The President on the verge of a Lieberman, no Nixon, moment
I never noticed the moment that Joe Lieberman morphed from being a moderate Democrat to a pandering right-wing attention monger. But we may be about to see an even more startling transformation. Barack Obama looks about to transform from a mildly progressive, technocratic Democrat to a right wing menace not only to the economic health of the nation but also to its constitutional foundation.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Administration is considering whether to extradite Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, for having embarrassed the Administration for a second time. Bear in mind that no attempts were made to bring criminal charges against him for leaking military documents and a video months ago. But that only put blood on his hands according to our hyperventilating Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If Admiral Mullen is to be believed (but he was just peddling the tired myth always unpacked by the Pentagon when it’s embarrassed), troops and our friends could die as a result. And yet the President, a one-time law professor, saw no need to bring Mr. Assange to justice. But now, with this leak, the President and his diplomatic agents have been embarrassed. And make no mistake, it is nothing more than embarrassment. Just consider what the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said on the matter:
“Now, I’ve heard the impact of these releases on our foreign policy described as a meltdown, as a game-changer, and so on. I think — I think those descriptions are fairly significantly overwrought. The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. Many governments — some governments deal with us because they fear us, some because they respect us, most because they need us. We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation.
“So other nations will continue to deal with us. They will continue to work with us. We will continue to share sensitive information with one another.
“Is this embarrassing? Yes. Is it awkward? Yes. Consequences for U.S. foreign policy? I think fairly modest.” (I recommend his whole statement, which traces the handwringing over diplomatic “leaks” back to John Adams.)
But our President does not like to be embarrassed. Or even questioned. Especially by people he knows are correct in their criticism. We just saw this in his petulant remarks of yesterday on his cave-in to GOP strong-arm tactics on the Bush tax cuts. With respect to the latest Wikileaks disclosures, he was so embarrassed by the detailed revelation of the deep corruption and duplicity of our Afghan client and the lack of any clear goal there that he immediately flew to Afghanistan to dine with our corrupt “friend,” Hamid Karzai.
But the Los Angeles Times reveals that Obama’s obsession on this point is reaching Nixonian dimensions. It was a matter of free speech when all that we heard was that our troops would die. Now the National Security State is at risk. So he is contemplating espionage charges. Nixon only wanted to have the IRS on your back for criticizing him. Obama will send you to the firing squad. Another possible charge is receiving stolen property. Wouldn’t this also have applied to Daniel Ellsberg? I wonder why the immensely devious Nixon White House didn’t think of this? Could it be that even they did not think it could be put over on the American people? Or maybe they didn’t have the Roberts Court? Or was it simply because they had more of a sense of shame than this Administration does? Given all these novel end-runs around the First Amendment, why should the New York Times be exempt? Indeed, fightin’ Joe has suggested they are culpable.
Barack Obama is about to make a grave decision on how this country will be governed. This is essentially a constitutional decision of monumental proportions for our constitutional law professor president. He is about to fall off the right side of the extremism cliff. He has demonstrated no ability to withstand the carping of the right wing extremists or any affinity for what we thought were his better angels. And now that the lunatics are screaming for the assassination of Julian Assange, the President, I am afraid, is about to make a blunder of historic proportions.