A Romney Critic’s Case Against Obama

Mitt Romney is a deeply flawed candidate, but that doesn't mean the President is any better.

Conor Friedersdorf has been intensely critical of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party throughout the course of the campaign, and yet, as he explains to day, he cannot bring himself to vote for President Obama:

What I am saying is that Obama has done things that, while not comparable to a historic evil like chattel slavery, go far beyond my moral comfort zone. Everyone must define their own deal-breakers. Doing so is no easy task in this broken world. But this year isn’t a close call for me.

I find Obama likable when I see him on TV. He is a caring husband and father, a thoughtful speaker, and possessed of an inspirational biography. On stage, as he smiles into the camera, using words to evoke some of the best sentiments within us, it’s hard to believe certain facts about him:

  1. Obama terrorizes innocent Pakistanis on an almost daily basis. The drone war he is waging in North Waziristan isn’t “precise” or “surgical” as he would have Americans believe. It kills hundreds of innocents, including children. And for thousands of more innocents who live in the targeted communities, the drone war makes their lives into a nightmare worthy of dystopian novels. People are always afraid. Women cower in their homes. Children are kept out of school. The stress they endure gives them psychiatric disorders. Men are driven crazy by an inability to sleep as drones buzz overhead 24 hours a day, a deadly strike possible at any moment. At worst, this policy creates more terrorists than it kills; at best, America is ruining the lives of thousands of innocent people and killing hundreds of innocents for a small increase in safety from terrorists. It is a cowardly, immoral, and illegal policy, deliberately cloaked in opportunistic secrecy. And Democrats who believe that it is the most moral of all responsible policy alternatives are as misinformed and blinded by partisanship as any conservative ideologue.
  2. Obama established one of the most reckless precedents imaginable: that any president can secretly order and oversee the extrajudicial killing of American citizens. Obama’s kill list transgresses against the Constitution as egregiously as anything George W. Bush ever did. It is as radical an invocation of executive power as anything Dick Cheney championed. The fact that the Democrats rebelled against those men before enthusiastically supporting Obama is hackery every bit as blatant and shameful as anything any talk radio host has done.
  3. Contrary to his own previously stated understanding of what the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution demand, President Obama committed U.S. forces to war in Libya without Congressional approval, despite the lack of anything like an imminent threat to national security.

In different ways, each of these transgressions run contrary to candidate Obama’s 2008 campaign. (To cite just one more example among many, Obama has done more than any modern executive to wage war on whistleblowers. In fact, under Obama, Bush-era lawbreakers, including literal torturers, have been subject to fewer and less draconian attempts at punishment them than some of the people who conscientiously came forward to report on their misdeeds.) Obama ran in the proud American tradition of reformers taking office when wartime excesses threatened to permanently change the nature of the country. But instead of ending those excesses, protecting civil liberties, rolling back executive power, and reasserting core American values, Obama acted contrary to his mandate. The particulars of his actions are disqualifying in themselves. But taken together, they put us on a course where policies Democrats once viewed as radical post-9/11 excesses are made permanent parts of American life.

Friedersdorf’s list of indictments against Obama are familiar ones, and they are issues I’ve touched upon in the past. Rather than bringing true change to Washington, even in the areas that he has pretty much unfettered control over such as foreign policy and the prosecution of America’s wars, the President has largely decided to continue the policies of his predecessor, and indeed expand upon them. Before President Bush, nobody thought an American President could secretly authorize torture, extraordinary rendition, and detention of alleged terrorists in CIA “black sites,” nor did they think that any President’s legal advisers would put forward a legal theory justifying these actions that makes the authorities assumed by the King of England at the time of the Revolution seem tame by comparison. When he took office, President Obama didn’t reject these policies, indeed he expanded up on them while at the same time sweeping any investigation of what had gone on during the Bush Administration under the rug. When his own effort to order the assassination of an American citizen was challenged in the Courts, he utilized the controversial “state secrets” doctrine developed under the Bush Administration to bring an end to the lawsuits so that the attack could go forward without the Administration having to comply with even minimal standards of due process. More recently, his Justice Department recently refused to prosecute CIA agents implicated in torture that appears to have led to the death of two detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq.

When it comes to foreign policy, then, the Obama Administration has been, in many ways, a continuation of the Bush Administration’s foreign policy down to the point of continuing to prosecute an unpopular and pointless war despite the fact that our mission there has clearly failed. Where is the alternative? It certainly isn’t going to come from Mitt Romney, who seems intent on doubling down on the Bush-Obama policies if he manages to make it to the Oval Office. It didn’t come from anyone in the Democratic Party because Obama didn’t even have token opposition for his party’s nomination. And, it certainly isn’t coming from the media, which seems more intent on concentrating on horse race issues and irrelevant gaffes than issues that could likely involve this nation in its third war in a Muslim nation this century.

