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Ethical Mistakes Made By The Obama Administration (Updated 11/5/12)

August 15, 2012

Is Obama a good president? I think not. I’ve heard from multiple people how President Barak Obama (or his administration) would have done all the right things except Republicans are keeping his hands tied. Or perhaps popular opinion keeps his hands tied. I’m not convinced. First, politicians can often shift public opinion. Second, I don’t know that his actions can always be explained in terms of these things. Either way, we should pressure the Obama administration to do the right thing, and we should feel free to criticize it in order to do so.

What kinds of things has the Obama administration done that I don’t agree with? I will not give a complete list, but I will provide the following ten considerations:

  1. The Obama administration has been soft on criminal bankers. “Employing the famous ‘mistakes were made’ use of the passive tense, Obama copped out in his December 6 speech by saying that ‘penalties are too weak.’ As Jeff points out, what Obama should have said is that ‘the penalties my own regulators chose to dish out were too weak.’” (Obama and Geithner: Government, Enron-Style)
  2. The Obama administration helped bail out the banks (TARP) with no strings attached. “[A]t every turn, as Barofsky tried to impose more transparency and accountability on banks receiving TARP funds, he found himself met with resistance — most doggedly from Obama Administration Treasury head Timothy Geithner.” (Former TARP Official: Both Parties are Captive to the Big Banks)
  3. The Obama administration allows torture. “[A]n appendix to the [Army Field] Manual allows a detainee (a.k.a. prisoner) to be kept in solitary confinement indefinitely. As Alexander points out, “extended solitary confinement is torture, as confirmed by many scientific studies.” And the prestigious Manual allows suspects just four hours sleep in 24 hours. “As if this wasn’t enough,” Alexander continues, a loophole permits interrogators, Mr. President, ‘to give a detainee four hours of sleep — and then conduct a 20-hour interrogation, after which they can ‘reset’ the clock and begin another 20-hour interrogation followed by four hours of sleep.’” (Torture under Obama)
  4. Obama thinks American citizens should no longer have a right to a fair trial. He wants to be able to detain American citizens without a trial. “Obama, before signing the NDAA, requested that the president be given the authority to detain American citizens on American soil without a trial and without bringing them up on charges of any kind.” (More information.) Although some say that Obama has no interest in detaining citizens, he has fought against a judge’s ruling to keep the power to do so. “The new ruling in favor of Obama’s right to detain Americans in military custody comes a week after a federal judge struck it down, and ruled it unconstitutional. The administration appealed the decision and won.” (More information.)
  5. The Obama administration has used drone strikes on rescue workers in Pakistan. “One of the most horrifying tactics reportedly used by the United States in the prosecution of the death-by-drone program is the so-called ‘double tap.’ The Stanford/NYU report brought this to light and an article in the Daily Mail (U.K.) accurately summarized the practice: ‘A drone fires one missile — and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.’ According to the story this insupportable and inhumane tactic is resulting in the death of ’49 people for every one known terrorist in Pakistan.’” (Double-Tap Drone Strikes: Kill Them All, Don’t Bother Sorting Them Out)
  6. The Obama administration has been raiding medical marijuana dispensaries. “[T]here’s simply no way for President Barack Obama to cast his drug war record as anything other than what it is: A string of broken promises punctuated by condescension and mistruth.” (3 Reasons Obama Should End the Federal Crackdown on Medical Marijuana)
  7. The Obama administration has a bad record against whistleblowers. “Judith Ehrlich, whose 2009 film The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers explored the 1970s leak of US government documents relating to the Vietnam war, said that Obama has indicted five whistleblowers since taking office in January 2009, which already made him the ‘worst president in terms of his record on whistleblowing.’” (Barack Obama Worst President for Whistleblowers, says Film-Maker)
  8. The Obama administration is keeping a journalist in prison to shut him up. “Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label ‘Made in the USA,’ and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly.” (Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?)
  9. The Obama administration has a bad record on transparency. “Obama is the sixth administration that’s been in office since I’ve been doing Freedom of Information Act work. … It’s kind of shocking to me to say this, but of the six, this administration is the worst on FOIA issues. The worst. There’s just no question about it.” (President Obama’s muddy transparency record)
  10. The Obama administration fought for blanket immunity for bank fraud. The Obama administration “has cooked up a deal that would allow the banks to walk away with just a seriously discounted fine from a generation of fraud that led to millions of people losing their homes.” Fortunately, I don’t think this passed. (Obama Goes All Out For Dirty Banker Deal)

I am not saying that we should vote for Mitt Romney. Perhaps we should vote for a third party or perhaps Obama is the “lesser of the two evils.”


  • The Moral Compass in 2012 (The Atheist Ethicist argues that the Obama administration is ethical insofar as public opinion is keeping his hands tied.)
  • Obama’s War On Pot “But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multi­agency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush.”
One Comment leave one →
  1. David Tormey permalink
    August 15, 2012 6:52 am

    Very valid points, James. I have followed his record on whistle blowers too, and It is eye opening.

    There is a cloak of secrecy surrounding this man. He has been anything but the transparent figured he promised initially. I think in the coming years there’ll be some revealing books written, and we’ll look back at his term(s) with a vastly different perspective.

    He is not the enemy of corporations, bankers and the 1% he has painted himself as. Nor has he been the rallying figure he’s promised. Sure the Right has handcuffed him at times, but I remember the mortal enemies Gingrich & Clinton burying their hatchets to balance a budget and reform welfare. Never an excuse being offered by Clinton as I recall. He also never vilified the opposition.

    Maybe the Affordable Care Act will be his legacy, but he’s set some precedent we may regret. Military drones being sold in country comes to mind.

    Cheers and good form, friend.

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