Even though Obama is rather late on this; and even though he maybe hasn’t done as much as possible to advance the same-sex civil rights and equality agenda (ending ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and ordering federal lawyers to no longer defend the Defence of Marriage Act were important, but a little late); I still think this is worthy of recognition.
The President of the United States endorses same-sex marriage. That is symbolically, historically, politically and culturally, a pretty big thing. Congratulations.
In terms of analysis: support for same-sex marriage has been steadily growing among the US population, and has for some years seen majority support. The Republican Party is putting up a rearguard fight, with their most recent success just yesterday in North Carolina where people voted for an amendment to declare same-sex marriage unconstitutional. In the longer term, they can’t possibly win this (among younger voters support is overwhelming), so this move by Obama is a good one. It will serve as a rallying-point in the coming elections.
The contrast with a candidate who wants to abolish all rights for gay couples by amending the federal constitution, and who has donated to organizations that seek to “cure” gays, who bowed to pressure from bigots who demanded the head of a spokesman on foreign policy solely because he was gay: how much starker can it get?
My view politically is that this will help Obama. He will be looking to the future generations as his opponent panders to the past. The clearer the choice this year the likelier his victory. And after the darkness of last night, this feels like a widening dawn.
[Now], for the first time, the office of the American President is officially supporting a policy that a mere decade ago was deemed truly radical: same-sex marriage. Those are real achievements. And, as virtually all polls reflect – underscored by last night’s landslide defeat for marriage equality in North Carolina — they carry genuine political risk. He deserves credit for his actions in this civil rights realm.
It should go without saying that none of this mitigates the many horrendous things Obama has done in other areas, nor does it mean he deserves re-election. But just as it’s intellectually corrupted to refuse to criticize him when he deserves it, the same is true of refusing to credit him when he deserves it. Today, he deserves credit. LGBT equality is one area — and it’s an important area for millions of Americans — where he has conducted himself commendably and deserves praise. That was true before today, but even more so now.
The statement changes everything because it powerfully symbolizes an awakening that so many people have had, myself included: here is a social change whose time has come, and more than come. Denying marriage rights to same-sex couples inflicts real harm on real people, while doing nothing to prevent the deterioration of marriage among non-affluent Americans.
The statement changes everything because it puts marriage rights on the 2012 ballot as a voting issue. Mitt Romney has declared—not only his opposition to same-sex marriage—but his intention to use the power of the presidency to stop and reverse it. One may doubt how intensely Romney feels about that commitment, really. My own guess: about 1/1000 as intensely as he feels about Sarbanes-Oxley. But the issue is joined even so.
The statement changes everything because it locks in place for another generation the Brand ID of Democrats as the party of cultural modernity.
Het belang van sport in de samenleving wordt sterk overgewaardeerd. Dat komt niet alleen tot uiting in de sociale dwang om aan sport te doen vanuit “healthism” (het beoordelen van het geheel aan menselijke gedragingen vanuit gezondheidsperspectief); het goedpraten en financieren van hooliganisme, en het voortdurend bijstaan door gemeentes van bijna failliete voetbalclubs vanwege het zogenaamde “maatschappelijk belang”; maar eerst en vooral in het organiseren van miljarden verslindende, maatschappelijk ontwrichtende megalomane sportfeestjes zoals de Olympische Spelen en het WK voetbal. Sport is goed, dat is een axioma, en daar moet alles voor wijken.
Zo is de stad Londen in aanloop naar de Olympische Spelen dit jaar veranderd in een militaire zone: waar hordes zoemende drones de stad bespieden, en veiligheidscamera’s iedereen in de gaten houden; waar burgerrechten sterk zijn ingeperkt en het recht op demonstratie opgeschort wordt; waar meer militairen (13.500) op de been zijn dan in Afghanistan, en sinds de Tweede Wereldoorlog; waar een vliegdekschip in de Thames afgemeerd ligt en antiraketsystemen de lucht afscannen; waar private security bedrijven in de straten zullen patrouilleren, en biometrische ID-kaarten ingevoerd worden, en gezichtsherkenning, en waar een 80 miljoen pond kostend elektrisch hek van 500,000 volt het “Olympisch gebied” van de rest van de samenleving zal scheiden.
Leuk hè, de Olympische Spelen?
