Where Does Obama Stand on Civil Liberties?
October 23, 2009 · By Jonathan McLeod
Everyone should probably read The League of Ordinary Gentlemen. It’s a great political blog that seems to be made up of progressives, liberals and libertarians. I don’t agree with everything that is written there (far from it), but it is generally well written, well reasoned and, well, good. Liberals and libertarians won’t always agree, but they tend to come together when they start talking about civil liberties. On that note, Mark Thompson has a great post on the worries that we should have about the Obama administration.
What has frustrated me far more about the Obama Administration, however, has been its performance on civil liberties issues that are less important to the liberal base of the Democratic Party. This performance suggests that the Obama Administration’s interest in Constitutional liberties goes little further than is needed to keep the liberal base happy.What are these small incidents? In no particular order:
1. The NEA political art hubub. The Right’s reaction to this largely seemed to me to be making a mountain out of a molehill – we’re talking after all about a conference call orchestrated by a very minor government agency primarily dedicated to soliciting artwork for a National Day of Service. Still, there is something at least unseemly about the government telling artists to make more art similar to the “Hope” campaign poster.
8. Perhaps most significantly – the co-sponsoring of a UN Commission on Human Rights resolution (via Radley Balko) with Egypt. On this, Professor Turley writes:
The Egyptian ambassador to the U.N., Hisham Badr, wasted no time in heralding the new consensus with the U.S. that “freedom of expression has been sometimes misused” and showing that the “true nature of this right” must yield government limitations.
His U.S. counterpart, Douglas Griffiths, heralded “this joint project with Egypt” and supported the resolution to achieve “tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” While not expressly endorsing blasphemy prosecutions, the administration departed from other Western allies in supporting efforts to balance free speech against the protecting of religious groups.
This put me in mind of a post I wrote a few months back. Like Mark, I’m not too worried about a Barack Pinochet suddenly executing dissidents, but the president seems to have priorities that trump basic freedoms.
I mean, it’s not like they’ve ever set up an online propaganda tool to try to avoid political debate… oh wait.
Well, astroturfing isn’t great, but it’s not like they’d ever try to get the Department of Justice to silence political opponents… oh wait.
Granted, that one’s bad, but it’s not like they actually got law enforcement officers to form truth squads in order to ‘dispel’ misinformation… oh wait.
Basic civil liberties should never be ignored. We shouldn’t assume that our leaders would never do anything that would really be an affront to freedom. Liberty and personal autonomy are the backbone of western democracy, and we should never allow our governments to trample them just because it doesn’t seem like a big deal.