Gitmo Trials Are So Much Better Now Than Before:
Let's go through the pre-presidential history here with quotes from the man himself:
September 29, 2006, from a Washington Post article on the passage of the Military Commissions Act: "'There will be 30-second attack ads and negative mail pieces, and we will be called everything from cut-and-run quitters to Defeatocrats, to people who care more about the rights of terrorists than the protection of Americans,' predicted Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). 'While I know all of this, I'm still disappointed, and I'm still ashamed, because what we're doing here today -- a debate over the fundamental human rights of the accused -- should be bigger than politics.'"
From a speech on August 1, 2007: "There has been only one conviction at Guantanamo. It was for a guilty plea on material support for terrorism. The sentence was 9 months. There has not been one conviction of a terrorist act. I have faith in America's courts, and I have faith in our JAGs. As President, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists.
From a July 13, 2008 New York Times article on the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision that detainees have habeas corpus rights: "'I voted against the Military Commissions Act because its sloppiness would inevitably lead to the court, once again, rejecting the administration's extreme legal position."
And on and on, with the White House halting the military tribunals in January 2009 while it reviewed the process, and leading, of course, to yesterday's Executive Order that restarts military commissions with a couple of different (and not insignificant) rules. It's really kinder, gentler indefinite detentions, or periodic reviews without periodic waterboarding. Geneva Convention protections are in place now. Whatever you want to call it, there's still gonna be half-baked trials at Gitmo, just with a tart glaze of hope and change.
It's hard to pinpoint the most depressing aspect of this story. It could be that, despite the administration's claims to the contrary, Gitmo ain't closing any time soon or late. It could be that the political climate is so degraded that the cowardly Congress has blocked just about every other path to justice for detainees. It could be that President Obama has decided that the debate is not bigger than politics.
The Rude Pundit's gonna go with this, though: The Executive Order opens, "By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Authorization for Use of Military Force of September 2001 (AUMF)..." Yep, the same broad authority claimed by George W. Bush under AUMF is now being claimed by Barack Obama. The question, then, is that if Obama is going to go with the whole imperial presidency thing, why not use it for different goals?