Tyranny in the Real World.

There's a portion in the GOP's "Pledge for America" where the authors decry an "unchecked executive" who "strikes down long-standing laws and institutions" while "scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people." Given their past rhetoric, Republicans are probably referring to our duly elected executive's decision to pursue health-care reform and other tyrannical measures like greater unemployment insurance or climate-change legislation. Obviously, Republicans are playing off of their conservative base. But if this concern is genuine, I wonder if it would extend to something genuinely offensive, like the Obama administration's assertion of presidential authority to execute citizens without due process and in complete secrecy:

In response to the lawsuit filed by Anwar Awlaki’s father asking a court to enjoin the President from assassinating his son, a U.S. citizen, without any due process, the administration late last night, according to The Washington Post, filed a brief asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit without hearing the merits of the claims. That’s not surprising: both the Bush and Obama administrations have repeatedly insisted that their secret conduct is legal but nonetheless urge courts not to even rule on its legality. But what’s most notable here is that one of the arguments the Obama DOJ raises to demand dismissal of this lawsuit is “state secrets”: in other words, not only does the President have the right to sentence Americans to death with no due process or charges of any kind, but his decisions as to who will be killed and why he wants them dead are “state secrets,” and thus no court may adjudicate their legality.

This is the sort of thing that belongs in repressive dictatorships or dystopian sci-fi movies; Tea Partiers like to blather about the injustice of their tax dollars going to poor people, but this -- the unrestrained exercise of violence by the state -- is an actual perversion of America and its values.

On an even more depressing note, I doubt we'll see much of a political challenge to the Obama administration's assertion of extraordinary executive power; normally, the opposition party would step up to challenge claims of executive authority, but with the GOP committed to a Cheney-ite vision of unlimited executive power, that doesn't seem very likely. On the other side, Democrats were pretty vocal about executive overreach during the Bush years, but with Obama in the White House, that concern has fallen by the wayside. Indeed, it's fair to say that most Democrats are either apathetic about the expanding reach of the security state or openly supportive. By and large, odds are good that we'll finish Obama's presidency without any meaningful reduction in the scope or reach of executive power.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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