Gitmo Politics in Obama’s White House

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Photo from the Obama-Biden transition team via flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.Photo from the Obama-Biden transition team via flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.Liberals have not done enough public wrestling with Massimo Calabresi and Michael Weisskopf’s Time article on the ouster of White House counsel Gregory Craig. Perhaps that’s because they don’t want to deal with the article’s troubling implications. As Kevin explains, Craig was “the White House lawyer tasked with dismantling Bush-era interrogation and detention policies. At first, Obama was on board with Craig’s plans.  Then, reality set in.”

By “reality,” Kevin presumably means “political reality.” Time says that as soon as Obama’s positions on Bush era torture—releasing the torture photos, for example—became politically difficult, the president jettisoned them. He did this despite the fact that he had been “prepared to accept — and had even okayed” those same positions “just weeks earlier”:

First to go was the release of the pictures of detainee abuse. Days later, Obama sided against Craig again, ending the suspension of Bush’s extrajudicial military commissions. The following week, Obama pre-empted an ongoing debate among his national-security team and embraced one of the most controversial of Bush’s positions: the holding of detainees without charges or trial, something he had promised during the campaign to reject.

But perhaps the most damning part of the Time piece is this sentence, near the beginning, that summarizes exactly what has happened in Obama’s White House:

[Obama] quietly shifted responsibility for the legal framework for counterterrorism from Craig to political advisers overseen by Emanuel, who was more inclined to strike a balance between left and right.

Take a minute to think about how the left would respond to this if Obama was a Republican president. Obama delegated the responsibility for determining what to do about detainees to his political advisers. If George W. Bush had charged his political advisers, including Karl Rove, with crafting such policy, the entire blogosphere would have melted down from outrage overload.

Obama’s actions here are deeply at odds with the public image he cultivated during his campaign—idealist, civil libertarian, constitutional law professor, someone who rose above politics. You can claim that the president is a “pragmatist,” and always has been, but Obama draped himself in idealism and principle during the campaign. The left always complained that Bush let politics drive his policy decisions. But in this instance, couldn’t Obama be accused of the same thing?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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