As George Orwell’s Animal Farm closes, the revolutionary pigs have been transformed into oppressive humans. It took some time to occur on the Animal Farm. It’s taken just a few months in the Obama White House.
President Barack Obama is morphing into George W. Bush, as administration attorneys repeatedly adopt the executive-authority and national-security rationales that their Republican predecessors preferred.
In courtroom battles and freedom-of-information fights from Washington, D.C., to California, Obama’s legal arguments repeatedly mirror Bush’s: White House turf is to be protected, secrets must be retained and dire warnings are wielded as weapons.
“It’s putting up a veritable wall around the White House, and it’s so at odds with Obama’s campaign commitment to more open government,” said Anne Weismann, chief counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a legal watchdog group.
Certainly, some differences exist.
The Obama administration, for instance, has released documents on global warming from the Council on Environmental Quality that the Bush administration sought to suppress. Some questions, such as access to White House visitor logs, remain a work in progress.
On policies that are at the heart of presidential power and prerogatives, however, this administration’s legal arguments have blended into the other. The persistence can reflect everything from institutional momentum and a quest for continuity to the clout of career employees.
“There is no question that there are (durable) cultures and mindsets in agencies,” Weismann acknowledged.
Conservatives once opposed executive aggrandizement. Then with George W. Bush in office, they embraced the idea of the presidency as a kind of elective monarchy. With President Barack Obama now pushing the executive power grab, will conservatives rediscover their inner-Constitution and again join the barricades for liberty?