Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Presidency and Precedents

What hath Obama wrought?

Conor Friedersdorf:

Despite all these instances of the U.S. accusing innocent people of crimes against America, sometimes torturing them and imprisoning them for years on end, President Obama is sufficiently confident in federal officials, including the CIA -- one of the least accountable, least transparent branches of government, and one with a less than perfect record getting accurate intelligence -- that he regards it as good, prudent policy to pronounce death sentences upon American citizens, in clear violation of the 5th Amendment, without even a safeguard as basic as a classified trial in absentia and a judge to do due diligence on the alleged evidence. And this extraordinary power, with its obvious potential for catastrophic abuses, is vested in one man who'll leave office in one or five years, to be replaced by an as yet undetermined politician -- perhaps Rick Perry, who presided over Texas when it executed the likely innocent Cameron Todd Willingham, despite a trial with forensic testimony and a years long appeal process.

President Obama has perhaps forever changed the relationship between the United States government and its citizens, setting a precedent as damaging as anything a modern president has done, and the appropriate reaction, whatever one's partisan or ideological orientation, is shock and anger at his hubris and imprudence. Depending on the GOP nominee in 2012, I may well decide that I can't vote for him or her in good conscience. But today, as Obama celebrates the extra-legal assassination of an American, and sets the precedent that the president can kill citizens without due process if he or she pronounces them a terrorist, I know that I cannot in good conscience cast a vote to re-elect him. If you're even a little bit of a civil libertarian, and this didn't cost Obama your vote, I'd ask you to ponder this question: What transgression would?

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