When Barack Obama hosts George W. Bush at the White House today for the unveiling of Bush’s presidential portrait, the 44th president will have to find something nice to say about the 43rd. Perhaps Obama could point out that the two men’s counterterrorism policies are virtually indistinguishable — except in the liberal reaction to them.
Take this week’s New York Times report on Obama’s drone war. Imagine the outcry that would have erupted on the left if the Times had reported that during his time in office, Bush was personally selecting “every new name on an expanding ‘kill list’” of terrorists to be vaporized? Imagine if the Times had described White House officials boasting about how Bush “approves lethal action without handwringing,” or how Bush had told aides that the decision to kill an American citizen with a drone was an “easy one”? Imagine if the Times had revealed that Karl Rove, “the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings” each week in the Situation Room where decisions were made as to who would live or die?
Marc A. Thiessen
A fellow with the American Enterprise Institute, Thiessen writes a weekly column for The Post.
There would be bonfires burning in Lafayette Park.
So the absence of outrage was palpable when the Times reported such details about Barack Obama’s drone campaign against al-Qaeda. Consider some of the Times revelations:
●When he issued executive orders shutting down CIA interrogations and Guantanamo Bay, Obama “without showing his hand” performed a “deft insertion of some wiggle words” that created “subtle loopholes . . . carving out the maximum amount of maneuvering room to fight the war on terror as he saw fit.”
● In addition to “personality” strikes against named, high-value terrorists, Obama has also authorized “signature” strikes against “suspicious compounds” and targets “whose names [we] do not know.”
● While claiming to have tightened the rules for protecting innocent lives, “Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties,” which “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants” because “people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good.”
●When it came to killing American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, Obama determined that he could “order the targeting of an American citizen, in a country with which the United States is not at war, in secret and without the benefit of a trial” relying on a secret Justice Department finding that a U.S. citizen’s Fifth Amendment right to due process “could be satisfied by internal deliberations in the executive branch.”
Where are the congressional hearings charging that Obama is running an “imperial presidency”? Where is the New York Times editorial declaring that Obama has overseen “an expansion of presidential power chilling both in its sweep and in the damage it did to the constitutional system of checks and balances”? Where is the three-year investigation and 5,000 page report from Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee into Obama’s drone campaign?