Snowden shows up Obama on leadership

Israel/Palestine
on 22 Comments

Like so many others, I was thrilled by Edward Snowden’s online chat yesterday at the Guardian. It seemed to me an incredible display of citizen leadership. For Snowden has sacrificed his home, his future, his romantic relationship, and maybe too his life, as he hinted darkly, for the principle of the people’s right to decide on the nature of their government. When asked why he’d done what he’d done, he seemed to echo the Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale, saying, “This country is worth dying for.” 

The dramatic performance also had a very practical aim: challenging a president whose aversion to drama used to be something he bragged about. Snowden two or three times called out Obama for a lack of leadership.

This disclosure provides Obama an opportunity to appeal for a return to sanity, constitutional policy, and the rule of law rather than men. He still has plenty of time to go down in history as the President who looked into the abyss and stepped back, rather than leaping forward into it.

Questioning the character of the president he’d once believed in, Snowden said that Obama has not been willing to spend the “political capital” necessary to end human rights violations.

shortly after assuming power, he closed the door on investigating systemic violations of law, deepened and expanded several abusive programs, and refused to spend the political capital to end the kind of human rights violations like we see in Guantanamo, where men still sit without charge….

Everyone on the left understands this now about Obama: He does not know how to commit personal capital to a principle. While Snowden spends every ounce in his possession. Obama himself seems to understand this. In his interview with Charlie Rose last night, he tried to get on Snowden’s side by saying over and over we need a national “debate.”

Snowden is like Obama in that he thrust himself on to the national scene as an idealist and change agent. This New York Times profile of him emphasizes his ambition and sense of grandeur despite the fact that he didn’t graduate from high school– a fact Snowden made a joke about yesterday:

“If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.”

And let’s be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with ambition and grandeur: they are the necessary motors for independent people of achievement.  

Because I believe in Snowden’s leadership, I am most afraid that he will be silenced in months and years to come. I think we actually need his voice and wisdom, that despite his poetical claim that the current climate is breeding whistle-blowers–

Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it. Instead, these draconian responses simply build better whistleblowers–

–Snowden is special, he is a person of mental scope and civic commitment, who is not unsocialized, as some media reports would have it, no, he is sophisticated, witness the methods he chose of going forward. And it is vital to have someone of such large intellectual and personal dimensions engaged to help us sort these complex issues out.

What a shame that the mainstream media is completely on the fence about Snowden. They know that Snowden has struck a chord in the American public. But they are afraid to come out against him or for him, because they don’t want to go against the government. You’d think that NPR’s Brooke Gladstone would embrace the principle of human knowledge as a corrective to unlimited national power in the computerized age of surveillance– no, like everyone else with a mainstream seat, her comments on Snowden waffled meaninglessly.

As Snowden himself observed,

“Initially I was very encouraged [by the media]. Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.”

A couple of other Snowden comments I especially liked yesterday. Here’s another challenge to Obama’s leadership:

If the Obama administration responds with an even harsher hand against me, they can be assured that they’ll soon find themselves facing an equally harsh public response. 

More drama:

the US Government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.

And here is a lecture on constitutional principle that I find stirring:

Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? So we can have secret access to a computer in a country we’re not even fighting? So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police? No, the public needs to know the kinds of things a government does in its name, or the “consent of the governed” is meaningless.

… More fundamentally, the “US Persons” protection in general is a distraction from the power and danger of this system. Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it’s only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%. Our founders did not write that “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all US Persons are created equal.”..

Here is his destruction of Dick Cheney for calling him a traitor, then lumping in the other national security clones: 

It’s important to bear in mind I’m being called a traitor by men like former Vice President Dick Cheney. This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead. Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American, and the more panicked talk we hear from people like him, Feinstein, and King, the better off we all are. If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school.

22 Responses

  1. lysias
    June 18, 2013, 1:22 pm

    Obama is no leader. He’s a figurehead for the people with the real power, the national security state and the corporocrats.