In Nederland willen we om een of andere reden ook een Olympische Spelen. Althans, de politiek. En dat willen ze zelfs zo graag, dat de ambtelijke top van een ministerie en een minister de werkelijke kosten van het evenement wilden verzwijgen voor de Tweede Kamer. Omdat dit afbreuk zou doen aan het draagvlak; het risico bestond dat ‘de Olympische ambitie’ zou worden ‘afgeschoten’. Goh, zou het? De kosten worden voorzichtig ingeschat op 8 miljard; daar kun je heel wat PGB’s, natuurgebieden, sociale werkplaatsen, en openbaar vervoer mee in stand houden. Zonder dat je je land paramilitariseert, en, evenals bij het WK, het primaat van de wetgever overdraagt aan een dubieuze oligarchische organisatie zoals het IOC.
Nee, laten we dit idee snel vergeten, en er nooit meer op terugkomen. Zo belangrijk is sport nou ook weer niet.
Niet alleen lagere ambtenaren, maar ook de hoogste ambtenaar op het ministerie van Volksgezondheid, Welzijn en Sport (VWS) wilde niet dat de kosten voor het mogelijk binnenhalen van de Olympische Spelen 2028 in een brief aan de Tweede Kamer zouden belanden. Dat blijkt uit een document waar RTL Nieuws vandaag de hand op wist te leggen.
De VWS-ambtenaren wilden de hoogte van het bedrag, 8 miljard euro, niet opnemen in het schrijven omdat dat slecht zou zijn voor het politieke draagvlak. De secretaris-generaal van het ministerie adviseerde om in de brief, die in 2011 werd gestuurd, geen bedragen op te nemen wegens ‘het risico dat de Olympische ambitie wordt afgeschoten’. Lagere ambtenaren zouden eerder al zoiets hebben aangeraden, berichtte RTL maandag.
In 2016 moet een keuze worden gemaakt over de Nederlandse kandidatuur voor de Spelen.
Unbeknownst to many people, Barack Obama’s ascendency to the presidency has, despite his 2008 campaign promises, done almost nothing to reverse one of the most heinous policies of the Bush-Cheney era: the practice of indefinitely detaining people whom the US state deems “enemy combatants”, or terrorism suspects. Without charges and without recourse to a judge. The mere charge of being a terror suspect can still lead to uncontrollable, unaccountable detention by the American government; this is viewed by both Bush-Cheney and Obama as an inherent, presidential prerogative. No one who is not out of his right mind would not view this as in straightforward contradiction to the rule of law.
But President Obama’s record has just gotten even worse. After months of threatening to veto a bill put forward by the partly Republican-controlled Congress allowing the U.S. military to indefinitely detain anyone, including American citizens, anywhere in the world, including in the U.S., without charges, he has now said that he will sign it into law.
Thereby Obama, the 2008 darling of liberals and progressives, has become the president who has made extrajudicial indefinite detention at the charge of being an “enemy combatant” official law and policy, rather than an exception. Obama is even worse than Bush-Cheney! This should be clear to anyone who is still an Obama fanboy.
When in the 1950s, the McCarthy era, Congress presented Harry Truman with a similar bill allowing the indefinite detention of Communists and other ‘subversive elements’ without charges, Truman vetoed it. But Obama is not such a person. The right not to be detained forever by the state without a fair trial is a fundamental human right, part of the Western juridical tradition, that has just been violated possibly forever by this president.
This becoming law will also mean two things. First, that the U.S. military can now be involved in domestic policing activities (!). Second, that the battleground of the so-called ‘War on Terror’ has now been extended to American soil too. Can you believe that?
At this point, I would officially hope that Obama gets defeated at the polls next year. If Ron Paul’s ideas on economic policy weren’t so nutty, I would support him – a Republican - if he was the nominee.
In one of the least surprising developments imaginable, President Obama – after spending months threatening to veto the Levin/McCain detention bill – yesterday announced that he would instead sign it into law (this is the same individual, of course, who unequivocally vowed when seeking the Democratic nomination to support a filibuster of “any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecom[s],” only to turn around – once he had the nomination secure — and not only vote against such a filibuster, but to vote in favor of the underlying bill itself, so this is perfectly consistent with his past conduct). As a result, the final version of the Levin/McCain bill will be enshrined as law this week as part of the the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). I wrote about the primary provisions and implications of this bill last week, and won’t repeat those points here.
