They Just Want Us To Trust Them And Not Ask Any Annoying Questions

This exchange between White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and ABC’s Jake Tapper lays out pretty starkly the Administration’s position on the President’s authority to order assassinations of American citizens without due process of law:

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There’s something fundamentally wrong here, I think. Even if you accept the idea that al-Awlaki was, in the end, an acceptable target, the idea that a President can make this kind of determination without having to justify it flies in the face of  the entire idea that we live under a government of limited powers. The Administration’s position is that the American people just need to trust that they’re doing the right thing, but it’s precisely when the government starts saying that when you need to make them prove their case.

Glenn Greenwald gets it exactly right when he says:

That is the mindset of the U.S. Government and its followers expressed as vividly as can be: we can spy on, imprison, or even kill anyone we want — including citizens — without any due process or any evidence shown, simply because we will tell you they are Bad People, and you will trust us and believe us.  That was absolutely the principal justification offered by Bush followers for everything their Leader did — I know they’re Terrorists because My President said so, so no courts or evidence is required – and that is now exactly the mindset of Obama loyalists to justify what he does (back in December, 2005, I described that defense as the ”Very Bad People” justification for lawless, due-process-free acts).

That mentality — he’s a Terrorist because my Government said he’s one and I therefore don’t need evidence or trials to subject that evidence to scrutiny — also happens to be the purest definition of an authoritarian mentality, the exact opposite of the dynamic that was supposed drive how the country functioned (Thomas Jefferson: “In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief with the chains of the Constitution“).  I trust My President and don’t need to see evidence or have due process is the slavish mentality against which Jefferson warned; it’s also one of the most pervasive ones in much of the American citizenry, which explains a lot.

This kind of blind faith in government is precisely what gets us into trouble time and again. The Bush Administration should have been forced to justify its actions, but it wasn’t. The Obama Administration should be forced to justify its actions, and it won’t be.

H/T: Robert Murphy

 

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, National Security, Politicians, Quick Takes, Terrorism, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. EddieInCA says:

    Yeah… you’re about 8 years too late, Doug.

    But kudos for finally getting to where many of us where in 2003.

  2. @EddieInCA:

    You have no idea where I was 8 years ago.

    And you’re the people who voted in the guy who did this

  3. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Of course, in all your long comments about those dirty hippies in New York, your entire message is “trust the benevolent people in power and don’t ask any annoying questions.”

  4. You really think the OWS people are revolutionary thinkers? They’re not. They’re the intellectual step-children of Noam Chomsky and all the other warmed over leftists they were exposed to in college. They don’t want to make the world better themselves, they want someone else, most importantly the government, to do it for them.

    My message to them is to grow up, realize that life isn’t always fair, that the fact that some people have lived better than you isn’t their fault, and that you aren’t going to have your future handed to you by the benevolent Nanny State. They’re too busy thinking that life can be like living in a college dorm.

  5. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I don’t think the OWS folks are revolutionary thinkers. I think they are American citizens who have seen the levers of government stripped out of their hands and handed exclusively to the super-rich, who have seen a political and economic system dedicated to building and nourishing a strong middle class wiped out in favor of those same super-rich people. I think they’ve seen their pensions looted, their salaries dropping, their savings wiped out — and all while those who have done this to them are being rewarded with hundreds of millions of dollars.

    And your response is that they should smile, shrug, and say “well, life isn’t fair, and I guess I lost out to the bigger guys.”

    Funny how when someone tries to take an extra penny from you in taxes you squeal like a stuck pig, shrieking about theft. But when these people’s entire lives and futures — and those of their children — have been stolen, they should just sit down and shut up.

    Why is what you have so much more valuable than what they had?

    I mean, aside from the fact that it’s yours…

  6. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    Mate you really should get over your college traumas. It’s been decades now. The kind of people you describe have retreated to well-regulated niches and are no longer a relevant influence today.

    This is not about young people being indoctrinated by a leftist establishment. These are young people seeing real, relevant problems and no easy solutions. No wonder they’re confused. If you ignore the instinctive sloganeering (Lower Taxes, Increase Taxes, Close the borders etc.) the whole economic and political establishment isn’t offering much more in the way of substantial answers.

  7. James Joyner says:

    The problem is that the general public is really in no position to check the president on these sort of matters. The Congress is supposed to do it but doesn’t seem all that interested.

  8. MBunge says:

    “we can spy on, imprison, or even kill anyone we want — including citizens — without any due process or any evidence shown, simply because we will tell you they are Bad People, and you will trust us and believe us.”

    I’m sorry, but that is pure bullshit and an example of why folks like Greenwald and Doug are not, have not and never will be trusted with real authority on national security.

    The Obama Administration’s position is that if Congress authorizes us to take military action against a terrorist organization and someone is a member of that organization, is linked to repeated attempts to kill Americans and is currently hiding in an area of the world that puts him beyond the reach of traditional law enforcement, we have the right to deem that someone an enemy and deal with them as we would any other, even if that someone is an American citizen.

