit that were going to banks and middlemen through the student-loan program, and now we have tens of billions of dollars that are going directly to students to help them pay for college. We expanded national service more than we ever have before. The Recovery Act alone represented the largest investment in research and development in our history, the largest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower, the largest investment in education- and that was combined, by the way, with the kind of education reform that we hadn’t seen in thiscountry in 30 years- and the largest investment in clean energy in our history”.