President Obama's policy of targeting enemies, including Americans, for death through drone strikes is the latest and most alarming example of the endless expansion of government power, according to Judge Andrew Napolitano.
Napolitano is the senior judicial analyst for the Fox News Channel and is the author most recently of "Theodore and Woodrow" and "The Freedom Answer Book." He says the growth in government power is nothing new, and the erosion of individual freedoms is always pitched in pleasant ways.
"Monster government almost always comes with a smiling face," he said. "After it's here, the face loses its smile and it saps our liberties and our prosperity."
Napolitano said there is no implosion of rights as troubling as what we're seeing this week as the Obama administration defends the targeting and killing of enemies, including American citizens, without giving them the right to due process.
"I've often commented that my job here at Fox is to monitor the government as it steals your liberty and steals your property, but I never thought I'd be monitoring the government stealing your life," he said. "Essentially, that's what this is."
The administration's legal justification for the drone program was laid out in a Department of Justice "white paper" that made its way to NBC News on Sunday night. The paper, which is a distillation of countless other reports, clearly lays out what the Obama administration considers justification for the program of targeted kills.
"It basically says that the president of the United States can authorize an 'informed, high-level official of the U.S. government' to strip the constitutional protections of an American in a foreign country if the informed official is satisfied that the American is an imminent danger to American national security and his capture or arrest would be impractical," Napolitano said. "That is basically the power claimed by kings and tyrants. I can suspend the law to get you if you are a danger."
There are defenders of the Obama drone policy on both sides of the aisle, but Napolitano said their arguments fly in the face of the principles on which America was founded.
"Would we live in a safer society if the government could cut down every law and abrogate every freedom and break down every door and arrest everybody it wanted?," asked Napolitano. "We'd be safe from the bad guys, but we wouldn't be safe from the government. Who would want to live in such a society?"
The judge said it's very easy to read the administration's legal defense for the drone program and see how it could be used to target any American.
"The language in this 16-page document could easily apply to Americans in America," said Napolitano. "So the president could decide that Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck or Judge Napolitano are just too troublesome, too meddlesome, too much of an obstacle to the accomplishment of his purposes, and it's time to take them out.
"The core of the argument is 'trust us.' That's an argument that the Supreme Court rejected because it doesn't trust a single individual to kill," he said, noting the Constitution gives Congress the authority to declare war and a 12-person jury the power to sentence someone to death.
As outlined in "Theodore and Woodrow," Napolitano said Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are largely responsible for changing America from a nation championing limited government to one saddled with a government growing beyond anyone's ability to control it.
"(They) shared the same view and that was this: the Constitution is not the supreme law of the land. It does not limit the government to the powers that have been delegated to it. Rather it unleashes the government to do whatever it wants except that which is expressly prohibited in the document," said Napolitano. "Now that is not just an academic argument because that is turning the concept of limited government on its head.
"Every president from George Washington to William McKinley, Roosevelt's predecessor, with the exception of Lincoln during the Civil War, accepted the idea that the federal government is one of limited powers and it can only do what the Constitution authorizes it to do," he said. "When Roosevelt and Wilson switched to that (and) turned it on its head, they changed radically the size and scope of the federal government and the relationship of the federal government to individual Americans."
So what did this big government push look like a century ago?
"In about a five-year period we suddenly got an income tax which they promised would never be more than three percent. Of course, it went up to 90 percent in World War II," said Napolitano. "We got the Federal Reserve, which allows them to print worthless cash and put that into the economy. We got one of the most useless wars in American history which is World War I, basically an argument among the old, dying European monarchies about boundary lines."
The judge says both Roosevelt and Wilson cracked down on free speech they found unhelpful to their cause and both were outspoken racists who worked to segregate the military after it had been integrated during Reconstruction.
Now that America has a full century of big government policies coming out of Washington, can this trend be reversed and how could that happen? Napolitano said it won't happen anytime soon but will eventually happen but in a most unpleasant way.
"I've argued on Fox and elsewhere that we don;t have two political parties anymore. We have one political party, the big government party. It has a Republican wing that likes war and deficits and corporate welfare. It has a Democratic wing that likes war and taxes and individual welfare. Both wings have a single goal and that is staying in power.
"Honestly, it would take half the Congress and the White House with a small government, maximum individual liberty, Ron Paul-like mentality for these changes to come about," he said.
"If they don't come about peacefully, they'll probably come about by other means. Sooner or later the federal government is going to run out of money, and so many people will be dependent upon the federal cash which will stop coming that they will all kinds of horrific things in order to eat and to live," Napolitano said. "At this point, there probably will be a revolution which will end up in a small government or many small governments or a totalitarian and then the totalitarian will probably be overthrown.
"I'm not suggesting this is going to happen tomorrow. I'm not saying I want it to happen. I'm just a student and teacher of history suggesting that is the natural result of government overextending itself," he said. "It's how Rome died. It's how the European socialist states are dying, and we're not far behind."