Barack Obama: The sneakiest president since Richard Nixon

Jaime Weinman explains why Obama is finding it harder to wear the liberal label

by Jaime Weinman

The New Nixon

Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Remember earlier this year, when U.S. President Barack Obama said he was presiding over “the most transparent administration in history?” People only bring that up now as a punchline after the news that under Obama’s watch, the U.S. National Security Agency has been collecting the communications records of millions of Americans. A former CIA employee named Edward Snowden obtained secret documents while working for contractors who dealt with the NSA, and he leaked these documents to newspapers, which revealed that phone and Internet companies have been given secret court orders to turn over metadata on customers. Snowden also revealed that the NSA has a program known as “Prism” to keep tabs on people through every form of electronic media. Snowden, who has fled to Hong Kong to avoid legal repercussions, told the Guardian that he went public because surveillance poses “an existential threat to democracy.” Obama, on the other hand, defended the controversial tactics because: “You can’t have 100 per cent security, and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience.”

This is only one of the latest revelations about Obama’s less-than-stellar record on civil liberties. Earlier this year, it was discovered that Obama’s Justice Department seized the telephone records and emails of Fox News reporter James Rosen and several journalists at the Associated Press in the name of investigating potential national security leaks. The administration also chose to bring the most stringent possible charges against Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of being the main source of information for WikiLeaks. And Obama’s best-known breach with civil libertarians is on the issue of drone strikes; the administration acknowledged last month that four Americans had been killed by these operations.

These news items, taken together, paint a portrait of a President who seems less like a traditional liberal and more like another man who supported universal health care and broad spying powers: Richard Nixon. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has already released an ad comparing Obama to Nixon over the IRS’s alleged slowness in granting tax-exempt status to political groups opposing him. Obama has also been compared to his predecessor, George W. Bush, for continuing many of the same national security policies: the phone surveillance program was originally started under Bush, and Obama initially called it a threat to freedom before deciding to support it. “It’s hard to say exactly how much better or worse this administration is,” says Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. What is clear is the gap between what Obama promised to do as a candidate and what he’s done as President. He promised to reduce spying on Americans, but Sanchez says that in 2010 “his Justice Department broke the Bush record for the number of Americans whose detailed data was seized using national security letters.”

But all that spying didn’t hurt Obama in his bid for re-election, and no one knows if this latest news will pose a problem for him either. For one thing, neither Democrats nor Republicans seem particularly anxious to hold it against Obama. A few individual politicians have been sounding the alarm on the administration’s policies, particularly Democratic senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, who attempted to reveal as much as they could about the program without leaking classified information; before the leak took place, they wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder suggesting that Americans would be “stunned” to learn what kind of surveillance was being permitted under the Patriot Act. And Rand Paul, a Republican senator with some libertarian leanings, called the NSA program “an outstanding assault on the Constitution.”

But for the most part, both parties have defended Obama’s policies as necessary for fighting terrorism. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, defended the program by saying that “the records can only be accessed under heightened standards,” and that if the government doesn’t collect people’s data, the terrorists win: “It’s called protecting America.” Her opposite number on the committee, Republican Saxby Chambliss, was equally supportive of the program: “We have gathered significant information on bad guys,” he explained, “but only on bad guys.” Ever since Congress first passed the Patriot Act, presidents have had nearly unlimited leeway to do what they want in the name of catching terrorists, and no politicians have paid an electoral price for it. “I don’t know why there’s no real electoral consequence for this sort of thing,” says Joshua Foust, a Washington-based freelance journalist covering counterterrorism issues. “The only thing I can think of is that people, even if they complain at the time, really don’t care in the long run.”

There’s another problem that is specific to Obama’s political opposition: it’s hard for conservatives to attack him now as too Nixonian on national security when they spent years calling him a weakling and an appeaser. And since conservatives supported some of these policies under Bush, they run the risk of being attacked as hypocritical if they try to turn them against Obama. Rush Limbaugh, who called similar programs necessary during the Bush years, declared that Obama’s spying was “a coup d’état” and “why the Tea Party exists.” But others who defended the surveillance record of the Bush administration have continued to do so even for a President they don’t like. Karl Rove warned his fellow conservatives not to lump this in with real scandals like Benghazi, and former Bush administration attorney general Michael Mukasey took to the Wall Street Journal editorial page to declare that Snowden was the real villain of this story: “Every time we tell terrorists how we can detect them, we encourage them to find ways to avoid detection.”

