As a candidate for President, Barack Obama promised to end Constitutional abuses and infringement on freedoms by the administration of George W. Bush.
As President, Obama has continued the abuse and now backs many of the rights-robbing practices of his predecessor.
Since becoming President, Obama backed Bush’s controversial use of the National Security Agengy (NSA) to wiretap Americans without warrants. He has expanded, not curtailed, Bush’s “war on terror” and has done nothing to roll back the Constitutional abuses of the USA Patriot Act, a law he voted to extend while serving in the Senate.
Obama the President is a far cry from Obama the candidate. He continues to use “signing statements” that allow him to bypass laws passed by Congress while appointing a multitude of “czars” that have widespread power without the normal checks and balances of a Congressional confirmation process.
Obama may well become more of an “imperial President” than the one he followed.
Writing in the New York Review of books, journalist-historian Gary Wills notes:
Even in areas outside national security, the Obama administration quickly came to resemble Bush’s. Gay military personnel, including those with valuable Arabic-language skills, were being dismissed at the same rate as before. Even more egregiously, the Obama administration continued the defiance of the Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause, which requires states to recognize laws passed by other states, when it defended the Defense of Marriage Act, which lets states refuse to recognize gay marriages legally obtained in another state. Many objected when Dick Cheney would not name energy executives who came to the White House in 2002, though Hillary Clinton, as First Lady, had been forced to reveal which health advisers had visited her. Yet the Obama team, in June 2009, refused to release logs of those who come to the White House. (It later reversed itself, but only in response to a lawsuit.)
Some were dismayed to see how quickly the Obama people grabbed at the powers, the secrecy, the unaccountability that had led Bush into such opprobrium. Leon Panetta at the CIA especially puzzled those who had known him during the Clinton years. A former CIA official told The Washington Post, “Leon Panetta has been captured by the people who were the ideological drivers for the interrogation program in the first place.” A White House official told Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, “It’s like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
While campaign promises usually disappear once the oath of office is administered on Jan. 20th, the speed of Obama’s transformation surprised some Washington watchers.
He quickly abandoned his promise to not appoint lobbyists to his administration. He backtracked on a promise to pay for every dollar of new government spending and unleashed a wave of programs that drive the budget into record deficits. He promised an end to military tribunals and to release photos of prisoners but reneged on both promises.
Obama even lied about Osama bin Laden. During the campaign, Obama said capturing or killing 9/11 terrorist attack mastermind bin Laden would be a top priority of his administration.
During the presidential debates last year, Obama declared that capturing or killing Osama bin Laden “has to be our biggest national security priority.” In his first TV interview after winning the election, he said the terrorist leader was “not just a symbol. He’s also the operational leader of an organization that is planning attacks against U.S. targets,” and that the additional troops being sent to Afghanistan would hunt him down because “capturing or killing bin Laden is a critical aspect of stamping out Al Qaeda.”
Bin Laden’s significance to Obama dissipated during the transition. By the time Obama gave another interview in early January, he said killing or capturing bin Laden was not necessary to “meet our goal of protecting America.” A few months later, when he announced his Afghanistan troop surge, he made no reference to the hunt for bin Laden.
Obama did keep his campaign promise to ramp up the war in Afghanistan and that promise threatens to turn into another Vietnam-style debacle.
Maybe that’s the promise he shouldn’t have kept.