Remember when it was learned that the Bush administration had authorized the federal government to listen in on the communications of suspected terrorists through a warrantless wiretapping program as part of its war on terror? Remember the endless parade of angry news stories, editorials, protests and outright condemnations? Heck, liberals made a virtual rock star of Al Qaeda suspect and American citizen Jose Padilla when the Bush administration held him without charge in a Navy brig in South Carolina.
So what do you think the media and political response was to Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech last week in which he laid out the administration’s argument that our government can authorize — without judicial review — the warrantless killing of a U.S. citizen, on foreign soil, suspected of acts of terrorism?
In this case the silence was so deafening that it lead many Republicans and a few Democrats to finally wonder aloud “what if George W. Bush had done that?”
According to Holder, “it’s clear that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted. But it does mean that the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens — even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans.” Presumably this was the legal justification (finally) for Obama’s decision to kill American-born Al Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki five months ago in Yemen.
While I applaud the president’s decisive and aggressive actions in prosecuting the war on terror (his very liberal use of drones by itself should have had the Left foaming at the mouth), I remain mystified by the liberal political and media classes obvious double standard in taking George Bush to the woodshed for listening in on a cell phone conversation and virtually ignoring Barack Obama’s lethal use of force.
But this apparent double standard has not been limited to how President Obama prosecutes the war on terror, but also applies to how he raises campaign funds (the president’s 103 fundraisers and the political use of cabinet and administration officials to raise money for his SuperPAC Priorities USA barely warrant a whisper compared to the excited utterances about and ultimate federal investigations of the Bush White House's political operations), who he meets with in the White House (Obama’s “closed door” meetings with Wall Street CEOs are seemingly less offensive than Vice President Dick Cheney’s private meetings with oil company executives) or something as trivial as playing golf (President Obama loves to play golf. And so did President Bush — to the point he had to quit because of the beating he took in the press and on Saturday Night Live).
The frustration expressed by many, particularly with regard to the attorney general’s speech, is the clear lack of interest in it. As Mark Corallo, former director of public affairs at the Justice Department under President Bush recently noted, “A little bit of consistency from the media would be appreciated — and from the left wing groups.” Where is the borderline maniacal outrage we witnessed throughout the Bush years for far less severe constitutional infringements?
I was reminded that it hasn’t been a bed of roses for Obama ,either; that there have been more than few cries of bias from the Left. Sure there has been the occasional expression of “disappointment” or muted “unease” about some of the administration’s policies or actions, but nothing close to the daily hysteria that greeted President every morning when he got out of bed.
So, to be fair…oh hell, why? No one else is.
Michael Steele served as the first African-American chairman of the Republican National Committee. He is a former lieutenant governor of Maryland and a political commentator. He will be providing commentary on all things politics for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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