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George Michael: The president's empty promises

June 13, 2013|By GEORGE MICHAEL

There is a deep and pervasive disease in the current presidential administration. Hope and Change has turned into Hype and Chance.

In last Saturday’s Herald-Mail, an AP article recounted the president’s defense of our government’s massive sweep of phone calls and Internet information. The article even took pains to refer to Obama as “a constitutional lawyer.” And I thought he was only a community organizer. It turns out that not only is he the president, but “a constitutional lawyer” to boot. I guess that means he knows what he is doing when it comes to spying on Americans and bypassing the First and Fourth amendments.

The AP story gave the president’s perspective on how, unlike the Bush administration, he was taking measures to protect American’s fundamental rights. The only negative tone in the article was that the president offered no specific details on how he had tightened the previous standards. Did anyone ask for specifics? Probably only a Fox News reporter would think of such a question or be willing to ask it.

Where this story fell short was its lack of historical perspective. While campaigning for president, Obama denounced the surveillance tactics of the Bush Administration in no uncertain terms. Back then, liberal media types fawned over his principled stand, at least in their view, against using the NSA or FBI in conducting surveillance against American citizens. 

Turns out, President Obama not only did little or nothing to curb the spying against Americans, he doubled down on it and has allowed government agencies to take such operations to a whole new level. 

What Sen. Obama promised if he were president was “no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens, no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime, no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war, no more breaking the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are and that is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists.” Obama sounded morally outraged that George Bush was getting away with such things.

An article by two Los Angeles Times writers that appeared on their website last Saturday included the following quote from Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the American Federation of Scientists: “Clearly, he (President Obama) took a critical stance toward surveillance as a senator. That has been all but absent from his policies as president. He has not really articulated or tried to justify the changes in his public positions. So there is a something of a credibility gap that has emerged as a result.”

The phrase “something of a credibility gap” is an understatement. Even the New York Times went out on a limb in an editorial and lamented that the president has “lost credibility on this issue.” Apparently most everything else the president does is just fine for his supporters at the Times.

Meanwhile, the rest of the national media has decided to make the whistleblower, Edward Snowden, the story while ignoring the president’s hypocrisy on the whole issue. 

Lock-step Obama supporters have been hiding their heads in the sand in recent weeks as several scandals have unfolded.  Granted, this is not like Watergate, at least not yet. During the Watergate era, the national media provided “wall to wall” news coverage of the congressional hearings and a majority of the evening news focused on Nixon’s blunders. They were in full attack mode. 

By comparison, Barack Obama has the majority of the media in his hip pocket. They have aided him by playing the scandals as only a side show and distraction with minimal coverage even while important American freedoms are under assault. 

Americans cannot afford to be complacent while big government becomes “Big Brother,” a chilling fulfillment of George Orwell’s classic prophecy, “1984.” We are witnessing a big intrusion on our privacy and a serious threat to the Bill of Rights. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty another conservative noted at another time. It is needed now.


George Michael is a Williamsport resident who writes columns for The Herald-Mail.

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