If you Google "George W. Bush shredding the constitution," you will get many millions of hits. The New York Times railed, "Ever since 9/11, we have watched Republican lawmakers help Mr. Bush shred the Constitution in the name of fighting terrorism.
President Bush attempted to listen in on the international calls of suspected terrorists, he used waterboarding on exactly three terrorists, and he put detainees in Guantanamo.
Mr. Obama -- greeted rapturously in 2008 as the "constitutional law professor" who would restore respect for our founding document -- has demonstrated a contempt for law unseen since Nixon.
Nixon was devious, insecure and paranoid. Everyone knows that those are unfortunate traits. Ever since Nixon, we've been encouraged to be wary of leaders who are suspicious or guarded.
Obama is brimming with excessive self-regard, intellectual vanity and supreme self-righteousness. No one has ever warned Americans to regard these as dangerous traits, but they may be more worrisome than Nixon's cynicism. Arguably, more damage has been done to the world by zealots than by misanthropes.
One of the president's defenders, the New Republic's Noam Scheiber, was asked recently whether the multiple scandals engulfing the administration would have "legs." He didn't think so. The scandals lack a common "narrative," he explained.
In fact, the common thread couldn't be clearer: the Obama administration is unwilling to let something as trivial as the constitution interfere with its plans for our improvement.
The IRS scandal is hydra-headed. It features the leaking of private tax return information to Pro Publica, lying to Congress, as well as allegations that particular individuals were targeted for audits in retaliation for political activity. The chief outrage, however, is the fact (acknowledged by the IRS) that the tax-collecting agency was attempting to hinder the political activities of groups who disapprove of the current administration -- a naked attack on the First Amendment.
It's true that were it not for the pernicious regime of campaign finance law in this country, the IRS would not have the discretion to interfere with American's most crucial freedoms. But that power was placed in their hands and one might have thought that under the leadership of our first "constitutional law professor" president, it might have been safe. Instead, it was flagrantly abused. Could it be that the president's supreme confidence that he was fighting venal "special interests" in the wake of the Citizens United case provided a rationalization?
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