Opinion

Obama Should Tyrant-Proof the Presidency

With Donald Trump close to winning one party’s nomination, there is no excuse for keeping things as they are.

Barack Obama Mohammad Ashraf Ghani
Presidents Barack Obama of the United States and Mohammad Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan deliver a news conference at the White House in Washington DC, March 24, 2015 (White House/Chuck Kennedy)

Parents of small children child-proof a new house before moving in. Barack Obama should tyrant-proof the White House before moving out, argues Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.

With Donald Trump leading in the polls to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, the imperative to limit executive power is all the more pressing.

Courtesy of Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, a would-be American tyrant has all the tools he or she might need.

“Under current precedent, the commander-in-chief can give a secret order to kill an American citizen with a drone strike without charges or trial,” writes Friedersdorf.

More than that, the president can order indefinite detentions without charges or trial and order the security services to resume torturing detainees with an executive order — something Trump has explicitly said he would do.

The United States — indeed, the world — has been relying on Obama’s good judgment for a president not to abuse those powers. That is not a very good way to protect democracy and rights, whoever his successor might be.

Friedersdorf urges Obama to limit the presidency’s “ability to violate liberties or hide atrocities” before he goes. “It may be the most significant step you can take to safeguard your legacy.”

It’s a good point.