Quote Of The Day

“Then there is the even more significant fact that what were once viewed as controversial right-wing, Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies have been transformed, under Obama, into bipartisan consensus.  Whereas the vast majority of Democrats spent the last eight years claiming to vehemently oppose policies such as indefinite detention, military commissions, and secrecy claims, they now actively defend them or (at best) remain meekly silent because it’s now their political party, rather than the GOP, that is responsible for them.  By embracing as his own many of the very policies he vowed to uproot, Obama has gutted the core of public opposition to those policies.  Is it really a surprise, then, that public opinion on these questions has worsened under Obama” — Glenn Greenwald, arguing that Obama has moved public opinion in support of civil-liberty violations

20 Responses to “Quote Of The Day”

  • Greenwald is mostly correct, I think. Certainly, what was considered out of the question just ten years ago (e.g. indefinite detention or assassination of U.S. citizens) is now – sadly – largely accepted. Obama and the Democrats in power certainly deserve some blame for that.

    That having been said, with regards to Democrats, I think Greenwald is being too harsh. The two parties are simply not equivalent on this issue, and Greenwald does a disservice by pretending that they are. Quite simply – there are no Dick/Liz Cheney’s in the Democratic Party. There are no Democrats writing books and touring the country giving speeches on the benefits of torture or government surveillance.

    In other words: Yes, the situation is awful. Yes, there’s plenty of blame to go around. But, no, the blame is not equally shared.

  • That depends on what matters more: actions or words.

    See this recent post by Greenwald as well:

    A primary reason Bush and Cheney succeeded in their radical erosion of core liberties is because they focused their assault on non-citizens with foreign-sounding names, casting the appearance that none of what they were doing would ever affect the average American. There were several exceptions to that tactic — the due-process-free imprisonment of Americans Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla, the abuse of the “material witness” statute to detain American Muslims, the eavesdropping on Americans’ communications without warrants — but the vast bulk of the abuses were aimed at non-citizens. That is now clearly changing.

    The most recent liberty-abridging, Terrorism-justified controversies have focused on diluting the legal rights of American citizens (in part because the rights of non-citizens are largely gone already and there are none left to attack). A bipartisan group from Congress sponsors legislation to strip Americans of their citizenship based on Terrorism accusations. Barack Obama claims the right to assassinate Americans far from any battlefield and with no due process of any kind. The Obama administration begins covertly abandoning long-standing Miranda protections for American suspects by vastly expanding what had long been a very narrow “public safety” exception, and now Eric Holder explicitly advocates legislation to codify that erosion.

    Though Obama doesn’t talk like Cheney, he’s certainly taking Civil-liberty destruction to far lower levels than Cheney did.

  • This is just another example of liberal hypocrisy: It’s morally acceptable “by virtue of the fact that it’s Obama (Glen Greenwald)” violating human rights.

  • Frank,

    Greenwald is a liberal. In fact, he is probably the best example of the most liberal elements in the civil rights debate. In addition to Greenwald, there are any number of other liberal pundits who are denouncing the Obama Administration in this matter.

    In other words, to call this “liberal hypocrisy” is just, plain wrong.

    Yes, there is hypocrisy. But I think it would be better described as “Democratic Party betrayal of the liberal base”. And liberals (like Greenwald) are the most prominent voices objecting to it.

  • HP,

    Do you know what would be great: It would really be nice to see the Republicans object to the actual (wrongheaded) policies that are being enacted, rather than just object to the Democrat “hypocrisy” surrounding them.

    Perhaps a Republican Congressmen, or conservative pundit (who is not Andrew Sullivan), or somebody, anybody, on the right, could object to the erosion in Miranda rights, for example. If you want actions – maybe that conservative person could introduce a bill, or organize a protest, or write a letter to the editor. Would some conservative somewhere please do that? Because the only folks I see doing that are liberals and the occasional libertarian.

    Instead, I see folks on the right (not naming names) seemingly only interested in scoring political points by directing us all to the “hypocrisy” of Obama, while behaving as if John Yoo were actually a credible voice on this subject.

    I’m sorry to get all uptight about this, but it’s infuriating.

  • That depends on what matters more: actions or words.

    The objection Greenwald has to the treatment of the Times Square bomber is that he was not immediately read his Miranda rights. His Miranda rights were read to him after about 20 hours of interrogation under an exception in the law for cases that involve public safety.

    Under Bush, the Times Square would not have been arrested. He would have been “detained”. He would have been declared an “enemy combatant”. He would never have been read his Miranda rights. He would have been held indefinitely. His whereabouts would be unknown. He would not have a lawyer. He would likely have been subjected to “enhanced interrogation”. He would not be allowed to defend himself in court. He would have been held indefinitely, possibly without charges. He would almost certainly been subject to sensory deprivation and solitary confinement.

    I think those are actions.

  • My point with the actions comment is that with Obama, the actions have gotten worse than under Bush whereas Cheney’s talks have gotten worse. What do you detest more?

