Response to Glenn Greenwald on Obama, Civil Liberties and Public Opinion

Glenn Greenwald has a typically lengthy post taking apart a bunch of views he attributes to me, absolutely none of which I hold. I just wanted to note for the record, officially, that I don’t believe any of the things he’s decided to attributed to me.

This is what I think: If public opinion were friendly to civil liberties, then public policy in the Obama era would be friendlier to civil liberties than it currently is. Does Greenwald really deny that? I don’t think he does. And I don’t believe any of the things he seems to think I believe.


To return to the initial source of the controversy, the issue Charli Carpenter put on the table was given that Barack Obama’s administration has not pursued the policies civil libertarians hoped he would pursue, what can we do going forward.

My proposal was that we need to try to get better at persuading people that civil libertarian positions are correct on the merits. This is not an argument about who is or is not “to blame” for Obama’s policies. It’s an argument about what civil libertarians need to do moving forward to improve public policy. Obviously a more effective approach would be to develop a mind control machine that allowed us to force Obama to bend to our will. But I don’t think that’s a practical proposal. And I think people on the pro-civil liberties side need to recognize that we’re not winning the argument publicly and need to do better. Indeed, one of the big problems we currently face is that Obama is a much more credible & persuasive messenger for “tough” policies than the 2005-2008 version of George W Bush was so we’re losing ground.

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