The ACLU said last night that the bill contains “harmful provisions that some legislators have said could authorize the U.S. military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians, including American citizens, anywhere in the world” and added: “if President Obama signs this bill, it will damage his legacy.” Human Rights Watch said that Obama’s decision “does enormous damage to the rule of law both in the US and abroad” and that “President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law.”
Both groups pointed out that this is the first time indefinite detention has been enshrined in law since the McCarthy era of the 1950s, when — as the ACLU put it — “President Truman had the courage to veto” the Internal Security Act of 1950 on the ground that it “would make a mockery of our Bill of Rights” and then watched Congress override the veto. That Act authorized the imprisonment of Communists and other “subversives” without the necessity of full trials or due process (many of the most egregious provisions of that bill were repealed by the 1971 Non-Detention Act, and are now being rejuvenated by these War on Terror policies of indefinite detention). President Obama, needless to say, is not Harry Truman. He’s not even the Candidate Obama of 2008 who repeatedly insisted that due process and security were not mutually exclusive and who condemned indefinite detention as “black hole” injustice.
Barack Obama has abandoned a commitment to veto a new security law that allows the military to indefinitely detain without trial American terrorism suspects arrested on US soil who could then be shipped to Guantánamo Bay.
Human rights groups accused the president of deserting his principles and disregarding the long-established principle that the military is not used in domestic policing. The legislation has also been strongly criticised by libertarians on the right angered at the stripping of individual rights for the duration of “a war that appears to have no end”.
The law, contained in the defence authorisation bill that funds the US military, effectively extends the battlefield in the “war on terror” to the US and applies the established principle that combatants in any war are subject to military detention.
The legislation’s supporters in Congress say it simply codifies existing practice, such as the indefinite detention of alleged terrorists at Guantánamo Bay. But the law’s critics describe it as a draconian piece of legislation that extends the reach of detention without trial to include US citizens arrested in their own country.
Senator Lindsey Graham said the extraordinary measures were necessary because terrorism suspects were wholly different to regular criminals.
“We’re facing an enemy, not a common criminal organisation, who will do anything and everything possible to destroy our way of life,” he said. “When you join al-Qaida you haven’t joined the mafia, you haven’t joined a gang. You’ve joined people who are bent on our destruction and who are a military threat.”
Graham added that it was right that Americans should be subject to the detention law as well as foreigners. “It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help Al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next,” he said. “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”
Other senators supported the new powers on the grounds that al-Qaida was fighting a war inside the US and that its followers should be treated as combatants, not civilians with constitutional protections.
“We’re talking about American citizens who can be taken from the United States and sent to a camp at Guantánamo Bay and held indefinitely. It puts every single citizen American at risk,” he said. “Really, what security does this indefinite detention of Americans give us? The first and flawed premise, both here and in the badly named Patriot Act, is that our pre-9/11 police powers were insufficient to stop terrorism. This is simply not borne out by the facts.”
Paul was backed by Senator Dianne Feinstein.
“Congress is essentially authorising the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge,” she said. “We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge.”
So let it be noted that Obama here has followed the line of the most conservative Republicans.
And so the police officer at UC Davis who casually sprayed pepper spray in the face of unarmed, non-violent, sitting protesters, Lt. John Pike, is turned into an Internet meme. So at least this episode of American police state violence is turning into something amusing.
Here’s the original video (watch out, it’s sickening):
Meet Lt. John Pike casually violating people’s civil rights in everyday situations:
And so Barack Obama finally commits to the creation of a parallel justice system – one in which the threshold of evidence is lower, people can be preventively detained or have no trial at all (indefinitely), and that is run by military commissions. On Cuba, a satellite piece of land outside the US mainland and its ordinary criminal justice system. Even though as a presidential candidate, the darling of civil libertarians, liberals and Democrats, Obama said to vehemently oppose the Bush-Cheney counterterrorism policies that had resulted in the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, the military commissions, and indefinite preventive detention for terrorism suspects.
If Obama taught me one thing, it is that you should never, ever trust politicians. That’s the lesson that I guess is to be learnt from this guy’s election and presidency.
But anyway. Indefinite detention is now a fact. Procedurally, some things have of course been improved since Bush-Cheney. Detainees on trial now have legal rights which come closer to those in the ordinary justice system; detainees who will not be tried will, it is promised, within a year receive status reviews of the level of ‘threat’ they impose. Obama’s executive order lifting his two-year ban on military trials requires compliance with the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture. Also – importantly – this order only covers those currently held, and does not extent to any possible future detainees.
