Imagine that you’re a Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who presides over a controversial drone program that sneaks into countries that are not at war with America (such as Yemen) and kills Americans who aren’t even terrorists. Your Attorney General has also made it clear that, under certain circumstances, your drone program can kill Americans in America.
Oooh, that’s so not good for your Peace Prize reputation. What do you do? Simple: Deny, deny, deny – but only after you first establish “that the other guy was worse.”
This sounds like a bad joke, but it’s not. According to a Politico report, when Democrat senators approached President Obama about his secretive drone program, he first blamed Dick Cheney:
President Barack Obama’s defense to Democratic senators complaining about how little his administration has told Congress about the legal justifications for his drone policy: Dick Cheney was worse.
And in case favorably comparing himself to Dick Cheney wasn’t enough, Obama added a second defense – he has no idea what’s going on. Okay, he didn’t exactly say that, but he came close. The usually Obama-friendly Politico, reports on Obama’s hands-off approach to raining death on his enemies:
In response to Rockefeller’s critique, Obama said he’s not involved in drafting such memos, the senators told POLITICO.
That was a funny joke when Sergeant Schultz made it in Hogan’s Heroes. It’s less funny coming from our president, especially when one of his re-election poses was that he was a stone-cold killer who personally selected which terrorist enemies would live and which would die.
Less than a year ago, President Obama told a very different story to the New York Times:
This was the enemy, served up in the latest chart from the intelligence agencies: 15 Qaeda suspects in Yemen with Western ties. The mug shots and brief biographies resembled a high school yearbook layout. Several were Americans. Two were teenagers, including a girl who looked even younger than her 17 years.
President Obama, overseeing the regular Tuesday counterterrorism meeting of two dozen security officials in the White House Situation Room, took a moment to study the faces. It was Jan. 19, 2010, the end of a first year in office punctuated by terrorist plots and culminating in a brush with catastrophe over Detroit on Christmas Day, a reminder that a successful attack could derail his presidency. Yet he faced adversaries without uniforms, often indistinguishable from the civilians around them.
Mr. Obama is the liberal law professor who campaigned against the Iraq war and torture, and then insisted on approving every new name on an expanding “kill list,” poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies on what one official calls the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war. When a rare opportunity for a drone strike at a top terrorist arises — but his family is with him — it is the president who has reserved to himself the final moral calculation.
Apparently the President is having a hard time finding the polling sweet spot that lies somewhere between presenting himself as a driven, cold-blooded killer or a mindless puppet.
The President’s challenging voyage of self-discovery (Hmmm. Killer or puppet? Puppet or killer?) may explain why his administration has spent two years refusing to hand over to various Congressional Intelligence committees the Legal Counsel memos that his Office of Legal Counsel drafted to justify using force against suspected American terrorists living abroad.
The President’s attitude infects those serving under him in the executive branch. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D. – Vermont) complained that everybody in the White House is weaseling away from responsibility:
Every time I asked the question of various people, the attorney general, the president and others, it’s always somebody else’s department. This is something we’re very serious about — one [opinion] especially this committee may end up subpoenaing if we can’t get it.
Of course, you can’t blame the President and his administration entirely for their decision to play “hide the ball.” Right up until his reelection in November 2012, neither Congressional Democrats nor the mainstream media were looking very hard into anything he did, and they gave him a pass every time he ignored the rules. The Democrats established a precedent and now they have to live with the fact that they’ve trained their President to use the Bart Simpson “I didn’t do it defense.”
(Written by Bookworm; first posted at Mr. Conservative.)