Wednesday, April 13, 2011 at 5:22 AM

Obama Flip-flops on Guantanamo … Too

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama made a political and moral virtue out of his promise to close the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo).  And he vindicated all of the HOPE supporters like me vested in him when he signed an executive order with a bang to do just that within 48 hours after being inaugurated as president.

But I soon realized that, notwithstanding his campaign rhetoric, Obama was actually governing just like Bush on foreign-policy issues.  And he duly vindicated my observation in this respect by systematically adopting many of Bush’s war-on-terror tactics, which he routinely condemned along the campaign trail:

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.

(“Obama angers liberals by governing just like Bush,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 14, 2009)

Unlike other supporters, however, I did not consider any of this cause for disillusionment. In fact, here is how I presaged this inevitable disconnect between Obama’s rhetoric and governing even before he was elected:

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,” The iPINIONS Journal, October 28, 2008)

The operative word here is pragmatic. More to the point, it was my enlightened regard for his pragmatism that compelled me to publicly reprimand Obama just months into his presidency:

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, [Bush] 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 U.S.); and, if they are ever released, they will certainly launch new attacks on America.

(“Obama angers liberals by governing just like Bush,” The iPINIONS Journal, May 14, 2009)

Therefore, I was hardly surprised last week when the Obama Administration finally adopted the Bush Administration’s policy on Gitmo; i.e., opting to try al-Qaeda suspects in military tribunals there instead of in civilian courts in New York City – a stone’s throw from Ground Zero.

I would have been pleasantly surprised, however, if Obama had simply admitted that political opposition and pressure made trying them in NYC unfeasible.  Hell, look at the inhibiting furor plans just to build a mosque near Ground Zero incited. Unfortunately, Obama resorted to more Clintonian spin again:

We must face a simple truth … members of Congress have intervened and imposed restrictions blocking the Administration from bringing any Guantanamo detainees to trial in the United States.

(U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, FOX News, April 5, 2011)

This of course was a patently craven attempt to blame the Republican-controlled Congress for this latest flip-flop. But it’s belied by the fact that the Obama Administration had two whole years with a Democratic-controlled Congress to haul those detainees to trial in the U.S. and failed to do so.

It is clear that other supporters are becoming increasingly disillusioned not just by his flip-flopping on foreign-policy issues like closing Gitmo, but also on domestic issues like extending the Bush tax cuts.  I, on the other hand, am just becoming increasingly disgusted by his posturing as if all of the Bush policies he once condemned are now commendable just because he’s pursuing them. That’s the kind of self righteousness that ended up hoisting Nixon by his own petard.

NOTE: Some of you might get the impression that I support Obama governing like Bush in each case. But this is not so. For example, regular readers know that nobody has been more persistent and strident in decrying Obama’s decision not just to continue Bush’s war in Afghanistan, but to escalate it.

Related commentaries:
Obama angers liberals
Conviction of Stevens

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