Meanwhile, the people who have perhaps the most consistent position on Obama are left-wing civil libertarians. Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian blogger who helped break the NSA story, has been attacking the President’s civil rights record ever since then-senator Obama voted to uphold George W. Bush’s phone surveillance. But while left-wing civil libertarians may be best positioned to make the case against Obama and the security state, they may not have much backup. The high level of liberal support for Obama has made Democrats less interested in government overreach now that Obama is running the government. “Certainly there is a sense that Democrats worry less about the growth of the surveillance state under Obama simply because they fundamentally trust Obama as they did not trust Bush,” Sanchez says. Even a public figure as liberal as David Simon, creator of The Wire, wrote that the media had “displayed an astonishing ignorance of the realities of modern electronic surveillance” and that this was a “faux scandal.”

But libertarians like Greenwald may have reason to hope that this moment could finally create a tipping point: not for Obama’s political fortunes, but for the ability of the public to pay attention to these issues. Sanchez cites the consistency of a few Democrats like Wyden, as well as “a minority contingent of Republicans.” The hope, he adds, is that “as more and more claims that these sweeping forms of surveillance are necessary to protect us from terrorists prove unfounded, legislators will stop simply taking them on faith.” That could happen. Or it could be that a combination of liberal and conservative indifference will establish these revelations as unexceptional common practice. As Bush’s former press secretary, Ari Fleischer, gleefully tweeted, “I support President Obama’s anti-terror actions. They’re bipartisan now.”




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Barack Obama: The sneakiest president since Richard Nixon

  1. ‘O’ ain’t the new nixon, nixon at least had some sense of shame and reisgned.

    Obama will become known as a slag term on a level not previously known when referencing presidents.

    Mobster – check
    Fraudster – check
    Dictator – check
    check, check, and check

    • Drunks posting on here…..check….to infinity.

  2. You think it’s bad now? Wait until Hillary is president.

    • OMG blacks AND wimmenfolk running things?….it’s the end of the world!

      • Blacks and womenfolk are OK, its the schmucks, crooks, and nuts that got me concerned.

        O and H got a real corner on that market.

        • Oh you mean the cranky ole white guys are the problem!

          Gawd I’ll agree with that!

          • Appears your the racist, your a lover of Pierre Trudeau correct? Was he a cranky ole white guy?

          • Well Trudeau wasn’t a racist….nor did I support him

          • So all white guys are racist? Cranky or not?

          • You might wanna read posts before you reply to them

          • I did read the posts…..I thought we were talking about racists?

          • Don’t bother canucks45, EmilyOne is deranged and has this super-villain like ability to withstand all logic and rational thought.

          • She is a psychiatrists dream.

          • She can and has been broken, its evident by her posts when you challenge her, she is not as smart as she would like to think, she is a master propagandist and a very good google searcher at best!

      • “OMG blacks AND wimmenfolk running things?”

        I usually like reading what you have to say but… Really Emily?

        The man continues (did not start but bloody continues) a program which gives the US government free license to cache every private g-mail and facebook entry ever made by anyone with access to those sites and you feel it obligatory to drop the race and sex card in an attempt to defend him and his political allies? This is not just Americans by the way. This includes every person from outside of the United States who uses these sites.

        I don’t care what your opinions are about economics, abortion, public education, labor, etc., etc. What that man and his political allies are doing is just f***ing evil.

        • If you follow what I write, then you’ll know I have no patience with people who expect the world to be run their way.

          Echelon has been around for years. Spies for centuries.

          Obama doesn’t need defending.

          • “Obama doesn’t need defending.”

            When he’s doing that spying on millions of innocent people with complete opacity from the public and no legal check to ensure that his power isn’t be abused oh yes he does.

          • LOL they’ve all done it.

            Recorded people, audited people, spied on people…..I don’t think we’ve ever had a time without it

            This latest…..which btw is hokum….is just to work up anti-Obama sentiment. Seems to be working on you.

            It’s politics.

          • “Recorded people, audited people, spied on people…..I don’t think we’ve ever had a time without it”

            Yep. In the United States even the police can spy on you but they can only legally do that with a warrant (it’s a check to ensure that police can’t just wiretap whoever they feel like). I don’t recall a time in recent memory when the government gave itself license to open each and every single letter sent by the American public to read each of them and ensure there was nothing illegal nor dangerous being conducted without a warrant as they are with facebook and gmail in spite of the USSR scare. Perhaps you can stew about why the government found it ethically reprehensible to do that and thus didn’t. Or perhaps you can justify why such a thing would not have been so bad.

            Feel free to smooch Obama’s ass because at least he isn’t Romney, McCain or GWB if you wish. That’s partisan politics. I hold Obama with the same regard as GWB (and that regard is extremely low) and for very similar reasons.

          • Perhaps you could stop talking smack, and ask yourself why you never minded when Bush tossed your constitution and rights out the window. Apparently it only matters when it’s Obama.

