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Monday, April 25, 2011

WaPo chronicles Obama's serial blundering over Gitmo

"The executive order promising to close Gitmo's detention facilities within a calendar year was never anything more than BHO-monogrammed bovine excrement so naïve and silly that it exploded violently on every contact with reality."

That's my 35-word précis of this 4300-word WaPo article entitled "Guantanamo Bay: Why Obama hasn’t fulfilled his promise to close the facility."

However, whoever crafted this intended spin-imparting summary paragraph near the top may not have actually read the rest of the article, or else comprehended its cumulative import not at all:

For more than two years, the White House’s plans had been undermined by political miscalculations, confusion and timidity in the face of mounting congressional opposition, according to some inside the administration as well as on Capitol Hill. Indeed, the failed effort to close Guantanamo was reflective of the aspects of Obama’s leadership style that continue to distress his liberal base — a willingness to allow room for compromise and a passivity that at times permits opponents to set the agenda.

Instead of this mushy half-hearted defense of their hero, how about some plain English that's much more consistent the rest of the facts reported? Why pretend anything needed "undermining" when it never stood on its own to begin with? Why use the words like "miscalculations, confusion and timidity" as a substitute for "consistent bold stupidity"?

I'd re-write that summary paragraph thusly:

"Despite Obama's unconditional and unequivocal promises as a candidate, it became increasingly obvious, more blindingly obvious with every day of his new presidency, that closing Gitmo anytime soon would be a Very Bad Idea for a Whole Buncha Reasons. It became obvious to most serious grown-ups in America — and even to the large majorities of senators and congressmen from Obama's own party who want to be re-elected, regardless of their seriousness and maturity — that Obama's executive order couldn't actually be implemented without monumental, unacceptable risks and a momentous public backlash that would rival, and perhaps exceed, the Tea Party backlash against Obama's fiscal profligacy. Indeed, even the administration official who was designated to fall on his sword — ex-White House Counsel Gregory B. Craig, about whose resignation Beldar wrote at his usual tedious length here back in 2009 — appears to have painfully hoisted himself off that blade and climbed back down to reality."

Overall, this is probably the most damning reporting on Obama's fundamental incompetence that the WaPo has yet published. Nothing in it makes Obama look even marginally competent or principled. Yet despite their claim to have based this report on "interviews with more than 30 current and former administration officials, as well as members of Congress and their staff, members of the George W. Bush administration, and activists," WaPo staffers Peter Finn and Anne E. Kornblut don't produce anything amounting to a scoop. The only thing about their report which surpised me is that apparently everyone in Washington who doesn't list 1600 Pennsylvania as his or her current primary work address now seems to agree that Obama spectacularly mismanaged this entire issue.

I'll continue to stick with my description of the Obama Administration back in that post from April 2009:

"Amateurs. Incompetents. Ideologues. Full-time politicians turned half-wit government officials. Brilliant leftists who, confronted with the real world, are exposed as clueless idiots and children.

If anything, that assessment may have turned out to have beeen overly generous.

Posted by Beldar at 12:16 AM in Current Affairs, Foreign Policy, Global War on Terror, Law (2011), Mainstream Media, Obama, Politics (2011) | Permalink


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(1) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Apr 25, 2011 1:51:27 AM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: In one regard, this characteristically disingenous POST article is right: Holder thought it would be the defining event of his AGship. Yup, but hardly for the reasons he thought. The article is also characteristic in that the bulk of the sources were the usual gang of anonymous assassins. Say what you will about Lindsey Graham (and you can't say it too strongly for me) he has stuck to his convictions on this, and publicly. The timorousness of the Administration makes Graham look good. With luck, it'll make him look so good that when The One cans Joe Biden, he'll grab Lindsey. That would be a fitting end for Lindsey and The One and the GOP as well.

Is anyone taking bets on Michelle Bachman-Turner's commenting on this post?

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(2) Mike Myers made the following comment | Apr 25, 2011 10:42:36 AM | Permalink

Gee Mr. Dyer, why don't you come right out and say what you really think about this gang of fools on the Potomac? Still LOL about this post. We're in for more hard times as long as the ship of state is directed by this group.

