July, 27th 2010

Surprise, surprise: Obama doesn't want exec branch authority checked, either

– Liz Mair

I am one of those pesky libertarian bloggers who did, in fact, have a problem with surveillance policies initiated by George W. Bush's administration, even though I am a Republican, just like I'm not a big fan of a very, very powerful executive branch, despite my "Republican-ness."  That has tended, in past, to result in protracted moments of sympathizing with Democrats, generically, when they raise concerns about things like the executive branch's method of collecting intelligence and advocate for checking, curbing, or constraining executive branch authority in a variety of ways.

I say "sympathizing" as opposed to "agreeing with enough to vote for," though, because when it comes to things like intelligence-gathering, just for example, I don't see the fight as being between left and right, or Democrat and Republican.  I see the fight over use, oversight and abuse of executive branch authority in this realm and others as being, well, between the executive branch and the other branches of government.  The executive branch always wants more power, a free rein; the legislative and judicial, unsurprisingly, aren't on the same page.  We know Bush's executive branch wanted more power always, especially when it came to security and security-related matters.  Bill Clinton also wanted and pursued expanded wiretapping authority as President (which he didn't get).

So unlike Nancy Pelosi, I can't say I find it all that shocking that a veto threat has been issued in relation to intelligence reform.  This is legislation that would ostensibly increase congressional oversight of intelligence programs-- the kind of thing you might think candidate Obama, circa early 2007, if asked, would wholeheartedly support, but the kind of thing we know that President Obama, the guy who has the reins now and who voted for the FISA bill that the netroots so reviled, is exceedingly unlikely to view favorably, now that it's his administration's power being curbed/checked (at least hypothetically), and not, uh, George Bush's.

It'd be helpful if the Democratic base would take the right lesson away from this.  Things like intelligence oversight are about checks and balances in government, and so the players' attitudes towards proposals in the vein will be determined by which branch of government they sit in, or are preparing to sit in.

The sooner we have a real conversation about that, the better the odds, I think, of people actually being elected to the presidency who will perhaps accept curbs on executive branch authority and behave in a way that marginally corresponds to their rhetoric ("We need to respect the Constitution" is a personal favorite of mine, and one which, frankly, I think most utterers of it don't even contemplate beyond the pander-bear appeal). 

Also, the sooner that those of us hearing the rhetoric and wanting to believe it (either because we're libertarians or liberals) can quit feeling like we're getting screwed with our pants on-- because at least recognition of the actual game in play, as opposed to belief in the charade being depicted, will increase. [intro]


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