Longer version: Ok, here's what President Obama said to CIA employees in regards to having released OLC memos and having curtailed abusive interrogation practices.
Now, I have put an end to the interrogation techniques described in those OLC memos, and I want to be very clear and very blunt. I've done so for a simple reason: because I believe that our nation is stronger and more secure when we deploy the full measure of both our power and the power of our values –- including the rule of law. I know I can count on you to do exactly that.And this is what Rush Limbaugh got from the above statement (also see here for a summary from Media Matters ... I'm not sure how long the Limbaugh transcript will be available on his site):
There have been some conversations that I've had with senior folks here at Langley in which I think people have expressed understandable anxiety and concern. So I want to make a point that I just made in the smaller group. I understand that it's hard when you are asked to protect the American people against people who have no scruples and would willingly and gladly kill innocents. Al Qaeda is not constrained by a constitution. Many of our adversaries are not constrained by a belief in freedom of speech, or representation in court, or rule of law. I'm sure that sometimes it seems as if that means we're operating with one hand tied behind our back, or that those who would argue for a higher standard are naïve. I understand that. You know, I watch the cable shows once in a while. (Laughter.)
What makes the United States special, and what makes you special, is precisely the fact that we are willing to uphold our values and our ideals even when it's hard, not just when it's easy; even when we are afraid and under threat, not just when it's expedient to do so. That's what makes us different.
So, yes, you've got a harder job. And so do I. And that's okay, because that's why we can take such extraordinary pride in being Americans. And over the long term, that is why I believe we will defeat our enemies, because we're on the better side of history.
Your president, our president, Barack Obama, looks at the Constitution as a constraint ... to liberals, the Bill of Rights is horrible, the Bill of Rights grants citizens freedom. It tells the citizens what the government cannot do to them. The Bill of Rights limits the federal government, and that's negative to a socialist like Obama; that's negative to an elitist like Obama. The Constitution is negative. So he's got constraints. The Constitution tells him he's got things he can't do that he wants to do. That's not his job. He is there to defend and protect it, not unilaterally change it.So President Obama says that the US government will no longer engage in certain practices because our Constitution prohibits us from doing so; that our strength as a nation comes not from a willingness to abandon our principles and values but to maintain them. Rush Limbaugh completely inverts Obama's statement and asserts that Obama wishes to not be constrained by the Constitution because he is a "socialist" (aka "liberal") who hates the Bill of Rights and wants to ignore the Constitution.
I want to belabor a point because this is fundamental and it's crucial to understanding Barack Obama. He's over at the CIA yesterday, he's got this pep rally of secretaries and custodial staff assembled, and they're cheering him on like he's a rock star. And he tells them, (paraphrasing) "Yeah, I know your job's going to be a lot harder now because of me, but, but, but, and I know Al-Qaeda is not constrained by a Constitution." Folks, that is so important to understand how he looks at the Constitution. He's not alone. This is how liberals look at the Constitution in general. They look at it as a constraint on them ... They believe in government, not you. They believe in government, not the individual. So the Constitution's a problem for them. They look at the Constitution as having them in shackles. The Constitution is sort of like a miniature prison for them. They're constrained by it. So what's the easiest thing to do? Change it. Or just ignore it. Or get your liberal buddies in the judicial system and rewrite it, the Constitution, from the bench. And this they have done.
President Bush, VP Cheney and their legal theorists asserted a radical theory of Executive power - perhaps the most radical in US history - in which the President's authority to act in the name of national security can not be constrained by the courts, Congress, nor the Constitution. Upwards of a thousand times President Bush used "signing statements" to signal his intent to ignore the laws of this nation. Indeed, the Bush administration's conception of its powers were so extreme that it essentially declared itself (secretly) a military dictatorship
Let's just look at one of those documents (.pdf) -- entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the U.S." It was sent to (and requested by) Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes and authored by Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and DOJ Special Counsel Robert Delahunty. But it's not a "Yoo memo." Rather, it was the official and formal position of the U.S. Government -- at least of the omnipotent Executive Branch -- from the time it was issued until just several months George Bush before left office (October, 2008), when OLC Chief Stephen Bradbury abruptly issued a memo withdrawing, denouncing and repudiating both its reasoning and conclusions.And Limbaugh, of course, spent the last eight years and continues to spend time defending virtually every act of lawlessness that the Bush administration committed. Yet here we have Limbaugh saying that "liberals" hate the constraints of the Constitution. That "liberals" hate the Bill of Rights. Why? Because Obama has renounced some of the unConstitutional behavior of the Bush administration.
The essence of this document was to declare that George Bush had the authority (a) to deploy the U.S. military inside the U.S., (b) directed at foreign nationals and U.S. citizens alike; (c) unconstrained by any Constitutional limits, including those of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments. It was nothing less than an explicit decree that, when it comes to Presidential power, the Bill of Rights was suspended, even on U.S. soil and as applied to U.S. citizens. And it wasn't only a decree that existed in theory; this secret proclamation that the Fourth Amendment was inapplicable to what the document calls "domestic military operations" was, among other things, the basis on which Bush ordered the NSA, an arm of the U.S. military, to turn inwards and begin spying -- in secret and with no oversight -- on the electronic communications (telephone calls and emails) of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.
What's so appalling and disturbing about Limbaugh is that he able to do this, apparently, with no sense of contradiction, no shame, nor self-awareness that he is completely contradicting himself. Truth is only what is convenient for him at any given moment. Up can be down, black can be white; it doesn't matter so long as he can put whatever he is saying to service. Reality is inferred from axiomatic ideological truths: "liberals" hate the Constitution, "conservatives" love it. The reality of what President Bush or President Bush actually do or do not do does not factor into the equation. Reality only comes through so far as it can be turned, twisted, or contorted into a rant against "liberals."