(Pause. Wait for fanfare to subside)
Many of the arguments we are having over politics are not always about policy as much as they are about perceptions. My evidence is anecdotal, but my observations are pretty consistent. Both sides will admit that their side has done many of the things that they are up in arms about concerning the other side, but both sides, believe that their leaders are doing so with a more noble character, while the other side is Hell-bent on world domination through evil tyranny.
President Obama certainly didn’t invent the authorization of warrantless wiretapping, in fact, the use of it under his watch, is in line with where it was going under the vague parameters outlined by the Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act was a hasty revision, after 9/11, of the nation’s surveillance laws that vastly expanded the government’s authority to spy on its own citizens, while reducing the checks and balances to contain those powers. Judicial oversight, public accountability, and the ability to challenge government searches in court were thrown aside in 2001 (not 2013).
Today this power may appear to be more invasive than at any previous time, however, this identical controversy raged under President Bush, and nothing in today’s realization of National Security is a divergence from what that expansion of surveillance granted. The technology has grown, along with the diversity of threats, and, therefore, so has its use.
What the rightwing is up in arms about is the fact that it is Obama and not Bush (or Romney) exercising this abuse of our civil liberties. One conservative on Facebook offered: “We cannot let this man (Obama) continue to run his personal agenda of tyrannical rule.”
They didn’t feel that way about George Bush, though, because they liked him. They trusted his intentions because he was of their party. Apparently, we all know how kind, generous and lovable we are, personally, and so we are more comfortable with government overreach when it’s by people of our own kind.
People (like me) who LIKE Barack Obama, feel that he is trying to do the right thing, that he is in a uniquely difficult situation (damned if you do, damned if you don’t) and we continue to support him- even though many of us feel that his continuation of Patriot Act policy is wrong. We want to work from within, where we support the administration to offer criticism that will correct, and not destroy.
What I felt during George W Bush’s presidency is that we had a man without clear vision at the helm. I didn’t think he was stupid, but I believed that he was a puppet to people that I REALLY didn’t like; neo-cons like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rove, and Perle who reeked of cronyism and a self-serving agenda. So…whatever President Bush did, had to pass through that filter for me, and rarely did it come out smelling clean.
This is what Republicans are doing with President Obama and his cabinet. There was a news item (from that left wing media) that questioned Vice President Biden’s taste as he made funny comments about the late Senator Frank Lautenberg at his funeral. I watched the video and the Vice President was funny and warm telling stories about a man that he had known and worked closely with for decades. It was exactly the kind of eulogy I would hope someone would make at my funeral (a long time from now).
Then I decided to venture over into Right Wing Cyberspace to see what people were saying….
“Biden the clown embarrasses himself again.”
“How inappropriate to make JOKES at a funeral!”
“I hate Biden! He has no taste whatsoever. We have to get rid of these fools!”
Every comment was pre-disposed toward disliking anything that the Vice President might do and so the “controversial” display of a funny eulogy for a colleague and friend was more than enough to bolster their negative impression of the man.
I happen to know Joe Biden (I’m not name dropping, but I met him in 2007 when he campaigned in Iowa for President and I supported him at events and even introduced him). He is one of the brightest, most informed, funny and warm individuals I’ve ever met. He is the kind of representative everyone should want in Washington and he is instrumental in inspiring me to consider public service.
I like Joe Biden and so I am pre-disposed to giving his actions, ideas and policies the benefit of my admiration. Just like people who like George Bush or Dick Cheney (of course, that would be limited to Mrs. Cheney).
This is not to say that there are not significant differences between Democrats and Republicans and between liberals and conservatives; many of those differences are diametrically opposed and unavoidably lead us to angry rhetoric. My point here is rather pedestrian, but nevertheless, important: We are not arguing over what is best for America, we are colliding over who is best, based on whether or not we trust them. The problem is that trust is being predicated on what party they belong to and not from a fair judgment of character.
I don’t think Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama, or NIXON, for that matter, had any intention other than to serve the American people to the best of their ability and from their personal understanding of what that means, and I believe that they sought the Presidency because they were inspired by patriotism and a genuine love for America’s ideals.
ALL of these men (and someday I hope to chastise women the same way) were flawed and surrounded by others who are flawed, who are themselves, surrounded by a flawed population. If only we could learn to trust the collective genius of our Founding Fathers who created a representative Republic framed by checks and balances to overcome those flaws and to “smite unto death the tyranny of kings, hierarchs, and oligarchs, and carry the glad tidings of peace and good will…”
We would pave the way for corrections to make us stronger and diminish the destructive dialogues that are weakening our resolve.