Unlike Republicans, Obama Talks To Regular Americans About Transparency on Drones


Barack Obama recently answered questions from randomly selected Americans on the Google Plus version of a fireside chat.  He answered questions on everything from the penny to the drone program – live.  This isn’t the first time President Obama took to social media to reach out to average Americans. It isn’t even the first time the President dared to answer substantive questions when asked by average Americans.

Can anyone really imagine any Republican President discussing policy on social media, let alone risking possible contact with someone from the 47%?

Can anyone imagine a Republican President actually answering questions about his torture program, or saying anything like this?

“What I think is absolutely true is it’s not sufficient for citizens to just take my word for it that we’re doing the right thing.”

This is a fundamental difference between President Obama and his predecessor. The suggestion that they are similar is just one of the reasons I’m fed up with the fire-bagger hysteria.  Their claims lack any basis in reality or fact.

Until now, I have limited my comments on both of these topics to legal analysis.  I resisted commenting beyond that because I do recognize that people who propose that Obama and Bush are the same have a right to say stupid things.

Here is what is disconcerting about this crowd.  They’re just as full of it as Rand Paul and the Koch financed Tea Party.  Frankly, buying into their claims amounts to supporting the plutocratic Republicans who wear their racism, greed and misogyny on their sleeves.

Of course, there are valid issues surrounding drones – like transparency and oversight.  This garbage that Obama is coming after Americans with drones is bovine fecal matter also known as b.s.

Here’s another clue that the Tea and Fire baggers are resorting to fear rather than substantive concerns.  Obama was asked if the government could target an American citizen on American soil.

He gave the following response :

“There has never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil,” he said. “We respect and have a whole bunch of safeguards in terms of how we conduct counter-terrorism operations outside of the United States. The rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside the United States.” (my emphasis)

Granted, one can suggest there can always be a first time  or attempt to read some conspiracy theory into the President’s comment.

If that or something else sinister was really the President’s intent, why would he want oversight and transparency?  Why would he want to work with Congress to establish an oversight mechanism, stating so during his SOTU address  earlier this week and repeating it during the Q&A on Google?

Compare Obama and his Attorney-General, Eric Holder, to that of the Bush Administrations’ attitude on U.S. and international law.  Obama relied on the Hague conventions, the constitution and statutory law to establish a legal basis on which to use drones.  Bush thought he was above the law, especially the Geneva Conventions. The Bush Administration described the Geneva Conventions, as quaint when it came to how we treat prisoners of war, but insisted that others should follow these “quaint” rules.  Obama’s criteria for the drone attack list is extensive, including requirements that the Constitution and the four fundamentals in the rules of war are respected. The Bush Administration hid behind legal opinions from partisan lawyers first to deny that waterboarding is torture, then to suggest it was justifiable because, they claimed. it saved lives.

The Bush attitude toward international law, which would include the rules of war is reflected in attitudes by his respective Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, as well as the former President himself.

Compare the Bush Administration’s attitude toward judicial review and that of President Obama. While Obama recognizes the value of judicial reviews, the Bush Administration thought it was “profoundly disturbing” for courts to “second guess” King George’s decrees.

And last Friday, November 12, in a speech to the Federalist Society, Ashcroft — still the acting Attorney General — warned of a “profoundly disturbing trend” of federal judges tending to “second guess” presidential determinations on legal questions. He was plainly taking aim at Robertson’s ruling.

While it may be news to Ashcroft, it’s the job of federal judges to make sure the president’s legal calls do not conflict with the Constitution, or other U.S. law, including the Geneva Conventions.

Alberto Gonzales described the Geneva Conventions and international law, in general, as “quaint” and outdated in an effort to discredit rules that they insisted others should follow.

Indeed, Gonzales deemed international law — which becomes the law of the United States, under our Constitution, when properly ratified by the Senate — to be “quaint” and outdated when applied to the war on terrorism. To say this, is to say, in effect that the Constitution itself is quaint and outdated.

However, while claiming the Geneva Conventions were quaint and outdated when it came to their use of torture, the Bush Administration had a broken clock moment when the former president made this statement in 2003. ”I expect those people to be treated humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.”

The Pentagon’s spokesperson, Victoria Clarke got more specific.

“It is a blatant violation of the Geneva Convention to humiliate and abuse prisoners of war or to harm them in any way. As President Bush said yesterday, those who harm POWs will be found and punished as war criminals.”

Our use of drones should and must be subject to judicial review, congressional oversight and transparency. However, any suggestions that Obama is “just like Bush” are not only absurd, they are offensive to Americans who know the difference, even if there are a vocal few who don’t.

You can watch the complete Q&A in the video.


Image from Digital Trends

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