    Now, you can certainly argue with that position, but that’s not what Greenwald is doing.

    Mike

  9. And like spoiled children they’re expecting someone else to provide the answers for them.

    My Grandparents lived through two World Wars and a Great Depression. These people wouldn’t have lasted a minute in that world.

  10. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “They’re too busy thinking that life can be like living in a college dorm.”

    Doug, are you going to be like Rush Limbaugh and still be bitching about the political environment of your college days when you’re 60 years old?

    Mike

  11. @Ebenezer Arvigenius:

    Nothing was stolen. We had an economic downturn and times have changed. You either adapt, or you don’t. These people want an easy way out. They want to blame someone else for their problems, take things they haven’t earned from others, and generally not take responsibility for their lives.

    Also, when people are dressing up like zombies and eating monopoly money, they’ve lost any hope of a normal person taking them seriously.

  12. @MBunge:

    They’re the ones who act like they’re still in college, not me.

  13. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “They’re the ones who act like they’re still in college, not me.”

    No, you’re the one whose knee jerk “it’s just like college” response is the real problem. Are you going to be 60 years old and still let your college experiences be the prism through which everything is seen, no matter what else has changed in you or the world?

    Mike

  14. I’m just judging them by their own tired slogans and warmed-over manifestos

  15. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: No. You’re having a knee jerk “it’s just like college!” reaction that’s leaving you incapable of actually understanding or analyzing what’s going on. You’re like Eric Cartman going off on a tangent about hippies.

    Mike

  16. I go by what I see and read, Mike

  17. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: No, you’re going by what you saw and heard in college.

    Mike

  18. Mike,

    I’m sorry I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to judge these people by their own manifesto and the statements of the people who participate in their protests.

  19. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Ever done any reading about the Great Depression? I mean, aside from Amity Shlaes? There was a huge leftist movement, fueled by populist rage against the banks and the millionaires who had destroyed the economy. The only reason there wasn’t an actual uprising was becase FDR came into power and started to change the way the country was run.

    I don’t know about your grandparents, but there were an awful lot of people in the Depression who weren’t sitting around saying “Gosh, I guess watching my kids go hungry is okay because the world isn’t fair.”

  20. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: No, you’re judging them by the standards of one who was given a comfortable life and has never had a moment’s worry about being able to keep it. And you assume that since it’s been so easy for you, those other guys are just losers.

    Or did I just sum up the entire Libertarian philosophy?

  21. @WR:

    You really have no idea what you’re talking about, so stop while you’re ahead. And, more generally, my life isn’t your business.

  22. Ebenezer Arvigenius says:

    Nothing was stolen. We had an economic downturn and times have changed. You either adapt, or you don’t. These people want an easy way out. They want to blame someone else for their problems, take things they haven’t earned from others, and generally not take responsibility for their lives.

    That misses the point of the complaints. No, nothing was stolen. It was transferred fair and square from the middle-class to the banking sector. Times have changed everywhere – with the strange exception of the banking sector who keeps doing the same things, without any accountability or increased regulation (not to mention the same pay check).

    Maybe they want an easy way out. But they probably wouldn’t be so angry if there had been shared sacrifice on the level of the “great generation” instead of the “Here’s your easy way out. You lot pay for it” some got. It’s about inequality, not impact.

    And while blaming Wall Street for all the problems is somewhat short-sighted, the blame is cast because Wall Street did all of the things you accuse the protesters of (“take things they haven’t earned from others, and generally not take responsibility for their lives”) and did get away with it.

  23. mattb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Nothing was stolen. We had an economic downturn and times have changed.

    This seems to me to be a somewhat dubious reduction. The fact is that we have a financial services industry that is — in many respects — completely out of control in the respect that it is capable of creating more and more complex financial “products” which defy traditional regulation.

    These sorts of products payed an important role in causing the current downturn. However, there’s not been a significant amount of action in attempting to regulate these products. To some degree this disconnect is driving this movement. And ironically the Tea Party as well.

  24. mattb says:

    BTW, I think there’s a real flaw in the “suck it up like the greatest generation” meme.

    OWS and Tea Party alike are both indicative of a general understanding that the greatest generation model/formula-for-success — put your head down and work hard and you’ll have a stable life — no longer works*. The problem is that we don’t have a reliable model to replace the failing one. And that creates two different types of concerns…

    For the majority of Tea Partiers it seems to be more about how do I preserve my current way of live until I die. For OWS it’s how do I ensure that I’ll have the options my parents did.

    * – one can argue that model historically never worked for everyone. Chances are that just now that failure is more “equitably” distributed across our population.

  25. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: It’s your reflexive college reference, though, that indicates how shallow and unthinking your judgment is. I mean wasn’t college about 2 decades ago for you? And that’s the frame of reference you think totally defines both the problems confronting the OWS crowd and their complaints? That doesn’t seem a bit off?

