It was Septemeber 30, 2011 and NPR was reporting Muslim cleric, alleged al-Qaida leader and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone-fired missile in some far off province of Yemen. Two weeks later his son 16 year old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki would meet his end as collateral damage in a similar attack, this one allegedly aimed at another radical al-Qaida leader.
Two America citizens targeted for killing by their own government with only one trial in absentia to show for due process. The thought was chilling. This sort of executive overreach would have elicited harsh rebukes had it been committed by G.W Bush, but under Obama, well, it still felt wrong but it also felt right. Conflicted I sought my moral compass, surely it could provide some much needed clarity.
My friend owns a royal blue 1971 VW Microbus. Over the years this outdated hippy steed has hauled him from concert to concert like some burnt-out stoner dharma bum, his vehicle a symbol of his elitist Northwest liberal heritage. It was late 2008 when this pot-mobile received her patron saint, and my moral compass, Dashboard Barry.
Shirtless and flashing his signature smile, Dashboard Barry is a Barrack Obama bobblehead that looks ready to hit the waves with a surfboard under his left arm, his right hand flashing "hang loose", and with his relaxed demeanor, I like to imagine he's just coming from a session with the choom gang. It is this effortless calm he exudes that fosters my trust. Uncertainty from the earlier reports still reeling in my gut, I ask, "You wouldn't target American citizens abroad unless you really had to, right?" I tap his bobble head for a response. He nods in agreement and I am relieved. An indiscriminate murderer our President is not. Sadly, there are fringe elements in this country that do not understand this.
Nowhere was this disconnect more apparent than Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster of the Senate confirmation for John Brennan as head of the CIA the other dat. Using the cover of civil liberties, Paul took nutbag obstructionism to a new level, stalling governmental progress over a professed disgust towards use of drone strikes targeting American citizens, i.e., the possibility of the President ordering a strike against a citizen on US soil.
Paul was not satisfied with Eric Holder's response on the hypothetical use of drones on domestic targets, and so with the backing of only one other senator, Ron Wyden (D) from Oregon, the distinguished gentleman from Kentucky sought to hold up the confirmation of one of the few Obama appointments to receive mass bi-partisan support. What life events imbued Paul with such a sense of self-importance that he should feel the need to make a scene over a hypothetical abuse of presidential powers is beyond me. Perhaps something from his upbringing.
It seems to me that Sen. Paul would be better served working to accept the new normal. That's what music-journalist turned MSNBC personality Touré has done, with aplomb. He recognizes that many of President Obama's actions could be considered war crimes and would be found abominable had they been performed by Bush II. Despite this admission Touré goes on to say that because Obama is a constitutional scholar-- more than that, because he is a good man-- we should trust his judgement on such weighty matters. I can't disagree.
Like St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Cicero before him, President Obama has ever been grappling with the concepts behind a "just war", he has struggled with how to justify exporting violence as a means to lasting peace. With the philosophies of his forebears providing a moral framework the president has attempted to codify into law the process by which he chooses names from his disposition matrix. He is methodically retrofitting the constitution to fit his vision of justice so that we are not encumbered frivolities like the Geneva conventions, habeas corpus, posse comitatus or any other Latin phrases of whose meanings I am ignorant. In times like these our country cannot afford any hesitation. We are at war with a savage faceless enemy, to hesitate is to die.
I'm sure the President has had many a tortured debate with himself on the best means of fighting terrorism, while also limiting collateral damage. I'm sure he has asked himself "Barry, is setting up an assassination program so secretive that its existence cannot be confirmed or denied, instead existing in a quantum state of uncertainty, really the best means of combating the perverted ideal of terrorism?" To which he has answered, "Yes, Other Barry. Yes, it really is." The moral and emotional strain of these decisions cannot be underestimated.
Were not President Obama not a constitutional scholar perhaps there could exist concern about the legality of some of his policies. But it's more than his Harvard Education and deep understanding of the constitution that calm any worries about his policies, there is genuine feeling that Barrack Obama is a rational, reasonable, self-aware family man. It's the way he speaks to the public that provides a sense of inclusion and understanding that Bush's limited intellect and beady eyes could never convey. The American public trusts this man.
Barrack Obama is far from a saint, and he certainly has his flaws. For example his financial policy is a disastrous rehash of failed economic principles; he appointed the Vice-President of oft-vilified big ag company, Monsanto, to be the head of the FDA; his appointment of Wal-Mart's budget Operator to head the budget office doesn't exactly signal a trong backing of worker's rights; environmentalists have to be worried about him giving the ok on the Keystone XL pipeline. Still whether he is singing a few bars of Al Green, giving fist bumps to white house janitors, or hooping it up with the Secret Service in his down-time, Barrack Obama always seems so affable and the American public by and large loves him for it. Liberals just can't stay mad at the guy, no matter how many times he offers to needlessly cut Social Security.
It is this illogical love that drives me to the arms of Dashboard Barry again and again. News is released that HSBC received a fine equivalent two 5 weeks profits for their role in a massive money laundering scheme for terrorists and drug cartels, and I ask Barry is the punishment can be considered justice. His silent, grinning nod answers affirmative. He talks about needing to improve our public schools and then offers massive incentives to charter schools and I question whether this is the best way to improve our education system. He nods again. And I notice again his left hand reminding me to hang loose. That Dashboard Barry, he has all the right moves.