Friedersdorf goes on to call out those on the left who were vocal on these issues during the Bush Administration:

How can you vilify Romney as a heartless plutocrat unfit for the presidency, and then enthusiastically recommend a guy who held Bradley Manning in solitary and killed a 16-year-old American kid? If you’re a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes.

But I don’t see many Obama supporters feeling as reluctant as the circumstances warrant.

The whole liberal conceit that Obama is a good, enlightened man, while his opponent is a malign, hard-hearted cretin, depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans — along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers — just aren’t valued. Alternatively, the less savory parts of Obama’s tenure can just be repeatedly disappeared from the narrative of his first term, as so many left-leaning journalists, uncomfortable confronting the depths of the man’s transgressions, have done over and over again.

Keen on Obama’s civil-libertarian message and reassertion of basic American values, I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama.

To be fair, there have been some on the left who have been intellectually consistent on these issues in calling out Obama for the same things that they were calling out President Bush during his time in office, with Glenn Greenwald being the most prominent. For the most part, though, the President’s supporters have been silent as he’s engaged in policies that, if a Republican had conducted them, would likely have them speaking out loudly and making speeches from the floor of the House and the Senate. Even the fact that the President has clearly abandoned any effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay has largely been forgotten.

I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008, nor did I vote for McCain, but my position on issues of foreign policy and Presidential power had given me some hope after he won that he would roll back at least some of the excesses of the Bush Administration. Not only hasn’t he done that, but he’s raised the bar even higher so that, when he is succeeded, whether that comes in 2013 or 2017, the next resident of the Oval Office will have more unchecked power than any other President before him, power that he or she will also expand. President Obama’s decision to commit American forces to the conflict in Libya without first seeking approval of Congress makes it far easier for a future President to do the same thing in a far more dangerous situation that ends up dragging the United States into a wider war without the matter even having been debated by the American people or their representatives. His decision to authorize the assassination of an American citizen without due process creates a dangerous precedent just waiting to be abused by a future President with far less scruples than he. And his Administration’s decision to look the other way when it comes to the Bush years tells future Presidents that they can act with impunity and with little worry that they or their advisers will ever be called to task.

Obviously, Mitt Romney would likely not be any better on these issues than the President and in some respects even might be worse, but as Conor notes that’s not a reason to vote for the President:

Sometimes a policy is so reckless or immoral that supporting its backer as “the lesser of two evils” is unacceptable. If enough people start refusing to support any candidate who needlessly terrorizes innocents, perpetrates radical assaults on civil liberties, goes to war without Congress, or persecutes whistleblowers, among other misdeeds, post-9/11 excesses will be reined in.

If not?

So long as voters let the bipartisan consensus on these questions stand, we keep going farther down this road, America having been successfully provoked by Osama bin Laden into abandoning our values.

Friedersdorf says that he intends to vote for Gary Johnson, if he votes at all. That’s my plan as well. He’s not going to win and, as many have already accused me of, some many consider it moral preening, but at least I won’t be voting for a candidate who supports the failed policies of the past decade that continue to endanger this nation’s values and perhaps its very safety. The question is why the people who were so concerned about stuff like this in 2008 are ignoring it four years later.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Everything listed here is literally why I refuse to vote for Obama. And since a vote for Romney is even more unthinkable considering his own weaknesses and the state of the modern GOP, that only leaves me one choice, really.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Maybe instead of focusing on individuals, we, as a nation, should take a hard look in the mirror. Are there moral issues with the drone war? Lets ask ourselves how many people we have killed since the end of WW2, and put the question in a borader moral context.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    Witness: the same gaggle of people who decided to vote for Ralph Nader because “there’s no difference between Bush and Gore.”

  4. anjin-san says:

    borader = broader

  5. grumpy realist says:

    (I also wonder how many of these “a plague on both your houses!” types are a) white b) male c)hetrosexual.)

  6. john personna says:

    I personally think it matters which state you live in and what the margins are. When the margin is not close I think we are less burdened with choosing the lesser evil, and can “get creative.”

    I do think we have had a very unfortunate drift toward militarism in US policy. That probably started with the success of Gulf War I and ran until we were reminded what a quagmire means.

    Also my empiricist’s outlook says that the actual numbers killed and maimed matter, and not only the modes of their deaths. It is kind of a tragedy in my opinion that 1000 deaths by conventional bombing are ranked as less evil than 10 by drone.

