Friday, March 5, 2010

Barack Obama, Lindsay Graham and Military Comissions

There has been an ongoing debate in the blogosphere over whether Barack Obama has moved to the political right since his inauguration, or whether he was never the left-leaning liberal that so many hoped so fervently he would be.  In other words, whether to be disappointed by his political decisions or resigned to them.

I've mostly come down in the "we knew what we were getting" camp, although I will admit that, based on his Constitutional Law background I expected a more unequivocal stand for the rule of law.  To hear him talk of "a legal framework for indefinite detention" is unexpected and disappointing.

What I think no one expected was for him to be politically weak, an easily-bullied lightweight with no set-in-stone line-in-the-sand principles to whom no issue is worth the risk of a political loss.  His willingness to compromise without extracting concessions from the other side, his tendency to start negotiations with a compromised position and then offer further compromises, even when time and again he ended up with nothing in exchange for them, and his obvious terror at being painted as a "liberal" have left him looking weak, frightened, cynical and easily manipulated.

So now comes the word that his administration is considering backing away from Federal DoJ prosecution of Khalid Sheik Mohammed in favor of some as-yet nebulous "Military Commissions" process.  KSM is NOT a combatant - he is a criminal.  There is no reason, no rational purpose served by taking him out of the criminal justice system.  The story is the President is retreating from his clearly stated beliefs in order to get support from Lindsay Graham for closing the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay.  It won't get him any other Republicans, and it won't even get him 60 votes, and the result will be not to actually close Gitmo but to rather move it to the US mainland where those detained will still be held illegally, without due process and without charge.  It's also fair to note that he will be pissing on Eric Holder in the process, for questionable political gain.

Mr. President, where is the line in the sand?  At what point will you stand and say "This far, no farther"?  Where must we go before your courage and integrity outweigh your political instincts?  You were elected because the American people loathed and feared what the Bush/Cheney Presidency had made us, and wanted some one to do the right thing, for the right people, for the right reasons.  In a way, you're worse than Bush - he was the worst president in American history, but he very seldom backed down from what he believed in.  Whether that was courage or just plain stubbornness, you should try it sometime.

Yeah.  We THOUGHT we knew what we were getting.  A Center-Right Pol, with a pro-corporate, pro-military bent and a pragmatic streak a mile wide.  But if he even capitulates on a Federal trial for KSM, when he is right and has history and law and expert opinion on his side, then I think it will be fair to be disappointed.   We THOUGHT we knew what we were getting, but it's turning out so much worse than we hoped...

1 comment:

  1. The centrists can always be moved. A pretty sad result thus far.