But otherwise, Gitmo will not be closed, 9/11 plotters will not get a criminal trial (which would have shown the world what a law-honoring, justice-minded country the US would be), and the way is open for any future Republican president to expand upon this parallel justice system. Yes we can.
President Obama on Monday reversed his two-year-old order halting new military charges against detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, permitting military trials to resume with revamped procedures but implicitly admitting the failure of his pledge to close the prison camp.
Mr. Obama said in a statement that he remained committed to closing Guantánamo someday and to charging some terrorism suspects in civilian criminal courts. But Congress has blocked the transfer of prisoners from Guantánamo to the United States for trial, frustrating the administration’s plan to hold civilian trials for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-professed chief plotter of the Sept. 11 attacks, and others accused of terrorism.
Officials declined to say whether Mr. Mohammed would be scheduled for a military commission or would await a trial in federal court if Congress lifts its prohibition.
Separately, for detainees who will not get trials, Mr. Obama set out new rules in an executive order Monday requiring a review of their status within a year and every three years after that to determine whether they remain a threat, should be scheduled for a military trial or should be released. The order also requires compliance with the Geneva Conventions and the international treaty that bans torture and inhumane treatment.
Civil liberties advocates, who have long been critical of Guantánamo, expressed disappointment that the military system remained in place more than two years after Mr. Obama took office.
“This is a step down the road toward institutionalizing a preventive-detention regime,” said Elisa Massimino, president of Human Rights First. “People in the Mideast are looking to establish new rules for their own societies, and this sends a mixed message at best.”
Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com is, as always, indispensable. He especially debunks the idea, also found in the NYT article above, that it is Congress, not Obama, that drives these policies:
It is true that Congress — with the overwhelming support of both parties — has enacted several measures making it much more difficult, indeed impossible, to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the U.S. But long before that ever happened, Obama made clear that he wanted to continue the twin defining pillars of the Bush detention regime: namely, (1) indefinite, charge-free detention and (2) military commissions (for those lucky enough to be charged with something). Obama never had a plan for “closing Guantanamo” in any meaningful sense; the most he sought to do was to move it a few thousand miles north to Illinois, where its defining injustices would endure.
The preservation of the crux of the Bush detention scheme was advocated by Obama long before Congress’ ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. It was in May, 2009 — a mere five months after his inauguration — that Obama stood up in front of the U.S. Constitution at the National Archives and demanded a new law of “preventive detention” to empower him to imprison people without charges: a plan the New York Times said “would be a departure from the way this country sees itself.” It was the same month that the administration announced it intended to continue to deny many detainees trials, instead preserving the military commissions scheme, albeit with modifications. And the first — and only — Obama plan for “closing Guantanamo” came in December, 2009, and it entailed nothing more than transferring the camp to a supermax prison in Thompson, Illinois, while preserving its key ingredients, prompting the name “Gitmo North.”
None of this was even arguably necessitated by Congressional action. To the contrary, almost all of it took place before Congress did anything. It was Barack Obama’s position — not that of Congress — that detainees could and should be denied trials, that our court system was inadequate and inappropriate to try them, and that he possessed the unilateral, unrestrained power under the “laws of war” to order them imprisoned for years, even indefinitely, without bothering to charge them with a crime and without any review by the judiciary, in some cases without even the right of habeas review(to see why claims of such “law of war” detention power are so baseless, see the points here, especially point 5).
In other words, Obama — for reasons having nothing to do with Congress — worked from the start to preserve the crux of the Bush/Cheney detention regime.
Another victory for executive power, another loss for the Rechtsstaat. According to a US federal judge, there are no legal limits on the President’s power to order the killing of alleged terrorists outside the US, even if these individuals happen to be US citizens. At least, no legal limits that can be enforced in a US courtroom – Judge Bates of the DC District Court ruled that the matter amounts to an unjusticiable “political question”.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge threw out a lawsuit on Tuesday that sought to block the American government from trying to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, a United States citizen and Muslim cleric accused of playing a significant role in Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen.
The ruling clears the way for the Obama administration to continue to try to kill Mr. Awlaki and represents a victory in its efforts to shield from judicial review one of its most striking counter-terrorism policies.
The court not only rejected the lawsuit on the grounds that Mr. Awlaki’s father had no standing to file it on behalf of his son, but held that decisions to mount targeted killings overseas are a “political question” for executive officials to make — not judges.