    According to this page the low estimate of civilian deaths in the Iraq war is 66,000. Just sayin’

  7. While agreeing with all of Conor Friedersdorf’s points, is there any of them where Romney isn’t even worse than Obama? Do you think Romney is going to pare back the drone strikes? Do you think Romney is going to require due process for miltiary detainees? Do you think Romney is going wait for congressional approval of his plans to attack Iran?

  8. Blue Shark says:

    So Doug won’t be voting for R-Money.

    …That gives me a small hope for your intellectual soul.

    …BTW … Name any president you admire and I can point out 2 or 3 of his positions that you would find abhorrent. Nature of the job.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    I think these are valid and sincere concerns, and I share some of them.

    As a matter of history, though, it’s silly to pretend that American presidents haven’t frequently wielded similar power. Reagan thought he had the right and authority to send weapons to Iran despite the fact that they were a terrorist nation. And if you think the practice of rendition just started under Mr. Bush the Younger, I think you’re naive. Many games were played during the Cold War.

    And you might want to note that as of 1945 an American president thought he had a perfect right to drop an atomic bomb on a civilian city. And from there until the present day American presidents have believed they literally had the right to essentially exterminate human life on planet earth rather than submit to foreign domination.

    Evere read Slaughterhouse Five? You think maybe the air corps knew there were US citizens held as prisoner in Dresden? And therefore knew that in pursuing their war goals they were ordering the deaths of Americans?

    So, historically? Bullsh!t. But still genuine concerns.

  10. cd6 says:

    This is an more easily defended position when Obama is ahead in the polls.

    If Obama does beat Romney (as most of us expect), then these Gary Johnson voters can pat themselves on the back for being such stand up moral characters, and I suspect they’ll spend us the next 4 years reminding us of that.

    If Romeny DOES beat Obama, with a bunch of Johnson votes acting as spoilers, and Romney, as we all expect, is significantly worse than Obama for all sorts of reasons, then these “I took a prinicipled stand!11!11!” voters will of course bear moral responsibilty for the Romney presidency disaster. Wonder if they’ll still own it then?

  11. michael reynolds says:

    Another example: FDR believed, and the SCOTUS agreed, that he had a right to order tens of thousands of US citizens to be rounded up and imprisoned in concentration camps. I don’t see anything on either Mr. Obama’s agenda, or on Mr. Romney’s, that is quite as appalling. So, this isn’t very effective as a slippery slope argument, and can only really be taken on its own merits.

  12. Mike P says:

    Well, I think the crux of the whole thing is in the first paragraph of Conor’s above: “Everyone must define their own deal breakers.”

    For some people, like Conor, Obama’s record on civil liberties is a bridge too far and so he won’t vote for him. That’s totally fine. Others, who might not also like his record on civil liberties, may give those matters different weight and, in their own estimation, may vote for the president despite their distaste of some of his policy choices. That’s fine, too. We’re not all supposed to give everything the same value and consideration when we vote (thus, you see polls varying on what issues matter most to people…sure the economy might be top for most people, but certainly not all, etc).

    Let’s also recall that nothing the president does is in a vacuum; should forces inside and outside the government begin to move the political conversation in a certain direction, politicians tend to take notice. The civil liberties lobby has been somewhat ineffective in making its case to the American people about why we should or should not be worried about such things. That’s not to blame the lobby, or those who are passionate about those issues, for the policy positions adopted by the president that run counter to their preferences. Rather, it is to say that rarely does a politician in America – in this atmosphere – take a truly difficult stand without being convinced that they’re taking that stand without a constituency behind it. You didn’t hear much about gun control laws being changed after Aurora because, frankly, everybody knew the NRA would not allow such a thing to happen. Is that depressing? Absolutely. But is there a lesson there? Yes and it’s that you need to build things (pressure groups, lobbyist, wide coalitions, etc) to get almost anything done politically in America right now. If the ACLU and the part of the Tea Party that supposedly really cares about individual liberty (not economic liberty, specifically) teamed up and started to push back on executive overreach on these issues, I’d bet you find people in Congress and the White House who would listen. It’s hard work, but that’s how you have to do it.

  13. @cd6:

    Why would Johnson voters be responsible for President Romney?

  14. Spartacus says:

    As much as I hate to see a vote wasted on a candidate that will have no impact on governance, this post is extremely compelling. My only quibble is that there’s a long history of presidents taking military action without Congressional approval. Obama has continued that tradition, but he hasn’t made it worse.

  15. @michael reynolds:

    You have a point, and this book provides an excellent history of the extent to which the Presidency has become the monstrosity it is today.

    However, I can certainly understand Conor’s concerns with the record of the Obama Administration in this regard. Indeed, one wishes American voters would pay more attention to issues like this

  16. @grumpy realist: I’m all three. What’s your point?

