With President Obama’s policy shifts of the past week, he has found a new cheering section: Republican Congressmen. Senator Lindsey Graham (R – SC) in particular cheered the moves, lauding what he called “intelligent, well-reasoned decisions about trying to clean up the old system but not throwing it out.”
If one was to go by the amount of problems the president had with the old system during the campaign, the paucity of real cleaning is nothing short of remarkable. His pledge to leave Iraq within 16 months went up in smoke just days after he took office. At this point he seems determined to leave as many as 50,000 troops in the nation indefinitely.
But the moves of the past week were nothing short of monumental. His pledge of transparency vanished on Wednesday, when he reversed a Pentagon decision to release photos of detainee abuse. The move came under pressure from military officials and hawkish Congressmen, who feared that revealing the extent of the mistreatment would put the nation’s assorted wars at risk.
Just a day later, the other shoe dropped as officials reported, and the president later confirmed, he was reversing his own executive order calling for an end to military tribunals for detainees. The tribunals would resume with only cosmetic changes.
Adding insult to injury was the revelation that the administration is also pressing Congress to facilitate a new secret National Security Court system, which the president could use to keep detainees indefinitely, on American soil and without trial. Questions about whether the president might back off his pledge to close Guantanamo Bay also emerged, but with the likely ability to keep captives imprisoned for life without charges on American soil, the issue is largely moot.
And where are the Democrats, President Obama’s own party, in all of this? Several have expressed concerns with the president’s ever more hawkish policies, but by and large they’re taking a wait and see approach. To the extent that they have spoken out at all, Sen. Graham et al. have excoriated them as being driven by “hatred of former President Bush.” To the extent the “new” policies greatly resemble the previous administration’s, it seems that the Bush faction’s allegiance lies with the executive, and the real change is the growing reluctance of Democrats to even oppose the policies in theory.