US Politics

Obama Vetoes Rule of Law

By Joel S. Hirschhorn
Published April 21, 2009

There are no headlines or pontificating pundits, but the real news that has become crystal clear to any but the most delusional and distracted Americans is that U.S. President Barack Obama has no commitment to applying the rule of law where it counts: applying it to the large number of rich and powerful people who have violated the U.S. Constitution and plunged the nation into economic disaster.

Again and again we hear the flimsy argument from Obama and his top advisors that he wants to look forward and not backward. This is tortured logic when it comes to delivering justice in a nation that supposedly cherishes the rule of law.

The fundamental logic of honouring and applying the rule of law fairly to everyone is that people who have broken the law in the past must be held accountable and placed into the justice system after they have misbehaved.

In other words, there is no actionable rule of law other than by looking backward into past misdeeds. So how can rational and intelligent people follow the logic of Obama and still believe that he truly understands and honours the rule of law?

It is not believable when Obama says he will honour the rule of law in the future. Why should we trust his rhetoric when he refuses to enforce the rule of law for past actions by some of the most powerful people in America?

There is warranted and massive public disapproval of government, as evidenced in the tea parties held across the nation last week. How can Americans respect government when it is so evident that the president stubbornly refuses to seek justice and punishment for those that have violated the public trust?

Obama's reluctance to seek justice for those who have damaged the nation undermines his credibility as an honest public servant.

All of this has taken on new importance as official documents from the Bush administration totally support the view that the US tortured prisoners in violation of international and domestic laws.

President George W. Bush lied to us. Even before the latest events there were surely incredible amounts of evidence that high Bush administration officials savaged the U.S. Constitution. The constitutional balance of powers among the three branches of government has become a fiction.

What Americans have every right to see is a large number of former elected and appointed officials in the Bush administration, as well as many in the financial sector, being arrested, indicted and confronted with criminal trials.

Americans want to see prosecution and punishment. They want and deserve retribution, considering the astounding pain and suffering the vast majority of Americans now experience.

We have every right to see in the public limelight what the world saw after World War II, when Nazi criminals were tried and punished on the world stage.

This is not happening because Obama seems to have more allegiance to the plutocracy that brought him to the presidency than to the public that has seen thousands of Americans killed in the unjust war in Iraq and now see their families, friends and neighbors suffering loss of jobs, retirement nest eggs, financial security, personal health and homes.

When any politician does not enforce the rule of law, I worry that he or she may fear having the rule of law applied to them.

We have witnessed crimes against humanity. We want President Obama to show complete commitment to the rule of law so that the many lying, corrupt and criminal Americans from both the public and private sectors that have caused so much harm are punished.

That includes Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and many, many others in the Bush administration, including those who were supposed to regulate the financial sector.

Obama and his underlings seem to say that doing this would be a distraction and a waste of time. Nuts! It is exactly what the nation needs to rebuild confidence in government and the justice system.

On the positive side, there are some in Congress showing interest in prosecuting many culprits. Yet the White House may be exerting pressure behind the scenes to limit their actions.

Applying the rule of law: Yes, we can - and should.

Joel S. Hirschhorn, Ph.D., is the author of Sprawl Kills - How Blandburbs Steal Your Time, Health, and Money. He can be reached through his website: Check out Joel's new book at


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By highwater (registered) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 22:30:22

Seems he's had a change of heart.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 21, 2009 at 22:40:18

I have to ask myself, just exactly what is the rule of law? Is the law just what the elites want? Why is the fairness for the people when the system allows for only those the have money and power to shape the ways things are.

Things are so corrupt, there is no accountablity, there is no responsibility and I fear that if things do not change, well, the state is going to lower its boom on the people, in the form of tyranny and oppression, all in the name of the elite and the powerful corporate bodies.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2009 at 09:01:07


From the article you linked, it sounds exactly like Obama wants the best of both worlds: to make the right kinds of noises to assuage those citizens (the large majority) who decry the criminality of the former administration without actually having to to about bringing those criminals to justice.

When he writes about the US "losing our moral bearings", that fairly screams that he wants to keep the issue in the political realm, which trades heavily in competing notions of morality, rather than the actual courts, which trade in legality rather than morality.

Of course, the biggest obstacle right now to justice for the criminals of the Bush administration is the politically uncomfortable fact that the criminality was strongly bipartisan.

The Democrats knew about and endorsed many, if not most, of the Bush administration's most egregious crimes: military force against Afghanistan and then Iraq, the Patriot Act, the illegal surveillance programs (which preceded 9/11 and which the Democratic leadership knew about), the "harsh interrogation methods" (alaso known as "torture" among people unencumbered by political entanglements), and so on.

Obama may yet be forced by unrelenting public outrage to launch a real commission to uncover and prosecute the crimes of the Bush era, just as Bush was ultimately forced to launch a real commission into the 9/11 attacks. In the meantime, the best thing Americans can do is keep up the pressure - keep holding Obama's feet to the flames so he doesn't cave in to the pressure of inside-the-beltway ass-covering.

I expect some form of investigation is inevitable. Unfortunately for Obama, his misfires at this early stage will only hurt his credibility in the long run - and he will lose the most among those supporters who entered the political process for the first time to throw their support behind him. The worst thing he can do is break faith with the grassroots movement that swept him to power in the first place.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted April 22, 2009 at 09:28:02

Ryan: A real commission into 9/11? Really, well given all the information that now out there, that the commissioned report is a joke.

The rich and powerful rule the world, they could careless for the people. Obama is part of the same old rhertoric and it is unfortunate that people have fallen for the propaganda for the supposed change.

Who do you think funded him, it was the rich and powerful, those the grassroots were duped into believeing that he is/was going to change things.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 22, 2009 at 10:24:27


I don't subscribe to 9/11 conspiracy theories, though I can understand why someone would. Given the sheer full-spectrum mendacity of the Bush administration, you could do worse than start by assuming anything they said was a lie.

My own hunch is that the administration had an idea something was in the works and just sort of let it happen:

After all, why go to all the trouble of creating an illusion of a terrorist attack when real terrorists are willing to do it for you?

As for Obama, here's what I wrote about him in March 2008:

"Obama is no political messiah. He's a middle-of-the-road moderate (albeit with liberal tendencies), and he's more interested to 'move forward' than to enforce the rule of law among existing criminals in government."

Just after his election, I wrote:

Just so we're clear: Obama is not a revolutionary, or a radical, or a socialist, or even particularly progressive by international standards. He's a moderate conservative (small c) with good instincts, a penetrating intellect and the sense to surround himself with smart, pragmatic, competent advisors.

After the eight-year train wreck that was the Bush presidency ... a merely competent government may seem transformative by comparison, especially to a whole generation of Americans who has grown up with the idea that governments can't do anything right.

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