The White House had said that the legislation could lead to an improper military role in overseeing detention and court proceedings and could infringe on the president’s authority in dealing with terrorism suspects. But it said that Mr. Obama could interpret the statute in a way that would preserve his authority.But isn't that what he's been doing with his authority — holding the detainees indefinitely? Or is he somehow not authorizing it. It's just happening, because he's not affirmatively acting to end the indefinite detention. Is passivity and wishy-washiness consistent with "our most important traditions and values as a nation"? Or is emitting pompous blather like "our most important traditions and values as a nation" the really important tradition he's upholding?
The president, for example, said that he would never authorize the indefinite military detention of American citizens, because “doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.”
He also said he would reject a “rigid across-the-board requirement” that suspects be tried in military courts rather than civilian courts.So, you don't seem to have a plan to try the detainees, and you won't reject the notion of military courts or embrace the lofty but impractical idea of civilian courts. You just reject a "rigid across-the-board requirement" of military courts. It's fine to want to preserve the presidential discretion here, but it's another example of Obama's policy of no policy. He does not want to be pinned down about having to do anything at all, which makes it look like he's going to hold the detainees without trial indefinitely — i.e., until the end of his presidency — and he wants to be able to do that without admitting that it's an actual policy of his. Because it's not. It "would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation." So he can't be doing that. But he is, but he's not authorizing doing that. So he won't defend it. In fact, he wants to be in a position to rail against the very policy that he is... not authorizing... just following.
You mean "leading from behind," as they say?
No, no, that would be too bold. Leading from behind! Oh, no, not me. I'm just biding my time, out here on my island, waiting for my limited term to expire, while you folks over there on your island bide your time, indefinitely....
ADDED: Let's go back to January 27, 2009, one week into the Obama presidency. I'm talking with Slate's Emily Bazelon, and she's certain Obama is about to close Guantanamo, and I feel that I can detect in his statements that he's giving a sop to people like her and he's not going to do anything:
Now, it's 3 years later. Obama's first and probably only presidential term is rolling to a close, and he hasn't done anything with the detainees. (And if you're about to slam me in the comments, once again, for voting for Obama, let me say: Imagine if John McCain had become President and Guantanamo were still open, how thoroughly steamed Emily and her ilk would be now.)