Today's Jack Kelly Column about "Emperor Barack I" evokes a weird sense of deja vu. Have we all forgotten the time in the Bush administration maybe 2005, 2006 when John Yoo was talking about the "Unitary Executive" theory, essentially that famous statement immortalized in the movie "Frost/Nixon" - "When the President does it that means it is not illegal"?
I was watching the first season of "West Wing" in the last couple of days (my girlfriend had not seen it, I thought she might like it, so I took it out of the library). It strikes me that the era depicted in that show is currently gone. Now, one can certainly argue that 9/11 justified some of that change. A President at war does need additional powers to prosecute that war. And of course the "global war on terror", being a special kind of war, involved interesting problems in what powers might be needed. After all, the enemy does not have a home country where they can be found (or hold prisoners), wear's no uniform when fighting us so they could be anyone, has the most rudimentary of leadership structure so they are unable to sign the Geneva convention.
But many Americans (maybe even most)(who had an opinion) finally decided that warrant-less wiretaps entirely without independent monitoring of who knows who (supposedly only foreigners, but exactly hard would it be to listen in on Americans). Few Americans who aren't Republicans express unqualified support for the Patriot Act and in fact many (maybe most) Americans opposed it. But there it was, and first Republican Congresses and then a filibustered Democratic Senate was unable to help the American public. Assuming enough of Congress actually agreed that the Patriot Act is a enough of a bad thing.
Now, of course, Republicans now want to block anything and everything President Obama does. Although in some cases Republicans/conservatives seem selective about what they object to. Jack Kelly was at plans to tell us how granting the children of undocumented aliens essential amnesty is the act of an emperor (and then he goes into how political it is, and how Obama wants to steal the election by having illegals vote multiple times). Kelly also talked about Obama's assassination program, the one where Obama can kill even US citizens as long as they are suspected of being terrorists. But Kelly didn't mention the drone attack program, something that Glenn Greenwald has talked about numerous times. Could it be that Obama does something that Kelly approves of, wants to preserve for a potential President Romney?
The Presidency is often about pushing the bounds of power, from (Saint) Lincoln suspending habeous corpus to FDR's infinite Presidential terms (until death clipped that), trying to stack the court, all sorts of things, to Truman trying to nationalize the steel industry. If my liberal friends suggested Republicans do it more (in the last forty years) I would probably tend to agree. I mean, no one ever accused Jimmy Carter of being power mad.
But besides Obama's continuing the Bush administration's coddling of Wall Street and pushing the war in Afghanistan, there is the doubling down on whistle blowers, and the assassination program, which is new. Is it unprecedented? Personally, I don't think so.
I realize I have biases, but I think I can keep enough perspective to say whether something is a significant new precedent or not. Assassination is new, but as long as it is limited to (suspected) terrorists outside the US, even if some fraction are US citizens, then it perhaps more incremental than revolutionary.
Meanwhile, it seems safe to say that Jack Kelly is unconcerned about the concept of perspective; for him there is only a partisan agenda.