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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Obama's Allegedly "New" Centrism and His ABC Interview Today

I've been saying since the election that it makes little sense to try to guess what Obama is going to do until he actually does it. That's especially true now, since we'll all have the actual evidence very shortly, and trying to guess by divining the predictive meaning of his appointments or prior statements seems fruitless. Moreover, anonymous reports about what Obama is "likely" to do are particularly unreliable. I still believe that, but Obama's interview today with George Stephanopoulos provides the most compelling -- and most alarming -- evidence yet that all of the "centrist" and "post-partisan" chatter from Obama's supporters will mean what it typically means: devotion, first and foremost, to perpetuating rather than challenging how the Washington establishment functions.
As Talk Left's Jeralyn Merritt documents, Obama today rather clearly stated that he will not close Guantanamo in the first 100 days of his presidency. He recited the standard Jack Goldsmith/Brookings Institution condescending excuse that closing Guantanamo is "more difficult than people realize." Specifically, Obama argued, we cannot release detainees whom we're unable to convict in a court of law because the evidence against them is "tainted" as a result of our having tortured them, and therefore need some new system -- most likely a so-called new "national security court" -- that "relaxes" due process safeguards so that we can continue to imprison people indefinitely even though we're unable to obtain an actual conviction in an actual court of law.
Worst of all, Obama (in response to Stephanopoulos' asking him about the number one highest-voted question on Change.gov, first submitted by Bob Fertik) all but said that he does not want to pursue prosecutions for high-level lawbreakers in the Bush administration, twice repeating the standard Beltway mantra that "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards" and "my instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing." Obama didn't categorically rule out prosecutions -- he paid passing lip service to the pretty idea that "nobody is above the law," implied Eric Holder would have some role in making these decisions, and said "we're going to be looking at past practices" -- but he clearly intended to convey his emphatic view that he opposes "past-looking" investigations. In the U.S., high political officials aren't investigated, let alone held accountable, for lawbreaking, and that is rather clearly something Obama has no intention of changing.

In fairness, Obama has long made clear that this is the approach he intends to take to governing. After all, this is someone who, upon arriving in the Senate, sought out Joe Lieberman as his mentor, supported Lieberman over Ned Lamont in the primary, campaigned for Blue Dogs against progressive challengers, and has long paid homage to the Beltway centrism and post-partisan religion. And you can't very well place someone in a high-ranking position who explicitly advocates rendition and enhanced interrogation tactics and then simultaneously lead the way in criminally investigating those who authorized those same tactics.

Add Gates, silence on Gaza, Iraq/Afghanistan...where is the change we heard about before the election?

Power and money must create policy to sustain its own power and money.

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