Four House Democrats have finally stepped forward to denounce the Bush-like policies of President Obama, particularly his recent signing statement proclaiming that he is not bound by federal legislation. The letter was signed by Reps. David Obey of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee; Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee; and subcommittee chairs Reps. Nita Lowey and Gregory Meeks of New York. The letter breaks from the lockstep loyalty shown Obama despite his adoption of many of Bush’s most controversial positions.
The four democrats expressed how they were “surprised” and “chagrined” by Obama’s declaration in June that he does not have to comply with provisions in a war spending bill restricting $106 million aid provided to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
This signing statement followed a similar signing statement declaring that he was not bound by limitations in the $410 billion omnibus spending bill. The signing statement on that bill occurred two days after Obama promised to depart from the abuses of signing statements by Bush.
The House has voted to oppose Obama’s signing statements, here.
Just to keep a rough score, here is the top ten list of Obama’s rollback on civil liberties and constitutional principles:
1. Issued signing statements asserting that he is not subject to the limitations set by Congress (despite his campaign promises opposing such statements);
3. Opposed any investigation into the unlawful surveillance program;
4. Preserved the surveillance programs of the Bush Administration;
6. Promised CIA employees that they will not be investigated or prosecuted for any crimes that they allegedly committed as part of the torture and surveillance programs;
8. Delayed his own deadline for a report on the future for Guantanamo Bay and detainees and opposed the right of detainees to challenge their confinement;
9. Asserted executive privilege arguments in court that go beyond prior Bush claims; and
10. Secure the dismissal of dozens of civil liberties lawsuits designed to uncover unlawful conduct and deprivation of privacy rights.
Of course, most members were not so moved to confront Obama on his opposition to any investigation or prosecution for torture. It took his refusal to comply with their authority over appropriation that produced this “chagrined” response.
Many Democrats appear blind to the hypocrisy shown in the treatment of Obama and the media on civil liberties. When Bush took these positions, he was rightfully denounced. Yet, the opposition to Obama is far more muted and nuanced. I supported Obama. However, he has abandoned not only campaign promises but basic principles of human rights and civil liberties in these policies. Democrats are showing the same cult of personality that destroyed the Republicans in their blind loyalty to George Bush.
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