  17. David M says:

    Obviously, Mitt Romney would likely not be any better on these issues than the President and in some respects even might be worse

    This doesn’t apply to Doug, as he clearly doesn’t support much of the Democratic Party’s domestic agenda, but given the quote above, why should this issue matter to most Democratic leaning voters?

  18. @David M:

    You are seriously asking why civil liberties and the expansion of the Imperial Presidency should matter to Democrats? Good lord, times really have changed since the Nixon Administration.

  19. @cd6:

    I get the same argument from Romney supporters, and it’s utter nonsense. If either Romney or Obama wants my vote they have to earn it and neither has done so.

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    I do think we have had a very unfortunate drift toward militarism in US policy. That probably started with the success of Gulf War I

    Oh, it started right after World War II. It’s just been picking up speed.

  21. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    We had a wonderful 30 years after Vietnam in which the American people had a real reluctance to project force.

  22. C. Clavin says:

    Obama has continued Bush policies? Whom exactly has he waterboarded 183 times?

  23. Rob in CT says:

    I’m glad you picked up on this, Doug.

    This is, to me, the best case against Obama. Hence my protest vote in a safe Obama state. In a swing state, I would vote Obama as LOTE.

    @Christopher Bowen:

    I think the argument goes that you have less at stake in other areas that electing a libertarian (or votes for libertarian results in GOP win) would impact.

    I too am all three. I’m also well-off, which insulates me even further from the potential downsides of a right-wing victory. It has the potential to influence how you weight things. I disagree with the GOP (and often libertarians) on a number of issues that have more personal impact on a woman. This is part of what makes me a Democrat. Do I assign less weight to those issues, though, because I’m male? I’d like to think not, but I don’t have so much confidence in my objectivity to say for sure.

    This doesn’t apply to Doug, as he clearly doesn’t support much of the Democratic Party’s domestic agenda, but given the quote above, why should this issue matter to most Democratic leaning voters?

    It depends on how you weigh these issues. Conor presents these things as dealbreakers for him. I can absolutely see someone on the Left agreeing and voting 3rd party as a result (say, Jill Stein of the Green Party).

  24. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Hey, noble race warriors: police are investigating racist death threats sent to a black politician. Please put on your best denouncing hats and load up your blamethrowers.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yeah, these are serious issues. And I’ll also say that I’m getting tired of a two party dynamic that pushes the needle ever more toward “tough” and away from “reasonable.”

    Unfortunately I don’t think we have a viable third party. Maybe after November 6th we’ll see a schism in the GOP and that iceberg will calve off a civil libertarian, economically realistic party. Maybe one that can actually attract some women. Women serve a bit of a canary in a coal mine function for me: I tend to trust their sense of smell. My wife will spot a nut or a jerk much faster than I will.

  26. Rob in CT says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    1. Is there an award for most off-topic comment of the year?

    2. Racist death threats are bad. Police investigating: good.

    What the hell is wrong with you?

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    When his own effort to order the assassination of an American citizen was challenged in the Courts, he utilized the controversial “state secrets” doctrine developed under the Bush Administration

    Unless I am greatly mistaken, the “state secrets” doctrine was first used by the Truman administration in the aftermath of a crash by a B-29 bomber on a “secret” mission. Decades later with the release (?) of materials related to the crash it became obvious that it was only a cover up because of a series of embarrassing mistakes.

    It has been invoked by numerous Presidents over the years.

  28. David M says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You misunderstood, I wasn’t saying this shouldn’t matter to Democrats in general, but to Democratic leaning voters deciding between Romney and Obama. Unless these foreign policy / civil liberties issues are much more important to them than things like health care, the deficit, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, then it’s a case where Obama is a lot better on the other important issues, and only a little better on this issue.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Before President Bush, nobody thought an American President could secretly authorize torture, extraordinary rendition, and detention of alleged terrorists in CIA “black sites,” nor did they think that any President’s legal advisers would put forward a legal theory justifying these actions that makes the authorities assumed by the King of England at the time of the Revolution seem tame by comparison. When he took office, President Obama didn’t reject these policies, indeed he expanded up on them

    It has been my understanding that the black sites have been closed, there have been no renditions, and the torture stopped even before Obama was elected. Am I wrong?

    ps: as an aside, I think the conditions under which Manning was kept, did indeed amount to torture.

  30. MBunge says:

    If one were to argue against Conor in the exact same tone and the exact same logic that he uses against Obama, one could ask why Conor is willing to let American children get killed by terrorists rather than compromise his precious principles.

