E.D. Kain makes the point Ezra Klein made about foreign policy, and especially:
Obama has, unfortunately, retained far too much of the Bush legacy in his foreign policy agenda. I don’t mean the two wars. What can you really do about the wars? You break it, you buy it. I’m more interested in authorizing assassinations of U.S. citizens, detention of terror suspects without charges or trial, and so forth. On these matters, Greenwald is absolutely correct – the president is anything but weak. Wouldn’t it be nice if the presidency was as weak overseas as it was here at home?I'm really not sure that those examples mean what Kain thinks they mean. I'd put indefinite detention with the two wars. Does Obama really want indefinite detention? I think he wants it in the way that he wants to wind down the war in Iraq over three years: it's the best of the bad options he faces, given what he inherited and the constraints placed on his choices by the courts, the bureaucracy, and Congress. To call it "his choice" in that context would be fairly misleading.
I'm not sure what he includes in "and so forth"...what about drone assassinations in Pakistan? Is that a case of the president having freedom of action? I don't think so, really. First, he's constrained by campaign commitments and the general political situation; he appears to believe that aggressive moves in Pakistan and Afghanistan give him political cover to get out of Iraq, and perhaps to extricate the US from Afghanistan at some point in the nearer future. However, there's probably both military and political resistance, as well as opposition from the Afghan government (such as it is) to adding all that many troops there, and severe opposition from Pakistan (and, probably, the world community) against deploying troops into Pakistan -- even though that might be the most efficient way to reach Obama's goals in the region. Given all that, drone attacks in Pakistan probably seems, to Obama, as the best of several bad choices. He's not getting what he wants; he's working within severe limitations from many sides. And of course it may be, when we learn more about it years from now, that Obama was being rolled by some faction within the Pentagon, or the intelligence community, or someone else. It's a big mistake to see something happen and assume it was what the president actually "wanted."
Last point. It really is important in thinking about these things to distinguish between what the government can do and what the president can do. That's true even when the president makes the final "choice" in executing that government power, because what appears on the surface to be a presidential choice is often something else entirely. So, monitoring phone calls without a warrant certainly increases the reach of the government, but whether or not it increases the president's power is another question. It might, instead, increase the influence of the FBI, or an intelligence agency, or some other part of the bureaucracy. Or both: I'm certainly not saying that it can't increase the president's influence, just that one has to be careful about assuming exactly who is doing the influencing.