I have been warned by a fellow-blogger whom I respect not to push the parallel between Barack Obama and George W. Bush too far, though the similarities are at times disturbing. So I will stay away from that button. But I will push another: in attempting to please everyone, Obama once again proves that you can please no one. This time it is about the pilfering of private information in the name of “national security.” As a recent story notes:
Into his fifth year in office, President Obama knows well attacks from the right. Obamacare, Benghazi, IRS shenanigans, he’s taken his lumps from Republicans and conservative activists. “Impeach him!” many cry. Only occasionally is he whacked from the left (see Guantánamo Bay prison camp).
But these days, it seems like the roles are reversed. Liberals are after Obama, while the likes of Republican political operative Karl Rove are in his corner.
The subject, of course, is government secret surveillance of phone records, a vacuum-cleaner approach whose purpose is heading off terrorist attacks but which pokes into what most people think of as private information.
It would be an exaggeration to insist that we are headed for Orwell’s world of 1984 — a few years late. But at the same time, there is some truth in the fact that this sort of nosing into the privacy of citizens of this country, presumably guaranteed by the Constitution which the President is pledged to serve is un-American, if it doesn’t smack of totalitarianism. It is certainly Machiavellian, since it embraces the notion that the end justifies the means — any means, apparently. It’s not at all clear that our “national security” is at risk, except in the minds of the paranoid. This is assuredly not something we would have expected from this man when he was elected, and the fact that he is pleasing Karl Rove is doubly unsettling. The man seems to lack a backbone: he is unable to find a principle he can embrace and defend. He is perfectly willing to disappoint those people who voted for him in the hope that he would lean at least a little bit toward the left on one or two important issues.
But he has ordered an escalating number of drone strikes in the Middle East, and inhibited the right of reporters to write what they regard as the truth. Further, he has shown himself unwilling to take a strong stand against the Keystone Pipeline, which many conservationists regard as the penultimate step toward environmental disaster. And recently he has indicated his willingness to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list, virtually guaranteeing open season on those animals that have struggled to make a comeback. And now he is checking on our phone calls and private correspondence. In a word, he is disappointing those who elected him to office seemingly because he doesn’t seem to know where he stands on any given issue and is willing to bend with the wind. And I dare to say that the wind blows strongest when it issues forth from the hot air that inflates the greed of the corporations that are increasingly finding this man to be their friend (I am thinking on Monsanto here, primarily, but the Koch brothers must be sleeping more soundly at night realizing that this man doesn’t seem to care in the least what they might do with their millions.)
In any event, even those who continue to support this president and hope that he will eventually “come around” must admit that he is far too conciliatory, too eager to please. As a result he seems to have managed to alienate folks on both sides of the political aisle. And in that regard, the parallel with George W. Bush does break down.