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Barack Obama promised change when he was campaigning for president, and many people expected the most changes in the unjust policies pursued by the Bush administration in their "War on Terror." Obama supporters have been pleased that his administration has pulled back from serious matters like the approval of torture, but at the same time he has refused to pull back from other crucial matters like rendition, indefinite detention, and keeping it all so secret that courts are not allowed to review the administration's actions.
The importance of these measures must not be underestimated. A formal rejection of torture is little consolation if the government can kidnap you and take you to another country where you can be tortured, or if the government can effectively kidnap you and keep you imprisoned indefinitely without charges, without evidence, without counsel, and without judicial review. Even if such experiences seem unlikely, we don't know how much spying on us the Bush administration did in the past or how much the Obama administration will do in the future. No government should have such power, no matter who is running it.
Bush supporters are not underestimating these developments — on the contrary, some are treating them as a sort of vindication of what Bush did. After all, Bush's policies couldn’t possibly be so bad if the liberal Obama is willing to keep them in place and even defend them retroactively. Obama's liberal supporters simply can't know the burdens of leadership and don't understand what needs to be done in order to protect America from international terrorism, right?
I'm actually a bit surprised that there isn't more outrage from conservatives about this. In almost every other case you might be able to name, you'll find conservatives concerned about Democrats and Obama having powers which they either ignored or even supported when Republicans and Bush had them. Perhaps more important is the fact that so many conservatives have such fear of Obama — they fear that he's a Muslim, a communist, or even the Antichrist. How could they possibly be content with such a leader having the powers Bush left behind?
The only explanation seems to be that the most paranoid and reality-defying fears come from the evangelical Christian base of voters, while the feelings of vindication rest primarily with the self-absorbed neoconservative power brokers. The neoconservatives are willing to work with anyone who will promote their ideological agenda of uniting the nation around convenient myths and against the fear of existential threats. If they think Obama will do this, they'll be willing to support him.
Liberal Democrats like Obama a lot; indeed, one of the most common criticisms from the Right has been the idea that a cult of personality has developed around him. There is little justification for this complaint, but what justification exists is only enhanced when Democrats allow Obama to pursue policies which they not so long ago attacked Bush for pursuing. Followers of a cult of personality will allow their leader to get away with almost anything; believers in justice and basic legal principles will remain loyal to those principles first, not to any individual politicians.
Our lives, property, and liberty are best secured through the existence of strong laws which apply to everyone, most especially the government, and not by trusting in the "good will" or "good character" of any particular leaders. That's what it means to be a nation of laws rather than a nation of men: a nation ruled by rational systems rather than one ruled by charismatic authority figures.
America under the Bush administration was moved away from being a nation of laws to a nation ruled by the whim of a single leader. If we are going to move back to being a nation of laws, we must pressure the Obama administration to do so. We cannot and should not simply assume that he and others will just "do the right thing." We must not be afraid to criticize Barack Obama and his appointed officials with all the same fierceness with which we once criticized George W. Bush - it's the principles of liberty and democracy which matter, not any one person.