    Snowden is having a big effect on public opinion, especially among those under 30: Obama’s Approval Ratings Have Taken a Huge Hit After Scandals:

    A new CNN poll shows President Obama’s approval ratings taking a nose dive in recent weeks, a development that is probably not unrelated to the deluge of second-term scandals that have taken over the media. The poll, conducted in the middle of last week, shows the president’s disapproval rating at 54 percent, his worst marks in about a year and a half, since November of 2011. Even more notable, the rating has swung nine points since the last time the poll was taken in mid-May, which predates all of the National Security Agency leaks that have been provided by Edward Snowden.

    Normally, that would be understandable given all the negative news of the last week, but the president has to be concerned that the biggest drop came among people under 30 years old. His support among that key group dropped an astonishing 17 points in the last month.

  2. Krauss
    June 18, 2013, 3:31 pm

    The only thing Obama does is tilt his head to the right and say “oh, we need to have this debate”.

    I’m sure that’s why his administration has prosecuted more whisteblowers than every other administration combined. Obama says things to placate the base but his actual actions are not only on par with Bush, they’re worse.

    When you find yourself defending yourself from charges being Dick Cheney, you know that the aura of your presidency is coming down. It’s ironic in a way, few presidents are so obsessed with their legacy as Obama since his ego is so huge.

    This will more than taint it. I remember I saw picture with MLK and Obama juxtaposed. King’s “I have a dream” with Obama’s “I have a drone”.
    Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    • DICKERSON3870
      June 18, 2013, 11:34 pm

      RE: “When you find yourself defending yourself from charges of being Dick Cheney, you know that the aura of your presidency is coming down.” ~ Krauss

      MY CONTRIBUTION:
      “I welcome this kind of examination . . . I’m not a crook!” ~ ‘Tricky Dick’ Nixon, 1973
      ● “[W]e need to have this debate . . . I’m not [Pricky] Dick Cheney!” ~ Barack Obama, 2013

      P.S. Richard Nixon: “I welcome this kind of examination . . . I’m not a crook!” [VIDEO, 00:37] – link to youtube.com

    • Shingo
      June 19, 2013, 8:52 am

      When you find yourself defending yourself from charges being Dick Cheney, you know that the aura of your presidency is coming down.

      What a superb summation Krauss and a superb comment overall. I tip my hat off to you.

  3. bilal a
    June 18, 2013, 4:14 pm

    This Snowden affair, like his resume, seems fabricated, pushed by the guardian and wp, and echo chambered not silenced by the MSM; it looks more like an intell psyop than any real whistle .

    And no mention by Snowden or others of the Israeli tech involvement and access to all these records.

    • MRW
      June 19, 2013, 3:10 am

      “And no mention by Snowden or others of the Israeli tech involvement and access to all these records.”

      Excellent point. But it may be coming. It doesn’t, however, justify your first sentence, which is a non sequitur.

  4. David Doppler
    June 18, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Maybe I’m paranoid, but I haven’t ruled out the possibility that Snowden’s a false flag. How does a high school dropout gain such access, then articulate such intelligent arguments, but plant himself in Hong Kong? If his disclosures then lead to some horrific terrorist incident, in which he is also killed [and therefore silenced] ignominiously, along with many of his countrymen, and all his supporters end up looking like both idiots and traitors/sympathizers with a dangerous enemy, who gains?

    Seem preposterous? Well I was just reading how the CIA “sheep-dipped” Lee Harvey Oswald to make him appear to be a Russian/Cuban agent, apparently so they could blame Kennedy’s assassination on our Cold War enemies, and possibly get a war started. Or [alternately] so Johnson could coerce/intimidate the leaders of the Warren Commission with the evidence of Russian involvement (which he did), to force it to its tortured conclusion that both Oswald and Ruby acted alone, because, if the “truth” came out, there would be an immediate nuclear holocaust killing hundreds of millions of innocents.