    Frank’s point above is still valid. Of course intellectuals have spoken out, but you dont see anymore protests or speaking out by organizations that used to do so repeatedly against Bush. And not just on civil-liberties, but on war efforts as well. The silence is stunning.

    I dont really blog about civil liberty violations for the same reason that I dont blog about corrupt politicians – it seems to be a bipartisan feature, and I tend to focus on political differences…that 5% difference between the parties, not the 95% similarities.

    That and I am still not 100% sure where to draw the line. I am 100% against diluting the rights of citizens, or removing citizenship once granted. Im generally against waterboarding but only sometimes against renditions.

    Lastly, it’s interesting to see how some liberals excuse Obama on such violations. Matthew Yglesias, for example, writes:

    “This is what I think: If public opinion were friendly to civil liberties, then public policy in the Obama era would be friendlier to civil liberties than it currently is.”

    In other words, dont blame Obama, blame public opinion. Well couldn’t the Bush administration claim the same cover? After all, it was the Bush administration, not the Obama administration that was in office during 9/11. If there was a point where public opinion would be more willing to give up civil liberties in exchange for security, it would have been far more during the Bush years than under Obama.

    But of course, it’s Bush that is evil and Obama is merely following public opinion.

  • you dont see anymore protests or speaking out by organizations that used to do so repeatedly against Bush

    You’ve got to be joking.

    It took me five minutes to google that. Here’s the short list of left-wing organizations that have spoken out against Obama’s plan to erode Miranda rights.

    National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
    Alliance for Justice
    American Civil Liberties Union
    Appeal for Justice
    Asian Law Caucus
    Bill of Rights Defense Committee
    Brennan Center for Justice
    Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles
    Council on American-Islamic Relations
    Center for International Policy
    Center for Media and Democracy
    Defending Dissent Foundation
    DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
    Freedom and Justice Foundation
    Friends Committee on National Legislation
    Government Accountability Project
    High Road for Human Rights
    Human Rights First
    Human Rights Watch
    Muslim Legal Fund of America
    New Security Action
    No More Guantánamos
    Open Society Policy Center
    Peace Action Montgomery
    People For the American Way
    Progressive Democrats of America
    The Rights Working Group
    U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation
    Robert Jackson Steering Committee
    Roderick MacArthur Justice Center
    Witness Against Torture
    World Organization for Human Rights USA

    I don’t think it’s the silence that’s stunning. It’s the deafness.

  • My point with the actions comment is that with Obama, the actions have gotten worse than under Bush

    Huh? Can I please have a concrete example of this?

    Preferably, something along the lines of the concrete example I offered above, which I thought pretty clearly showed that actions under Bush, at least on the issue of Miranda rights, were a heck of a lot worse than Obama.

  • Finally, your paraphrasing of what Matt Yglesias “thinks” is not at all what Yglesias says he thinks.

    Which can be found here!

    According to Yglesias, Yglesias thinks that people should try to speak out against civil rights abuses, thereby creating a climate of public opinion where Obama will feel it is more political viable to support civil liberties. Of course, that’s just what Yglesias thinks Yglesias thinks – it’s probably not as accurate as your paraphrasing of what Yglesias thinks.

    And, as long as we’re here, let’s add Yglesias to the long, long, long list of liberals who – according to you – are stunningly silent on Obama’s missteps regarding civil liberties. (That is, except when they’re speaking out against them, which is pretty much whenever the subject of civil liberties comes up.)

  • OK. I’m sorry. I have one more thing I have to say.

    That and I am still not 100% sure where to draw the line. I am 100% against diluting the rights of citizens, or removing citizenship once granted. Im generally against waterboarding but only sometimes against renditions.

    This is ridiculous.

    You want to discuss “liberal hypocrisy” on Miranda rights, and yet you haven’t even gone to the trouble of forming an opinion on the subject.


    It’s hard not to conclude that you really don’t care all that much about civil liberties – except when you can use it as a blunt political instrument. I’m sorry to be so frank, but that’s the impression you give. At least go to the trouble to form an opinion. Sheesh.

  • Couple of responses:

    Regarding concrete examples of where Obama is getting worse than the Bush/Cheney administration, see Glenn Greenwald here. He even titles his post: New Target of rights erosions: U.S. Citizens.

    Regarding Matthew Yglesias: I don’t see how I am misrepresenting his views. I linked to the same link you do. He specifically writes: “This is what I think: If public opinion were friendly to civil liberties, then public policy in the Obama era would be friendlier to civil liberties than it currently is”.

    How is that different than what I paraphrased? I am being sincere here, I dont see it (as a former ESL student, I am very aware that I may be reading him wrong – by all means, correct me).

    Btw, I am not the only one who took Matthew Yglesias comments that way. So did Glenn Greenwald. He wrote, after Yglesias posted his initial post, this: “In replying to her question, Matt Yglesias attempts to re-direct blame away from Obama by invoking the Public Opinion Excuse“.