          • My previous post:

            “I hold Obama with the same regard as GWB (and that regard is extremely low) and for very similar reasons.”

            Emily, Emily, Emily. I’m so disappointed in you.

          • No, you’re just blathering on

            Old gimmick btw…not believable

          • Refuting your point by affirming I hold the same disdain for GWB’s trampling of the constitution (his administration started PRISM btw) as I do for Obama is blathering?

            That’s affirmation that the right doesn’t have a monopoly on non-critical partisan thought I guess.

          • You must be the Summer Temp

            ‘I used to like Obama…until…..’

            ‘I used to agree with you….until…’

            You’re on Page 3 of the Con Handbook…..pick up your game

          • Having a strong disdain for Obama makes one a conservative does it?

            I think the only reasonable way to end this is to say best of luck to you.

          • And a racist. Like I said in the first place.

            Ciao baby

          • Wow, you are sooo pathetic Emily, get some new material….everytime your backed into a corner you throw out the racist card, give it a rest, you use it so much it loses its TRUE meaning.

          • I understand why you don’t like the word…..it’s still true though

          • You have no patience with people who expect the world to be run their way but all I hear and read from your posts is exactly the way you want it run, hate cons, bring on libs, Canadians are uneducated, need more immigration, kill oilsands……..sounds like a person who wants the world run her way dont it? You are so predictable and transparent!

          • I don’t mind conservatives……Harper isn’t one.

            And I’m not a Lib….sorry.

            Canadians ARE uneducated and need more immigration….but I’ve never said anything about the oilsands.

          • Lol, omfg, your gonna have to do better then that darlin! Im not as easy to convince…….

          • I’m not interested in convincing you of anything.

          • You wouldnt be because I am not of the weak minded and that im sure just bothers the hell outta ya!

          • Your mind isn’t weak….just not very bright.

          • LOL, thats calling the kettle black aint it now?!?!?!

          • Weekend’s over…..off you go

          • But you are a LOONIE

          • You and Canuck45 are a perfect example of why we need more education in this country.

            Now I repeat….weekend’s over…so is my patience. Ciao.

          • Too funny….I challenge you with an educated mind and all you can say is weekend is over??? Who is the one in need if education…

          • But you haven’t got an educated mind.

            Just a beer-soaked one.

          • Thats your OPINION…..which means FA and very evident!

          • As you make another beer-soaked comment. LOL

          • Omg, you got me Emily, im backed into a corner now……your a racist!

        • there are no such things as race and sex cards. Those labels remove the validity of such phenomenons . To be honest, you do sound racist. You compare opening mail thirty years ago to living in the world we do now, i.e., facebook, twitter, etc. If you think you are not monitored in Canada or anywhere else in the world you need a reality check . This is not an Obama issue, this is a technology issue and it is a world problem. Do not attack the black man for something every president/prime minister does.

          • Obama is not a crook…………………..right.

        • soon we will the term rape card being used

        • soon we will hear the term rape card being used

          • I think we just did, twice and by you!

      • You have that right. Barefoot, pregnant and on the edge of town is about what should be done.
        I read this over his shoulder. He may apologize after he gets out of intensive care. The wife.

      • Oh yeah, that has to be to be the problem if a person doesn’t appreciate BamBam or Clinton! Racist misogynists! Sarc/off.

        Hey, how about Condoleezza Rice for president? Female & black (& not a 50% white poser).

        • Oh….a ‘white poser’

          Amazing how people give themselves away.

          • Thumbs up to you for responding exactly the way I predicted you would, simply amazing, in a rather banal way. Good luck to you & all the “projecting” you likely do.

          • Oh enough with the nonsense.

          • Nonsense is you suggesting that the posters disliking Obama & Clinton was because of racism & misogyny. If someone suggested that race or gender was reason not to vote for them your comments would have been appropriate, & I would thought such people to be little more than stupid, bigotted a**es. If you’re not honest enough to realize the appropriateness of your remark, you could use help in terms of rational thinking.

          • Well it isn’t because of his policies since you don’t know what they are.
            However, I’m sure you don’t like to be seen as racists.

          • You’re quite remarkable in your belief of what you imagine you can discern about what other know or don’t know. I certainly don’t care whether you imagine me to be racist or not, that might be another case entirely if you presented yourself to be a rational, reasonable person.

          • You’re assuming I care about what you think one way or another.

            Wrong

          • You’re imagining that I assume that you care about what I think, why would I assume that or care whether you did? I believe you don’t care, as I don’t care what you think, a point I made in my previous reply. Thanks for playing!

          • Mmm and ‘playing’ is all you’re doing.

