In the wake of the twin scandals of the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Department of Justice spying on AP reporters, the comparisons between Obama and Nixon are everywhere.
But what do experts say?
Former New York Times general counsel James Goodale – who represented the paper during its Pentagon Papers fight with the Nixon administration – said in an interview yesterday that Obama isworse than Nixon when it comes to press freedoms. And see this.
Former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald noted last year:
We supposedly learned important lessons from the abuses of power of the Nixon administration, and then of the Bush administration: namely, that we don’t trust government officials to exercise power in the dark, with no judicial oversight, with no obligation to prove their accusations. Yet now we hear exactly this same mentality issuing from Obama, his officials and defenders to justify a far more extreme power than either Nixon or Bush dreamed of asserting: he’s only killing The Bad Citizens, so there’s no reason to object!
The painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.
Four decades ago, Nixon was halted in his determined effort to create an “imperial presidency” with unilateral powers and privileges. In 2013, Obama wields those very same powers openly and without serious opposition. The success of Obama in acquiring the long-denied powers of Nixon is one of his most remarkable, if ignoble, accomplishments. Consider a few examples:
Nixon’s use of warrantless surveillance led to the creation of a special court called theForeign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). But the reform turned out to be more form than substance. The secret court turned “probable cause” into a meaningless standard, virtually guaranteeing any surveillance the government wanted. After hundreds of thousands of applications over decades, only a couple have ever been denied.
Last month, the Supreme Court crushed any remaining illusions regarding FISA when itsided with the Obama administration in ruling that potential targets of such spying had to have proof they were spied upon before filing lawsuits, even if the government has declared such evidence to be secret. That’s only the latest among dozens of lawsuits the administration has blocked while surveillance expands exponentially.
Unilateral military action
Nixon’s impeachment included the charge that he evaded Congress’ sole authority to declare war by invading Cambodia. In the Libyan “mission,” Obama announced that only he had the inherent authority to decide what is a “war” and that so long as he called it something different, no congressional approval or even consultation was necessary. He proceeded to bomb a nation’s capital, destroy military units and spend more than a billion dollars in support of one side in a civil war.