Blogs, Quinlan vs the World

For Obama Spying Legacy, Clock is Ticking

President Obama has another three years on the job before retiring forever to defending his record being an elder statesman. But, given the dismally unproductive legislature he’s dealing with, it doesn’t look like he’s going to spend his final term enacting sweeping changes. Broad consensuses on issues like immigration might achieve some reform, but even here the prospect is tenuous in the current Congress.

What, then, is an ambitious president to do? How would one leave his mark on the country?

The answer comes from a man named Jeh.

Jeh Johnson, the former top lawyer for the Defense Department, was recently nominated by Obama to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and is part of the reason President Obama can still have a consequential second term.

Johnson was mostly involved in the political side of legal fights while at the Pentagon, pushing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”,  ending military discrimination against gays. He also curbed some of the most egregious practices at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. Most importantly, he publicly supported limiting drone strikes to top al-Qaeda leaders (but not holding back if they are US citizens) as a path to ending the War on Terror.

As such, Johnson represents the pragmatic reformer that Obama sees in himself. He wanted to get Guantanamo and drones right, but recognized their utility. This is also policy shown in national public opinion, reflecting a post-war on terror consensus about the morality of the nation’s security objectives and tactics. We don’t like terrorists and should try and stop them, but we don’t need to go overboard with our reaction to them.

More broadly, Johnson is the answer to Obama’s second-term blues because he represents the signature way the President can make a difference: nominations to run agencies.

Obama’s choices have already shown a pragmatic, but decidedly progressive, shift: Janet Yellen, the next chairwoman of the Federal Reserve clearly has more concern for the unemployed than inflation; Gina McCarthy, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency is the most aggressive opponent of coal Obama could find; Tom Perez, the secretary of Labor, is a known advocate against racial discrimination.

He isn’t nominating radicals, but the results will be long-term. McCarthy’s carbon ideas, for example, will effectively end new coal power plants.

Jeh Johnson represents the shift in the area of government that probably needs some of the most shifting: spying and anti-terrorism.

With recent reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) is literally stealing your thoughts like a pensieve breaking into private companies’ servers and the phones of major world leaders, the person in charge of the agency, Keith Alexander, has both enormous power, and enormous political problems.

Alexander has also announced he will be stepping down in coming months. Who Obama chooses to replace him will make the new balance between technological openness and national security. Obama, the former constitutional law professor, hasn’t announced a decision, but will have to choose wisely.


What I’m Reading:

International Affairs-

The best way to help the poor may just be to give them cash, no strings attached. —The Economist

Domestic Politics-

If you want to find the root of America’s political dysfunction, look no further than the Founding Fathers and our empirically messed up Constitution. —Alex Seitz-Wald in The Atlantic

Economics and Public Policy-

Obamacare is making some people pay more for healthcare premiums, but it’s also giving them better options and better quality. —Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic

South Florida-

Charlie Crist has decided he doesn’t want to just be the “former” governor of Florida, and will also try to be the “future” governor as well. —Kyle Munzenrider in Miami New Times

On Campus-

We might not be undefeated, but at least the football team is making lots of money! —Brian Bandell in South Florida Business Journal

November 6, 2013


Patrick Quinlan

Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

Sophomore Bruce Brown announced Thursday that he has declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, the University ...

Lots of Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday, with the second spring practice session set for Thursday mo ...

The battle for the University of Miami quarterback job began in earnest with the start of spring pra ...

A six-pack of UM notes from the first day of spring football on Tuesday: • UM’s first-team offensive ...

UM spring practice begins Tuesday with heavy focus on the quarterback, with N’Kosi Perry and Jarren ...

The Kislak Center opens, aims to advance new forms of scholarship and build bridges across the Unive ...

Novelist Jennine Capó Crucet’s Miami-spiced book talk spotlighted the One Book, One U initiative. ...

As part of the “It’s On Us” initiative, the former vice president urged the UM community to help com ...

Haitian-born Henri Ford’s incredible journey to the deanship of the Miller School of Medicine. ...

Keeping a 30-year tradition, graduate students organize a fun-filled Hurricane Challenge for youngst ...

The University of Miami volleyball team hosts Florida Atlantic University at the James L. Knight Spo ...

The University of Miami Hurricane Club is excited to announce the official 2018 Building Champions S ...

Despite earning the doubles point, the No. 19 Miami women's tennis team dropped a 5-2 decision ...

In search of its fourth series win of the spring, the Miami Hurricanes host No. 24 Virginia from Mar ...

The University of Miami men's tennis team will seek to continue its perfect record at home Frid ...

TMH Twitter Feed
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.