Our last two presidents are unlike one another in most ways. It so happens that what they have in common is tremendously consequential. Both presidents needlessly undermined civil liberties, the separation of powers, and the rule of law in the course of fighting the War on Terror and the War on Drugs. Had President Obama merely lived up to his own pre-election rhetoric on civil liberties, I'd be here arguing for his second term. As it is, I'm very much hoping for a change of leadership.
So why haven't I pledged my support to his eventual opponent? The way I see it, my vote is the GOP's to lose, and they may well do it, because several contenders for the nomination would be even worse than President Obama. Put simply, I won't vote for any Republican who thinks that our current leadership is excessively solicitous of civil liberties in the war on terror, or whose main foreign policy critique is that our leaders are insufficiently bellicose. It isn't much to say that the current administration hasn't tortured anyone, or launched any unwinnable foreign wars, but one couldn't say it about its predecessor.
Let's hope that America doesn't suffer a terrorist attack between 2012 and 2016. But level with yourself. It's a possibility. It isn't unthinkable for it to be worse than 9/11. How will the man or woman in the White House respond? That's one question I'll be asking myself as I evaluate the candidates in the next election. In such a scenario, do I trust Barack Obama to avoid overreacting in a way that hurts America? To refrain from using an attack as a pretext to seize greater power for the executive branch? Or to launch an ill-advised war?
I trust him more than Bush/Cheney or McCain/Palin. I trust him less than Bush/Quayle or Clinton/Gore.