President Barack Obama promised to end the “fever of fear” created by the Bush administration and relinquish unreasonable executive powers. But after becoming president, Obama didn’t end many of the practices he campaigned against.
Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart likened the president Tuesday to a character in “The Lord of the Rings” who falls under the sway of Sauron’s Ring of Power and is unable to complete his mission to destroy it.
Stewart took a step back from the current BP oil spill catastrophe to look at the bigger picture of Obama’s presidency. “The Gulf crisis was an unforeseen catastrophe. Barack Obama’s real mission when running for president was to restore some of America’s moral high standing that we had lost in the turmoil of the war on terror,” said Stewart.
Obama made the case for himself while running for president in November of 2007. “Guantanamo, that’s easy. Close down Guantanamo. Restore habeas corpus. Say no to renditions. Say no to wireless wiretaps,” said Obama. “Part of my job as the next president is to break the fever of fear that has been exploited by [the Bush] administration.”
“Obama’s rein would bring back the rule of law. If the Supreme court said even terrorists at Guantanamo Bay deserved their day in court through the writ of habeas corpus, as they did in the Hamdan case, Barack Obama would honor that, not try to pull the old Bush flim-flammery,” announced Stewart.
But as president, Obama did appear to find a way around habeas corpus by maintaining the Bush practice of keeping detainees at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan.
The Obama administration pushed for and won the right to deny those Bagram prisoners a right to a hearing, McClatchy reported.
“Today President Obama won a victory to keep those detainees locked up indefinitely without getting even one chance to prove their innocence in court,” The Nation‘s Chris Hayes announced in May.
Stewart seemed willing to let the president off if that was the only violation. “That’s only habeas corpus. That’s the only thing that was thrown out there, one small tiny fundamental tenet of law,” said Stewart. “He also said he was going to end rendition.”
“We also learned that the Obama administration will continue the Bush policy of extraordinary rendition, the practice of sending terror suspects to prisons in third party countries for interrogation,” MSNBC’s Alison Stewart reported last August.
Stewart then played clips of then-candidate Obama calling for the “highest standards of civil liberties and human rights.”
“No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. We’re going to again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers and the justice is not arbitrary,” Obama said in August of 2007.
Stewart appeared perplexed. “Your campaign was premised on reining in presidential power. What happened?” he wondered.
“Oh, I see,” said Stewart. Apparently things had changed when Obama took the oath of office.
“And now you have your own secret military programs that go beyond even what Bush was doing,” Stewart noted.
The president has gone so far to authorize the killing of a Anwar al-Awlaki, a Muslim cleric and American citizen, without trial.
“Wow. He’s a bad guy, runs an Al-Qaeda web site from Yemen but you complained when Bush wanted to read Americans’ emails without a warrant,” said Stewart.
“Wait a second, all that power you didn’t like when someone else had it. You decided to keep it. Oh my God, you are Frodo,” exclaimed Stewart.
This video is from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, broadcast June 14, 2010.