The Talking Dog

February 9, 2009, Rookie issues

Well, for the good news... the President seems to be confidently taking his model of organizing from outside Washington to take on politics inside the Beltway, both in his earlier town hall meeting in Elkhart, IN, and later at his prime time press conference; Al Giordano covers the field, in order to advance the economic stimulus package.

During that press conference, besides reinviting Helen Thomas into the fold of Presidential questioners, the President called on Sam Stein of the Huffington Post. Stein asked the President "the question": whether he would investigate, and if appropriate, prosecute, his predecessor's administration for war crimes, a question the President evaded.

It is understandable for the President to have evaded that direct question, as, well... the decision hasn't been finalized. However...

Andy Worthington tells us that things are not good at GTMO. Dozens of prisoners went on hunger strike after the seventh anniversary of their detention (with no end in site), and the horrible regime of force-feeding is apparently... in force. (For background on the force-feeding, see my interview with Dr. David Nicholl.)

Evidently, despite SecDef Gates supposedly being part of President Obama's cabinet, and answering to him, at GTMO... it appears to be business as usual (sadly). This is consistent with Candace's observations at GTMO recently, where her own clients continue to decline amidst unchangedly horrible conditions.

Don't know. I will say that the President would be well-advised to implement Candace's suggestions in her recent open letter; on that front, perhaps some help will be coming as among the Pentagon officials that were confirmed by the Senate today is General Counsel Jeh Johnson, the President's GTMO fact-finder during the transition, and to whom Candace's open letter is addressed.

While progress on the economy will be "hard," and as the President himself told the nation, we cannot be sure that expectations for the stimulus bill will be met, at GTMO, he is the commander in chief. We will see... on this as on everything, it appears that further organizing and effort will be needed to make the President do the right thing... the right symbolic things have been put in place... now we have to make sure they get done on the ground.

Update: Bad, bad, bad rookie mistake. Extremely bad. Glenn Greenwald joins all people of good will in being outraged about the Obama Administration's decision to adopt the obscene and unconstitutional position of the Bush Administration on "state secrets privilege" as its own in a Ninth Circuit case against a Boeing subsidiary for its role in the extraordinary rendition/kidnap/torture program; I should add some of the judges hearing the case were shocked to hear that as far as the Obama Administration is concerned, on this core issue, the election had no consequences. No, this is not good.

And it is entirely unnecessary: the cat is out of the bag on these programs, and supposedly, Obama means to end them. The only possible purpose of this old new position on the part of the Obama Administration is to take complicity in covering up the crimes of the Bush Administration so that it is not compelled to take further action. By doing so... it buys those crimes as an accessory after the fact. No, not good. This does not bode well for anything.


I feel the sinking swamp of cynicism sucking me down. The press conference was great, measured responses with actual facts and substance. But the bill isn't really doing what he wants and his lawyers aren't doing what he said they would. Another "centrist" (see WClinton) president will be barely better than what came before, but not even that if his employees mouth the same old s@#t and *do* the same old s@#t that the last administration did.

Posted by michal l at February 10, 2009 10:01 AM

Well, Michael, I feel your pain... because it's my pain too. That one hurt badly: we were pretty sure that on matters economic/fiscal, the President was dependent on his advisors and on his political instincts: he just believed that "the real number" was a political non-starter, so he tried to get what he could.

But on the "state secrets"... so many core issues at once... ending the cult/culture of secrecy, stamping out torture, standing for accountability... all crushed in one rhetorical stroke. And for what? For Boeing contributions? For the "flexibility" to commit the same CRIMES-- and make no mistake, rendition is simply a euphemism for kidnapping and torture (and, perhaps, the occasional homicide). Oh well. All I've got is that we've got to keep hammering at this pinata too and hoping there's someone home... the GOP has made it clear that "moderates" there are an extinct species, and actual progressive Democrats are regarded as crackpots, or more importantly (unlike Barack, whose two "friends" at our class reunion appeared to be in the hedge fund business) can't raise the all important MONEY that is the sole basis of our political system.)

So... I'm extraordinarily disheartened by this development. All I can suggest is that we have to keep hammering, realize "the perfect is the enemy of the good" as the President tells us, and keep hammering at him to make him do the right thing. I was hoping we wouldn't have to hammer so hard... but evidently we do.

Posted by the talking dog at February 10, 2009 11:02 AM

I'm with you. What do you mean by "hammer". I'm not even sure where the nail is. Do you think something like an email does any good? I'm doubtfull.

Posted by Michael L at February 10, 2009 1:25 PM

I guess the word is "organize"... either be a part of the house-party and "Organizing for America" apparatuses, or perhaps through the ACLU or AI... or somewhere.

Rather than e-mails, handwritten letters to members of Congress, especially your own, tend to have the most impact in that sphere. [Sadly, raising campaign funds seems to have THE most impact.]

Posted by the talking dog at February 10, 2009 3:44 PM

Since I live in MA. my members of Congress already pretty much agree and I agree with you re: ACLU. This link is from Michael Tamaskey through Matt Yglesias. It may explain some of the reasons for our angst.;jsessionid=74BCE450F0F8B3A39630E650076FEA56?diaryId=11494

Posted by Michael L at February 11, 2009 11:02 AM