After President Obama took office, it became abundantly clear that he would continue engaging in some policies that liberals derided during the Bush administration. A few progressives criticized the continuation of these policies, the inherent contradiction between Obama's promises and his embrace of these policies, and the hypocrisy of liberals who failed to condemn Obama, even though they skewered Bush for the exact same conduct. These arguments, however, led to a concerted "pushback" from many liberal protectors of the administration.
Dissenting Justice, for example, provoked a storm among some liberals after running a series of essays which argues that Obama's position on "rendition" differs from Bush's practices in "form" rather than "substance." Since that time, President Obama has embraced positions that are similar to or indistinct from Bush's stance on policies such as state secrets and indefinite detention.
Et tu, Olbermann?
It now seems that some liberals have given up trying to deny the closeness of Obama's and Bush's positions on some aspects of antiterrorism policy. MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann ranks among the most effusive and uncritical supporters of President Obama. During the Democratic primaries, Olbermann was responsible for spreading a grossly distorted -- actually, downright deceitful -- story which implied that Hillary Clinton remained in the primaries because she was waiting for the possible assassination of Obama. Olbermann produced a nearly 1/2-hour rant in which he accused Clinton of being racist, selfish, insensitive, and many other undesirable adjectives. The Obama campaign immediately emailed the video to other media, after which it quickly spread around the Internet.
Until recently, Olbermann did not bend in his effusive portrayals of Obama and his scathing and acidic criticism of his opponents. But even Olbermann has shifted away from his uncritical stance now that the Obama administration has again deployed a broad state secrets defense to oppose lawsuits challenging the Bush administration's use of warrantless wiretapping and rendition.
Salon blogger Glenn Greenwald, who, unlike many other liberals, has not become seduced into uncritical submission by the Obama administration, does a great job analyzing Olbermann's and other liberals' opposition to Obama's position on state secrets. Earlier this week, Greenwald himself wrote a lengthy article that criticizes Obama's deployment of the state secrets doctrine.
Here is a clip from Greenwald's essay on Olbermann:
Last night, Keith Olbermann -- who has undoubtedly been one of the most swooning and often-uncritical admirers of Barack Obama of anyone in the country (behavior for which I rather harshly criticized him in the past) -- devoted the first two segments of his show to emphatically lambasting Obama and Eric Holder's DOJ for the story I wrote about on Monday: namely, the Obama administration's use of the radical Bush/Cheney state secrets doctrine and -- worse still -- a brand new claim of "sovereign immunity" to insist that courts lack the authority to decide whether the Bush administration broke the law in illegally spying on Americans.According to Greenwald, Obama's biggest supporters have no choice but to point out how his policies mimic Bush's because:
The fact that Keith Olbermann, an intense Obama supporter, spent the first ten minutes of his show attacking Obama for replicating (and, in this instance, actually surpassing) some of the worst Bush/Cheney abuses of executive power and secrecy claims reflects just how extreme is the conduct of the Obama DOJ here.
It would require a virtually pathological level of tribal loyalty and monumental intellectual dishonesty not to object just as vehemently as we watch the Obama DOJ repeatedly invoke these very same theories and, in this instance, actually invent a new one that not even the Bush administration espoused.Unfortunately, in the recent past, many liberals actually placed "tribal loyalty" above intellectual consistency and adherence to progressive values.
Greenwald also observes that the state secrets issue has generated passionate criticism on vehemently pro-Obama sites such as Daily Kos and Booman Tribune and at the reliably liberal, though not as visibly pro-Obama, TPM. Previously, commentary on Daily Kos that offerred even slightly critical perspectives on the Obama administration often faced stiff resistance or, even worse, silence and dismissal. Apparently, things are indeed changing for a few people.
Related readings on Dissenting Justice:
Obama Administration Will Appeal Court Ruling Which Allows Habeas Petitions for Certain Captives in Afghanistan
Rendition, Secrecy and Torture: Inseparable?
Forcing His Hand or Providing Political Cover? Congressional Democrats Introduce Legislation on "State Secrets"
Elevating Form Over Substance: Liberals Now Argue that They Oppose the Label of Bush's Program, Not the Substance
Still a Flip-Flop: My Fellow Liberals Push Back Against Allegations of Inconsistency Concerning Rendition