In Praise of Hypocrisy
I have a confession to make. I was naive. I believed that our Republic would be better preserved under the administration of Barack Obama than under John McCain. Mind you, I didn’t think it would be preserved because Obama would be a better President or had a better understanding of the Constitution. Rather, I believed we would be safer from tyranny because Republicans would fight Obama’s policies in areas where they might have acquiesced to McCain, owing to party loyalty. In short, my hopes were that Republicans would be hypocrites.
Why did I think that? Let me provide some examples. During the reign of Bush The Elder, Republicans were pro-war, pro-UN intervention, as they rallied behind Bush to enforce UN resolutions against Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait. Shortly after the conclusion of this conflict, Bill Clinton was elected President. Bill Clinton, in a manner not at all unlike his predecessor, proceeded to commit US troops to more conflicts where they would be charged with enforcing UN resolutions. This was fiercely opposed by the same Republicans who had supported it just a few years earlier under Bush. The difference, however, was that the Republicans succeeded, in large measure, in slowing down and inhibiting Clinton’s agenda, both abroad and at home.
Fast-forward a few more years to the reign of Bush the Younger. Republicans once again swung back in favor of war to enforce UN resolutions (again, against Iraq). Similarly, Bush was able to pass an incredibly expensive expansion of welfare state entitlements in the form of the Prescription Drug Medicare expansion. So again, Republicans failed to put the brakes on in areas where they had successfully forestalled the same or similar efforts by a Democrat President. It is apparent that this difference was due to partisanship. Republicans felt free to oppose Big Government when pushed for by a Democrat, but felt reluctant to do so when it was being advanced by someone of the same party.
Or at least, that was the theory...
In 2008, the race came down between one of the most “liberal” (not in the classical sense) Republicans in Washington and Barack Obama. My reasoning was that, like they had done during Clinton, Republicans would doggedly resist Obama’s agenda, if for no other reason than sheer partisanship. On the other hand, under McCain, many of the same agenda items might advance, but would receive no resistance from Republicans, and certainly not from Democrats who already want to see government expand in its size and scope.
My hope was that this would likewise translate to Republican feelings on foreign policy, just as it had in the transition from Bush 41 to Clinton. Yes, I eagerly hoped for Republican hypocrisy!
Things started out well enough. Republicans seemed to seethe at the very mention of Obama’s name. This was a good sign. Then, RNC Chairman Chris Steele made the comment that Afghanistan was “Obama’s war”. Even better! Then we began to see Obama repeating many of the same policies Bush had advanced, and then some! For example, Obama called for a “new legal regime” wherein people who had been imprisoned, but against whom there was not enough evidence to bring them to trial, could be left in prison to rot for the rest of their lives. I mean, if you don’t have evidence that someone is guilty, then common human decency dictates you let them go, right? So surely Republicans who already believe Obama to be a liar, a socialist, and perhaps the Antichrist himself, would be taken aback by the idea that one Barack Obama would assert the power to imprison people indefinitely without so much as evidence that they were guilty!
Republicans were silent. Indeed, most of the public ire raised came from the “Left”.
Later, Obama held a Press Conference announcing that he had killed Osama bin Laden. The problem was, several of those in his own administration came out with conflicting stories about what had happened and how it all went down. On top of that, we were then told that we could not be shown any photos which would prove bin Laden’s death, and that, incredibly, the body of the world’s most-wanted villain had been unceremoniously dumped overboard in the ocean. Not only did this open the door for a sort of “Osama bin Elvis” phenomenon, it conveniently ensured that nobody could ever verify that he was, in fact, dead, and so we would all have to take Barack Obama’s word for it.
Despite the Republican view of Obama as the Father of Lies, Republicans drank it up, conflicting stories and all.
Obama then decides to send forces into Libya to help topple Qaddafi. Okay, almost nobody saw this one coming. Fortunately, there was some tepid resistance from Republicans, but it never really built a head of steam. To this day, Obama continues our military operations in Libya without any approval of Congress, and with little to no protest from Republicans.
Somewhere along this timeline the Obama administration announced that it had drawn up a “kill list” of people marked for assassination, and that on that list were the names of two or three American citizens. Yes, for the first time in our nation’s history, a President had admitted publicly to having a list drawn up of Americans to be assassinated without any kind of trial or due process. Again, there was hardly a response from Republicans, if any. A few months later, it was announced that the CIA had killed American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen using a guided missile fired from a UAV. al-Awlaki was not in a battlefield, nor was he even in a hostile country. As far as we know he was not armed, but was simply killed.
In addition to al-Awlaki, Samir Khan, an American citizen who grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina and was editor of Insight magazine, was also killed in the same drone strike, and was blithely listed as “collateral damage”. Khan was, even by the Obama administration’s own account, merely “a loudmouth” but had never undertaken any actual terrorist activities.
Incredibly, Obama’s unprecedented act of summarily assassinating unarmed American citizens, away from any sort of battlefield or combat situation, not only went unopposed by most Republicans, it was praised!
Yet somehow amidst all of this, many Republicans still tell us Obama is a Muslim sympathizer who does nothing but apologize to our enemies and appease the terrorists. For all their disparaging talk, however, it seems Republicans must hold Obama in such high esteem as to entrust him with powers never before claimed by an American President. The idea of Obama forming secret committees to “nominate” (yes, that’s the official term) Americans for assassination without any legal process whatsoever doesn’t scare these people in the slightest. If such absolute unchecked power in the hands of Obama doesn’t scare them, I ask you, what could possibly scare them?
I admit it, I was naively hoping for some Republican hypocrisy. I’d certainly have preferred they be consistent with their past opposition to Big Government, including Big Government foreign policy. But sadly, Republicans are no longer the hypocrites they once were...*
* It is still correct to say that Republicans, like those described in this piece, are hypocrites insofar as they espouse small government, the Constitution, and the rule of law, while simultaneously advocating the biggest of all government endeavors: imperial war and flagrantly disregarding the Constitution and the rule of law. But this isn’t the sort of hypocrisy I was hoping for in 2008.