Andrew Sullivan: “Barack Obama for President”

The Atlantic magazine explained months ago how a gang of right-wing thugs stole the government.

Andrew Sullivan adds his analysis: “Barack Obama for President.”

Cheney and Bush, unlike any presidency in American history, have dangerously pushed constitutional government to the brink of collapse.

… They did not merely act in the immediate Agabuse wake of an emergency to protect American citizens swiftly – again a perfectly legitimate use of executive power, unhampered by Congress or courts. They declared such power to be unlimited; they asserted also that it was as permanent as the emergency they declared; they claimed their dictatorial powers were inherent in the presidency itself, and above any legal constraints; they ordered their own lawyers to provide retroactive and laughable legal immunity for their crimes; they by-passed all the usual and necessary checks within the executive branch to ensure prudence and legality and self-doubt in the conduct of a war; they asserted that emergency war powers applied to the territory of the United States itself; they claimed the right to seize anyone – anyone, citizen or not – they deemed an “enemy combatant,” to hold them indefinitely with no due process and to torture them until they became incoherent, broken, brutalized shells of human beings, if they survived at all. They did this to the guilty and they did this to the innocent. But they also had no way of reliably knowing which was which and who was who. Never before in wartime has the precious, sacred inheritance of free people been treated with such contempt by the leaders of the democratic West.

They seized countless individuals with no trials and no hearings. They tortured dozens to death. They subjected many more to some of the worst psychological torture techniques devised by Communist totalitarians and the worst physical suffering devised by the Gestapo. They crossed lines no American president had ever crossed before. They withdrew the US from the Geneva Conventions – and did so Padillagoggles secretly. They tapped American’s phones without warrants, and forced many of their randomly grabbed prisoners into the black hole of insanity. They set up secret sites in former Soviet gulags to torture their victims. They single-handedly devastated America’s reputation for human rights and the rule of law in the minds of the vast majority of people in other Western democracies, let alone the developing world, let alone the millions of Muslims across the Middle East who now suspect that America is not really better than their own thugocracies, that America also tortures when it wants to, that the shining city on a hill is actually a place where men above the law can do anything they want to other human beings in their custody.

…the president and vice-president deeply damaged the reliability and integrity of America’s intelligence services, creating a self-perpetuating loop of phony intelligence procured by torture which then justified more torture which led to worse intelligence. It will be decades before we learn the full extent of the damage Bush and Cheney have done to the country’s Baqubaaliyussefafpgetty ability to find out what the enemy is really up to, how much risk these sadists and goons have subjected us to, how much damage to this country they may have facilitated by filling intelligence with the garbage always created by torture. We do know that their policy has led to just one successful prosecution – and that many guilty figures will escape justice because torture has tainted the legal process beyond repair….

Ron Paul emerged as the one Republican prepared to defend the rule of law, the Constitution and habeas corpus in the primaries. But, in the end, McCain emerged by default, a torture victim himself, and a critic of some aspects of the conduct of the war. But we saw in 2006 that, when push came to shove, even McCain acquiesced to the legalization of America’s use of the very same torture techniques once used against him. And in this campaign, we have seen how no Republican candidate can escape the logic of bigotry, fanaticism and xenophobia that now grips and motivates the Republican party base. We have also learned, much more importantly, that McCain would appoint Justices to the Supreme Court who would acquiesce to and constitutionally entrench the dictatorial presidency that Bush-Cheney believe in as loyally as Roberts, Alito, Thomas and Scalia. That means we are one vote away from the court ever restraining this unchecked executive. It doesn’t matter who that executive is and what party he or she belongs to. What matters is that the controls upon it – controls critical to the endurance of constitutional balance and Baghdadfrancopagettitime individual freedom in America – have been frayed to the breaking point. There is no greater cause right now than repairing that. If I were to give one reason why I believe electing Barack Obama is essential tomorrow, it would be an end to this dark, lawless period in American constitutional government. The domestic cultural and political reasons for an Obama presidency remain as strong as they were when I wrote “Goodbye To All That” over a year ago. His ability to get us past the culture war has been proven in this campaign, in the generation now coming of age that will elect him if they turn out, in Obama’s staggering ability not to take the bait. His fiscal policies are too liberal for me….

I’ll put country before ideology.

Rumsfeldjimwatsonafpgetty But none of this compares to the task of restoring the rule of law and Constitutional balance. Unlike McCain, Obama has never wavered on torture or habeas corpus or on keeping the executive branch under the law. His deep understanding and awareness of the Constitution eclipses McCain’s. Coming from the opposing party, he will also be able to restore confidence that what lies within America’s secret government – the one constructed by Bush and Cheney beyond any accountability, law or morality – will be ended or cleaned up. He can restore critically needed trust again – and force the Democratic party to take responsibility for a war which we all need to own, and take responsibility for, again.

We cannot win this war without regaining our democratic soul, ending torture, and returning to lawful governance. But these things won’t win the war either. On that, we have a perilous task ahead. I don’t know how Obama will be able to get out of Iraq in his first term. I fear that Bush and Cheney have made withdrawal deliberately difficult if not impossible. I fear the same in Afghanistan. I don’t know how Obama will handle Iran, given the power that Bush and Cheney have ceded to the Islamist regime there, and the danger of a pre-emptive strike before Obama even gets inaugurated. But I do know that he will handle these wars with reason, with prudence and with care. Those are three qualities absent from the White House for eight years. And I do know that Obama’s very person, and what he symbolizes, will do more to restore America’s image and repair our global public relations than any single measure any new administration will be able to accomplish.

The truth is: we are in a war for the future of human civilization. We are fighting for a world in which destructive technology need not collide with fierce religious fundamentalism to annihilate us all; for a world in which dialogue across cultures and religions and regions (even within America) is essential if we are to survive. We need to win the argument in the developing world; we need to reach out and persuade the Muslim middle – especially the next generation in Iran and Iraq and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Western Europe – about the virtues of democracy and constitutionalism. We cannot do that if we trash our own values ourselves. It is self-defeating. We cannot be a beacon to the world until we have reformed ourselves. In this war, we are also fighting for an America that does not lose its soul in fighting our enemy. Just because we are fighting evil does not mean we cannot ourselves succumb to it….

Obama, moreover, seems to bring out the best in people, and the calmest, and the sanest. He seems to me to have a blend of Midwestern good sense, an intuitive understanding of the developing world that is as much our future now as theirs’, an analyst’s mind and a poet’s tongue…. I endorse Barack Obama because I will not give up on this country.


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