The Re-Balancing Reax

by Patrick Appel

Chris already rounded up reaction to Cheney's speech, so I thought I'd do the same for Obama. His stance of infinite detention remains worrying. Fallows:

Taken at his word, he's saying: Congress can do the investigating, the courts (and my Department of Justice) can prosecute. In theory, this works out well. A new president moves ahead; the System provides accountability. We'll see.

Greg Sargent:

Obama’s return to persuasion mode is itself an acknowledgment that Republicans have succeeded in framing the debate and that the GOP attacks were creating deep consternation among Congressional Dems. One interesting thing to watch will be whether Obama’s speech reassures Dems in Congress or whether they persist in believing that they remain vulnerable to the GOP attacks. Our bet is the latter.


Mr Obama has probably won back his base today, liberals outside of Washington who chose him over Hillary Clinton, in large part because of his moral clarity on terrorism. But he is unlikely to have won over his party in Congress, badgered every day by Republicans and reporters on whether they'd let terrorist prisoners back into their districts. That's going to take more infighting and ugly details.

Joshua Keating:

Obama's point that "unlike the Civil War or World War II, we cannot count on a surrender ceremony to bring this journey to an end" was a fairly good rebuttal to Cheney's arument that because there has not been a repeat of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration's antiterrorism tactics should be "continued until the danger has passed." Of course, it's unlikely to ever be clear when the danger has passed, meaning that the extraordinary authority that Cheney believes the president should be afforded will only be afforded at the president's own discretion.

Josh Marshall:

there seems to be a thought out there that it's much better to find other countries to detain some of the Gitmo detainees. This is deeply silly. If these are people you really, really don't want escaping you won't send them to any other countries. You'll incarcerate them in US prisons. The record in other countries, particularly in the Middle East, is not good at all.

Tim Fernholz:

We definitely need new standards. But the impression I get from the speech is that if we can't find ways to prosecute these dangerous people -- and "can't prosecute" means is that we can't legally prove they are actually dangerous -- they'll remain in jail indefinitely with no recourse. It is...a dangerous precedent. But in all honesty I can't imagine that Obama, or any other president, would make a different choice.


He could simply release the guys we don’t have enough evidence (or enough usable evidence) to prosecute and then have the CIA shadow them forever. But the public would go berserk and his national security credibility would be destroyed, so instead he falls back on some squishy “oversight” process in lieu of the right to a speedy trial. So much for cherished values. The irony is that his compromise on this sounds a lot like Clinton’s recommended compromise for torture in ticking-bomb scenarios: We know the CIA’s going to do it whether it’s legal or not, so we might as well create a judicial oversight mechanism, possibly involving torture warrants, to make sure there’s a check on it. That’s essentially the route The One’s going here vis-a-vis indefinite detention. Why not do it with torture, too?

Human Rights Watch:

...allowing detention without trial creates a dangerous loophole in our justice system that mimics the Bush administration's abusive approach to fighting terrorism.

Andrew's take is here.