    Cheney’s vigorous presence on the scene both entices the enemies of the Neocons to come out foaming at the mouth, and adds to the credibility that the facts and intelligence are again being fixed, he being the Master. Remember how Dan Rather was discredited, and the hunt for Bush’s National Guard records finally derailed? That one sure started out looking like a pep rally for the progressives, but was utterly effective for the forces of Rove. If you want to derail the growing effort to scale back the surveillance state, why not put forth an articulate and courageous leader of the opposition (all the elected officials having previously been bought and paid for or at least effectively cowed), who can get everyone whipped into a lather, then kill him, crucify everything he stands for, and discredit all those who stood and cheered him, while sending a cold-blooded message to back off to anyone else considering resistance.

    Call me paranoid, but let’s wait and see how this plays out.

    • lysias
      June 18, 2013, 6:55 pm

      If they kill Snowden, they make a martyr out of him and assure that his movement will not die with him.

      • David Doppler
        June 19, 2013, 12:56 pm

        Not if they at the same time show him in bed with the Chinese, and if the NSA can be shown in the role of the Minuteman, riding in at great personal risk to protect the American public from some evil yet to be revealed that they can barely comprehend. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of martyrs who’ve laid down their lives to protect and defend the US Constitution. This guy cannot consecrate it beyond their sacrifice. I’m wary that the leading voice today for protecting our Constitution is a high school dropout, Booz Allen crypto contractor, who’s run to Hong Kong, being set up in the media world as Obama’s spine, while Cheney and Rove (two masters of deceit, almost as if hand picked in central casting to rally those who opposed Bush’s Big Brother government), are out front denouncing him and defending the NSA. If he’s a sheep-dipped CIA asset, he is being put in position to discredit everyone who responds to his calls to rally around the constitution. Name one Washington insider who’s risking his credibility by taking this guy’s part. Why does the media give this odd ball more credibility than it ever gave Ron or Rand Paul? Or Phil Weiss for that matter? It feels like a set-up, and we’ll know, if it backfires badly, a la Dan Rather and Bush’s Air National Guard records, with the media closing ranks behind the Cheney viewpoint, never considering the false flag angle at all.

    • Citizen
      June 19, 2013, 2:02 am

      I dunno. Apparently, we still have a few white boys who can jump. Manning. Snowden. Even the old duffer, Rand Paul at least tries…. And the other old duffer on the other side of the pond, that Wikileaks guy.

    • MRW
      June 19, 2013, 3:21 am

      “How does a high school dropout gain such access, then articulate such intelligent arguments”

      He has a GED. Anyone who has worked in high-end tech knows that a university degree means zip. It comes down to talent. You’re either good at it or not, and the alphabets know that. That’s what they hire.

      PhDs in computer science are good at managing programmers. Under no circumstance is a PhD indicative of being good at it yourself. Musicians are much more elegant coders than most of the riffraff grinding through computer degree schools.

      Don’t forget Snowden was doing this in grade school.

    • Shingo
      June 19, 2013, 8:55 am

      Maybe I’m paranoid, but I haven’t ruled out the possibility that Snowden’s a false flag.

      Wow, I hadn’t considered that. It’s certainly possible, but to what end?

  5. seafoid
    June 18, 2013, 4:58 pm

    I miss “Get your war on”

    link to mnftiu.cc

  6. atime forpeace
    June 18, 2013, 6:39 pm

    David you ought not to seriously be concerned. Snowden will wind up in jail for life or dead, unless, he opts to seek refuge in a third country. Snowden can’t win and therefore is not a willing participant in any scheme, this can only be an altruistic undertaking on his part. I salute him.

    Phil you definitely belong to the second type of journalist mentioned in the article below, congratulations you do some great writing.

    link to pressthink.org

    The professional stance that proscribes all political commitments and discourages journalists from having a clear view or taking a firm position on matters in dispute (you can call it objectivity, if you like, or viewlessness, which I like better) is one way of doing good work. A very different professional stance, where the conclusions that you come to by staring at the facts and thinking through the issues serve to identify your journalism… this is another way of doing good work.

  7. DICKERSON3870
    June 18, 2013, 10:54 pm

    RE: “Congress hasn’t declared war on the countries – the majority of them are our allies – but without asking for public permission, NSA is running network operations against them that affect millions of innocent people. And for what? . . . So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own Police?” ~ Snowden

    ANSWER TO “FOR WHAT”: Because we must act in accordance with our most cherished (national) myth(s)! ! !