            Sorry, not interested

    • What was that real estate fraud the Clinton’s got in hot water for?

      You know, the one back in Arkansas.

  3. He has proven that colour matters in the US of A – however being a community organizer does not a president make. He is becoming a despised man in his own country.

    • No he’s not.

      • becoming, no – already is!

        Only ones who don’t know that already are the ones who always knew what he was.

        • He was just reelected, doofus. Massively.

          • Ass or Elephant, that was the choice americans made.
            Nearlly half the population already knew what he was and despised him for it. Nearly another half knew what they were getting and loved him for it. There is only a small 6-8 percent who actually swing.

          • I see you don’t follow politics

          • What, you know a different result than the rest of the world?

      • And you speak for every living soul in the USA right? Pffffft, WTF do you know, you live in Canada……

        • He was just reelected, doofus. Massively.

          • So was your beloved Harper if you do the math as far population is concerned

          • No he wasn’t.

          • A majority is a majority no matter which way you slice it…

          • The US system is quite unlike the Canadian system

          • Pfffftt, people put a check mark on a ballot to vote for who they would like to see elected……period, then they count the ballots and whoever has the most votes wins, put in it simplest form for ya.

          • Well, that’s Canada.

            And technically it should be an X, not a ‘check mark’

          • Hmmm, I stand corrected….:-P

          • Technically , in Canada , people may use a check mark OR a X on a ballot when voting

          • It’s supposed to be an X…there is a reason for that.

            In practice people use smiley faces, stars, strokes, little notes and all manner of other things that make votes hard to count.

          • Yes, I know – in your world you are KING!

          • EmilyOne just says the stupidest comments possible because she’s desperate for attention. She’s basically like a child who starts screaming and swearing. If we just ignore her, perhaps she’ll stop being so noisy.

          • Gawd I hope you aren’t the summer temp, because that was the lamest comment this month!

          • No, she lives for this board. Noise is her life, I am pretty sure that its all she has.

          • I agree 100%…….and see your comment has rattled her CAGE, I cant ignore a person like that, she has verbal diarrhea and when we all speak up like this we are her toilet paper for her sh*%#y mouth, thanks for this Sue…

          • Popular vote decreased …significantly.

          • You can tell yourself all the fanciful tales you want, but the fact is that Obama is president and Romney isn’t.

            And Repubs won’t get elected again until they turf the whackos from their midst.

      • Once you have cashed that welfare cheque, why don’t you prove me wrong? Because you cannot.

        • He just got elected a short time ago by a landslide. Pay attention.

          And get used to being disagreed with….your ‘tude guarantees it will happen to you a lot

          • LOL – what is a “tude” dude?
            His popularity is falling faster than your pants – LOL

          • ‘Attitude’…..you have more of that than brains.

            Which means you’ll never get anywhere in life.

    • Even by many in his own party.

  4. Patent nonsense. Everyone over 15 knows that “privacy” died ten years ago when they finished creating the Internet. Every user of g-mail get his private mail read in about 10 seconds and is given the clues in 30 seconds.

    This article is pure moral panic. Also, the investigation of the Fox news reporters was legal and well within the mandate: find the leak. The only reason you’re writing about it is that it involved Fox, not MSNBC.

  5. It would be most appropriate if the Obama White House had a massive granite block engraved with “WAR IS PEACE,” “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY,” “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”
    Hail to the Chief – 1984 has finally arrived.

  6. I got the cut of his jib early in his first term when he dreamed up his ‘beer summit’.

    • LOL ‘having a beer’ with a candidate is considered the way to judge someone these days.

      Bush of course went straight to invasions.

      • Lmfao, still spreading all your propaganda on here eh Emily, I think its time to move on sweetheart, people are starting to catch on to your propaganda BS by the sounds of things, maybe try posting on a jihad site where someone may actually want to read your doctrines…….

        • Ahhh…it’s the guy who fell off the turnip truck yesterday.

  7. No doubt that Obama will go down as the most ineffective President in US history. Carismatic but full of egotistical selfcentered “hot air” Coninuously campaigning by preaching what he feels people want to hear with cero action or delivery on his retorical promises.. Typical of a Community organizer with cero managment skills who depends on his selfinterested manipulating “handlers” to to get him through his his day.

    • Well said and agreed! Finally someone who can see past their nose…..thank you!

    • Use a dictionary the next time you post :)

  8. Americans will always criticize their presidents, politics is a dirty word in the USA.
    And Canada follows exactly what the US does.

    • and Canadians do it with extreme joy…witness the comments on various news sites.

  9. Propaganda. If you believe everything the media tells you…

    Obama is one of the best presidents since Nixon.

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