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WHITFIELD: Why Obama gets a free pass on drones

All that matters is that ‘his heart’s in the right place’

- - Saturday, February 23, 2013

The recent publication of a Department of Justice white paper has shed new light on the Obama administration's troubling drone program. The memo reveals that senior administration officials, not just the president himself, can authorize a drone strike targeting a terrorist suspect, even when there is no evidence that they are actively plotting attacks against the United States.

In response to this nightmarish abuse of government power, President Obama's allies in the media and Hollywood -- those who campaigned loudly against the national security policies of George W. Bush -- said absolutely nothing.

This comes as no surprise. When the Obama administration was revealed to have authorized the assassination of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old U.S. citizen, there was barely a murmur from the media and the Hollywood elites.

So why does Mr. Obama get a free pass from the left when he abuses the Constitution?

A clue to the answer came in a recent episode of "Hardball with Chris Matthews" on MSNBC, when West Wing actor Richard Schiff praised Mr. Obama, saying, "His heart's in the right place."

Such sentiments reveal the greatest intellectual weakness of the left: its obsession with motive over outcome. This explains why Mr. Obama is free to assassinate U.S. citizens by drone, while Mr. Bush is excoriated in the media and Hollywood for his limited use of waterboarding. In the eyes of the liberals, Mr. Obama means well, but Mr. Bush didn't.

In culture and economics also, the left remains obsessed with motive over outcome. The tax-and-spend policies supported by the left have bankrupted entire countries, their onerous regulations have destroyed businesses, and their misguided welfare programs have impoverished lives. All crimes are forgiven if your heart is in the right place.

Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are each speeding along toward insolvency, but when conservatives dare to suggest ways to stop this outcome, they are attacked by the media as uncaring and cruel. Meanwhile, the greatest cruelty of all, the day when these programs are declared bankrupt, edges ever closer.

The left's obsession with motive explains why countless ignorant teens continue to wear t-shirts emblazoned with the image of Che Guevera, the communist murderer. A t-shirt with a picture of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer would prompt righteous anger, but Che had noble intentions, so it's okay to revel in his butchery.

The Soviet Union, an evil empire which killed millions of innocents, is romanticized by the academic left, while Hollywood millionaires solemnly urge more foreign aid for African despots, despite increasing evidence that such aid actively harms the economies it is supposed to be helping. For the self-proclaimed "elite," such concerns are trifles -- what matters is that you appear to be doing the right thing.

For those on the left, if your intentions are pure, your sins are forgiven. On the other hand, it does not matter how great your accomplishments, if your motives are in doubt, you are condemned as selfish, wicked and evil. The actress Andrea Riseborough, who portrayed former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the film "The Road to Finchley," accused the conservative icon of "having psychopathic tendencies" and claimed she "was not in touch" emotionally. Such insults are typical of the liberal mindset. Mrs. Thatcher lifted millions of people out of poverty, helped win the Cold War against communism and restored the British economy; hers is a historic legacy. Yet it is a legacy sneered at by the left, because they don't agree with Mrs. Thatcher's motives.

So don't expect the stars of music and movies, those who campaigned for Mr. Obama and financed his campaigns, those who once marched against the War on Terror, to start complaining now that their candidate has begun using tactics and techniques even worse than those used by his despised predecessor. They have faith in Mr. Obama's intentions, and it's a faith that will sustain them even as Mr. Obama builds a legacy of unconstitutional assassinations and violations of our civil liberties. Because for the left, all that matters is that your heart's in the right place.

Dan Whitfield is a British writer living in Washington who has worked with political campaigns in the United States and the United Kingdom.