(3) Michele Bachman-Turner made the following comment | Apr 25, 2011 12:06:59 PM | Permalink

"Is anyone taking bets on Michelle Bachman-Turner's commenting on this post?"

Is anyone taking bets on Beldar seriously addressing my previous post regarding Republican "birthers", John Ensign's (R-NV) possible criminal activity and the Republican political agenda to turn Medicare into a voucher program, while simultaneously approving more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires?

Didn't think so.

Beldar is a smart fellow and an excellent writer. But I will say this again: BeldarBlog is a purely Republican forum with a purely Republican agenda. It's not a conservative blog with a defined set of principles, other than to attack President Obama. It's a shame, frankly. I think Beldar continually misses opportunities for intelligent, public debate.

(4) Michele Bachman-Turner made the following comment | Apr 25, 2011 12:21:55 PM | Permalink

Come to think of it, attacking President Obama is not a "principle"; it's merely a tactic.

So, I guess it's fair to say this is a Republican blog with a Republican agenda. Period. You know how I know this? If the extremely unlikely happened and the GOP nominated Donald Trump as its presidential candidate, Beldar would swallow hard and begin selling t-shirts that read, "I'm 'Fired Up' for Trump". Beldar, tell me I'm wrong.

In any event, I would be sad to see that.

Where, oh where, are the principled conservatives??

(5) Jeff made the following comment | Apr 25, 2011 2:30:02 PM | Permalink

MBT is yet another concerned troll ...

It warms the heart to hear from liberals who are only concerned for our wellfare ...

I love the "what if's" they come up with ... it is revealing about how little they understand what a conservative thinks or why they think that way ...

they are the ones who march in lock step and they can't imagine anyone who doesn't ...

sad ...

(6) Michele Bachman-Turner made the following comment | Apr 25, 2011 3:14:43 PM | Permalink

Jeff, Gregory, Norman, Stan, Mike, Milhouse, etc. I am honestly interested in your thoughts on these topics:

1. Should Republicans continue to explore the "birther" issue (and, by extension, embrace Donald Trump as a serious presidential candidate)? Or, should Republicans forcefully reject their party's lunatic-fringe movement to challenge President Obama's birth in the United States?

2. What of the abrupt resignation of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV)? A United States senator apparently paid hush money to a former staffer, after Sen. Ensign apparently had an extra-marital affair with the staffer's wife. The bi-partisan Senate Ethics Committee is poised to release a summary of the evidence, detailing how the GOP senator lied about the hush payment(s) in a sworn affidavit. So here's my question: If the Department of Justice prosecuted Barry Bonds for obstruction and perjury, shouldn't it do the same to Sen. Ensign, if the evidence supports probable cause on those and/or other charges?

3. Should the Republican Party continue to aggressively push its political agenda to turn Medicare into a voucher program, while at the same time giving additional tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires?

(7) Woop made the following comment | Apr 25, 2011 3:39:42 PM | Permalink

Right Winers Flopping Aces compared Obama's plan to close GITMO with Bush's plan to close GITMO and found them to be identical, claiming Obama ripped off the Bush plan.

Obama’s Plan to Close Gitmo…Was Bush’s Plan 3yr Ago By: Scott

Yep, just like President Obama took his plan for Iraq, his bailout plans, and more now he’s trying to market his “plan” for closing Gitmo…straight from George W Bush’s Sept 6, 2006 speech. Time heals all wounds, and I guess 3yrs is enough time for the Democrats to forget they once opposed this plan.

OBAMA’s PLAN:(quotes below)
1) Try criminals in Federal courts
2) Military Tribunals
3) Release ones ordered released by courts
4) Transfer as many as possible to other countries
5) Hold really bad guys until we can figure out how to hold them w out trial indefinitely by legal means

BUSH’S Sept 6, 2006 PLAN: (quotes below)
1) Transfer as many as possible to other countries
2) Try criminals in Federal courts
3) Military Tribunals
4) Beg Congress to figure out how to hold the really bad guys without trial indefinitely by legal means
[note: President Bush’s plan didn’t include a provision for letting go Gitmo detainees who had been ordered released, but had yet to be released. This is because no one would take them, and they remain at Gitmo, but President Obama has said that somehow, someplace he wants them released.

