Thursday, May 14, 2009 at 5:20 AM
In what has to be the most ironic, and potentially implosive, development of his nascent presidency, Barack Obama is being dogged more by criticisms from liberals than from conservatives.
Specifically, liberals are simmering with disillusionment over the fact that he has been systematically adopting many of Bush’s war-on-terror tactics, which they, and he, routinely condemned during last year’s presidential campaign.
Of course, most notorious has been the way Obama has continued renditioning terror suspects to other countries, where they are invariably subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture) that he decries as against American values. But he has also continued detaining these suspects indefinitely without trial, surveilling them (and us?) via secret wiretaps and invoking of “state secrets” to squash disclosure of these tactics.
His latest reversal is particularly galling because, only a month ago, Obama reiterated his campaign promise to run a more transparent presidency. And, as evidence of this, he cited his intent to release additional photos showing American military personnel abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan (a la Abu Ghraib).
Even so, yesterday, in declaring that he now intends to block their release, Obama argued, just as Bush did, that the photos had to be kept secret to protect the US troops … because they would only inflame anti-American passions throughout the Muslim world.
But here’s how the ACLU’s executive director, Anthony D. Romero, expressed the visceral outrage this declaration incited among the long-suffering guardians of his liberal base:
The Obama administration’s adoption of the stonewalling tactics and opaque policies of the Bush administration flies in the face of the president’s stated desire to restore the rule of law, to revive our moral standing in the world and to lead a transparent government.
When these photos do see the light of day, the outrage will focus not only on the commission of torture by the Bush administration but on the Obama administration’s complicity in covering them up.
All the same, even though I’m probably among the most liberal of Obama’s supporters, I agree wholeheartedly with all of his flip flops in this respect. Indeed, I stressed as much in a commentary on Tuesday in which I admonished fellow liberals that it is politically naïve and hypocritical to ridicule former VP Dick Cheney’s dire warnings about canceling Bush’s war-on-terror policies.
Moreover, here’s how I presaged this split between Obama and the left-wing zealots who comprise the base of his Democratic Party:
I’m sure the congenitally pragmatic Obama will have a moderating influence on Congressional Democrats, which will prevent them from pursuing a radical, vindictive agenda that could undermine his presidency.
[Conviction of Stevens bad omen for Republicans, TIJ, October 28, 2008]
In this vain, I wish Obama would stop using Clintonian spin to explain his adoption of Bush’s policies. After all, there is no difference between what he’s arguing today and what Bush argued throughout his presidency was a national-security need to keep CIA enhanced interrogation techniques cloaked in secrecy.
This is also why I think he should cease his political posturing about closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). Because, as much as I loathe his politics, Cheney is right here too:
Gitmo is a transparently well-run prison; worldwide nimbyism precludes any country taking the al-Qaeda terrorists detained there (most notable in this regard is the irrational, scaremongering, politically expedient nimbyism that precludes them being imprisoned in the US); and, if they are ever released, they will certainly launch new attacks on America.
Republicans praying for … Osama to succeed