Obama’s “Let’s Have A Debate” Defense

The Politico’s Josh Gerstein explains what that means

The Obama administration has a familiar refrain on the surveillance of Americans’ telephone records: the president and his team are eager to have the debate.

Eager, that is, only after others have brought the tactics to light and the administration has spent years employing them.

On Guantanamo and drone strikes, as well as his administration’s aggressive use of leak investigations into the telephone records and e-mails of journalists, President Barack Obama and his aides often seem to cast him as a detached analyst or law professor watching policies carried out, rather than the one actually directing or responsible for them.

Or the one at whose desk the buck stops at. The guy who ran for the position of POTUS twice. The guy who sits at the head, per the United States Constitution, of all these federal agencies. The guy who said “I’m the president and I take responsibility.” The guy who said “I am not a dictator, I’m the president.”

When it comes to surveillance, Obama has as president shown no sign of really wanting to have a robust debate. For years, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Minn.) have been pleading with the administration to disclose more information about call-tracking tactics that they suggested would shock many Americans.

The administration largely rebuffed those calls. Only after the leak Wednesday of a four-page “top secret” court order indicating that millions of Americans’ phone calls were tracked on a daily basis did officials begin to confirm the program’s details.

Unfortunately, Wyden and Udall were not calling for the O admin to stop the full program, which casts a wide net over a good chunk of the American population, rather than targeting those who could be terrorists. I’m sure some have a problem with any electronic surveillance; I personally have no problem with targeting those who could be bad people. Some have cast out the old “well, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you shouldn’t be worried” meme. For those people, I’d ask if they’re OK with The Government coming in to their homes and searching them every day, going through their drawers. If they’ve done nothing wrong, they should be fine with that, right? Right?

“Every time he gets into trouble, he wants to have a debate, he wants to have a discussion….I think it’s his way – a distortion field created by his own moral rectitude,” said Michael Meyers of the New York Civil Rights Coalition. “It’s the same thing with the reporters [and leaks], he wants to have a guy who violated their civil liberties to have a discussion with the media.”

Saying he wants this discussion is different from having the discussion. Because he and his administration generally stonewall at that point. And it ends up being a heated argument, as Team O and Obama himself cast aspersions and denigrate the people who want to know the information.

“This is [Obama’s] characteristic mode of discourse,” said Steven Aftergood, a classified information policy analyst with the Federation of American Scientists. “The public should have been notified and consulted and involved and it was not. That should have taken place years ago.”

On that I disagree. Secret program. What should not have happened was the use of multiple spy programs in the blanket manner they’ve been used. The Bush admin mostly used them in a targeted fashion, sometimes crossing the line a bit. The Obama programs are more like someone crossing the line at Daytona then driving another 1000 miles. Which seems to be the reason why so many people have leaked these programs.

The question, which is discussed somewhat in the article, is why we need a debate at all? Americans are obviously pissed off. They do not want to be spied upon. They do not want the IRS targeting them. They don’t want Los Federales deploying drones over America. They do not want the government reading all their email and tracking them. For all their faults, Bush 43 and Bill Clinton didn’t “have a debate”: they took action and held people responsible.

This is not necessarily to Blame Obama. He may have had no knowledge of these programs. He doesn’t seem to know anything else as to the Big Issues that go on around him. He may have known, but not the full extent. But it is his job to fix it. Having a debate is a way to duck responsibility.

BTW, I’m not putting this in any sort of “War on Terrorism” category, unless we are now considering that hundreds of millions of US citizens are now terrorists.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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