Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Obama = Bush on trading liberty for safety

I have often used this forum to note that Bush = Gore and Bush = Kerry (note by transitivity, this implies that Obama=Bush=Gore=Kerry). Or in other words, people tend to commit the fundamental attribution error when evaluating presidents. They tend to attribute actions by presidents to the president's disposition, when in fact president's actions are often determined by circumstance, and thus different presidents often will make the same decision.

For example, while Bush was much lambasted by the media and by Obama for warrant-less wiretapping, presidential signing statements, extraordinary rendition, etc. Obama in his first few months have not only continued all of those practices by expanded their use.

Some are concerned, if not outraged and terrified. Though my interpretation is that if there is action (like warrant-less wiretapping) that two seemingly very different president's both agree on once in power, then maybe they have information on this we don't, and therefore maybe that means it is a very good idea.

For those concerned that we are trading "essential liberties" for "temporary safety" as Ben Franklin admonished, I just say the definition of essential is a mutable term, and is reevaluated with each generation. Just like our freedom of speech has been modified and adjusted over the years (you can't yell fire in a crowded theater, you can't threaten the life of a president, you can't spew racist speech, you can't libel, etc.) other rights are similarly re-evaluated with each generation. The constitution provides the president with the power to test these limits, though of course, it also provides for checks on this power.
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