Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Obama "Unitary Executive"--Far More Dangerous Than Bush

Interesting article here (HT PowerLine). The author (Goldsmith) served in the Bush Administration's AG office.

Cutting to the chase, the author describes Bush's most significant policies vis-a-vis terrorists and shows how Obama's "hopey-changey" Administration has differed. Mostly, it has NOT differed, as we know.

But Obama is far, FAR more effective in his propaganda effort. When the author remarks that the Bush Boyzzz 'shot themselves in the foot' in that regard, he's correct.

The contrast plays well for Obama's intentions.

The new president was a critic of Bush administration terrorism policies, a champion of civil liberties, and an opponent of the invasion of Iraq. His decision (after absorbing the classified intelligence and considering the various options) to continue core Bush terrorism policies is like Nixon going to China. Because the Obama policies play against type and (in some quarters of his party) against interest, they appear more likely to be a necessary response to a real terror threat and thus less worrisome from the perspective of presidential aggrandizement than when the Bush administration embraced essentially the same policies.

The word "appear" is portentous.

...the Obama administration is following the Lincoln-Roosevelt approach to rhetoric and public symbols. The president talks frequently about the importance of adhering to constitutional values, he worries publicly about terrorism policies going too far, and he suggests that he is looking for ways to keep them in check. He has said not a word about presidential prerogative in national security or the importance of expanding his power. Closing GTMO--especially in the face of loud opposition--is an important symbol of the new president's commitment to the rule of law even if the detainees ultimately receive no greater rights. The small restrictions his administration has placed on itself as compared to the late Bush practices are public indications of restraint,...

The word "small" is also portentous.

President Obama has not changed much of substance from the late Bush practices, and the changes he has made, including changes in presentation, are designed to fortify the bulk of the Bush program for the long-run. Viewed this way, President Obama is in the process of strengthening the presidency to fight terrorism

While Goldsmith essentially approves of Obama's policies on the terrorism front, it's worth noting that the "Unitary Presidency" thing has never been popular, and Bush's approach to exercising those powers showed an abysmal lack of understanding the public's resistance.

But "better packaging" is more dangerous, as is now obvious on the domestic side. While Bush's unhinged decision to bail out GM and Chrysler paved the way, Obama has (in effect) taken almost-complete control of a major domestic economic sector--unprecedented except in wartime.

Similarly, he is applying his "packaging" formula to a proposed takeover of the nation's health sector (about 16% of GDP). Yes, the packaging begins with a big non-sequitur--that 'health expense' is the equivalent of 'terrorism' in its consequences for the nation. But he may well get away with it.

Finally, as the PowerLine post mentions, Obama has another 'unitary executive' gift from Bush: the Department of Homeland Security:

Goldsmith has argued that, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the congressional Democrats were willing to cooperate with the president on national security issues. But even then, the Dems were attempting to juxtapose a liberal agenda that had little to do with national security, e.g., the establishment of a vast new bureaucracy (the Department of Homeland Security) with pro-union rules.

This apparatus, which has displayed remarkably horrible judgment by labeling damn near all Americans as "security threats"--whether those Americans are Leftists or Rightists, we should add--is, perhaps, the single largest error in judgment of GWBush. The Department has not provided "security" beyond what the FBI, NSA, and CIA ever did; and its boneheaded "airport security" errors are legend.

Note well that there has never been a promise to dismantle DHS. Not from Bush, nor from Obama. Neither of them will discuss the possibility of 'an end to terrorism.' Thus, we will have DHS and its charter-mandated paranoia with us for a long, long, time.

Packaged neatly, of course.

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