Obama's Drones Turn Rightbloggers Into Civil Libertarians, If Only Temporarily
NBC recently brought to light the Obama Administration's policy of conducting drone attacks on civilians "even if there is no intelligence indicating they are engaged in an active plot to attack the U.S." so long as "an informed, high-level" official thinks they're warranted.
This is apparently approved even against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, as the Authorization of Use of Military Force signed by President Bush in 2001 "does not set forth an express geographical limitation on the use of force it authorizes," per the Administration's white paper.
This put rightbloggers into an uproar -- not because they're against this sort of thing, though some of them did a fair job of pretending. No, they were mad because Obama was getting away with something that they just knew they'd do a much better job of getting away with.
The NBC report disseminated quickly, and other Mainstream Media outlets rushed to get in on it; the New York Times, for example, published "Drone Strikes' Risks to Get Rare Moment in the Public Eye" -- which included material that the Times, among others, had previously agreed to keep quiet, presumably in order to preserve their access to government sources. (Interestingly, this went on even as the Times was suing the government for more information on drones.)
But, as Beyonce's publicists also recently discovered, once the lid's off anything goes, and the Administration was roundly attacked for its disturbing program.
There was an outcry from the big-name liberals you'd expect: Jon Stewart ("We told you we were going to be transparent -- we just didn't tell you it was going to be about the last guy's secrets"), Bill Moyers ("killing innocents and driving their enraged families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we're trying to eradicate"), Eugene Robinson ("Obama's drone attacks are just wrong"), Mother Jones ("The government needs the approval of a judge to detain a suspected terrorist. To kill one, it need only give itself permission"), The American Prospect ("this definition of 'imminent threat' is disturbingly similar to the contortions of logic that the Bush administration used"), Roger Ebert ("With all due respect, Mr. President, that's bullshit"), Tom Tomorrow, Bill Maher ("I know Obama's a swell guy and Bush was an evil oaf, but it really is the same policy, isn't it?"), etc., not to mention tons of leftbloggers. We should add that some of them were talking about drones before it was cool.
But there were some liberals who on-the-other-handed the revelations: msnbc's Touré ("as soon as you join Al Qaeda, you become an imminent threat") and Krystal Ball ("Do you feel the same about George W. Bush having that power as President Obama? Call me a hypocrite but I sure don't"), for example. Also McLaughlin Group stalwart Eleanor Clift, who called drones a "blessing," and Michael Tomasky, who said, well, at least Obama wants to put in a review process and isn't George Bush.
We got these names from rightblogger accounts; as they are especially motivated to find liberal hypocrites, we're surprised they didn't find more. We're sure there must be others, though probably not so many, if only because at the moment the heat's on.
Anyway, rightbloggers were all over it. A number of them focused on Touré, for reasons that will be obvious if you've seen a picture of him ("resident race-baiter Touré" -- Independent Journal Review; "So, does Touré still think George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin?" -- Matt Vespa, The PJ Tatler, etc.).
In the main, though, rightbloggers didn't much bother with actual documented defenses, but just attacked "liberals" in toto for their largely invisible support of the President's drone strikes -- even when they themselves had not previously shown any interest in the civil liberties of alleged terrorists.
Rob Port of Say Anything, for instance, complained that "not only is that an affront to due process rights enshrined in the 5th amendment, but it sets a dangerous precedent for future presidents," then challenged liberals: "While some of you might trust President Obama to wield these powers (I don't), would you have said the same thing about George W. Bush? Would you feel that way about a President Romney?"
For perspective, here is some of Port's previous civil liberties reporting: "Torture is such a subjective, political term," he said in 2011. "When you say 'torture' most people think of people being stretched on a rack or something... But whatever we call that sort of interrogation technique - be it 'enhanced interrogation' or 'torture' or what have you - the point is that it works..." (To those who "say they object to these sort of techniques because they're 'immoral,'" Port rejoined, "if we can get some jihadist to cough up information about terror networks and plots, wouldn't it be immoral not to use them given that such intelligence can save lives?")
Similarly, NewsBusters' Noel Sheppard, decrying Clift, claimed "the obvious conclusion from what we've seen this week is the Obama-loving media have gone so far in the tank for this president that they're willing to throw all their once strongly-held beliefs overboard to defend him." In past reportage, Sheppard has revealed himself in favor of torturing terror suspects; when Shepard Stern said Americans "don't fucking torture," Sheppard rebuked him: "Even if it helps save lives, Shep? What if it saves the lives of folks close to you? Might that change your opinion? It is indeed fascinating that the further we get from 9/11, more and more Americans are forgetting that we are indeed at war with terrorists," etc.
Generally speaking, the more outraged a rightblogger's reaction to Obama's drones ("Do I even need to play the 'Imagine if President Bush had done this' card?... Why do we need the second amendment? To stop tyranny"), the more likely it is he'd never batted an eye over human rights abuses before 2009 ("A lot of folks on the left -- to include some high ranking Democratic leaders -- have accused our soldiers of torturing terrorist prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Camp Gitmo. The ridiculousness of theses charges is that these lefties have no idea what real torture is," etc.). See also Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, now ("How's that hopey-changey stuff workin' out for ya?") and then ("more rubble, less trouble").
Some rightbloggers had a less easily-followed agenda. "I am not feeling warm and fuzzy" about Obama's program, Bookworm Room announced. Then: "Admission: I am warm enough, but very fuzzy on details about internal drones because DHS hasn't explained the purchase of 450 million hollow-point bullets (they're the type of bullets that expand after entry)..." Possible translation: Let us find how the drone program fits in with the ObamaHitler Administration's plan to take over Disarmed America with 450 million hollow-points/fluoridated water. Later: "California is searching for Christopher Dorner, who has murdered 3 people already and has a 'kill list.' The administration has a 'kill list' as well, which is only geared towards Americans on foreign soil, along with foreign jihadists/Al Qaida. Add to the mix that Congress approved the use of 30,000 drones by 2020 within our borders. I can see the program's usefulness in apprehending Dorner, but..." Here the logic trail grows mighty cold, and we must abandon the search.
