Civil liberties weren't one of the main things Obama ran on in 2008. Obama ran on the economy and on a fixed timetable for ending the Iraq war.
To make the argument that civil liberties were a key focus of the Obama 2008 campaign, you should be able to provide a Google News search query from (say) July-October '08 that demonstrates that fact. I just tried to find one and couldn't.
We are (mostly, and myself included) social liberals on HN, and Obama was the liberal mainstream candidate in 2008, so I think we tend to project things onto him that aren't really there. Obama is first and foremost a pragmatist. Closing Gitmo was worth less to Obama than getting health care passed.
>Reaffirm our Values: Obama and Biden will restore respect for the rule of law and America’s values. They will: reject torture with- out exception or equivocation, including so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding; restore the Rule of Law by closing Guantanamo and restoring habeas corpus; and provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track down terrorists without undermining our Constitution or civil liberties.
Similar statements are made in other 2008 campaign documents, and with more detail.
Before you object, I do realize you're saying two different things here: (a) that it wasn't one of the "main" things he ran on, and (b) that promises to restore civil liberties "weren't really there" except in liberal imaginations. I can accept the first, but the second is completely untrue.
Obama tried and failed to close Guantanamo Bay, losing a great deal of political capital in the process. Do you think the Obama administration is writing memos encouraging the use of waterboarding, like David Addington and John Yoo did in 2003? I don't.
I don't object to this on a technicality. I object to it on the substance.
Obama tried and failed to close Guantanamo Bay, losing a great deal of political capital in the process.
Oh, spare me. Barack Obama has explicitly targeted, and killed, American citizens in drone attacks, something even Bush never did. This is public knowledge. I count myself a hawk in matters of Islamic terrorism, but I am also a libertarian and this is beyond the pale. There has to be a bright line in these killings, and American citizens must never be targeted for execution by some politician just because they think they should be dead. This is why we have courts and due process. Suddenly however, all the people who were so deeply, deeply, concerned about waterboarding have been silent about US citizens being eliminated on presidential orders.
As for your claim, evidence? He did no such thing, because he knew that as soon as the prisoners were released most would go right back to killing again (or do you think that they were mostly innocent?), as indeed several who were released already have. Even his Mainstream Media toadies wouldn't be able to cover that up.
Instead we have seen a massive gunrunning operation intended to give weapons to Mexican drug cartels, conducted by Eric Holder, Obama's chief law enforcement officer, that has resulted in the murder of four innocent Americans and who knows how many Mexicans. The legal term for this is "accessory to murder". Holder has perjured himself before Congress on this and Obama and his media has done nothing but support him. What is your stand on that?
>because he knew that as soon as the prisoners were released most would go right back to killing again (or do you think that they were mostly innocent?)
Obviously they were innocent by the very definition of it in the US system: innocent until proven guilty. Obviously if we could prove them guilty we wouldn't need Gitmo, we'd try them in criminal court. We didn't because we had nothing on them.
Also, your "went back to killing" is an assumption. How do you know they were killing before? I would expect that, once released, the people who were illegally kidnapped would seek some action against those that destroyed their lives and held them against their will for years.
In descending order of fullfilling-his-promises (all promises from his "Obama's Plan to Defeat Terrorists Worldwide" 2008 campaign document, pp. 5-6):
* He promised to end torture and rendition, and did so, AFAIK. +1
* He made a good faith effort to close Guantanamo, and failed. Let's call this a wash. 0
* He promised to revist the Patriot Act and implement "real and robust" oversight of the new powers it granted. This one's complicated, but PolitiFact seems to call it a wash. 0
* He promised to "eliminate" warantless wiretaps specifically, but hasn't done anything to accomplish this. In fact, he's signed reauthorizations of the Patriot Act twice without any change in the wiretapping sections. -1
* He promised to "restore habeas corpus". In reality, he's claimed the right to not only imprison foreigners without that right, but also American citizens. -1
* Not only that, but he claims the right to kill American citizens without trial. This isn't breaking a specific campaign promise, since even Bush didn't claim this (AFAIK), but I'm including it anyway. -1
In sum, aside from torture, he's ranged from a disappointment to a disaster on civil liberties. And I love the guy otherwise.
Zach, he did not end rendition, though he did end some of the most appalling practices formerly involved.
We also have very little way of verifying, beyond leaked information, that the administration has behaved consistently with its policies and if it has, how well (not just with regard to rendition but torture as well).
So I would place it more as a +0.5 or generously, +0.75.
Hey, I realize this doesn't add much, but I'd like to thank everyone in this thread. I"m new here, but this is why I come to HN, people are disagreeing by citing sources and not yelling or being particularly acrimonious.
Your -1 on PATRIOT leaves out significant executive branch restrictions that have been added to the wiretapping authority, which makes sense, because Obama didn't have the political capital to force a legislative change. My source: ACLU.
Your -1 on "killing Americans without trial" is an allusion to the NDAA. The NDAA is a smoke-and-mirrors issue; the problem isn't Obama's NDAA, but rather the 2002 Bush AUMF, which is still in effect. NDAA's enemy combatant language limits the powers already granted to Obama by the AUMF.
Obama also appointed Sotamayor and Kagan to the Supreme Court, but that doesn't fit nicely into a message board narrative about civil liberties.
It is a drastic overstatement to call Obama a "disaster" on civil liberties.
I agree that both parties (save Ron Paul, if you'd call him a Republican) aren't running on civil liberties, but don't pretend that social "justice" wasn't a theme of Obama in '08. And to Obama, the two are conflated. And to call Obama a pragmatist is laughable, at best. I know you're from Chi-town...so am I. In his neighborhood, no less. But pragmatism is an unknown word to Obama because he doesn't know how to govern. You brought up Gitmo...any candidate with half a brain wouldn't go around spouting nonsense about closing it as a campaign issue. A 15 minute conversation with anyone in that arena would tell you not to make that promise...yet he did.
Also, I'm here to provide a counter-point to your assertion that most people on HN are social liberals. I'm not, yet I live in one of the most socially liberal neighborhoods in the country (save SF neighborhoods?).
I agree with you that closing Gitmo wasn't a priority for him in office, and that health care was the priority. Unfortunately, that's why we're 2+ years behind in fixing this economy. He is so fixated on ideology than pragmatism (in his words) that the economy just slipped his mind.
He doesn't understand how the economy works. Neither do nearly everyone in government. They are all basically academics without practical experience. You can't fix something you don't understand. You'd have better luck asking a virgin about sex.