Dan Froomkin says much the same thing that I have been saying for many years, that probably the single worst thing that President Obama has done in office is to institutionalize the vast expansion of executive power that happened under the Bush/Cheney regime. He writes:
Instead, under President Barack Obama, they’ve become institutionalized.
There will be no snapping back to a pre-Bush-era respect for basic human dignity and civil rights. Thanks to Obama, it’s going to be a hard, long fight.
In some cases, Obama has set even darker precedents than his predecessor. Massively invasive bulk surveillance of Americans and others has been expanded, not constrained. This president secretly condemns people to death without any checks or balances, and shrugs as his errant drones massacre innocent civilians. Whistleblowers and journalists who expose national security wrongdoing face unprecedented criminal prosecution.
In a few cases, Obama publicly distanced himself from Bush/Cheney excesses, but to little effect. He forswore torture, and promised to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. But by actively covering up what happened in the U.S.’s torture chambers, and by refusing to hold the torturers and their political masters in any way accountable, he has done nothing to make sure that the next time a perceived emergency comes up, it won’t all happen again. And Gitmo, which he treated as a political rather than moral issue, is still very much open for business…
In retrospect, what the country needed was a radical break from the Bush/Cheney national security policies: A reestablishment of American moral integrity; a rejection of decision-making based on fear (of terrorism, or of political blowback); a reassertion of the international laws of war; and a national reckoning.Instead, the hopes for any change are slim. Obama has eroded the credibility of any future promises of expansive reform in the area of national security. And, in any case, no such promises are forthcoming: Congressional response to the recent disclosures has been narrowly focused and prone to loopholes; the current leadership of both political parties — and their likeliest standard-bearers in 2016 — aren’t expressing any outrage at all.
As surely — if not as enthusiastically — as his predecessor, Obama has succumbed to the powerful systemic pressures that serve the needs of the military-intelligence-industrial complex. Secrecy is rampant. Politics drives policy. There is no accountability. Congressional and judicial oversight have become a bitter joke. And the elite press gets tighter and tighter with those to whom it should be adversarial.
He’s absolutely right. The opportunity to repudiate and reverse that expansion of power and restore something resembling actual limitations on executive power has been lost, perhaps forever. For all practical purposes, we have an entirely unrestrained executive branch with the authority to violate the 4th Amendment at will with no checks and balances to constrain their choices. Congress and the courts have both failed just as completely in providing any oversight whatsoever. This is the grand tragedy of the Obama presidency.