Some of the brethren hit the hypocrisy angle, and then explained why they wouldn't do things any differently (except for the personnel angle, of course).
"Liberals who would have demanded Bush's impeachment have collectively yawned," claimed Matt K. Lewis at The Week. But that was okay, he went on, because the "ugly truth" was that "Obama is giving us what we want... American citizens want someone who will make the big, bad world disappear." Strangely, Lewis added, "This dynamic helps explain why some other liberal policies become popular." (Other liberal policies?) "Ignorance is bliss. It's why many people believe that adults have more rights than the unborn (after all, we can see them, hear them complain...)" So by this logic, conservatives are in favor of saving the unborn and protecting the rights of suspected terrorists -- which is why Americans don't like them. Well, it's as good an explanation as any.
At Hot Air Ed Morrissey rushed to denounce liberal hypocrites, i.e. Michael Tomasky and unnamed others ("Maybe we should have a Republican as President all the time so that the media can actually do its job," said Morrissey, apparently dispensing with all that citizen-journalism bullshit), but eventually got around to telling us that "there are no easy answers for a nation attempting not just to defend itself from military attack, but also from the kind of infiltration attack that can produce massively-scaled casualties, as we saw on 9/11. The use of American citizens for that kind of infiltration is a real danger," blah blah, before rushing back for a big blame-the-media finish.
Patterico was totally down with killing whoever, but complained that "Obama is a liar and I do not trust him. So while I might be OK with what the memo proposes, there is no way for me to be sure he won't take it further, if he thinks it would benefit him politically." Well, look, it's not as if he doesn't have evidence: "[Obama] doesn't consider himself constrained by little things like budget deadlines," explained Patterico. "Why would he pass an opportunity to kill a U.S. citizen outside the above guidelines if he thought he could justify it?" Patterico then showed a picture of Obama with his nose in the air, and asked, "It's not like this guy thinks of himself as above the law or anything, does it?" (In real life Patterico is a deputy district attorney, where this kind of tight reasoning must serve him well.)
Then there was John Yoo -- hold on, you say, John Yoo? Whose name is synonymous with Bush-era torture policy? That John Yoo? Yes, but don't worry, Yoo's not pretending to be anything other than the monster he's always been; in his Wall Street Journal column, Yoo says that though both "the antiwar left and right are going ballistic" about drones, he's in favor. But he still faults the Administration, because in drafting his drone rules Obama "replaced the clarity of the rules of war with the vague legal balancing tests that govern policemen on the beat..." So see, even when they're killing American citizens preemptively, Democrats are still weak on defense. It's like they can't help themselves!
Bill O'Reilly gets extra points for claiming NBC, which had broken the story, was trying to bury it ("You heard anything on NBC about the drones?").
And some of the brethren just didn't see what the problem was at all.
Walter Russell Mead acted as if liberals' great sin was opposing Obama's drones. "Killing bad guys overseas without putting our military in harm's way may be controversial among the pundit class," sneered Mead, "but outside the Beltway and some college campuses" -- hear that, hippies? -- "drones get more support than President Obama and Congress combined--right up there with motherhood and Christmas... Andrew Jackson would have certainly approved."
Ambassador turned TV analyst John Bolton said Obama's policy was "consistent with and really derived from the Bush administration approach to the War on Terror... and I think it is entirely sensible. Whether it is foreign citizens who are involved with Al Qaeda or American citizens, we are in a war..."
At Commentary, Max Boot said, "I'd much rather that the president be hypocritical than wrong on the issue of targeted killings. In this case I think he deserves applause for taking the right stance in spite of the criticism from some of his own supporters in the 'human rights' lobby."
At National Review, John O'Sullivan sighed, "I'm broadly on the side of John Bolton, Rich Lowry, Andy McCarthy (on NRO), and Max Boot... in their support for the Obama administration's justification for drone attacks designed to kill al-Qaeda leaders, whether or not they are U.S. citizens. Admittedly, one has to grit one's teeth and mutter this support from the side of one's mouth."
We'll bet. But while gritting and muttering, O'Sullivan still felt empowered to make demands of Obama: "If we should support the president here, however," he asserted, "we should also exact a price -- and a very legitimate price at that (by 'we' here, I mean the appropriate congressional leaders of the Republican party, such Democrats as agree, and the broader American conservative movement.) In return for support, we should demand that the president actually defend the policy that his lawyers have outlined -- and the Bush policy of which it is logically an extension."
Well, good luck, buddy. The sad fact is, after years of the Orwellian War on Terror, the American people have become accustomed to such outrages, which is why Obama can get away with it. And, O'Sullivan's fantasy to the contrary, he doesn't need to justify it even with logic. We can all fight over who deserves most of the blame in hell. Meantime our insufficient but welcome solace is to watch these guys pretending to be Code Pink (minus the guts) for a couple of days.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.
- Breaking: Crane Collapses in Lower Manhattan, One Reported Dead
Wed., Feb. 10, 6:30pm
Wed., Feb. 10, 7:30pm
Thu., Feb. 11, 7:00pm
Fri., Feb. 12, 7:00pm
- Left-Wing Jewish Groups Claim Responsibility for Fake 'New York Times'
- Father of New York's Medical Marijuana Program Wants More Companies Licensed to Grow...