Top Constitutional Experts: Obama Is Worse than Nixon

Objective Analysis: Obama Versus Nixon

In the wake of the twin scandals of the IRS targeting conservative groups and the Department of Justice spying on AP reporters, the comparisons between Obama and Nixon are everywhere.

But what do experts say?

Former New York Times general counsel James Goodale – who represented the paper during its Pentagon Papers fight with the Nixon administration – said in an interview yesterday that Obama is worse than Nixon when it comes to press freedoms. And see this.

Former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald noted last year:

We supposedly learned important lessons from the abuses of power of the Nixon administration, and then of the Bush administration: namely, that we don’t trust government officials to exercise power in the dark, with no judicial oversight, with no obligation to prove their accusations. Yet now we hear exactly this same mentality issuing from Obama, his officials and defenders to justify a  far more extreme power than either Nixon or Bush dreamed of asserting: he’s only killing The Bad Citizens, so there’s no reason to object!

Jonathan Turley – perhaps the top constitutional law expert in the United States (and a liberal) – writes:

The painful fact is that Barack Obama is the president that Nixon always wanted to be.

Four decades ago, Nixon was halted in his determined effort to create an “imperial presidency” with unilateral powers and privileges. In 2013, Obama wields those very same powers openly and without serious opposition. The success of Obama in acquiring the long-denied powers of Nixon is one of his most remarkable, if ignoble, accomplishments. Consider a few examples:

Warrantless surveillance

Nixon’s use of warrantless surveillance led to the creation of a special court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). But the reform turned out to be more form than substance. The secret court turned “probable cause” into a meaningless standard, virtually guaranteeing any surveillance the government wanted. After hundreds of thousands of applications over decades, only a couple have ever been denied.

Last month, the Supreme Court crushed any remaining illusions regarding FISA when it sided with the Obama administration in ruling that potential targets of such spying had to have proof they were spied upon before filing lawsuits, even if the government has declared such evidence to be secret. That’s only the latest among dozens of lawsuits the administration has blocked while surveillance expands exponentially.

Unilateral military action

Nixon’s impeachment included the charge that he evaded Congress’ sole authority to declare war by invading Cambodia. In the Libyan “mission,” Obama announced that only he had the inherent authority to decide what is a “war” and that so long as he called it something different, no congressional approval or even consultation was necessary. He proceeded to bomb a nation’s capital, destroy military units and spend more than a billion dollars in support of one side in a civil war.

Kill lists

Nixon ordered a burglary to find evidence to use against Daniel Ellsberg, who gave the famed Pentagon Papers to the press, and later tried to imprison him. Ellsberg was later told of a secret plot by the White House “plumbers” to “incapacitate” him in a physical attack. It was a shocking revelation. That’s nothing compared with Obama’s assertion of the right to kill any U.S. citizen without a charge, let alone conviction, based on his sole authority. A recently leaked memo argues that the president has a right to kill a citizen even when he lacks “clear evidence (of) a specific attack” being planned.

Attacking whistle-blowers

Nixon was known for his attacks on whistle-blowers. He used the Espionage Act of 1917 to bring a rare criminal case against Ellsberg. Nixon was vilified for the abuse of the law. Obama has brought twice as many such prosecutions as all prior presidents combined [and see this]. While refusing to prosecute anyone for actual torture, the Obama administration has prosecuted former CIA employee John Kiriakou for disclosing the torture program.

Other Nixonesque areas include Obama’s overuse of classification laws and withholding material from Congress. There are even missing tapes. In the torture scandal, CIA officials admitted to destroying tapes that they feared could be used against them in criminal cases. Of course, Nixon had missing tapes, but Rose Mary Woods claimed to have erased them by mistake, as opposed to current officials who openly admit to intentional destruction.

Obama has not only openly asserted powers that were the grounds for Nixon’s impeachment, but he has made many love him for it. More than any figure in history, Obama has been a disaster for the U.S. civil liberties movement. By coming out of the Democratic Party and assuming an iconic position, Obama has ripped the movement in half. Many Democrats and progressive activists find themselves unable to oppose Obama for the authoritarian powers he has assumed. It is not simply a case of personality trumping principle; it is a cult of personality.

Long after Watergate, not only has the presidency changed. We have changed. We have become accustomed to elements of a security state such as massive surveillance and executive authority without judicial oversight. We have finally answered a question left by Benjamin Franklin in 1787, when a Mrs. Powel confronted him after the Constitutional Convention and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” His chilling response: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

We appear to have grown weary of the republic and traded it for promises of security from a shining political personality. Somewhere, Nixon must be wondering how it could have been this easy.