    Mike

  26. I am saying, Mike, that their manifesto and list of “demands” looks exactly like the same kind of silly nonsense I used to see from “progressive” students in the late 80s. They have a very naive view of how the world, and government, work and no real understanding of the real world. That’s the impression they give me.

    And, like I said, earlier, when I see some of the pictures of this crowd, it just reinforces the general impression that their simplistic rhetoric gives me.

  27. MBunge says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “I am saying, Mike, that their manifesto and list of “demands” looks exactly like the same kind of silly nonsense I used to see from “progressive” students in the late 80s.”

    Late 80s.

    1989 was 22 years ago.

    22 years.

    Some of the folks you’re talking about were probably not even born then or were toddlers. Again, you really think that’s the appropriate or even normal frame of reference to use, given everything that’s happened in the last 22 years both to you and the country? Is that the frame of reference you’re going to use when you’re 60 and something like OWS happens? It doesn’t at all seem like there’s something going on with your reflexive view of this?

    Mike

  28. Tsar Nicholas says:

    To me the shoot first and ask questions later mentality of this administration vis-a-vis Islamic terror scum is the administration’s best feature. On that basis alone Rambobama clearly, at least in my view, has surpassed Bill Clinton as the greatest Democrat president since Harry Truman.

    As for certain elements of the chattering classes being all verklempt about not knowing the details, well, keep in mind the chattering classes are on a need to know basis regarding these sorts of operations and, truth be told, they don’t really need to know jack. Honestly If I were Rambobama I’d convey even less information to the public. The public already has more power than it deserves or requires.

  29. Racehorse says:

    How about that Pan Am bomber that was released from prison allegedly for health reasons and now is sitting in the lap of luxury receiving all kinds of medical care – who is paying for it I don’t know. One well placed drone would finally bring about justice in this case.

  30. Herb says:

    Also, when people are dressing up like zombies and eating monopoly money, they’ve lost any hope of a normal person taking them seriously.

    Well, sure. But the same applies to people who wear Tricorn hats and tape tea bags to their cheeks.

    With that said, are you reading anyone else besides Greenwald on this issue, Doug?

  31. Herb,

    Yea, I am. But, yea, I know. It’s crazy for me to think that the President of the United States shouldn’t be allowed to order the assassination of an American citizen without due process and then refuse to provide any public justification for it other than “Trust Me”

  32. Ben Wolf says:

    Nothing was stolen. We had an economic downturn and times have changed. You either adapt, or you don’t.

    This completely misses the point. The financial crisis didn’t just happen out of the blue. Thirty years of government policies transferring income from wages to profits laid the groundwork for this. Was it legal? Sure, but lots of things which are legal are also harmful, and people have every right to demand changes because they don’t want to be harmed any more. It’s troubling how you’ve consistently refused to acknowledge an evaporating middle class and growing poverty are not unintended consequences, they are the result of a systematic decadal effort to siphon greater and greater flows of income into the hands of the few at the expense of the many.. You want evidence of this?

    http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/?p=16325

    Despite an economy which has doubled and a population which has grown by over a hundred million, wages have declined from 60% of national income in 1980 to 54%. This means that all those tens of trillions in economic growth since Reagan’s election have gone to the top 1%.

    If you’re willing to accept the world has changed, then there’s no reason for you to object when people sit on a sidewalk and demand we change it back.

  33. An Interested Party says:

    They have a very naive view of how the world, and government, work and no real understanding of the real world.

    That’s rather amusing coming from a libertarian…

    The public already has more power than it deserves or requires.

    How authoritarian of you…

  34. Tlaloc says:

    You really think the OWS people are revolutionary thinkers? They’re not. They’re the intellectual step-children of Noam Chomsky and all the other warmed over leftists they were exposed to in college.

    So you’ve never read Chomsky then? I’m not one of your detractors here Doug but that was one dumb-ass comment.

  35. Lit3Bolt says:

    Shorter Doug Mataconis: We shouldn’t trust the President, but we should trust wealthy and powerful bankers.

  36. EddieInCA says:

    Shorter Doug Mataconis: We shouldn’t trust the this President, but we should trust wealthy and powerful bankers and the last president.

    Fixed that for you.

  37. Herb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    “It’s crazy for me to think that the President of the United States shouldn’t be allowed to order the assassination of an American citizen without due process and then refuse to provide any public justification for it other than “Trust Me” ”

    No, it’s not crazy of you to think that. But it is extremely ungenerous of you to omit the context. This was an act of war not a political assassination. Different rules apply. His American citizenship doesn’t shield him from the consequences of making war on the United States and it’s not so much “trust me” as “this is need to know…and you don’t need to know.” Surely you can agree that the clandestine activities of our intelligence services should remain rather, well, clandestine. That’s not to say oversight isn’t needed. It’s just not the kind of oversight that needs to be discussed at a press conference.