Friday, May 22, 2009


It’s time, Mr. President, for some change

by Larry Geller

This was a beautiful speech from President Obama today with patriotic even moving language about the rule of law and the constitution and one of the most radical proposals for defying the constitution we have ever heard made to the American people.
—Rachel Maddow

It was shocking to me to hear President Obama’s speech on the radio. I thought, for sure, there would be immediate reaction from human rights groups and from the overseas press. Here at home, disappointingly, much of the commentary, including on NPR, has aimed so low that it debates whether Obama or Cheney made a better speech, or analyzes the president's demeanor during his talk.

Human rights groups have, in fact, risen to condemn the substance of Obama's speech. This Atlantic article (Civil Liberties, Human Rights Groups Not Assuaged By Obama's Speech, 5/21/2009) is a good summary of a few organizations’ positions. An example from the article:

"He wraps himself in the Constitution and then, in our view, proceeds to undermine it," Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) President Michael Ratner said.

One of the most scathing commentaries is in today’s Progressive Review Undernews (Obama Assumes the Rights of a Dictator, 5/22/2009). Sam Smith begins the article:

With his comments on preventive detention, President Obama has assumed the privileges of a dictator. There are no constitutional grounds for what he intends to do and nothing therefore to prevent him from expanding the language to include, for example, preventive detention for journalists who oppose the first three country conflict America has been in since World War II.

The claim by both Bush and Obama that they can exercise unconstitutional powers because we are in a war is supported neither by the document itself nor by reality, inasmuch as Congress has yet to declare war on anyone we are currently fighting. Further, all the unconstitutional measures used or proposed - from torture to preventive detention - have gained prominence without a single significant effort on the part of the United States to lessen the chances that someone in the countries concerned might wish to harm us. We have not only jettisoned the Constitution but common sense as well.

Smith’s article is short but powerful and worth a read.

Should we be concerned? I suggest that we should be very concerned. Behind Obama, when he spoke, was a copy of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Trampling on it while giving a speech was a good trick, but he should not be allowed to go forward with the violations of human rights that he proposed. We’ve had enough of that.

It’s time, Mr. President, for some change.



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