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President Obama Says He's Not Dick Cheney

Image from NY Mag (source)

After all, he hasn't shot anyone in the face or inspired images of Darth Vader. Glad he cleared that up.

But seriously, since the NSA's spying program has been a-spying since the Bush Administration, President Obama has come under fire for not ending these policies that violate American's civil liberties. He went on PBS and talked to Charlie Rose where he said the NSA surveillance programs were transparent. (Even though they're authorized in secret, sez USA Today.)

From USA Today:

"Some people say, 'well, you know, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now he's, you know, Dick Cheney.' Dick Cheney sometimes says, 'yeah, you know? He took it all lock, stock, and barrel.'

"My concern has always been not that we shouldn't do intelligence gathering to prevent terrorism, but rather are we setting up a system of checks and balances? So, on this telephone program, you've got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you've got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee -- but all of Congress had available to it before the last re-authorization exactly how this program works."

The federal court that both the President and USA Today are referring to is the FISA -- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- court that rules in secret on these surveillance cases. Meaning, all this boils down to -- do you trust President Obama? This view tends to (obviously) break down along party lines. I've been fine with most of President Obama's foreign policy decisions as he doesn't seem hell bent on having us evade and occupy other countries like the last president. (I know, it's a really low bar on my end.)

There are things I don't like, such as drones blowing up wedding parties in Afghanistan to get one guy (if that guy is even the right guy, etc. etc.), rather than bringing alleged terrorists to judgment in our courts, but I know that what I want is easier said than done in a country where trying alleged terrorists is completely politicized, even though we've done it multiple times. We can't even close GITMO because Congress won't let the President do so. Even though GITMO is a hellish limbo that goes against everything we're supposed to stand for as a country.

But while I guess I fall on the "I trust Obama" side, I don't exactly trust the next president, or the one after that. Something has to be done about these policies that give too much power to too few people. Yesterday I wrote that it's rare for a president to give up power. Serving two terms used to be a gentleman's agreement until FDR decided to go for four. Fearing someone else might set up a permanent rule by Democratic vote, presidential terms were slashed to two and only two. But post that, you could argue that the last president who was truly checked for an overreach was Richard Nixon and it's been a power grab ever since. Will Obama close the door on these policies that give him so much power, but would also give who ever we get stuck with in a few years the same kind of power? Does HE trust the next guy? I don't know. But for the sake of our union, I'd hope that Obama and Congress can agree on something and decided that they don't.*

*But of course, they won't do that without a little pressure from people like you and me. 

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