Friday, March 05, 2010

Obama Undermining His Own A.G.?

Mary Jacoby of Main Justice grabbed a quote from Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, on Friday "dump day" rumors that President Obama's "advisers are 'nearing a recommendation' that the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, return to a military tribunal for prosecution."

Here's what Romero said:
If President Obama reverses Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 defendants in criminal court and retreats to using the Bush military commissions, he deals a death blow to his own Justice Department, breaks a clear campaign promise to restore the rule of law and demonstrates that the promises to his constituents are all up for grabs.
Steve Benen, as loyal an Obama fan as there is, says that if the rumor is true "it's exceedingly disappointing." David Kurtz writes that it amounts to Obama requiring his Attorney General to put his "manhood in a blind trust." Probably with Rahm Emanuel as the trustee.

Matt Yglesias calls it "a big win for the Cheney family." Taylor Marsh writes "Damage done, no matter what’s decided." She adds that it hardly matters if the rumor proves true or false because it only engraves the impression that --
The Obama White House couldn’t find a strong stance if someone wrote it out for them after poll testing it. ... [T]his is incompetent juggling of spastic incoherence, coupled with mind numbing, paralyzing vacillation.
Glenn Greenwald, who is as far from incoherent as the laws of physics allow, makes four tough points:
First, although they will try, it will be extremely difficult even for his most devoted loyalists to deny the fundamental cowardice of Barack Obama. Think about how many times this will have happened... .

Second, Obama supporters spent months vigorously defending the decision to try KSM in a civilian court on the ground that Obama was upholding the Constitution and defending the rule of law. What are they going to say if he reverses himself and uses military commissions instead: that he's shredding the Constitution and trampling on the rule of law?

Third, remember all the loud, righteous Democratic complaints about how Alberto Gonzales had "politicized" the DOJ and allowed the White House to intervene for political reasons in prosecutorial decisions? That's exactly what this would be. They're not even trying to hide the fact that it is the White House that will intervene and reverse the prosecution decision of the Attorney General and his career prosecutors for purely political reasons.

Finally, the political excuse being offered -- that this will help secure votes to fund the closing of Guantanamo -- makes absolutely no sense for several reasons (aside from the fact that it borders on corruption to override the DOJ's decisions about prosecutions based on political horse-trading). As The Post article makes clear, the objections to trying these defendants in a civilian court comes "mainly from Republicans," who only have 41 seats in the Senate. If Republicans want to de-fund the closing of Guantanamo, it will be the GOP -- not the Obama White House -- which will need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in order to enact that ban (just as Democrats needed 60 votes when they tried to impose limits on the funding of the Iraq War). Funding decisions themselves are not subject to filibuster and require only 50 votes to pass.

Taylor Marsh is almost right when she says it may not matter now; even if the rumor proves to be merely a trial balloon, the damage to Obama has been done. But Greenwald's right, too. Only if the rumor proves true can it be said President Obama is damaging the Constitution just as did George W. Bush.

If and when he loses such a cross-section of his base as these people represent, it likely signals the beginning of the end for President Obama.


Anonymous said...

Didn't Obama say the other day that he would not mind if he was a one term president as long as he stuck to his principles? It looks like one out of two for him.

ross said...

It is the right thing to do. The DOJ should never have interfered with the military tribunal system in the first place. But I understand why he did.