If truth is the first casualty of war, consistency is probably the second. The loudest critics of President George W. Bush’s anti-terrorism policies have fallen silent as our Nobel Peace Prize-winning president ordered the killing of Americans in drone strikes.
In the fall of 2011, three U.S. citizens, including a 16-year old boy, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, were targeted and killed in Yemen using the military’s latest remote-controlled weapon. The family of the Denver-born teenager denies ties to terrorist organizations and is suing the U.S. government. There was no trial or independent review by the judicial branch. President Obama relied upon a legal memo from the Department of Justice in personally authorizing the kill mission.
It’s a tough policy, but for nearly seven years of the Bush presidency, the American left condemned an equally vigorous war on terrorism. Liberals insisted the use of enhanced interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, as justified by a Justice Department memo, was an unconstitutional assault on liberty. Instead of rolling back what his supporters railed against, Mr. Obama hit the accelerator, taking Mr. Bush’s anti-terrorism powers to another level.
Mr. Bush sent “enemy combatants” to a detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and wiretapped foreigners. Mr. Obama escalated the policy by raining Hellfire missiles on suspected terrorists — including American citizens — without a jury trial, conviction or a court order. In a column for Bloomberg News, Harvard constitutional law professor Noah Feldman called the policy of using drones to target Americans a “revolutionary and shocking transformation of the meaning of due process.”
For the most part, leftists have either offered tepid support for this transformation or ignored the issue altogether. Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, embraced the double standard by supporting the killing of Americans as long as it’s Mr. Obama giving the order. “I agree that we trust the president,” she said on Current TV. “And if this were Bush, I think that we would all be more up in arms.”
The lack of trust in Mr. Bush led Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, in 2005 to compare the former president’s policies with tactics “done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings.” The liberal group Human Rights Watch called on foreign governments to prosecute Mr. Bush and some of his senior officials for war crimes over interrogation techniques involving waterboarding.
In 2009, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco Democrat, promised Congress would hold the Bush administration accountable for abuses of power. “My approach is to look forward, recognizing that no one is above the law,” said Mrs. Pelosi. Neither Mr. Durbin nor Mrs. Pelosi has yet to recognize Mr. Obama for acting above the law in authorizing the assassination of American citizens.
The Constitution doesn’t change depending on which political party happens to hold the White House. The man wielding the power of the presidency is always changing, so lawmakers must decide whether the power itself is legitimate, not whether the person exercising it is trustworthy. The willingness of many Democrats to rationalize Mr. Obama’s actions is unfortunate. Our Constitution suffers from their willingness to sacrifice principled consistency on the altar of rank partisanship.
The Washington Times