Nixon’s “Enemies List” is famous, and the former head of the National Security Agency’s global digital data gathering program says that Obama also has an enemies list … which has been used to take down a wide variety of people, including the head of the CIA. The Washington Post’s Ed Rogers notes:

Obama doesn’t need a traditional Nixonian enemies list. In the digital age, with the Obama machine’s much-celebrated technological capabilities, the president can sort his enemies by keywords.

You’ve heard about the AP spying scandal, and the head of the Department of Justice implies that the government has spied on many other reporters.

Reporters who criticize those in power are being smeared by the government and targeted for arrest (and see this).

Indeed, the Obama administration is treating real reporters as potential terrorists.

After Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge.

Wikileaks’ head Julian Assange could face the death penalty for his heinous crime of leaking whistleblower information which make those in power uncomfortable … i.e. being a reporter.

Daniel Ellsberg notes that Obama’s claimed power to indefinitely detain people without charges or access to a lawyer or the courts is a power that even King George didn’t claim.  Former judge and adjunct professor of constitutional law Andrew Napolitano points out that Obama’s claim that he can indefinitely detain prisoners even after they are acquitted of their crimes is a power that even Hitler and Stalin didn’t claim.

Indeed, Obama has turned America into the most spied upon nation in world history, and has rolled back liberties to the time of the enactment of the Magna Carta in 1215.

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  • Sammy

    Nixon dismantled the Bretton Woods system. Clinton gave us NAFTA et al, deregulation, and a honed form of neoliberal plunder that carried and handed off the aspirations of Reagan, Bush onto Putsch Junior. Obama continues the neo-liberal condition, an African American trojan horse. Let’s not get carried away – all presidents answer to transnational corporations and international banks.

    • rich

      start boycotting…

      New App Lets You Boycott Koch Brothers, Monsanto And More By Scanning Your Shopping Cart

      handiwork is available for download on iPhone or Android, making its
      debut in iTunes and Google GOOG +2.17% Play in early May. You can scan
      barcode on any product and the free app will trace its ownership all
      the way to its top corporate parent company, including conglomerates
      like Koch Industries.

      Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will
      show you its corporate family tree on your phone screen. Scan a box of
      Splenda sweetener, for instance, and you’ll see its parent, McNeil
      Nutritionals, is a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson JNJ +0.51%.

      more impressively, you can join user-created campaigns to boycott
      business practices that violate your principles rather than single
      companies. One of these campaigns, Demand GMO Labeling, will scan your
      box of cereal and tell you if it was made by one of the 36 corporations
      that donated more than $150,000 to oppose the mandatory labeling of
      genetically modified food.

      Deciding to add that campaign to your
      Buycott app might make buying your breakfast nearly impossible, as that
      list includes not just headline grabbers like agricultural giant
      Monsanto but just about every big consumer company with a presence in
      the supermarket aisle: Coca-Cola, Nestle, Kraft, Heinz, Kellogg’s,
      Unilever and more.

      Buycott is still working on adding new data to
      its back end and fine-tuning its information on corporate ownership
      structures. Most companies in the current database actually own more
      brands than Buycott has on record. The developers are asking shoppers to
      help improve their technology by inputting names of products they scan
      that the app doesn’t already recognize.

      • jo6pac

        I saw that and will be adding to the piece of S$$$ iphone I have

      • Linda Flair

        I want to boycott Google and Apple, both evil transnationals. Do you have something in Linux that will attack the Kochs, TBTF, AEI, Brookings, etc and the Fortune 500 in real time 24/7, and look like a stylish transistor radio from the Nixon era?

      • Paynotaxes

        Can we boycott Soros, Buffett and all the Liberal cretins?

        • jedi woman

          Neither Soros nor Buffet come close to the evil of the Koch empire, And you damn well know it.

          • sam

            What have the Koch’s done?

      • John Rodgers

        How about Tyson and Progressive insurance ??

      • sam

        The Koch’s are great Americans.

    • NAFTA is not deregulation. It is 1,700 pages of regulation. It is terribly misnamed.

    • TheJacob

      Not the next one

  • Young James

    The elites of society are not who you think they are. They are not necessarily the wealthy that many people think are behind all the corruption; it might include some of them though. They are the intelligentsia who believe ALL knowledge is concentrated among their small group and since that is the case all power should also be concentrated among their small group. They are the ones who believe they are smarter than all of us and therefore know what is best for all of us and should make those important decisions for us.

