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Carney: Democrats flout Constitution, go on the warpath

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Politics,Timothy P. Carney,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

The delegates in Charlotte knew the mantra, and they chanted it in unison with Vice President Biden: "Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."

Set aside whether it was appropriate to bail out America's fifth-largest company. More striking is the Democrats' adoption of the "Let's Roll!" hawkishness that the Left used to hate.

Democrats mentioned bin Laden from the podium 29 times, according to the New York Times website -- that's more than they mentioned solar, wind, geothermal and ethanol combined.

Obama's 2011 military intervention in Libya was an applause line for John Kerry, who said Obama's Tomahawk strikes and bombing attacks -- none of which were authorized by Congress -- "made America lead like America again."

The Democrats' embrace of presidential war powers manifested itself in changes to the party platform.

Four years ago, Obama ran on a platform declaring, "We support constitutional protections and judicial oversight on any surveillance program involving Americans." That platform added, "We reject illegal wire-tapping of American citizens."

To borrow Biden's phrasing, those platform planks are dead, and illegal wire-tapping of Americans is alive.

Citing one of President George W. Bush's more egregious blows to the Constitution, the 2008 platform stated, "We reject sweeping claims of 'inherent' presidential power." The new platform scraps that plank and proposes no limits on presidential power. The only mentions of executive power are positive.

"We will revisit the Patriot Act," the 2008 platform promised, "and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years."

In May 2011, Obama signed a bill reauthorizing the Patriot Act complete with the provisions that most disturbed civil libertarians, including roving wiretaps and surveillance of people with no known ties to terrorist organizations. The 2012 platform omitted any mention of the law.

Democrats even stripped innocuous promises from the platform, such as "We will respect the time-honored tradition of habeas corpus."

Obama has dragged the Democratic Party closer to the Dick Cheney view on national security. Delegates in Charlotte, N.C., ate up the bin Laden lines, and they roared at the don't-mess-with-America bluster from Biden and others.

Much of the liberal commentariat has learned to stop worrying and love the national security state.

For instance, two writers at the liberal magazine the Nation in late 2010 attacked critics of the Transportation Security Administration's intrusive naked-scans and pat-downs.

When Nation writer Jeremy Scahill -- a rare vocal critic of Obama's hawkishness -- knocked the president regarding the continued jailing of a Yemeni who criticized U.S. drone strikes, prominent liberal commentator Kevin Drum told liberals to lay off Obama on the matter.

Some conservatives and most libertarians criticized Obama's 2011 attack on Libya, mostly because Obama had never asked for nor received congressional authorization. When the attack proved militarily successful, leading liberals mocked Republicans for their constitutional scrupulousness.

"Does John Boehner still believe U.S. military operations in Libya are illegal?" the liberal Center for American Progress taunted after coalition forces drove Moammar Gadhafi from power last August. "GOPers who criticized Obama's approach in Libya ... wrong again," leading liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos jeered after Gadhafi was killed in October.

And the grass roots have followed. A Washington Post/ABC News Poll in February showed a vast majority of Democrats -- including 53 percent of self-described liberal Democrats -- supporting Obama's keeping open the detention center for terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay. Also, 77 percent of liberal Democrats were cool with Obama's use of drone strikes around the Arab world, according to that poll.

And as Afghanistan drags into its 12th year and Obama rattles his saber at Syria, ask yourself when you last saw an anti-war march.

Anti-war and pro-civil liberties voices persist in many corners of the Left, but the party leadership and the Left's official organs ignore them. Just as Sen. Rand Paul is lonely in the GOP when he fights for peace and against the surveillance state, Sen. Bernie Sanders is an outlier among liberals.

When Democrats waved their flags in Charlotte and accused Republicans of insufficiently loving America, the subject was mostly bailouts and subsidies for domestic industry.

But there's a link: The roots of Obamanomics are nationalism and deep trust in the power of government. From those roots can spring hawkish jingoism. Biden made the point with his crowd-pleasing mantra: "Osama bin Laden is dead, and General Motors is alive."

Turns out the anti-war movement is dead, and the Patriot Act is alive.

Timothy P.Carney, The Examiner's senior political columnist, can be contacted at tcarney@washingtonexaminer.com. His column appears Monday and Thursday, and his stories and blog posts appear on washingtonexaminer.com.

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