I remember checking on Daily Kos as the 2008 election of Barack Obama neared. And to be fair, it’s not just them. Talking Points Memo, you name it – a progressive savior had come! Of course, the euphoria of his personal story, his oratory, his passion and intelligence were the headline stories, as they should have been. I remember having read his enlightening Dreams from my Father (compared to the other book, which is more of campaign oratory) and identified with his search for meaning and where he fit in socio-culturally and reconciling that with the man that he was. However, on the campaign trail, what we saw was a very organized, pragmatic and close to the vest campaign. There was the obvious kumbaya sort of sentiments that were the spiritual underpinning of his campaign – but if one looked harder in retrospect, there was a candidate who was thoughtful and considered, but also did not like to put himself on the button.
Since Obama’s ascension to the White House, his own moves have been a study in non-boldness. Whether it be asking for too little money in the stimulus, or refusing to constructively suspend enforcement of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, or whether it has been cutting deals with pharma companies to make sure health care reform would not drive their prices down – there is an accomodationist streak that is refreshing on one level but maddening on another. Most of this is done in the name of bi-partisanship – but the result has been things like a dangerously emasculated health care bill. And does it make Obama more favored among the GOP, especially the boisterous? Put simply, no.
In a way this is what makes the hearings today with Attorney General Eric Holder so darkly amusing. Obviously the hearing is to cover the decision to put Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to trial – in a United States Courtroom – to an impartial jury. But really, this is merely a subset of the Guantanamo Bay detainees. As President Obama has outlined, it is not as if a large number of the detainees will get trials, or even the chance to really challenge their imprisonment even if not charged with anything. Holder maintains that detainees accused of attacking overseas military targets will get military tribunals, which makes sense on the surface, but is really just an arbitrary distinction. This administration is still codifying the notion of internment camps – just for Muslims and not the Japanese. Put simply, aside from some slightly prettier language, this is not at all different from the Bush Jr. policies. Yet Holder gets pilloried anyway by the likes of brain dead Chuck Grassley.
What is hard to understand is why our courts are not good enough to successfully try the accused. Why are our federal prosecutors incapable of winning trials in court with normal standards of evidence? Why the presumption of guilt for detainees when their record on habeas hearings is so good? Must this country, the beacon of morality and democracy, resort to third world despot tactics to get allegedly rubber stamp guilty criminals convicted? Just another case of the Democrats acting like pretend Republicans – and still getting called evil anyway.