In an 83-page opinion, Judge John Bates of the District of Columbia district court acknowledged that the case raised “stark, and perplexing, questions” — including whether the president could “order the assassination of a U.S. citizen without first affording him any form of judicial process whatsoever, based the mere assertion that he is a dangerous member of a terrorist organization.”
But even though the “legal and policy questions posed by this case are controversial and of great public interest,” he wrote, they would have to be resolved on another day or outside of the courts, since this case had to be dismissed at the onset.
The Justice Department had no immediate comment on the ruling. But Jameel Jaffer, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union who helped represent Mr. Awlaki’s father, Nasser al-Awlaki, in the matter, called the decision “a profound mistake” that he said would dangerously expand presidential powers.
“If the court’s ruling is correct, the government has unreviewable authority to carry out the targeted killing of any American, anywhere, whom the president deems to be a threat to the nation,” Mr. Jaffer said. “It would be difficult to conceive of a proposition more inconsistent with the Constitution, or more dangerous to American liberty.”
Judge Bates rejected the notion that his ruling amounting to holding that the executive possesses “unreviewable authority to order the assassination of any American whom he labels an enemy of the state.” His ruling emphasized that it was limited to the circumstances of Mr. Awlaki, whom the intelligence community has said is engaged in specific operational planning of attacks against the United States.
“The court only concludes that it lacks capacity to determine whether a specific individual in hiding overseas, whom the director of national intelligence has stated is an ‘operational member’ ” of Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch, Judge Bates said, “presents such a threat to national security that the United States may authorize the use of lethal force against him.” Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor who specializes in national security law, said the limits of the theory articulated by Judge Bates would be a matter of hot dispute.
“The slippery slope is obviously the concern here,” Mr. Chesney said. “Judge Bates is at pains not to decide this question for other circumstances. But the question remains, what else besides this fact pattern would enable the government to have the same result — no judicial involvement in a targeted-killing decision?”
The A.C.L.U., along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, brought the lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Awlaki’s father last summer. It first had to receive permission to represent Nasser al-Awlaki from the Treasury Department, which has labeled Anwar al-Awlaki a “specially designated global terrorist.”
Granted, Judge Bates was in an unenviable position, having to juggle national security concerns and fundamental human rights. No matter how he would have ruled, he was going to be severely criticized. Nevertheless, that doesn’t delegitimize critique on his ruling – here are three points:
First, Judge Bates denied the father of Mr. al-Awlaki standing to bring the claim, arguing that Mr. al-Awlaki’s incommunicado status is of his own choosing – surely he could easily walk up to the US embassy in Yemen to claim his constitutional rights. It is rather unfortunate that the judge relies on this legal fiction: who really believes that the US government would quietly sit down with one of the most sought-after individuals on its hit list, rather than fire a – Presidentially authorized –missile at him as soon as he discloses his location?
Second, the political question doctrine is a well-known and legitimate tool that prevents judges from having to meddle in political issues, such as foreign affairs and national security. Yet in this case national security concerns directly challenge one of the most fundamental human rights, namely the right not to be killed without due process (presuming that capital punishment is okay in the first place, which it is not). It’s the very raison-d’être of the judiciary to offer a counter-balance against the executive in these situations – Judge Bates effectively undermines the carefully constructed checks and balances of the American constitutional system.
Third, the slippery slope is very real. Judge Bates understandably tries to do away with this case on the basis of exceptional circumstances, arguing that this case of a “specially designated global terrorist” is one-of-a-kind. Yet a similar logic applied to the 775 “unlawful combatants” at Guantánamo Bay, the approximately 3000 extraordinarily renditioned individuals, and the War on Terror as a whole. Repeated exceptions for hard cases dilute the rule of law. As the ACLU stated, this expansion of executive power could prove more dangerous to American liberty than a former imam in Yemen.
P.S.: It would be interesting if this case goes up to the Supreme Court, though I’m not optimistic about the outcome of such a ruling.
A website, popular on Facebook, summarizing the legislative achievements of Obama and the Democrats. Good to counterbalance the view that Obama has achieved nothing so far.
But to spoil the fun: in the area of civil rights, Obama has contrary to all his campaign promises achieved nothing so far. Instead, he has perpetuated Bush-Cheney policies or made them worse. Gitmo’s still open, military commissions are running, detainees are being indefinitely held, American citizens suspected of terrorism are targeted for killing abroad, the state secrets doctrine is being invoked, renditions to torture-countries continue, the Patriot Act is extended, and I could go on. Also on the issue of gay rights, Obama’s been really bad.
