By imposing political considerations on Justice Department decisions, President Barack Obama is undermining the rule of law, Edwin Meese III, Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, tells Newsmax. “Under Ronald Reagan, it was his absolute direction that politics should never enter into any kind of decision, whether it was a civil case, a criminal case, a terrorism case, a national security case, or whatever it might be,” Meese says.
“We did not have any contact between the White House and the Department of Justice, particularly those who were handling specific cases, on any matter, any investigation, or any case, because Ronald Reagan wanted to be sure that the department would — as did I — act independently on the basis of the facts and what the law said,” Meese says.
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That contrasts with Obama and his administration, says Meese, who was Reagan’s chief policy adviser in the White House and then served as attorney general of the United States.
“We have seen the White House apparently having a great influence over the actions of the Justice Department, and we’ve seen a great deal of situations in which politics seemed to have entered into the decisions, such as where to try terrorists who have been captured for very serious offenses against the United States and our citizens,” Meese says.
Meese, who holds the Ronald Reagan Chair in Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, cites the suppression of a civil case against New Black Panther Party members intimidating voters at a polling station in Philadelphia and the decision to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.
These decisions indicate that political considerations “appear to be more prevalent in this administration than I have seen them in any other,” Meese says.
“When you have politics involved in decisions that should be made on the basis of facts and law, it really is, in my opinion, an offense against the rule of law,” Meese says.
When it comes to the war on terror, the Obama administration has had an “ambivalent approach” that lacks a “consistent, comprehensive, and coordinated strategy” to define the response to the threat clearly, Meese says.
While Obama has continued many of President Bush’s policies, “Guantanamo was established there for a very important purpose,” Meese says. “It was designed to house incarcerated prisoners and terrorists” who were “very dangerous, or they were capable of serious crimes against the laws of war or . . . they might be people who were highly involved in the terrorist plots and had information that would be useful to prevent further terrorist activities.”
There is “absolutely no reason at all why that facility should not be continued as the principal place to hold that type of terrorist prisoner,” Meese says.
The Obama administration also has been ambivalent when it comes to describing the enemy and the effort to combat it.
“Instead of calling it a war or military activity, they call it overseas contingency operations,” Meese says. “In terms of talk about terrorism acts, they talk about man-made disasters. In other words, why have these euphemisms, instead of talking about the situation as it really is, and that is . . . a serious threat to the peace and freedom of the peoples around the world, including the United States.”
As for the question of where to hold trials of terrorists, American citizens “committing terrorist acts in the United States or abroad who are not in the field of combat . . . ought to be handled in criminal courts because they are United States citizens,” Meese says.
“If they are people from another country who come into the United States that commit terrorist acts, they are nothing less or more than foreign enemies, and they should be tried in military commissions, as we did during World War II,” he says.
Anyone caught on the field of battle, whether “citizens of the United States or foreign terrorists who are on the field of battle combating United States troops in direct combat” ought to be handled by military commissions, Meese says.
Although Obama ran as a middle-of-the road candidate, he has turned out to be quite the opposite in office.
“I believe that President Obama and the people who advise him and many of the people who are his financial supporters all believe that government should do more and more and should have more and more power,” Meese says.
“That’s exactly the opposite of what the founders of our country had in mind, and that is why they have grown government more in two years than we have seen in any other period of time other than perhaps in the period of the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II.”
In some ways, Obama has gone beyond that, Meese says. “For example, the government actually taking over ownership of major industries,” he says. “The fact of having a so-called stimulus bill, which is nothing more than pork barrel spending for favorite organizations with a very little amount of money going to actual infrastructure improvement and that sort of thing.”
Asked to compare Reagan with Obama, Meese says, “In some ways, I guess you could say there’s a similarity in the fact that they were both very accomplished communicators, but I think in terms of the policies and their approach to problems, the situation is quite different.”
Reagan was direct, explained his policies in detail, and was consistent, says Meese, who was Reagan’s chief of staff when the future president was governor of California.
“That was why he was so effective with the Soviet Union and, of course, in that case, was able to bring the Cold War to an end, with the forces of freedom and the West winning,” Meese observes.
In contrast, “I think we see that President Obama has been somewhat ambivalent, has changed policies, has set policies and then not followed through on them, or has otherwise been uncertain about exactly what the strategies and policies are.”
Obama has gone on “worldwide apology tours,” Meese says. “He seems to side with the people who are essentially enemies of the United States, like Hugo Chavez.” At the same time, he “seems to, in many ways, insult or downgrade our friends,” Meese says. “He has certainly made a hash of the whole Israeli situation in the Middle East.”
Another contrast with Obama, who claimed during his campaign that he would bring the country together, is that Reagan was genuinely respectful of the opposing political party.
“I think Ronald Reagan always believed in being friendly, even to those people with whom he might disagree on policy,” Meese says. For example, he was on friendly terms with the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Reagan would go “out of his way to develop friendships and cooperation when that was appropriate,” Meese says.
Obama, on the other hand, “seems to lash out at those who are not in agreement with his policies, which is a very large number of people,” Meese says. “He seems to always downgrade” those who disagree with him “as either evil or ignorant.”
Thus, Obama’s actions while in office are “at great variance from the way in which he campaigned in 2008, and so that’s one of the reasons why the American people today are so angry and why his approval ratings have gone down so far,” Meese says.
Americans feel that Obama has “duped” them, and they are fearful that the “democratic republic that the founders gave us is now in danger,” Meese says.
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