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Protecting the people, or the Constitution

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President Barack Obama has been far more aggressive and successful, in terms of drone attacks launched against terrorist targets and in terms of enemy combatants killed, in the so-called “war on terror” than was predecessor President George W. Bush, the war’s initiator.

In addition of course, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was found and killed under President Obama’s authority; and last week terrorist instigator Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone attack in Yemen.

As opposed to the Presidential oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” taken upon inauguration; the job of “protecting the American people” is, or was, considered the “most fundamental duty” of the President of the United States; that is, according to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

If protecting the American people or, by proxy, prosecuting the war on terror is indeed the most fundamental duty of the President, then by those standards, conservatives and others of those who believe this to be true should be giving this President the highest of marks. To the extent that they are not—and they are not—it is symptomatic of the reality that there is not much at all that this particular President could ever do to possibly satisfy or pacify his political adversaries.

That said, there is, ironically, a serious question as to the constitutionality of the recent al-Awlaki killing. As reprehensible and obviously treasonous as his actions and agenda had been; the fact of the matter is that he was an American citizen, and as such, ostensibly entitled to due process of law, and not subject to arbitrary execution. This is a question that would certainly be raised by liberals and civil libertarians had either Anwar al-Awlaki had a lower profile or if a conservative Republican with hawk-like tendencies was in office.

While those who believe that the primary job of the President is to protect the American people will clearly have no problem with the targeting of this particular American citizen for elimination; those who believe that the primary job of the President is to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States” just might.

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