Liberals, Obama And The Lessons Of History

Former Bush and Obama aide Douglas Ollivant has a reminder in today’s NYT on what really matters in the executive powers debate over drones, etc.:

For four years, Mr. Obama has benefited at least in part from the reluctance of Mr. Bush’s most virulent critics to criticize a Democratic president. Some liberals acknowledged in recent days that they were willing to accept policies they once would have deplored as long as they were in Mr. Obama’s hands, not Mr. Bush’s.
“We trust the president,” former Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan said on Current TV. “And if this was Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms because we wouldn’t trust that he would strike in a very targeted way and try to minimize damage rather than contain collateral damage.”
But some national security specialists said questions about the limits of executive power to conduct war should not depend on the person in the Oval Office.
“That’s not how we make policy,” said Douglas Ollivant, a former national security aide under Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama and now a fellow at the New America Foundation. “We make policy assuming that people in power might abuse it. To do otherwise is foolish.”

If this debate seems familiar, it’s because we had it 40 years ago, as I’ve noted previously.

Unfortunately, that is exactly how partisans on both sides have been making policy since 9/11: by executive fiat, with servile Congresses either rubber-stamping the policies or ignoring them until they are exposed by whistleblowers or the press. No democracy that operates in such a way will remain a democracy over the long term.

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