Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Irony and the Presidency

On the day Barack Obama formally announced his run for re-election in 2012, his administration also announced that it was kowtowing to Republican (among others) demands not to hold the trial of suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in New York civilian court.

I've spent the parts of the last two years defending Obama's record in the face of criticism who feel as though his Presidency hasn't maintained the magical unicornness of his campaign. They're right, because governing is like making sausage, ugly to know what goes into it. Nevertheless, we got Health Care Reform (minus the public option), a huge stimulus package, financial reform (though highly neutered), the feds to agree to stop defending DOMA, two more women onto the Supreme Court, a consumer protection czar who looks like she has teeth.

So the announcement that he was caving into the likes of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), who claims to love this country, but clearly has no faith in its justice system to try Mohammed, was disheartening. Republican NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg wanted the trial in New York, as did hundreds of family members of 9/11 victims. If those with the most at stake can see the wisdom of not allowing our basest instincts for retributive justice degenerate into revenge-at-all-costs-accountability-be-damned military commissions, why can't the decision-makers like Sessions? And why did AG Eric Holder and Obama cave? They said it was because Congress de-authorized funding for prisoner transfers from Gitmo to the States.

But to me this is a case of needing to stand up for our ideals in the face of resistance and challenge. I felt like W failed the test of compromise-vs-ideals-maintenance repeatedly, always adhering to NeoCon foreign policy even in the absence of evidence, see: Iraq. Here I want Barack to stand fast though. He wouldn't be standing up for Mohammed or Dems or even just this one case, but for the American ideals of accountable justice.

If we want to be leaders in the world, then we must lead, which means make the tough choices not the expedient ones.

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