Bush tried and failed.

Obama tried and failed.

It was the same identical plan. Both Presidents failed to achieve the plan - but when Obama fails he's labeled incompetent?

lol - no spin here....

(8) Beldar made the following comment | Apr 26, 2011 1:51:25 AM | Permalink

Friend #1 (a/k/a Michelle): What a great comment! Very provocative and timely, thanks! (And I'm sorry I've let pass the dates you said you were free for lunch, I still need to find one that's convenient for you soon.)

I have a well-defined set of principles. I try to be consistent with them here, but it's never been the point of this blog to try to stake out a position on every issue. See, e.g., the masthead.

I have lots more opinions than what I choose to put on my blog. And I'm always happy for people to email me or comment about topics they'd like to read about here. If I'm interested in the topic and feel like I have something useful and interesting to say, I comply; otherwise not.


I don't write much about Birthers. Never did; still don't. I'm not interested in them much, and I don't care to further publicize the issue. You really think I should be writing about Birthers? Do you spend much time talking or thinking about Truthers?

I'm not interested in Trump either, at least not at the moment. I've posted recently about some potential GOP candidates for 2012 — Paul Ryan among them. (I probably will post in detail before long to address your "voucherize Social Security" argument; it's interesting to me, and important, and the kind of thing about which I might have something original to say.) But as for most of the other speculated candidates for the GOP nomination, it's awfully early in a process that I believe is already too front-end loaded.

If you credit me with being strategic in who and what I choose to post about, you'd be right. Sometimes. Congratulations, but that still doesn't change who or what I'll post about here.

I respectfully object to the form of your question regarding whether the GOP should "repudiate" anyone or anything. I don't play that game, but if I did, I could quickly compile a list of misbehaving Dems that I'd find provocative and you'd find old hat, and until the cows came home, we could demand that each other repudiate a bunch of people who mostly aren't worth the powder it'd take to blow them all to hell. It's not even a question, it's like clearing your throat before declaring a nasty proposition about someone or something. So we don't do "repudiations-on-demand" at BeldarBlog.

If John Ensign gets indicted, I'll read the indictment; I don't have anything useful to say about what's as yet only gossip about him. If rumors in Washington mattered much, Karl Rove would surely be on death row instead of touring to promote the paperback release of his memoirs. Which I enjoyed, but about which I don't really have anything interesting or original to say. For that matter, I don't have anything interesting or original to say about Roger Clements or Barry Bonds either, so I haven't.

Anyway, as a former (or soon-to-be former) senator, Ensign's still innocent unless and until convicted, as you would be the first to remind me (if I needed reminding -- and neither you nor I do). IIRC, the last federal government prosecution of a U.S. Senator on ethics-related charges went rather badly for the government and, in particular, the prosecutors who tried it. But I believe in the system as a general proposition, as I know you do too.

I encourage commenters to debate one another in a civil fashion, but not off the topic of my original post.

So back to Gitmo and the WaPo reporting on it, which is what interested me today: On a one to ten scale, how would you rate Obama's handling of the whole closure issue? (Let's keep to that so we don't spill into the whole war on terror/int'l foreign policy dispute or start re-arguing Boumediene v. Bush.) Do you think the WaPo reporting is wrong, or that it paints Obama favorably in some way that I've missed?

(9) Beldar made the following comment | Apr 26, 2011 2:23:39 AM | Permalink

Woop (#7): Thanks for the comment and the URL (which I've converted to a link).

But I don't think the comparison holds up very well. Despite the cross-referenced "quotes," some of the characterizations in the list you quote are bogus. For example, the Bush Administration's position was that the U.S. government is entitled to hold illegal enemy combatants until the termination of the conflict, subject only to certain preliminary due process rights (now confirmed by statute and approved by the federal courts) of the detainee to challenge his designation as such. I know that's a lot of complexity, but it's really not at all the same as "Beg Congress to figure out how to hold the really bad guys without trial indefinitely by legal means."

