May 23, 2013
Sinclair Lewis once wrote that if fascism ever comes to the United States it will be wrapped in the American flag and carrying a cross. Lewis might have been describing our contemporary “political Christians,” the mostly evangelicals who believe that Washington has a manifest destiny to make the world behave while simultaneously expunging the constitution of all those troubling un-Biblical bits that were pulled together into the Bill of Rights.
Well, it hasn’t quite happened that way. The “Moral Majority” remains influential in the Republican Party, but it has been replaced by the “moral hypocrisy” crowd that came in with change we could believe in in 2008. Who would have thought that a Democrat preaching inclusion and talking to one’s enemies would have gone on to complete the job begun by George W. Bush in transforming our republic into a full blown national security state?
Well, someone should have thought of it if history is anything to go by. Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, promised peace when he was elected in 1916 even as he was conniving to enter the First World War. Franklin D. Roosevelt, another Democrat, ran on a platform asserting that he had kept the nation out of war while he was colluding with Winston Churchill fight the Germans. The lesson that was apparently not learned well enough was to beware of politicians falsely proclaiming themselves to be peace candidates.
The Founding Fathers included impeachment in the constitution for a reason. Andrew Johnson was impeached for firing his Secretary of War, surviving the process by one vote. Richard Nixon would have been impeached because of Watergate and Bill Clinton might have suffered the same fate over perjury connected with his inability to keep his trousers on. As much as I would like to see George W. Bush in jail for starting a war of aggression, he is more likely to be indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes than he is to face any retribution in the United States as he is now out of office. But we still have Obama.
As suggested above, President Obama was elected in 2008 almost certainly because of the perception, in spite of significant warning signs, that he was the antiwar candidate. Relative to John McCain and Sarah Palin he certainly looked to be the better option. But instead of making the United States a more normal country again post 9/11 Obama has instead done much to expand and institutionalize the deplorable aspects of the insecure and paranoid state that he inherited. He is the only president known to have ordered the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, he has greatly expanding the killing by drone program initiated by his predecessor, and he has far exceed the record of Bush in using the government secrets privilege to cover up official malfeasance and to block any attempt at redress or rollback through the judiciary.
More than that, as if that were not bad enough, he is also looking for innovative ways to expand the federal government’s power. The recent revelations about the White House using the tax system to punish critics and the secret investigation of the Associated Press news service to find leaks from among the ranks of Obama’s own administration should deeply disturb every American. Nixon, who had his enemies list, behaved similarly using the IRS and it was one of the issues that would have told against him if he had been impeached. Abusing a government agency that has its legitimacy derived from the impression that it operates impartially has devastating consequences as it completely undermines any sense that the citizen is being treated fairly.
The Obama response that he did not know that the selective screening of non-profits was taking place is pathetic on several levels. First of all the “buck stops” at his desk in terms of what the government agencies under his control are doing and second, the IRS action reeks of politicization. The president has pretended to be angry and has vowed that there will be accountability for what has occurred, announcing that the acting chief of IRS has been forced to resign. He knows as well as anyone that there has been no accountability in the federal government since 9/11 and almost certainly before that. Those he is forced to fire will leave with their pensions intact and another job waiting, while the real scoundrels in the White House will walk, as they always do.