As we type, Barack Obama is speaking at the National Archives on the topic of American security, attempting to assuage recently riled fears and complaints about his plan to close Guantánamo, to maintain military tribunals for detainees, not to release photos of CIA enhanced interrogations, and everything else that’s been in the headlines regarding national security in the past few weeks. Shortly afterwards, at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, former vice-president Dick Cheney will deliver his own speech on the topic. We’ll update you on those once they finish, but there’s already been much hullabaloo on the topic in the past 24 hours. In anticipation of the dueling addresses, former Bush adviser Karl Rove published an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal decrying what he called Obama’s “flip flops” on domestic economic policy, but praising what he described as “stunning and welcome about faces” on national security issues. “Barack Obama inherited a set of national-security policies that he rejected during the campaign but now embraces as president,” he writes. Translation: “My old boss was so right!”
In an unlikely turn of events, leaders of civil-liberties and human-rights groups who met secretly with Obama earlier this week seem to agree. The current president is “allowing President Bush’s policies to become his own,” one such leader alleged according to Rachel Maddow, who revealed the meeting last night on her show. This left Obama “demonstrably not pleased,” the host said. Still, the very fact that he was holding such a meeting with top advisers like Eric Holder, David Axelrod, and Greg Craig is “a sign of just how they seriously they take the ‘rebellion,’ if that is not too strong a word, they’re getting from the left at the same time they’re getting pummeled by the right on this issue,” said Michael Isikoff, who reported on the meeting for Maddow.
During the session, Obama apparently roundly dismissed the idea of having some independent “truth commission” on enhanced interrogation and its authorization, arguing that the Justice Department was already too distracted by congressional investigations already in progress. He also rejected the idea of prosecution for highly placed Bush administration officials involved, which set off red flags for Maddow and Isikoff. “The Justice Department doesn’t work for the president, it works to enforce the laws of the United States, and then he’s meeting with people who are advocating investigation and prosecution, and answering on behalf of the attorney general?” Maddow mused. “That’s news, because that would imply what he’s saying publicly and what he’s saying in private meetings behind the scenes are not at all the same thing.”