    I’d echo Michael Reynolds that these are legitimate things to be worried/upset about. My problem with Conor is that there are not at all unreasonable counter-arguments to his position and he flatly refuses to respond to or even acknowledge them. Every reason and rationale for what Obama has done in the areas of anti-terrorism and civil liberties is ignored in favor of an unstated assumption that Obama just likes killing innocent people and loves wiping his ass with the Constitution.

    Mike

  31. Jeremy R. says:

    What’s interesting about the Friedersdorf column, and a number of recent similar articles from others, is that it’s another example of a right-leaning moderate/libertarian voter whose vote a GOP presidential ticket typically needs, but Romney is not going to get.

  32. David M says:

    @Rob in CT:

    It depends on how you weigh these issues. Conor presents these things as dealbreakers for him. I can absolutely see someone on the Left agreeing and voting 3rd party as a result (say, Jill Stein of the Green Party).

    If we had something like Instant-runoff voting here then voting for a 3rd party would make more sense to me. Without it, I personally don’t view protest votes very favorably, even in “safe” states.

  33. Rob in CT says:

    @MBunge:

    Is Conor really that unreasonable? I don’t think so, and I read him often.

  34. OzarkHillbilly says:

    while at the same time sweeping any investigation of what had gone on during the Bush Administration under the rug.

    That was a pipe dream Doug. No president would have done any different. What I wonder about is why there has been so little interest in other countries for prosecuting the abuses. So far, Italy is the only one to have done so.

    By and large, this is the one area where I have been disappointed by Obama. But James called it right and we (well, some of us) were naive to think Obama would unilaterally give up any power won by his predecessor. If this is going to change, the change is going to have to come from us. I don’t know how. It is going to take someone far smarter than I to figure that out.

    And for the record, I will be voting Obama again, because I know Romney would be no better than Obama on this, but will be far worse in so many other areas (IMHO).

  35. Rafer Janders says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    You are seriously asking why civil liberties and the expansion of the Imperial Presidency should matter to Democrats?

    No, he’s asking why these issues should matter to Democratic leaning voters in the context of a choice between Obama and Romney this election, given that Romney would be demonstrably worse than Obama on almost all measures.

    Context, Doug, context. It really matters if you’re trying to understand people.

  36. C. Clavin says:

    @ Michael Reynolds…

    “…My wife will spot a nut or a jerk much faster than I will…”

    She missed one. (Snark)

  37. mattb says:

    @Rob in CT:

    What the hell is wrong with you?

    Full out Obama derangement syndrome brought on by the congative dissonance that, despite everything he believes and knows to be true, Obama is currently headed for re-election.

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @David M:

    Without it, I personally don’t view protest votes very favorably, even in “safe” states.

    Personally, I think people should vote their conscience, not what other people tell them their conscience should say. As my mother always said, the only wasted vote is the one that isn’t used.

  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Also, for a little levity, take a cruise by TPM. It is so painful, even I feel sorry for the guy.

    (Yes off topic, but none of the FPers have posted it yet, so it is a heads up.)

  40. Moosebreath says:

    I’ll agree with Rob that this is a reasonable case against Obama, and I have been critical on his use of drones. The problem is that as Conor said, everyone must define their own deal-breakers. These aren’t the deal-breakers for me.

    What is a deal-breaker for me against both Romney and Johnson is economic policy. While the past thirty or so years have seen a massive change in the direction of greater inequality, and Obama has not done enough to stem the tide, I cannot vote for a person whose policies are designed to make that problem worse, not better.

  41. Curtis says:

    I share a lot of your concerns and Conor’s. I am also basically a liberal on social policy.

    As I see it, either Romney or Obama is going to win. Romney is worse on basically every issue facing the next president from my perspective. My job as a voter is to decide which of those would be better.

    My rationalization – and I am just one data point – is that the president cannot do everything. It simply is not possible for Obama to have gotten the stimulus passed, reformed Wall Street, passed healthcare, gotten two Supreme Court nominees approved, closed Guantanamo, ended both wars, ended torture, ended the filibuster as we know it, filled every judicial vacancy, killed bin Laden, and engaged Congress in a robust debate about Libya, and have a beer with every racial profiler who mistakenly arrested a Harvard professor in his own home.

    He decided which ones mattered most to him and did them. And he did so in such a manner that is basically consistent with his 2008 primary campaign against Clinton.

    So I will quite happily vote for him against Romney in a couple of weeks when the polls open down here. And I will continue to search for candidates I can support in primaries who will be better on civil liberties. And I will speak out against Constitutional abuses by either side. And I will consider any viable candidate for any office in which I get to make a vote.

    And I resent being told I am ignoring issues I cared about four years earlier.

