Good bit by Taibbi on the mental gymnastics so much of the media is performing to excuse drone strikes:
The news that the executive branch had claimed for itself the power to assassinate Americans managed to very briefly raise the national eyebrow, but for the most part, the body politic barely flinched. I got the sense that most of the major press organizations sort of hoped the story would go away quietly (aided, hopefully, by the felicitous appearance of some distractingly thrilling pop-news/cable sensation, like Chris Dorner’s Lost Weekend).
Some politicians, like Maine Senator Angus King and Oregon’s Ron Wyden, tried to keep the story alive, but others just shrugged. Senator Lindsey Graham’s response, incidentally, was to propose a formal resolution praising the president for using drones to kill American citizens, Graham being concerned that the president was all alone out there, taking criticism from “libertarians and the left.” It’s an interesting footnote to this controversy, that it’s one of the few areas outside of the non-policing of Wall Street where there’s solid bipartisan agreement.
Meanwhile, it also recently came out that the New York Times, among other papers, sat on knowledge of the existence of a drone base in Saudi Arabia for over a year because, get this, the paper was concerned that it might result in the base being closed.
As old friend David Sirota noted, Times ombudsman Dean Baquet blazed a burning new trail in the history of craven journalistic surrender when he admitted the paper’s rationale in an interview. “The Saudis might shut [the base] down because the citizenry would be very upset,” Baquet said. “We have to balance that concern with reporting the news.”
News organizations do this type of thing all the time, of course [insert manner in which this newspaper has offended you here]. Although rarely are the consequences as lethal as with the drone program.
This sort of clanged like a bell because I spent a portion of last night reading a book I hadn’t quite gotten around to finishing – the pile is large – called “Death fo the Liberal Class” by Chris Hedges, himself a Pulitzer-winning NYT reporter. Hedges’ theory is that the “liberal class” – the press, the commentariat, the people who are, you know, supposed to raise objections when the President decrees he can kill whomever he wants so long as that person is an “enemy of the state,” whatever that might mean – has abdicated its role. It’s a failure of the press, but it’s more than that. It’s an acceptance, by the entirety of this liberal class, that its role isn’t to challenge power, but to be subservient to it.
And as such, it falls to this liberal class to justify what power already wants to do. Such as the drone program.
Dear citizen, please do not think there is any chance whatsoever of having your government re-think the manner in which it uses drones, and we’re only going to use more of them in the future. I am positive there will come a day when we’ll see drone strikes in the United States. Police departments throughout the country are already requesting permission to use drone surveillance – Penn State is among those asking for the authority.
That doesn’t mean they’ll be bombing anyone, but doesn’t there come a time when drones become cheaper than cops on a beat? Drones aren’t unionized and don’t need time off. All that would remain would be to modify them so that when they “apprehend” a subject, they don’t do so lethally.
We’re clearly trending in that direction. Is it a good idea? Is this what people want? In the broader sense, should the President have the authority to kill American citizens he says are a threat to the nation? Doesn’t that ultimately go beyond terrorism; or, what if the term “terrorism” gets expanded in the coming years and – say – your friendly neighborhood Tea Party semi-automatic weapon-toting “patriot” becomes officially classified as a threat to other Americans, a threat to the nation?
Paranoid? Maybe. But how is that not where this path leads. And so, in an aware society, we’d be having that discussion.
But we don’t. Plenty of people just aren’t interested. But those who ought to be waving the banner of dissent are instead cheering the government on, and covering for the government.
And so government will do what government wants to do. And on these matters, there will be a surprising amount of “bipartisanship,” as Taibbi notes. It’s the power structure both protecting itself and expanding its power; it’s a greater centralization of authority, with the liberal class used to justify it to the people who might otherwise oppose it, and stop it.