    SEE: “How the Power of Myth Keeps Us Mired in War”, by Ira Chernus, TomDispatch.com, 01/20/11

    [EXCERPT] . . . White Americans, going back to early colonial times, generally assigned the role of ‘bad guys’ to ‘savages’ lurking in the wilderness beyond the borders of our civilized land. Whether they were redskins, commies, terrorists, or the Taliban, the plot has always remained the same.
    Call it the myth of national security — or, more accurately, national insecurity, since it always tells us who and what to fear.
    It’s been a mighty (and mighty effective) myth. . .

    SOURCE – link to tomdispatch.com

  8. mijj
    June 18, 2013, 10:56 pm

    it’ll be interesting to see the many ways that the Propaganda Soldiers will use on comment boards and social sites to subvert and distract from the essence of what Snowden has exposed.

  9. Citizen
    June 19, 2013, 1:57 am

    Here’s the macro essay on Snowden v Obama: America is its own worst enemy, and Israel is no “light onto the nations.”
    link to counterpunch.org

  10. kalithea
    June 19, 2013, 2:31 am

    Snowden is a U.S. dissident and the global community needs to help keep him safe. Snowden’s a valuable asset to perserving freedom. Everyone has a responsibility to harbor this fugitive from the U.S. security state so he doesn’t end up like Winston Smith. Snowden must survive. He’s given up everything for freedom. He’s earned real freedom. The security state must not catch up with him. Everyone must help this man escape injustice! He is all of us who cherish freedom. If he’s caught we’re all doomed.

    I hope Snowden spills all the beans and Cheney chokes on Bush’s pretzel. One can only dream… To think that his new ticker could have kept some worthwhile human being alive; but Cheney got it instead and this world is much worse off for it.

    Ding-dong the witch is dead…not so fast! Cheney lives and Obama’s channeling his fondest wishes. What a world when everyone gets fooled by a “hopey-changey” slick talker meant to suck in liberals.

    If only someone whispered in your ear while you were listening to Candidate Obama’s lofty speeches: “In a few years Obama will be on the same page as Cheney.”

    59 million dum-dums voted for Bush a second time and even more dum-dums voted for Obama.

  11. calm
    June 19, 2013, 4:45 am

    A story from 2008

    “Faulk said some of his fellow operators, after stumbling upon a titillating conversation, couldn’t wait to let their friends in on it.

    “There’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk — pull it up, it’s really funny,” Faulk told ABC, recalling conversations between operators.”

    link to abcnews.go.com

  12. Andreas Schlueter
    June 19, 2013, 7:49 am

    Obama has since Long exposed himself as the “human mask” of the WASP US Power Elite. Not enough People have realized that, but a growing number! So here in Germany seen on the occasion of his visit: link to wipokuli.wordpress.com
    Andreas Schlüter
    Sociologist
    Berlin, Germany

  13. Shingo
    June 19, 2013, 9:02 am

    What a shame that the mainstream media is completely on the fence about Snowden.

    I;m not so sure about that Phil. David Brooks has gone after Snowdenm trying to present him as some lone nut and a deviant.
    link to nytimes.com;

    There are countless pieces about him being high school dropout. He didn’t go to an Ivy League college so he has no right to sit in judgement of the ruling elite.

    Greenwald has also been attacked by those trying to depict him as a liar and an attention seeker and not really a journalist.

  14. Shingo
    June 19, 2013, 9:25 am

    In his interview with Charlie Rose last night, he tried to get on Snowden’s side by saying over and over we need a national “debate.”

    This is just a cynical Obama tactic he is using these days to sound reasonable and pretend he’s unphased when challenged. He did it with Medea Benjamin and he’s doing it now.

    As Fox News pointed out, a national “debate” is something that is supposed to take place:

    a) before the government begins these policies, not years after they have been doing them
    b) before the government gets exposed doing them and in secret

    How can you have a national debate when the government is keeping it secret?

Leave a Reply