  42. Doubter4444 says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Agreed.
    I too share the concerns (albeit differently weighted).
    The alternative is worse, IMO. That’s the problem.
    I will admit to not tossing and turning at night about North Warsitanians “being afraid”… but the decision not to close Gitmo and not to prusue the war criminals is deeply dissapointing.
    But seriously, can you imagine the HOLWES if he tried to investiagate Cheney, Feith, Yoo (a thousand deaths were not enough for Yueh (too obscure?), Rumsfeld et al?

    Let’s just be a tad real here… unless he wins a 60% landslide something like that would/will never happen.

  43. Doubter4444 says:

    Howls – sorry!

  44. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    We had a wonderful 30 years after Vietnam in which the American people had a real reluctance to project force.

    Well, yes and no. The American people, maybe, but not necessarily American politicians and the military.

    And the period wasn’t as long as that. US combat troops left Vietnam 1973 — by 1983 we’d invaded Grenada, by the mid-80s we were interfering in Central America and supplying the Afghan rebels, by 1989 we invaded Panama, and by 1990-1991 we were in the Gulf War. I’d say the reluctance to project force years really only lasted 10 years.

  45. MBunge says:

    @Rob in CT: “Is Conor really that unreasonable?”

    Not on most things but he’s really gone the full Greenwald on this. To engage in a little idiot analysis (me being the idiot for trying to analyze someone I’ve never met), I’d say that Conor is pissed off that he so frequently finds himself arguing against the side he feels should be his political/ideological home and it’s poisoning his thinking on this subject.

    Mike

  46. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Those were all small, sub-wars, which is my point.

  47. Woody says:

    Conor’s list is excellent, and as Mr. Reynolds states above, legitimate.

    Could a President – especially a D – stop any of those items without a rather powerful cohort of lobbies screaming Traitor?

    Would any item on the President’s agenda be addressed amidst the hysteria?

    If the GOP wasn’t crackers, I’d consider a third-party candidate. But if Romney wins, the nation plunges from the commode to the septic tank. No thanks.

  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doubter4444:

    but the decision not to close Gitmo

    OK, one of my pet peeves is the one about “Obama didn’t close Gitmo!”… Why is it so many don’t know that he was blocked by Congress from doing so?

    Really (sorry 4444), you can’t hang that one on Obama. We still don’t live in a dictatorship. Did he screw it up? Maybe. But then again, maybe no President could have closed it.

  49. Santiago says:

    “I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008, nor did I vote for McCain…”

    Right there, you forfeited your right to whine.

  50. Santiago says:

    Young Connor is young. He never grew up since his days as Sully’s stunt man.

  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna:

    Those were all small, sub-wars, which is my point.

    If I recall correctly, the Bush Admin thought Iraq and Afghanistan would be “small sub-wars” as well. How did that work out?

  52. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Santiago:

    “I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008, nor did I vote for McCain…”

    Right there, you forfeited your right to whine.

    Did he pay taxes? He has the right to whine.

  53. bk says:

    @Curtis:

    As I see it, either Romney or Obama is going to win.

    Nostradamus ain’t got nothing on you, bro.

    Sorry for that snark, but this has been one of the better columns/topics here in the past few days; all of the posts (including that of the OP) are much appreciated!

  54. Barbara Carson says:

    Every candidate is ever going to please everyone all of the time, so you must vote the person that will please you more often than the other. Please everyone get out and vote.

  55. Rafer Janders says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    He has the right to whine.

    He certainly has the right to whine. He doesn’t, however, have the right for anyone to take his whine seriously. One’s whine only really has value to the extent other people find it persuasive.

  56. Doubter4444 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    We had a wonderful 30 years after Vietnam in which the American people had a real reluctance to project force.

    Well, yes and no. The American people, maybe, but not necessarily American politicians and the military…. I’d say the reluctance to project force years really only lasted 10 years.

    And Democrats, by so doing, lost the veteran/military vote for decades, up to and including the foreseeable future.
    And now with the world in bad shape the Neocons are able to exploit that division and use it to start wars.
    It was a calamitous F%$# up to ceed the Military vote to the right.

  57. Rafer Janders says:

    It seems to me as if a lot of people here and elsewhere in the US view their vote as a means of personal expression, as a way to make a statement about who you are and what your core beliefs mean. It’s a particularly American way of looking at something.

    However, contra to this one could consider your vote as a responsibility you have to the other citizens your democracy, and view it as a tool to elect the person you think will actualy be the most competent and capable leader. In this view, even if you don’t love Obama on a host of issues, you still have a responsibility to vote for him if you think he’d be a better president than Romney, because you recognize that your suffrage exists for a greater purpose than self-expression, it exists to help govern and craft the system under which you and your fellows live.

    But I suppose that’s crazy talk, and we’re all precious precious flowers and shouldn’t ever have to compromise…..

