Barack Obama rarely indulges in public displays of dictatorial arrogance. He leaves this to underlings like Eric Holder, Leon Panetta, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In testimony before separate congressional committees on the same day (March 7), Panetta and Mueller made clear the president’s view that his power to kill people – both at home and abroad – is not subject to congressional checks or legal restraints of any kind.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta pointedly refused to recognize that Congress, not the president, has the constitutional authority to commit the United States military to war overseas. Panetta provoked outrage among conservatives by claiming that the UN Security Council or NATO could authorize military intervention abroad. However, less attention was paid to the fact that Panetta’s formulation cut Congress out of this matter entirely – a logical and predictable extension of the Bush administration’s claim that the president, in his role as Grand and Glorious Decider, has plenary authority to wage war wherever he chooses, against whatever target he selects.
On the same day, FBI Director Robert Mueller was asked about Holder’s claim – made before an audience of law students at Northwestern University a few days earlier – that the president can order the execution of American citizens without trial or due process of any kind. Mueller was specifically asked if that applies to Americans living at home, as well as abroad. He artlessly ducked the question by claiming he would “have to go back” and check if it was addressed in administration policy.
The president has not been granted authority to order the assassination of anyone, of course. Doing so is (in descending order of seriousness) an act of criminal homicide and an impeachable offense. Or at least it would be considered as much by anybody other than those who subscribe to the perverse idea that the president is a figure who transcends the law, who “unassailable holds onto his rank,” irrespective of the moral nature of his actions.
This was the essence of Eric Holder’s detestable claim that a presidential kill order, made in secret on the recommendation of an anonymous, unaccountable panel of underlings, satisfies the requirement of “due process.” That vile notion was reiterated by Senate Majority Leader Reid in a March 11 CNN interview. …
Louis XIV’s famous self-description was “L’etat, c’est moi” (“I am the state”). His final pre-Revolution successor, Louis XVI, offered a similar summation of his view of the law: “C’est legal parce que je le veux” (“It’s legal because I will it”). Royal absolutism of this kind, after being refined in the crucible of revolution, was eventually remolded into the basic tenets of totalitarianism – a system, Lenin said, that rested on “Power without limit, resting directly on force, restrained by no laws, absolutely unrestricted by rules.”
Lenin would recognize in value of Holder’s sophistical distinction between “due process” and “judicial process” an effort to abolish any remaining legal limits on the lethal power of the State, as incarnated in the Dear Leader. He would admire the audacity displayed by the Obama administration (as well as its predecessor) in asserting the unlimited power of the executive to kill, torture, and imprison people at whim. He would covet the instruments of mass annihilation wielded by the executive branch, and its equally destructive apparatus of mass indoctrination. And he might even spare a moment of incredulous pity for a population that is ruled by such a system while clinging to the illusion of freedom.
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