Jon Stewart has long been one of my favorite people in the news business. Yes, he’s a comedian. Yes, he’s a liberal who irks my conservative sensibilities. Yes, he’s often wrong, but he’s principled. This is a rare quality, particularly in the media world.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet Stewart on three occasions, each time in the green room of his studio before a taping when one of the congressmen or senators I’ve worked for was his guest. Each time, Stewart came by to say hello to his guests beforehand, and he seemed generally interested in what they had to say. The Daily Show host seemed to have a genuine intellectual curiosity about those he might disagree with, and each time his questions reflected this. I was pleased that he seemed to be a man of integrity off-screen as much as on. And when it comes to drone strikes, Stewart proves that he isn’t about to let his liberal leanings alter his opinions on the issue as many other left-wing pundits have done.
Back when George W. Bush was in office, the Left was up in arms about Dubya’s decision to wage a secret drone war, most notably in Pakistan. At the time, liberals questioned both the wisdom and constitutionality of Bush’s drone policy. But now that Barack Obama is in office, the Democrats have changed their position. As CNN reported in September, “Covert drone strikes are one of President Obama’s key national security policies. He has already authorized 283 strikes in Pakistan, six times more than the number during President George W. Bush’s eight years in office.”
I ask you, where’s the liberal outrage? Where are the antiwar protesters calling Obama a “war criminal?” For the Left, apparently it isn’t a crime if their president does it. And after it was reported that the president had begun assassinating American citizens with drones — no judge, jury, or trial — I was sure the Left would react in unified horror. But again, they were silent.
The rare exception again was Stewart, who recently ripped Obama for his drone war and his reluctance to explain how his administration determines that an American national is an “imminent threat” and therefore worthy of being taken out by a drone strike.
The Daily Show host pointed out that Obama himself was a fierce critic of Bush’s foreign policy and lack of transparency. In particular, Stewart took issue with the vagueness of the term imminent threat. “So, wait, we can kill an American who is in Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda-adjacent if they post an imminent danger, and by ‘imminent,’ we mean ‘eventual,'” Stewart said.
The comedian continued his attack, noting that the Obama administration had released the Bush torture memos but steadfastly refused to release Obama’s drone memos. Speaking on behalf of the president, Stewart said, “We told you we were going to be transparent. We just didn’t tell you it was going to be about the last guy’s secrets.”
Stewart deserves credit for taking aim at a Democratic president for a policy that outraged the Left when it was done to a much lesser degree by a Republican president. The very notion that a president can singularly be judge, jury, and executioner of an American citizen is a truly frightening development.
Consider the case of Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, the teenage son of Anwar-al-Awlaki, an American citizen known for his radical Islamist associations. As for his 16-year-son’s beliefs, no one really knows, and yet he was killed by a drone strike. And predictably, the Obama administration has been reluctant to offer an explanation.
As liberal columnist Glenn Greenwald has noted, the worst part about the Left’s silence on Obama’s drone policy and the killing of American citizens is not necessarily the hypocrisy, but the consensus that the policy is acceptable. When Bush was carrying out unconstitutional acts, at least one half of the American electorate was upset about it, but now that Obama is carrying out even worse — and even more unconstitutional — acts than his predecessor, both sides are acting as if this is the new norm.
That said, Republicans are making a stink about it, and rightly so. But, ask yourself this: Would they be blasting Bush over his drone policy if he had adopted the same policies that Obama now follows? For most, probably not.
Once again, when it comes to foreign policy matters, Obama liberals have proven themselves to be every bit as detestable as the Bush conservatives they once despised. Any liberal who attacked Bush over his use of drones but remains silent concerning Obama’s should be ashamed of themselves. To his credit, Jon Stewart does not have this hypocrisy to bear.
Jack Hunter is the new media director for Sen. Rand Paul.