And it's a ridiculous overstatement — a misleading one — to say that Bush's policy was to "try criminals in Federal courts." Legally, it matters whether we're talking about a U.S. citizen or not, and it matters whether the individual was apprehended on the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq or by airport security in Los Angeles; it may matter where he's being detained and where the trial is being held, although the federal courts have given mixed and inconsistent signals on that.

In general, it was the Bush Administration's consistent policy post-9/11 to conduct any war crimes trials before military commissions to the maximum extent the SCOTUS and Congress permit; in general, Obama's position has been the exact opposite.

Finally, and most significantly, Obama's failure was in execution of his own executive order. Nobody made him set an arbitrary one-year deadline, for example. Executive orders are a big [Biden-, Cheney-, and Blagojevich-favored obscenity] deal, not just a proposal or a plan or an aspiration.

(10) Mark L made the following comment | Apr 26, 2011 7:56:10 AM | Permalink

Ooooh! Michelle Bachman-Turner is putting the Balloon Juice fallacy into overdrive.

(For the curious, Radley Balko defined the Balloon Juice fallacy in this post:


It is a useful term.

(11) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Apr 27, 2011 12:17:19 AM | Permalink

Dear Ms. Bachmann-Turner: I'd like to weigh in on your points, but the proprietor sez nix. Hmm. Well, his point on The One's colossal folly in bawling on 22 January 09 that Guantanamo is gonna be closed in one year, count on it, take it to the bank, is sound. Given that The One as candidate sold himself as being a fine Prez despite his microscopic resume because of his superior judgment, it is reasonable to have questions about his background. Myself, I will give 100 to 1 odds that his claim to be born in Honolulu on 4 August 61 is true. Why not state it flatly as you'd like me to do? Well, where are:

a) his Occidental College transcripts
b) his Columbia University transcripts
c) his undergraduate Columbia thesis, on nuclear disarmament
d) his Harvard Law transcripts
d) his records as state senator
e) his manuscript of DREAMS FROM MY FATHER, given that he likely did not write it by himself

All of this is locked up tighter than OJ Simpson's crusade to find the killers of his wife. How seriously am I supposed to take the claims of The One's superior wisdumb after the Guantanamo folly and these five redactions? Not so seriously as you do.

Think that Guantanamo is an isolated error? Well how about:

a) "The Prez has no authority to take military action without Congressional approval," sez candidate Obama. Prez Obama goes haring off into his latest wild idiotic adventure, viz., Libya, willing to meddle but not---horrors!---to win.

b) i) The One as candidate sez he will bankrupt the coal industry if it tries to build coal fired power plants
ii) As Prez, The One stops all oil drilling off the American coasts
iii) The One constantly croons for GM's electric cars.
iv) The One now howls that high gasoline prices are the work of speculators

This logic comes from an Occidental/Columbia/Harvard Law education? Excuse me while I search for a stadium to laugh in.

The notion that it's The One's party who fails him in the manner of Ensign failing the GOP is worthy of The One himself. This is all you need to know about Ensign. You of course have long howled for unleashing the nation's dogcatchers on Charlie Rangel, Chris Dodd and Co. capturing them, and dragging him to the IRS's nuclear powered lemon squeezer, where they will be forced to disgorge. Correct?

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(12) Milhouse made the following comment | Apr 29, 2011 3:49:22 AM | Permalink

1. The demand to see the 0's birth certificate was hardly confined to a lunatic fringe. By the beginning of this week a large majority of Americans harboured doubts about it, which is why he finally caved in and released it. And it was perfectly rational to wonder why he was so stubbornly keeping it secret for over two years, and for that reason alone to demand to see it. As for your claim that doing so meant "by extension, embrac[ing] Donald Trump as a serious presidential candidate", that's too ridiculous for words. Did you write it with a straight face?

2. Why should I or any other Republican care about Ensign? Why should we either clamour for his indictment, or oppose it? What is he to us, that we should even have an opinion on the matter? You seem to imagine that he's some sort of leader, that we have some sort of bond or loyalty to him, and that any legal trouble he may or may not get into will somehow reflect on us. I don't understand why you would think that. I do have an opinion about Barry Bonds, though: Congress had no business asking him about his drug use in the first place.

3. Yes, absolutely, because it's the right thing to do. The Republican Party should always do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing, and this is a very good example of what it should be doing.

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