In a tale of two memos, with the DOJ and Bybee documents respectively, news outlets, like the New York Times, seem to have a varying degree of outrage. We all know the Times is biased, however, I never thought they would go noticeably lighter on a Democratic president. Then again, who am I kidding? In 2001, when then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee approved of John Yoo’s Torture Memos when he worked in the Office of Legal Counsel – the Times called for Bybee’s impeachment by Congress when those documents were revealed by the Obama administration in 2009. He’s currently serving as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, a position he’s held since his appointment in 2003. However, the Times thought that:
[T]hese memos make it clear that Mr. Bybee is unfit for a job that requires legal judgment and a respect for the Constitution. Congress should impeach him. And if the administration will not conduct a thorough investigation of these issues, then Congress has a constitutional duty to hold the executive branch accountable. If that means putting Donald Rumsfeld and Alberto Gonzales on the stand, even Dick Cheney, we are sure Americans can handle it.
After eight years without transparency or accountability, Mr. Obama promised the American people both. His decision to release these memos was another sign of his commitment to transparency. We are waiting to see an equal commitment to accountability.
Now, with the DOJ memo that details how to legally kill an American abroad with drone strikes, the Times’ response is one of self-restraint.
The memo could and should have been released months ago. The administration could and should have provided a select number of lawmakers with the specifics on the killing of Mr. Awlaki and his son. The president could and should have acknowledged that decision and explained it.
Going forward, he should submit decisions like this one to review by Congress and the courts. If necessary, Congress could create a special court to handle this sort of sensitive discussion, like the one it created to review wiretapping. This dispute goes to the fundamental nature of our democracy, to the relationship among the branches of government and to their responsibility to the public.
So, one memo deals with the legality of simulated drowning, while the other details why it’s justified to kill Americans abroad. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that “these strikes are legal, they are ethical, and they are wise.” So, the Times called for the impeachment of a sitting judge, who signed off on a method that probably gave us the lead on bin Laden, but told the president that he should consult Congress the next time he wants to kill an American abroad. The disproportionate outrage couldn’t be more overt.
As ABC News’ Jon Karl put it succinctly in last night’s broadcast.
As soon as he became President, Barack Obama stopped CIA tactics like wateboarding that he considered torture. But this justifies outright killing a suspected terrorist. How does dropping a bomb on an American citizen without any judicial review, any trial, not raise any human rights questions, or more human rights questions, than something like waterboarding?
I’m not saying drone strikes are bad, or that targeting American-born terrorists violates due process. On the contrary, siding with the enemy and committing treason revokes your citizenship in my eyes, and therefore fire away Mr. President. However, Obama campaigned against the anti-Bush policies, and kept most of them in place. I’m just wondering when news outlets, like the Times, will finally convince themselves that it’s business as usual, and that Obama is being hypocritical in the extreme.