When President Obama was in office, I waited to see what he would do. And I thought about what would come of it. When I look back, one of the obvious things to see that came out of his presidency has been a growth of intolerance that has taken root in our nation and a new hunger by some people to control other people’s choices by government fiat. There are those among us now who want to end free speech, end the right to own firearms, end the right to privacy from government spying, monitor where people go and what they say and who want to control people’s health choices. It may be that social media has caused a kind of intolerance and hysteria or was it politics? Did President Obama’s policies make people hunger to control other people’s lives more? In any case, I oppose this attitude and I think that it is un-American.
Looking at specific failures of the Obama Administration, I would include non-prosecution of bankers that failed in their fiduciary duty to inform their clients that a specific investment that they were recommending would likely become worthless, even when the bank selling it knew that it would. Some would likewise include President Bush’s Administration because he also didn’t indict bankers for fiduciary failings at the very end of his presidency in the fall of 2008. This non-prosecution allowed banks to defraud a lot of people during the Great Recession without any penalty. And then banks were bailed out and not meaningfully reformed and it was like a subsidy had been given to them for doing the wrong thing that hurt a lot of Americans.
The Obama Administration failed to prosecute torturers that killed people during interrogations. Eric Holder as the Attorney General did a big investigation. A report detailing these tortures was presented to Congress during the Obama Administration, and it noted the deaths and suffering of several people. Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t arrest or charge the perpetrators of torture and murder. Little was said about the torturers or their specific crimes. A deep shadow fell and remained across our justice system. It remains today. The Obama Administration also used drone assassination against selected enemies in the Middle East. Innocent people were killed. But the strategy was supposed to save money and some praised it. There was almost no press controversy.
These specific failings and these kinds of failures hurt our society by ignoring wrongs that caused great harm to individuals and to us all indirectly. These crimes and the subsequent failure to prosecute them break with rule of law habits that have kept America safe and well across time since the 1789 Constitution was written. The United States was set up to protect Americans at all levels of power, at all levels of society, not just the most powerful people. And because of the U.S. Constitution, Americans are protected. The most powerful people aren’t supposed to determine the fate of everyone else here or abroad. Here’s a quote from Justice Robert H. Jackson of the Supreme Court, written in 1943:
“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” (1)
Natural rights are the most important thing that separates a free nation from a totalitarian one. They are socially worth more than power to a few because they diffuse power and security to every part of us and allow us to stand together respecting every person. Natural rights should be appreciated by everyone and protected by our government, and the rule of law enforced. Government office holders are required to swear their allegiance to our Constitution. It’s apalling to hear some officials deny the importance of this duty or the importance of our Constitution. Americans aren’t better off by giving fiat power to our government. Whether social media has enhanced political hysteria or whether it was the policies of neoliberalism or of President Obama, tolerance and respect for natural rights under a limited government is better than more government power.
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(1) Justice Robert Jackson, http://www.libertytree.ca/quotes/ Robert.Jackson.Quote.30C4, accessed 11 Dec 2018.