The passion that I feel for limiting the excessive enlargement of presidential executive power has not faded only because Barack Obama is sitting in the Oval Office. If anything, given President Obama’s deep knowledge of constitutional law, and his brilliant mind, I expect much more from him on the matters that touch so many critical parts of our civil rights and personal liberties. President Bush did not know better given his shortcomings, but there are no excuses for President Obama.
Yesterday, the Obama Justice Department asked a judge to dismiss a case that was initially brought against the Bush administration for their warrantless wiretapping program. The Justice Department said that if the claim were to move forward it would risk disclosure of classified or sensitive material. Basically they state that regardless of the actual merits of the case, the mere risk of the release of government records should be enough to dismiss the claim. That is only the first of their reasons for asking for this dismissal.
The other grounds for dismissal is that, according to the Obama Justice Department, no lawsuit should be allowed to be brought against the government for wiretapping unless they somehow publicly release information that they have gathered, irrespective of whether the means of gathering that information was legal or not. It seems that the Obama Justice Department is not only seeking to immunize the Bush administration from any claims of wrongdoing based on their warrantless wiretapping program, they are also seeking to expand the right of the government to the point that they can invade the privacy of its citizens at will.
This is not the way I want my country to operate. Reason and logic steer us to a different shore than the one the DOJ is dragging us to at this time.
All thoughtful citizens should support their President in times of crisis when often drastic actions need to be taken for the greater good, as was the case in the Civil War. There are those times of genuine crisis when some relaxation of civil/legal rights occurs for the larger goals. President Lincoln demonstrated that this can be done, and should be done, in times for the preservation of the Union. It should be noted that we are not in one of those types of crisises at this time. It was vitally important during the Civil War, as it is now, for the citizenry to remind the government with sternness that power must be exercisable within acceptable boundaries.
The raw power grab of President Bush regarding wiretaps, torture, and other excesses was blasted by people such as myself as we understood how hard it is to wrestle these away from future elected people to that office, and put it all back in the bottle. That is what made Bush’s White House such a national tragedy. When raw power is grabbed so unethically as Bush did, it has a tendency to grow if left unfettered and uncriticized. When the Bush White House allowed for the warrantless wiretaps to take place the result was a proportional, and now we understand incremental reduction of personal rights of the citizenry.
President Bush was horribly wrong to accumulate and expand presidential powers of this kind, but President Obama will be equally wrong to hold onto them. I hope and trust that Obama will place the values in his heart with the logic of his mind, and reverse course with these wiretaps while reining in his Department of Justice.