The Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama [esquire]


Sure, we as a nation have always killed people. A lot of people. But no president has ever waged war by killing enemies one by one, targeting them individually for execution, wherever they are. The Obama administration has taken pains to tell us, over and over again, that they are careful, scrupulous of our laws, and determined to avoid the loss of collateral, innocent lives. They’re careful because when it comes to waging war on individuals, the distinction between war and murder becomes a fine one. Especially when, on occasion, the individuals we target are Americans and when, in one instance, the collateral damage was an American boy.

By Tom Junod

Barack Obama

Nigel Parry/CPI

Published in the August 2012 issue

You are a good man.You are an honorable man. You are both president of the United States and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. You are both the most powerful man in the world and an unimpeachably upstanding citizen. You place a large premium on being beyond reproach. You have become your own deliberative body, standing not so much by your decisions as by the process by which you make them. You are not only rational; you are a rationalist. You think everything through, as though it is within your power to find the point where what is moral meets what is necessary.

You love two things, your family and the law, and you have surrounded yourself with those who are similarly inclined. To make sure that you obey the law, you have hired lawyers prominent for accusing your predecessor of flouting it; to make sure that you don’t fall prey to the inevitable corruption of secrecy, you have hired lawyers on record for being committed to transparency. Unlike George W. Bush, you have never held yourself above the law by virtue of being commander in chief; indeed, you have spent part of your political capital trying to prove civilian justice adequate to our security needs. You prize both discipline and deliberation; you insist that those around you possess a personal integrity that matches their political ideals and your own; and it is out of these unlikely ingredients that you have created the Lethal Presidency.

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