A brief explanation since this post is the beginning of a new feature: Each day I intend to post a provocative argument as a prompt, hoping that Atlantic readers, for whom I'm always thrilled to write, jump into the fray. That I post an argument shouldn't be taken as evidence that I agree with it, only that it's well-suited to inspiring a productive, interesting debate. That being the goal, I implore commenters to be polite, and to avoid turning these conversations into attempts at scoring political or ideological points.
Okay, onward to today's prompt:
The Obama Administration is proving to be even more ruinous to civil liberties than its White House predecessor. So far, President Obama has refused to hold former officials accountable for laws broken during the Bush era, strengthening the expectation that violations committed in the name of national security will go unpunished even when the guilty officials no longer hold power. On numerous issues, he has adopted and therefore normalized Bush-era claims about detention issues and executive power, sometimes using even more troubling legal arguments. Perhaps most problematically, the Obama Administration -- like its predecessor -- claims the unchecked power to assassinate American citizens abroad, and unlike its predecessor is aggressively pursuing that tactic.
After running on a platform that included rolling back civil liberties violations, and winning the White House handily, President Obama was uniquely positioned to halt and reverse War on Terrorism excesses. Instead he has lent implicit credibility to the policies of his predecessor, behaved worse on some discrete issues, and all but guaranteed that neither presidential candidate in 2012 will commit to a needed course correction. Should the degraded status of civil liberties that President Bush initiated become the new status quo in America, rather than a temporary overreaction to a terrorist attack, President Barack Obama and the Democrats giving him a pass on civil liberties will bear a significant portion of the blame, along with President Bush and many hawkish conservatives.
Use the comments section to reply, or if you prefer, longer responses can be sent by e-mail to email@example.com -- I'll post the best ones if the conversation merits a followup.