DYCHE OPINION | Tyranny in the Open
By John David Dyche
Remember the 2008 Democratic convention stadium rally in Denver? The one with the faux Greek columns and rhythmic chanting of nominee Obama's name?
After that disturbing display of mob psychology a pundit for a once prominent Midwestern newspaper penned a piece entitled "Beware of Despotism." In it, he reminded readers of Plato's argument that even well-ordered republics are destined to decay into democracy and then into despotism.
The column quoted Edward Gibbon on Rome's decline and fall as "the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness." It analyzed how America's Founders feared despotism and designed an anti-democratic constitution to check those who, Alexander Hamilton said, begin "by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants."
The article reviewed how civilized societies like Germany and Italy succumbed to strongmen and how influential American columnist Walter Lippman had written during the Great Depression that "a mild species of dictatorship will help us over the rough spots in the road."
The column concluded, "It can happen here. The wisest minds and history warn us. Alarmism is not appropriate. Vigilance is."
Almost five years later, and after the last few weeks' serial revelations of Obama administration abuses, mere vigilance will no longer suffice. Alarmism is now appropriate.
Then, the potential for despotism was discernible "from ominously familiar features: huge and highly choreographed party rallies; evocative emblems and imagery; rhythmic chants; children singing the great one's praises; foundational relationships with unrepentant political and religious radicals; an autobiography of struggle authored before any real achievement; and "ism" invoked to preemptively deter or defensively demonize critics; an enfeebled opposition; and passionate pursuit of unchecked power over all branches of government."
Today, the proof of despotism is in deeds done.
The debt ceiling debate provided early evidence of demagogic tendencies. As Senator, Obama opposed raising the national debt limit saying, "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure." After adding trillions to the national debt as President, however, he deemed it leadership to demand an unconditional increase.
The U. S. Constitution requires the President to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Obama, however, refuses to enforce laws dictating deportation of certain illegal immigrants, will not defend the Defense of Marriage Act, has repeatedly ignored the statutory due date for submitting a budget, and has violated the Constitution with illegal, non-recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board.
Obama has also run roughshod over personal liberties and constitutional rights. Obamacare mandates that everyone buy health insurance. Religious employers must provide free contraceptive coverage even if it violates their faith tenets.
For transparently political purposes the administration misled the public about the fatal assault on the U. S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Obama is now paying off the purveyor of falsehoods, Susan Rice, with a promotion despite her having been exposed as either a dupe or a deceiver.
Attorney General Eric Holder swears that a Fox News reporter is a criminal co-conspirator to obtain an overbroad subpoena for the journalist's private communications. Other media who exposed government activities got similar, unusually aggressive scrutiny.
After Obama complained about conservative and tea party groups the Internal Revenue Service maliciously targeted them for extra tax scrutiny. That malfeasance coincided with obscene IRS junket spending even as taxpayers struggle financially and national defense takes dangerous cuts.
A leaker recently revealed what our government kept secret: the National Security Agency is amassing an all-inclusive database of our phone calls and Internet use. Despite campaign promises to cut back on Bush administration surveillance Obama actually expanded the scope of covert invasions into Americans' private lives.
Only upon exposure did Obama belatedly "welcome" debate about balancing security and civil liberties. He says not to worry because, "Nobody is listening to your telephone calls." But given the litany of abuse and scandal recited above, who is naive enough to believe him?
The IRS previously told Congress nobody was targeting conservatives. In congressional testimony Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied data collection on American citizens.
This Big Brother-style cyber-snooping has bipartisan congressional support and there is some review by what appears to be a one-sided, rubber-stamp secret court. But the breathtakingly wide data-mining dragnet dramatically departs from Fourth Amendment standards like probable cause.
Obama recently told Ohio State graduates to reject those who "warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner." He was right. Tyranny is now out in the open.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.