But a single American al Qaeda terrorist in a foreign country actively waging war against us seems to me to be a pretty isolated example. And Obama always said he would fight a war against al Qaeda more ruthlessly than Bush. As he has. I agree that invoking state secrets so comprehensively as to prevent any scrutiny of this is a step way too far. But I do believe we are at war; and that killing those who wish to kill us before they can do so is not the equivalent of “assassination”. My concern has always been with the power to detain without due process and torture, not the regrettable necessity of killing the enemy in a hot and dangerous war.
This refers to the case of Anwar Aulaqi, a Yemeni-American terrorist suspect who is an official killing target for the U.S. government. By all accounts, he is a prominent member of Al Qaeda, suspected of involvement in the Fort Hood shooting and the Detroit underpants assault. So I don’t really care about him. But he’s also formally still a suspect, and an American citizen at that. Obama, in targeting this guy for assassination, has in terms of ignoring the rule of law pretty much gone beyond whatever Bush and Cheney did. That, I think, makes Obama an incredibly disappointing and untrustworthy politician.
My response to Sullivan:
I’m absolutely dumbfounded with your comment in this post:
And that’s coming from you?
First of, this guy holds an American passport. That makes him a U.S. citizen, with every right and protection that is attached to that. Secondly, you should know that “isolated examples” don’t remain isolated examples. These sort of “exceptions” have a tendency to spread and become normality after a while, just like happened with the Bush counterterrorism measures (and with the torture regime, spreading to Iraq, and with the Patriot Act, and so forth). Thirdly, since when are the life and rights of one individual somehow less worth than those of other individuals?
I know that this guy is probably a terrorist and what not. But this is a matter of principle, and an extremely important one at that. If you don’t care about the unchecked, unbounded killing by a government of one of its own citizens, merely because he is declared a terrorist, nobody can take your stance on “due process” and torture seriously either.
Had to vent that.
For more about this, read Glenn Greenwald (who, I see just now, also passionately attacks Andrew Sullivan on this).
Looking back at the 2008 Obama campaign, one might distinguish, among others, two narratives that formed the core appeal of his candicacy: one, that he promoted himself as a “post-partisan” and a “pragmatist”, rather than the type of ideology-fueled politician that at that time was residing in the White House; second, that he promoted himself as someone with a very clear point of view on issues of the rule of law and civil rights. Obama, more so than other candidates such as Hillary Clinton, was very clear about his opposition to Guantánamo Bay, torture, and infringements on civil rights that had become the hallmark of the Bush-Cheney presidency.
Yet, today, Obama has clearly failed to live up to his campaign promises in the latter regard. Guantánamo is still open, a terror suspects’ assassination program for American citizens has been set up, civilian trials for terror suspects are cancelled, habeas corpus rights are not restored, the state secrets doctrine is being invoked, etc. The Obama administration in this area is Bush-lite, in every respect. And all the more frustrating is that the President doesn’t seem to care.
So this might be interpreted as the “pragmatist” narrative having won from the “moral” narrative… As the authors below do. Although I’d say that “pragmatism”, just like “centrism”, is a quasi-neutral term meant to hide very concrete positions, just like Obama is taking. Positions of which “liberals” and “progressives” (or, people who care about the rule of law) have every right to be disappointed about.
Andy Bacevich at The New Republic, first, voices a very to the point criticism of Obama’s presidency so far:
Obama’s supporters were counting on him to bring to the White House an enlightened moral sensibility: He would govern differently not only because he was smarter than his predecessor but because he responded to a different—and truer—inner compass. Events have demolished such expectations. Today, when they look at Washington, Americans see a cool, dispassionate, calculating president whose administration lacks a moral core.
The case for pragmatism, especially after the ideology-drenched years of Bush and Cheney, is a powerful one. On issues like the bank bailout (wildly successful) or health insurance reform (a messy but important advance) or balancing short term demand with long term austerity, we need pragmatism. But there are some areas where that instinct can come to seem unwise.
Sending young men to risk their lives is one of them; refusing to live up to core Geneva Conventions requirements – like investigating and, if appropriate, prosecuting those guilty of war crimes is another; dittocivilrights, where pragmatic politics is never enough.