    • southvalley

      Yes, like getting rid of the “useless mouths”, turning women back into walking incubators…the reason? because after the boomers plotz, there will be a lowering of the population and the demand side of the economics equation will shift to labor again. They want their slaves back. They aren’t concerned with babies except a potential slaves.

      They are creating an underclass of indentured servants with unpayable student debt and no jobs to go to.
      Unemployment figures are a bald-faced lie.
      These “experts” are probably right now wondering #1- how they could have gotten it so wrong on Romney #2 how they could have been so wrong about the pace of climate change.
      Armageddon is a self-fulfilling prophecy with these men

  • SRV

    GW, many of your posts are thoughtful and informative… this one is absolute drivel.

    . President Obama ran and won two elections on a platform of “surgical” warfare (although just how surgical is an fair question) in place of the military occupation (and thousands of US and hundreds of thousands of innocents) of two sovereign countries, while Nixon was simply a paranoid criminal.

    . President Obama is fighting a war against terrorists (which he inherited), while Nixon was was simply a paranoid criminal.

    . President Obama’s use of drones, and the threat of doing so on US soil if necessary is a powerful deterrent to terrorists, while Nixon was simply a paranoid criminal.

    . The AP “scandal” is of course a fictional event that President Obama had absolutely nothing to do with and GOP smear merchants will soon be (as in the Benghazi “scandal”) exposed once again as “the boy who cried wolf.” The Justice Department did it’s job and investigated a serious, national security leak… mistakes were made, and overreach is a fair criticism, but there were no laws broken and the President or his administration had no involvement… so why is he now the focus?

    But then again, it’s always good for business to Demonize the first African American president (or UN Ambassador, or Attorney General) and pander to the haters) isn’t it George… you lobbying for a Tea Party position?

    • teflonron

      Hey, the man is just pointing out what Constitutional lawyers and experts are saying.

    • SRV, you seek to deflect, in the typical mindless way of the liberal, Barry Obama. Sorry, you cannot change facts by ignoring them. You cannot alter reality, although you tried as well as your poor little mind and heart will allow. Then you slam Nixon by stating he was a paranoid criminal. Then the truth comes out in your little screed in your conclusion – THE RACE CARD. When all else fails, truth, honesty, intellectual debate pull out the trump card of race. News flash for you- Even “Leg tingler” Chris Matthews is turning on Obama now. To speciously imply that Obama was not involved, had no knowledge of the issues scandalizing his presidency is to bury your head in the sand- it is his role to BE responsible. Or are you making the argument that since he is “African American” he should not be held responsible for anything he and his administration does? Really?
      You demonstrate the intellectual incisiveness of a limp noodle. God Bless ya anyway.

      • jedi woman

        I don’t see anyone but cons bringing up race here.

    • Paynotaxes

      Bottom line is STAUNCH LIBERALS are saying Obama is abusing power: he needs to be impeached.

    • RJP

      Typical Liberal blather. Sad you people can’t get over the fact that you are the only true racist’s. Sorry Obama is 1/6 Black 50% white and the rest Arab he’s not a Black man he’s a dark skinned Arab.Nice try though

    • As a Liberal, I can’t agree with you at all. Obama made promises. he broke them. I don’t have to compare Obama to Nixon to be disappointed, I only have to compare him to himself.

      • jbyork3

        I voted for Obama the first time around, and here is why I hold him to be an even worse president than George W. Bush: because he promised he would be better, but he is, in fact, no different.

        • jedi woman

          Would you prefer the invasion of a sovereign country that was no threat to us? (Iraq). Bombs that killed hundred of thousands and created even more refugees? Destruction of infrastructure that resulted in even more death through water born disease like cholera? That’s George W, Bush’s legacy. Surgical strikes through drones take out far fewer people you’re saying that is worse than the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians? Oh – have you ANY idea what kinds of injuries the troops have returned with after having been “the boots on the ground”?

          You still wish to claim that Obama is worse? I think you need a reality check:

          And remember – these are not even close to the real deal.

          • John Rodgers

            1 year later, with Supreme Court hearings against companies with beliefs in Christ and even more attacks on the Constitution, a severely gimped healthcare plan and seemingly over empowered police state, not to mention the IRS targeting opposing political idea, I would hope you’ve at least come to the conclusion that if Obama is not worse than Bush, he is at least as bad.
            America can do far better !!!!

