Last night in a speech at Northwestern University Law School, Attorney General Eric Holder made a rather embarrassing defense of the Obama administration’s policy that it is legally justified in assassinating anyone, even an American citizen, simply on the whim of the president. If the president decides you are a terrorist threat, it is okay to bump you off. No due process, no rule of law, no evidence required to demonstrate you are a terrorist threat; all that is needed is that the president thinks you are.
Now, I trust Obama not to abuse this power as much as the next Democrat. And I also understand that Obama will not always be president, and I understand that power corrupts. Matt Rothschild at the Progressive, Jonathan Turley, the great constitutional scholar and law professor, Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, and Glenn Greenwald at Salon all do terrific jobs of detailing the legal absurdity of the position given, you know, our constitution. Greenwald particularly also should be thanked for holding Democrats accountable for being all too silent on the issue.
If the speech had been given by John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzalez and the policy that of the Bush administration, the entire left and center of American politics would be up in arms, mounting protests, online petitions, demonstrations, outrage against this attack on our constitution. But since it is a Democratic president doing it, the left gives him a pass, to their own discredit. Holder made the simply confusing statement that when we kill someone like Bin Laden it isn’t an assassination, but somehow bringing him to justice. Talk about a distinction without a difference. I don’t think before in our history “bringing someone to justice” has ever been thought of as killing them. Sure Bin Laden was evil, and I didn’t want him around either, and to say that our Seal team going in and taking him out was not an assassination is simply silly at best and disingenuous at worst. (You won’t hear the right complain about this because despite their talk of wanting a small government and a smaller debt, their policies have always increased the debt and the size of the government, and they appear to sort of want to live under an authoritarian government, as long as it is authoritarian in enforcing what they see as Biblical law. And they won’t praise Obama for this, because he is Obama and they would never praise him for anything.)
It’s long been conventional wisdom that a Republican president could never destroy social security because the outrage from the left would be so great it would stop it, but that it could be destroyed by a Democratic president because the left wouldn’t pay attention and would give him a pass. (I’m not saying we need to elect Mitt Romney to save social security, and it does make you think.)
I’m not sure why this is. Perhaps Democrats think they’ve done their duty by voting and they have lives and want to get on with it and don’t want to have to be constantly consumed by politics. So enough of them stop paying attention, and things like this happen. On balance of course I still support Obama, and certainly know he would be far better than Romney or Santorum, and yet this gives me great concern, and yes, goes so far as to give me doubts about the long term future of America as we recognize it.
It was great to see some of these voices on the left jump on Holder immediately. But these are voices with a small reach. What passes for the left with a wide reach, the voices on MSNBC–Ed Shultz, Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Al Sharpton, the Hardball guy–well, it would have been interesting to see if they would have mentioned Holder’s speech at all. And of course given that today is super Tuesday, we can be pretty certain that will be the only story they cover in their 16 or so hours on the air today. And if you think that when they scheduled Holder’s speech for last night they weren’t aware of that, well, as I see it, that just means you’re not paying attention.