June 8, 2013

This clip from All In With Chris Hayes goes right to the core of the Bush/Obama relationship. Instead of pulling back from the lawlessness we saw under Bush (which most of Obama's enthusiastic supporters must surely have expected in the 2008 campaign) Obama has simply legalized the vast majority of what Bush did--and then some, in some instances.

This is not your father's rule of law. It's not your rule of law. It's not Madison or Montesquieu's rule of law. It's George Orwell and Franz Kafka's rule of law--and, as we're seeing from some folks' reactions, even many of those who voted for it don't have a clue what it means:

Chris Hayes: Two huge stories. yesterday and today, one about NSA getting all the phone records for three months from Verizon. Today about the NSA's PRISM program, the servers of nine different internet companies including Google. Here's my question to you. My feeling about the Obama Administration and the Bush Administration and the difference is much of the same policies have been continued. What the Bush Administration saw as the war giving them an exception around the rule of law, the Obama Administration has pushed out and expanded the legal architecture or interpretation of law so all of it is punitively legal. It's the same stuff but it is now within their assertion of what the law is.

Jeremy Scahill: Right. You look under Bush and Cheney, it was Murder Inc. around the world. Not that Obama is worse than Bush and Cheney. These guys, let's be clear, these guys were running Murder Inc. around the globe and violating American's rights left and right. Why this is such an important story, I agree with your point--because Obama is who he is, a brilliant man a constitutional law scholar and popular with the liberal base he's selling people on the idea, hey, there's actually a legitimate legal way to do all these things by tweaking the Bush/Cheney machine a little bit. I think he has convinced many liberals that's what he's doing.

This story is the tip of the iceberg. I think a lot more revelations are coming out in the coming weeks about this NSA story. That's all I'll say about it. I think there's a lot more we will be reading in the coming weeks on this. We have this pervasive overclassified perception of secrecy in the United States government. There is a massive bureaucracy. American citizens are being spied on. The whole idea of courts almost irrelevant when you have this behemoth breaks where they can data mine with a 50% likelihood you might be a foreigner. What does that mean? How does one prove that? When you compare that with the drone strikes and signature strikes we have gotten out of the business who we're actually fighting anymore. A lot of this is this unanimous big brother state.

A lot of people say you're exaggerating. Every time we see these stories, critics are proven right. Glenn Greenwald has been talking about this through the Bush and Obama administrations. A lot of his reports have been vindicated, not just war on terror under Obama but spying on its own citizens.

This is the change Obama believes in: a change of clothes from prison stripes to pin stripes. It's virtually identical to the "change" from Maggie Thatcher to Tony Blair.

Which is to say, it's no change at all. It's a consolidation.

Instead of the transformational presidency Obama promised his supporters, what we have is the most disastrous form of a "pre-emptive" presidency, as I discussed back in January in my Al Jazeera English op-ed, "Obama and the transformation illusion".

That column was written in the aftermath of Obama's bumbling of the fiscal cliff negotiations--obscured by the fact that others had bungled even more than he, and by the fact that it was no skin off the nose of America's elite donor class. But the analysis was much more broadly framed, and applies to foreign policy as well as domestic. It concluded thus:

America's political donor class has not experienced regime failure in any meaningful sense at all. They are perfectly content to have a preemptive president making minor adjustments here and there for them - and that's precisely what Obama is delivering.

And thus, the republic slips ever more deeply into darkness.

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