Arcane legal theories interfered with the credibility and efficiency of the Obama administration and frustrated the soldiers trying to fight terror overseas.
Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, by Daniel Klaidman, offers a few interesting details about the president and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command. According to Klaidman, "Law and politics so constrained Obama's ability to influence counterterrorism policy, it's easy to appreciate the lure of JSOC."
Indeed it is. Who wouldn't want to run a war with total authority and zero oversight? The president seems to feel entitled to such authority because he's "also a lawyer." As Klaidman explains, Obama "understood that in the shadow wars, far from conventional battlefields, the United States was operating further out on the margins of the law." So why not work to change the law? Clearly it's broken. Why not offer some photon of sunlight to a White House-run campaign of "targeted killings"? (Aside from leaks specifically designed for political gain.)
The real problem, in the president's view, was that the Bush Administration shunned the advice of lawyers, whose "finely grained distinctions and hair-splitting legal arguments could mean the difference between who would be killed and who would be spared." So the president presented a sweeping new framework to Congress to help him better execute the war on solid legal footing? No. Actually, Obama brought in more lawyers to better split hairs. "His administration seemed to view the involvement of lawyers in the formulation of nation security as a badge of honor -- evidence of its commitment to the rule of law." Only, that's the exact opposite of what the president is doing. The lawyers are there to circumvent law. The Bush administration relied on John Yoo. The Obama solution? More John Yoos. As many John Yoos as it takes.