    Yglesias then posts an update and Greenwald, like myself, doesn’t see a real difference. Greenwald writes after the update:

    Is that actually supposed to be different than the claim I attributed to him as his central argument (“[Matt’s] claim [is] that Presidents in general merely follow what public opinion dictates, and Obama is continuing the erosion of civil liberties because public opinion desires that . . . Matt’s argument assumes that Obama really wishes he could restore civil liberties but is simply constrained by public opinion“)? The point Matt now says he wanted to make and the point I attributed to him and then refuted seem synonymous to me.

    Synonymous to me as well.

  • Please point me to where Matt Yglesias says “Don’t blame Obama.” – as you paraphrased.

    Here’s Yglesias trying to explain what he meant:

    I’m not trying to excuse anything, or to exculpate anyone, or to shift blame anywhere, or to do any of the things Greenwald thinks I’m doing.


    Which is the exact opposite of what Greenwald accused him of saying.

    Now, just to be clear, I can see how you and Greenwald would infer what you inferred from what Yglesias said. I’m sure it was an honest mistake – sin malas intenciones. But once he’s clarified it by explicitly stating that he was not trying to excuse Obama, why would you continue to claim that he was?

  • Because it sounds contradictory. To say that “If public opinion were friendly to civil liberties, then public policy in the Obama era would be friendlier to civil liberties than it currently is” and then later say that he is explicitly avoiding the blame game is, to me, like trying to have his cake and eat it too. He is trying to both say, “Obama is constrained by public opinion” and “I’m not excusing Obama”. Or how else consolidate both statements?

    Furthermore, Yglesias initial comment surely does give the “excuse blame” impression and he did nothing to correct it. Only later when Greenwald explicitly called him out on it, did he post his update and even then he refused to address the accusation. Only to say that he was addressing something entirely different.

    Lastly, as Greenwald points out, historically Yglesias has implied that he does in fact excuse Obama, Greenwald writes:

    As to whether Matt intended to direct blame away from Obama for these policies and onto public opinion, I’ll take him at his word that this wasn’t his intent, though it is the effect of his argument (Obama is constrained by public opinion). My understanding of Matt’s view on that question is informed by prior, related arguments he made, such as his insistence that disappointed civil libertarians should look to Congress, not to Obama, for solutions.

    I should also note that this fits perfectly well with the Matthew Yglesias I know. Though I am partisan, I generally shy away from reading purely partisan blogs like NRO, Weekly Standard and so forth. The blind ideological following annoys me. And so I focus more on independent liberal/conservative blogs, like Ezra Klein and Megan McArdle. Matthew Yglesias, on the other hand, rubes me as overly partisan. Closer to an NRO blogger than an independent blog. Sure, he shows independent streaks on some issues important to him, by and large on something that may make Obama or Democrats look bad vis a vis Republicans and is important to him, he generally gives Democrats far more benefit of the doubt. I may be wrong, but that is the impression I get from him (as opposed to say, Ezra Klein).

  • Believe what you want I guess. I can’t do anything about that.

    But I do think your argument would be quite a bit stronger if you could find a liberal to cite who actually acknowledges that he excuses Obama, rather than relying on one who (you believe) secretly excuses Obama, while claiming not to excuse him in public.

    By the way, any luck finding a conservative who condemns the erosion of Miranda rights?

    Or maybe you could just google for five minutes and come up with a list of twenty or so liberal organizations that condemned the erosion of civil liberties under Bush, but now support the same under Obama. That should be easy, right?

  • Sure. Glenn Beck and Darrell Issa. I bet even Rand Paul and Ron Paul would be for them as well, but google didnt return anything.

  • And the liberal “hypocrites”? Any luck googling for them?

  • I see them (or should I say dont see them) on my way to my parents.

    Under Bush: Anti- war protests. Under Obama: nothing.

    Why the difference? We should see atleast the same amount of intensity, if not more, under Obama than under Bush. Instead, we see significantly less (though not zero).

  • And with that completely irrelevant anecdote, I think I’ll rest my case.

    My evidence that liberals are indeed up in arms about the erosion of Civil Liberties under Obama:

    A list of 35 left-leaning organizations that have signed a petition against a civil liberties position of President Obama.

    Your evidence that liberals support the erosions of Civil Liberties under Obama:

    Matt Yglesias, a liberal, once said something that some people interpreted as an attempt to excuse Obama, even though he later clarified that that wasn’t his intent.

    My evidence that Bush’s record on extreme abuses of civil liberties in the war on terrorism related cases was much worse than Obama’s:

    Jose Padilla, U.S. citizen – detained, not read Miranda rights, not charged with any crime, tortured, not given representation, not allowed to defend himself in court, not allowed to confront accusers or view evidence against him, (see 4th amendment) held indefinitely until the Bush Adminstration was finally forced to cower to a pending Supreme Court decision.

    Your evidence that Obama is worse than Bush:

    Faisal Shahzad, U.S. Citizen – arrested, and not read his Miranda rights for several hours. And, horror of horrors, Obama is “not opposed to considering” modifying the law to allow such cases more often in the future.

  • 6th Amendment. My bad.

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