  58. Doubter4444 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    No worries!
    I understand political capital in not inexhaustible, that’s part of the point I was (badly) trying to make… but for a list of disappointments with Obama, it’s on there.
    Still, I think he’s done a lot with a shithouse of messes on his watch, so I’ll give him 4 more years to deal with as much of them as he can.

  59. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    Those were all small, sub-wars, which is my point.

    Well, small, sub-wars to us, not to the victims.

    And at this point, the US is so powerful militarily that pretty much everything, including the Iraq War and Afghanistan, now counts as a small, sub-war. If you didn’t read about it in the papers, would you ever have known, walking around the US in the last ten years, that US combat forces were in harm’s way every single day? It’s almost invisible.

  60. An Interested Party says:

    And I resent being told I am ignoring issues I cared about four years earlier.

    Well that’s the deal with people like Doug and Conor…since they live high up in the clouds and are pure and noble, they can afford to sit in judgment of others like that…

    If the GOP wasn’t crackers, I’d consider a third-party candidate. But if Romney wins, the nation plunges from the commode to the septic tank. No thanks.

    Exactly right…the single best reason to vote for the President…

  61. PJ says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I’m also well-off, which insulates me even further from the potential downsides of a right-wing victory. It has the potential to influence how you weight things.

    My counterargument here would be foreign policy, the Middle East in particular, but also relations with Russia and China.

    You may not be as insulated as you may think.

  62. PJ says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Witness: the same gaggle of people who decided to vote for Ralph Nader because “there’s no difference between Bush and Gore.”

    Still waiting for him to acknowledge his part in electing Bush.
    Instead he’s attacking Obama for being as bad as Bush.

  63. Graham says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    But I suppose that’s crazy talk, and we’re all precious precious flowers and shouldn’t ever have to compromise…..

    If you’re going to live in a civilized society, you’re going to have to accept that other people, even the ones who might influence an election that’s important to you, can disagree with you, have different priorities, or just not care. Getting along is the essence of compromise. It’s what makes it a civilized society.

    If you believe people have a responsibility to vote, then by all means persuade them, but snarky ridicule doesn’t attract a lot of people to your position.

  64. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    He certainly has the right to whine. He doesn’t, however, have the right for anyone to take his whine seriously. One’s whine only really has value to the extent other people find it persuasive.

    Rafer, as one who agrees with you more often than not (99 times out of a 100???) you are no longer persuasive…. (remember, we no longer take you, or your arguments, seriously)(well… because we can.)

    How does it feel to have one’s arguments dismissed because of preconceived notions?

  65. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    You seem to be wandering from the point.

    Also my empiricist’s outlook says that the actual numbers killed and maimed matter, and not only the modes of their deaths. It is kind of a tragedy in my opinion that 1000 deaths by conventional bombing are ranked as less evil than 10 by drone.

  66. Fiona says:

    I take no issue with anyone voting their conscience. Obama’s record on civil liberties has been the biggest disappointment of his presidency. He was a professor of Constitutional Law, dammit, he should know better. It’s likely I’ll still vote for him rather than the Green Party candidate because I am in a swing state, but I do have qualms.

  67. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Fiona:

    I take no issue with anyone voting their conscience.

    Maybe…. just maybe…. if more people voted their conscience…. ahhh, but I am a dreamer….

  68. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @C. Clavin: Obama has continued Bush policies? Whom exactly has he waterboarded 183 times?

    Waterboarded? Nope. Ordered the summary execution of American citizens never charged with a crime, including a minor? Yup, Obama did that.

    Specifically, Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, killed in a drone strike in Yemen.

    But you’re right, it’s better this way. Most people would rather be blown up and burned to a crisp than waterboarded. It’s much more humane.

  69. Tillman says:

    @Fiona:

    He was a professor of Constitutional Law, dammit, he should know better.

    Y’know, that’s exactly what I said when he went into Libya without Congressional authorization.

    My position there has mollified a bit since Congress doesn’t seem to ever want to assert its power as the dominant branch of government. In fact, all of the preceding thread, Doug’s and Conor’s thoughts, all go back to Congressional abdication of responsibility. They passed a non-effin’-binding resolution condemning the Libya war.

    Sorry, I just cursed a blue streak recalling that.

    Thinking systematically, which, really, is the only way to go about it when pondering the actions of government, lists too many sins and sinners to blame on one guy or one office. In a way, holding Obama (and Bush, and Clinton, etc.) to blame for everything under their watch is confusing checkers for chess. The only reason the president gets all the blame (or credit) is because it’s the only office in the nation the entire nation votes for. Political science has known this for decades.

