08.11.10

Robert Gibbs' Phony Liberal Bashing

When Robert Gibbs lashed out at “professional left” critics who compare Obama’s foreign policy to George W. Bush’s, he was obscuring a truth. Obama is a lot like his predecessor.

When press secretary Robert Gibbs lashed out at the “professional left” yesterday, his intention was to conflate hyperbolic hissy fits from a few bloggers and TV personalities with substantive and serious complaints coming from other parts of the left.

Channeling Sarah Palin, Gibbs painted liberal activists and writers as somehow not “real” Americans, falsely suggesting they are so unreasonable they won’t be satisfied until the Pentagon is eliminated.

Actually, Gibbs may be the one who needs to pee in a cup.

This blowup was a fairly transparent attempt to muddy the waters so that any time a liberal complains about the president, they can be written off as an extreme left-wing whack job.

Gibbs seemed the most furious about the contention by some that Obama has continued Bush-era policies, suggesting that anyone who thinks this should get drug tested.

Actually, Gibbs may be the one who needs to pee in a cup.

Because when you survey Obama’s foreign policy, you get the feeling it’s déjà vu all over again. Not only is it wrong-headed and bad for America. It’s also almost the exact opposite of what Obama promised. In fact, Obama’s foreign policy should make most right-wingers feel warm and fuzzy.

Let’s review the last two years.

The Obama Administration has argued in federal court that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there. Sound familiar? It should, because it was the same position the Bush Administration held.

As a candidate, Senator Obama complained about the fact that the Bush Administration "invoked a legal tool known as the 'state secrets' privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court." Fast forward to 2009: The Obama Administration whipped out the exact same privilege to argue that a warrantless wiretapping case against the government should be tossed out.

Video screenshot


At the White House briefing Wednesday, Gibbs saw no need for consequences to his comments.

Never mind that during the campaign Obama promised no more “wiretaps without warrants.”

They’ve also invoked the “state secrets privilege” to argue that a lawsuit involving extraordinary rendition and allegations of extreme torture should be dismissed.

Somewhere, Dick Cheney is surely smiling.

Gitmo is still open; the Obama Administration caved to political pressure and decided detainees should be tried by military tribunals instead of going through the American court system. Worse, before Khalid Sheikh Mohammed went on trial, Gibbs bragged that the accused would “meet his maker.”

So much for due process. (And yes, even proven monsters like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should get due process.)

Perhaps the most disturbing Obama policy was revealed in April this year when we learned that the President believes it is legal (and morally just) for the U.S. government to assassinate its own citizens if they suspect they are associated with terrorists. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair told the House Intelligence Committee: “If we think direct action will involve killing an American, we get specific permission to do that.”

That’s illegal, unconstitutional, an abuse of power, and directly opposed to American values.

In June this year, The Washington Post ran a story about Obama’s “secret war” in which “Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year.” They reported: “Obama … has allowed ‘things that the previous administration did not.’"

I shudder to think what that means.

Then there are the drones. Under Obama, drone attacks in Pakistan have tripled. But using drones creates a serious moral hazard. You can destroy a village from your desk in Langley, Virginia—and then go home for dinner. It sanitizes war, which makes the threshold for starting it much lower. Critics have complained it suffuses the war with a “PlayStation” mentality.

Is part of the Obama legacy going to be the normalization of secret wars and drone warfare?

According to a report from the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank, since Obama took office, one of every four people killed by a drone in Pakistan has been a civilian. (It was one in three under Bush.) The report also found that Bin Laden has never been targeted by a strike and that drone attacks have had little impact on disrupting the Taliban’s ability to plan operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Finally, there is the war in Afghanistan. To be fair, Obama did always cast this as the “good war” and warned us he would increase troops. But was it unreasonable to think that he would reconsider this when facts on the ground made it clear that the U.S. has no chance of “winning” this war and that al Qaeda no longer operates there?

The answer seems to be yes. Apparently, expecting a foreign policy very different from George Bush's was too much to expect, too.

Kirsten Powers is a political analyst on Fox News and a writer for the New York Post. She served in the Clinton administration from 1993-1998 and has worked in New York state and city politics. Her writing has been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New York Observer, Salon.com, Elle magazine and American Prospect online.