George W. Bush is famous for saying “I’m the decider.” While by all appearances he did pretty much whatever he wanted for eight years, I don’t think that’s quite how things work.
WRM analyzes the Obama terrorism speech- why the hell he would want to do that I don’t know, but he did and I read his blog so here we are- and he juxtaposes the “liberal legalists” versus Obama’s pragmatism, which he says is founded in “Christian Realism”. I had never heard of Christian Realism before so I looked it up. Apparently it was Reinhold Niebuhr’s criticism of the Social Gospel, a broad religious and political movement that put Christianity in progressive politics and progressive politics in Christianity, to the point you can hardly tell the difference. This wasn’t a new thing, just another phase in the political and religious union that goes back to Cromwell. Niebuhr’s criticism of the Social Gospel was that it wasn’t realistic, but far from being pragmatic his basic criticism was that it didn’t go far enough. Niebuhr apparently gave Marxism up, and in any case the success of progressive Christianity shows it went exactly far enough.
Mead doesn’t understand that the role of the liberal legalists is to harass the proles- something they do primarily with death penalty litigation, secondarily with other types of anti-criminal justice litigation, and from time to time with civil liberties litigation. The liberal legalists don’t impede anything important, like stop and frisk.
But beyond things done directly for the convenience of the elite, like stop and frisk, the elite knows they need to maintain a basic sort of credibility in keeping things right-side up. Sometimes the liberal legalists get too much power- they controlled the criminal justice system in the 60’s and 70’s, and somewhat into the 80’s. A gothic level of chaos resulted, and the proles rebelled- their final act being the recall of three California State Supreme Court Justices in the 80’s. If there is anyone to specifically blame for 9/11- besides Jamie Gorelick- it’s Frank Church, who restricted FBI activity in the 70’s.
The elite learned their lesson, which is why Bill Clinton went ahead with the execution of the retarded guy. Liberals know to rule the people must trust them to keep them sort of safe, and avoid the level of crime of the 70’s. Progressives like to bitch about stuff like crack cocaine sentencing, three strikes and the death penalty, and while they have the courts as their playgrounds on these things, liberal legislators leave these things alone. They don’t even really want to bother with gun control, but sometimes the base demands blood.
Bush and Obama did the same things because the people who really matter decided to keep most of the same policies from 2001 to the present. Another major terrorist attack would make the natives unpleasantly difficult to manage- the Boston bombers have caused them quite a bit of trouble.