Prompted by Peggy Noonan's claim in The Wall Street Journal that "we are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate," Andrew Sullivan steps forward to defend Pres. Obama's honor. "Can she actually believe this?," he asks incredulously. "Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes?
Has he traded arms for hostages with Iran? Has he knowingly sent his cabinet out to tell lies about his sex life? Has he sat by idly as an American city was destroyed by a hurricane? Has he started a war with no planning for an occupation? Has he started a war based on a lie, and destroyed the US' credibility and moral standing while he was at it, leaving nothing but a smoldering and now rekindled civil sectarian war?"
Sullivan hasn't internalized the worst of what Obama's done, because his notion of scandal is implicitly constrained by whatever a president's partisan opponents tout as scandalous. If they criticize Obama wrongly, he defends Obama proportionately
Has he ordered the assassination of any American citizens in secret without due process? Did he kill any of their teenage kids without ever explaining how or why that happened?*
Has he refused to reveal even the legal reasoning he used to conclude his targeted killing program is lawful?
Has he waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers?
Has he spied on millions of innocent Americans without a warrant or probable cause?
Does he automatically count dead military-aged males killed by U.S. drones as "militants"?
Did he "sign a bill that enshrines in law the previously merely alleged executive power of indefinite detention without trial of terror suspects"?
There is more, as Sullivan knows, and it all amounts to a scandalous presidency, even if it happens that few Republicans care about the most scandalous behavior, and have instead spent almost a year* now obsessing about Benghazi.
At the New York Times, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, and beyond, exceptional journalists take great care to document alarming abuses against the rule of law, the separation of powers, transparency, and human rights perpetrated by the Obama Administration. On a given subject, the coverage leaves me awed and proud to be part of the same profession. But when it comes time for synthesis, bad heuristics take over. Confronted with the opportunism and absurdity of the GOP, Obama's sins are forgiven, as if he should be graded on a curve. His sins are forgotten, as if "this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong."
Yes. He. Has.