The Obama administration “took one on the chin” in the US congressional elections this past Tuesday. However, what no pundit, prognosticator or post/election analyst has covered is the effect that Edward Snowden affair has had on the outcome.
It’s been sixteen months since his disclosures rocked the world and a month since a follow-up documentary, Citizenfour, was released. Some things may have been forgotten in that time but the specter of the bumbling administration response to the episode obviously has resonated with voters. You may recall that at the time of Snowden’s leaks in June 2013, Obama dismissed the event saying famously that he wasn’t going to scramble jets to bring down his plane. In the wake of Obama’s repudiation in the polls on Tuesday, one only wonders if he erred in not taking the affair more seriously.
To be sure, citizens registered their discontent with many Obama policies which included presiding over the most antagonistic, obtrusive and invasive government surveillance program of individuals in history. James Risen, a New York Times writer and author who is being prosecuted by the Justice Department for failing to disclose a confidential source, revealed that there have been more prosecutions of his type in the last six years of this administration than in all previous administrations combined since WWII. This bespeaks the lengths to which this administration will go to silence its critics.
All across America voters were disenchanted with the administration in a broad range of areas. One such area was U.S. foreign policy which has been in a shambles. Some of the dissatisfaction and mistrust by foreign governments can be laid at the feet of the obnoxious, arrogant surveillance of foreign governments and their leaders by the U.S. Spy agencies. The overly permissive, accommodative administration policies towards the NSA, CIA and their ilk have allowed them to run roughshod over privacy rights for the past six years. It was Snowden’s leaks which galvanized many foreign governments against the U.S.
In attempting to diminish Snowden’s actions rather than address spy agency abuses, Obama allowed a Pandora’s Box to be opened which proved both embarrassing and damaging to the administration and to its relationships with its allies. Instead of tackling the issue proactively, Obama played defense and attempted to stem the fallout in an attempt at damage control. In the end it came back to bite him.
It must be noted that Obama swept into power in 2008 offering a new paradigm of change which promised, among other things, transparency in government. Edward Snowden’s revelations exposed this as a sham-simply campaign rhetoric. In not being more accommodating to Snowden and his plight, Obama left open a window into the type of government that Americans so soundly repudiated in the mid-term elections.
It will be interesting to watch events unfold in the coming months to see if a chastened Obama alters policy or adamantly and arrogantly continues to pursue an anti-privacy agenda.