    • Patriot2112

      OMG SRV—Hobama has been a paranoid criminal STARTING long before he was even POTUS. $3 COLB for 2 years it WAS his Long Form then $3 Long Form, $3 Selective Service form. Then we have the SSN of a “Dead man” from Conneticut. Then he took money from his first Selection from Allied Governments which is a Felony like all listed above and ENEMY nations which is High Treason. Then we move to illegal US funds I gave money to him on my Credit Card as Adolf Hitler at 4508 SE Nazi Lane, Gainesvile, FL 34474 where ONLY the State was correct and he took the donation.
      Then Voter Fraud
      Then Fast & Furious
      Then Gun Walker
      then MORE voter Fraud
      Then Bengazi Gate
      Then IRS Scandal
      Then AP Scandal
      More to come…

  • Uncle_Meat

    Nixon made the mistake of biting the hand that fed him by setting up trade tariffs to protect American industry during the budding of globalist trade treaty talk. Rockefeller clan didn’t appreciate it so he was set up and deposed with Watergate. Obama is in the globalists’ back pocket wielding the socialist hammer. There is no stopping this miscreant I’m afraid. His minions are many with their heads tucked up into their backsides following this cult of personality. They call themselves liberal. They are all fake. Thomas Jefferson was liberal. These little stooges are authoritarians. They create dictators. They think that by siding with the brute power they will in turn be empowered in the end. Read your history you clones. You little pocket dictators will all be hung out to dry in the end with no one to protect you.

  • ANOTHER EXAMPLE: “Illegal Searches and Coercive Criminal Touching of Sexual Organs While Travelling”

    Obama approved scanners at airports that perform general , warrantless, inch-by-inch body searches contrary to the 4th amendment. The TSA scanners , with or without nude images (nude = invasion of privacy), do not detect any threats but rather “something” that “may” be a threat. In all cases, by not identifying anything – unlike metal detectors or blood tests for suspected drunk drivers – they all lead to criminal touching which is a crime in all 50 states.

    Very likely, the TSA violates the Americans with Disabilities Act as anyone in a wheelchair is forced to have their genitals and female breasts touched coercively under the threat of restrictive travel offered by private corprorations. They are pofiled because of their medical issues.

  • ANOTHER EXAMPLE: “Illegal Searches and Coercive Criminal Touching of Sexual Organs While Travelling”

    Obama approved scanners at airports that perform general , warrantless, inch-by-inch body searches contrary to the 4th amendment. The TSA scanners , with or without nude images (nude = invasion of privacy), do not detect any threats but rather “something” that “may” be a threat. In all cases, by not identifying anything – unlike metal detectors or blood tests for suspected drunk drivers – they all lead to criminal touching which is a crime in all 50 states.

    Very likely, the TSA violates the Americans with Disabilities Act as anyone in a wheelchair is forced to have their genitals and female breasts touched coercively under the threat of restrictive travel offered by private corprorations. They are pofiled because of their medical issues.

  • arevr18

    any criticism of Obama means you are a racist.

    • jedi woman

      Typical bagger. You know the difference.

      • arevr18

        IIIII want CAN DEE!! chun chachun chachun, cha chun chun, IIIIII want CAN DEE!! chun chachun chachun, cha chun chun.

  • Joe

    Might want to slow down with that ‘arguably top constitutional lawyer in the US’ stuff. As a lawyer trained by significantly better-regarded constitutional scholars and experts, you set off my bullshit meter for the rest of the piece, which may or may not have been of value. But that first bit of hyperbole made me shut off my brain.

    • jedi woman

      Same here. Thank you!

    • John Rodgers

      There will always be partisanship, however names can be googled, their credentials exposed.
      Names and positions were given as to their experiences for actual events that actually occurred.
      Where exactly were you during the Watergate event and trial?
      What media sources did you represent during the trial?
      One example, John Turley is even a liberal, who obviously is less partisan than you.
      I can admit to freedoms being taken from us during the Bush Administration. I was no fan, but you sir would be an absolute fool not admitting even greater numbers of liberties being sacrificed under the Obama administration, which if not controlled could get subsequently worse under any succeeding administrations no matter their political affiliations.
      The “bullshit meter” only swings when people refuse to admit America is in trouble.

  • Rudy Campilii

    Can someone, anyone tell me why in 2014 we need a government? Oh that’s right, so they can start wars to steal other countries natural resources for a few of their rich friends. We need government spy on and track our every movement. We need government to restrict our rights and limit our ability to pursue our own happiness. We need government to dumb down and indoctrinate our children in a place they call school, where the last thing on the list is education. We need government to allow certain mega corporations to grow GMO foods and poison us with the water we drink and to inject us with deadly vaccines. We need government to ruin our healthcare system for a few mega corporations. We need government to exempt themselves from the very laws they impose on us while making themselves filty rich. Oh yes, almost forgot, we need government to tax us half to death from cradle to grave and in some cases, beyond the grave.