    It’s also probably something to do with us thinking presidents are similar to absolutist kings when the reality is not so. Absolutist kings didn’t have to deal with the mountain of detail that is modern public policy. Their decision fatigue was considerably less. That’s not even accounting for the structural differences between monarchy and democracy. Given the economic crash in late ’08, which occurred after Obama made most of his campaign promises, I’m not surprised priorities got jumbled. And if you don’t have the time to address something, inertia carries it on into routine.

    I get the sense that Doug and Conor must be educated enough to already know all this, but sure, a vote for Obama is moral suicide.

  70. Scott says:

    None of this is new. FDR rounded up tens of thousands Japanese-Americans and forced them into internment camps during WWII. Many lost their homes and businesses. He’s a liberal hero.

    To me, one of the most egregious human rights violations our “benevolent” government perpetrated against unwitting, peaceful citizens was the “Tuskegee syphilis study”. They conducted a 40 year experiment in which people were turned into human guinea pigs without their knowledge. It started under that liberal hero FDR but went on for 40 years, so it was clearly a bi-partisan scam and violation of civil rights.

    In terms of foreign policy, The CIA has been involved in the overthrow of several democratically elected leaders. See Mossadegh of Iran. Guatamala. Sukarno of Indonesia. Allende of Chile. Of course, the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 failed. Again, these overthrows span both parties.

    I’m glad Friedersdorf is speaking out and taking a stand, but he’s doing so in vain.

  71. Rafer Janders says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    How does it feel to have one’s arguments dismissed because of preconceived notions?

    Like I got back together with my ex-girlfriend?

  72. Console says:

    A political landscape that makes Gary Johnson viable would be a radically different one, but generally speaking, I don’t think the military-industrial complex gets defeated by one man. That’s why I don’t feel wholly bad with the lesser of two evils thing. Maybe it’s because I actually work for the government (and have seen The Wire way too many times), but to me it’s obvious that gigantic bureaucratic machines don’t get turned around by simply having a new administration. They are Gods unto themselves that were here before the president and will be here after him. So you vote for the guy that’s going to do the least damage and maybe, just maybe, at the end of his term puts some new parts in the machine.

  73. Commonist says:

    Obama’s drone strategy crosses my big, fancy principles!

    So I can’t stomach voting to stop a guy that will bring back waterboarding.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I will go listen to Linkin Park.

  74. Rob in CT says:

    @PJ:

    Just acknowledging my own possible blind spots. More insulated. Not totally insulated.

    I don’t think the military-industrial complex gets defeated by one man

    Absolutely not. Congress needs to change as well. But you know… I went and voted for a supposedly liberal democrat congresscritter some years ago. And half the time the dude spends his time touting some effort to save the Groton sub base, or some contract he helped wrangle for Electric Boat. So then I thought, ok, I gotta do more than just vote in general elections. So I registered Dem (which was a really strange feeling, given my background) and started voting in primaries. Still probably not good enough.

    What it boils down to, IMO, is that the American people generally like war. Not war *they have to fight in* mind you, but war they can watch on TV. That’s cool. I feel like it started with Gulf War the First. But then I was young enough that GW1 was my first experience watching one of our wars.

    Anyway, the voters need to change… which brings me back to this critique. This sort of thing, whether it’s specifically the drone program or the War on Terror in general, or the next war… people have to decide eventually that it rises to the level of a deal breaker. Lots of people.

  75. Barry says:

    “Conor Friedersdorf has been intensely critical of Mitt Romney and the Republican Party throughout the course of the campaign, and yet, as he explains to day, he cannot bring himself to vote for President Obama:”

    Right-wing concern troll is so concerned that he can’t vote for the Democratic candidate.

  76. bookdragon01 says:

    While I sympathize with the concern over the increase in presidential powers, Friedersdorf’s rant about drones struck me as over the top. See this for an excellent rebuttal of the study that he is basing his objections upon.

    Am I 100% comfortable with them? No. Do I think they make sense and result in lower casualties (both our side and theirs) than the alternatives? Yes.

    In fact, a couple comments down in the linked article is a response from a combat vet who makes a very explicit case (and to me, with many family&friends in the military) a very compelling one, for why drones are good.

  77. David M says:

    This would seem to contradict the idea there isn’t any difference between Romney and Obama.

  78. 33

  79. MIke says:

    This “screw it, I’m voting for Johnson” attitude is based solely on emotion. Do either you or Friersdorf have any idea what a Johnson foreign policy would look like. News flash: He wouldn’t end the drone strikes. Read this:

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/04/09/thedcs-jamie-weinstein-gary-johnsons-strange-foreign-policy/

    He doesn’t have a more humane foreign policy. He simply doesn’t have one at all. It’s a total unknown.