MSNBC's Alex Wagner and Guests Slam Obama From the Left on Drones
In Friday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s Now with Alex Wagner, the show’s panel did something extraordinary. They slammed Obama’s drone policy from the left.
Wagner even read a portion of John Yoo’s editorial in The Wall Street Journal describing how this policy has harmed civil liberties more than waterboarding ever could. Yet, this is the man, along with Judge Jay Bybee, that the Left were screaming to be held accountable for their part in drafting the so-call Bush Torture Memos.
Furthermore, Franklin Foer of the New Republic added that Congress has been conspicuously lax in their oversight of these programs.
FRANKLIN FOER: I don't have a problem with drones. I think drones actually represent an advance in the history of warfare that -- it's also a bit rich to see John Yoo pile on the criticisms. But it's very clear that one of the promises that the Obama administration made when they came in was that they would take the Bush administration policies – in the War on Terror – and then they would run them through a filter where they would legitimatize them, they would add protections that would enhance the protection of civil liberties. And they've haven’t really done any of those things. They’ve let these programs continue in very non-transparent ways. They've done very little to establish rational regulations of them, very clear rules that would make us feel better that they were doing a better job of taking this tremendous power that they have and using it in the most responsible way.
Deputy New York Mayor Howard Wolfson acknowledged that the reaction to Obama’s kill list would’ve been ten times more intense if George Bush was in office.
ALEX WAGNER: Well, and I think one of the things that was really remarkable in the hearing yesterday, Howard [Wolfson], was the gray -- the sort of opacity – the fact that John Brennan himself didn't know whether he would call waterboarding torture. I mean –
HOWARD WOLFSON: Well, I think he did know. I didn't think he was going to say.
WAGNER: But, they very much are still grappling. The playbook is still being written. So it's sort of -- the ethics around it are still -- we're still sort of thinking about it, and in the meantime drone strikes continue today. There was a drone strike in Pakistan that killed seven and injured six others. It's as if the warfare has gotten far ahead of where we actually are in terms of our moral compass.
WOLFSON: There was an extraordinary "New York Times" front page story a couple of months back that basically detailed President Obama going over a kill list where he would personally get the recommendations about when which targets just -- which targets could be filled if we found them and him sort of strike a few off and checking boxes next to the ones that he was comfortable with, and I was sort of expecting all my Democratic friends, all of my friends on the Left to howl and say what an outrage this was. I could only imagine if this is a front-page story about George Bush and Dick Cheney late at night going over a kill list. And the fact is Democrats have mostly given the president a pass on this, and Republicans are mostly okay with the policy of killing terrorists with drones. And, as a result, as a country, we are allowing this to happen. People are basically okay with it.
Wagner is starting to realize that President Obama isn’t the champion for transparency and human rights that he made himself out to be in 2008. Furthermore, liberals, like Wolfson, are starting to see that waterboarding isn’t a settled issue, in terms of effectiveness, and that Obama is just as adamant in doing whatever is necessary in protecting this country. It’s a characteristic Bush held when he was in office, and Wolfson made a note of that. So, when will the left increase their level of criticism against Obama, and when will they realize that in many ways, their guy doesn’t differ much with Bush.
Lastly, the Bush memo dealt with simulated drowning. The Obama one deals with killing Americans abroad. One was written by a Republican administration, while the other was drafted by a Democratic administration. Which one do you think received more criticism within the media?
WAGNER: I hear what you're saying on that, but at the same time, you know, he [Obama] came into office under the aegis – under this banner of no longer will there be black sites. We are closing Gitmo. You know, extraordinary rendition. These kinds of practices put in place by George W. Bush. That is going to be -- we're going to close that chapter in American history. And what this reveals is that that chapter is far from being closed. It's still being written.
WOLFSON: We are still arguing based on the movie Zero Dark Thirty whether or not enhanced interrogation torture, helped us get Osama bin laden, and you hear conflicting reports about whether or not that was true. And, if you ask the average person, does interrogation – enhance interrogation, does torture work? You'll get ten different answers. And so, we are, as a country, we’re very much grappling with these questions and trying to sort of move our way through the maze, and I think at the end of the day what the chief executive determines is that he is going to err on the side of the safety of the American people. If there is a judgment call to be made, he is going to say I will do what I need to do to protect this country, and I think George Bush would have said that, and it's pretty clear that Barack Obama is saying that.