Friday, November 20, 2009

Pro and Con: Obama, Geithner and Guantanamo

"What Geithner Got Right" (David Brooks-NY Times):
In retrospect, their performance during this trial was impressive.

Events also vindicate Geithner’s basic policy instincts. The criticism back then was that Geithner was neither bold nor visionary. He was too cautious, too much the insider and bureaucrat.

But this prudence was the key to his effectiveness. In interviews and testimony, Geithner uses the word “balance” a lot. He talks about finding the right balance point between competing priorities. He also talks like a historian who sees common tendencies in certain contexts, not a philosopher who seeks clear general principles that apply across contexts.

This mentality makes it hard for him to project bold conviction, but it makes him flexible in the face of specific problems. When financial confidence is cratering, Geithner concluded, government should generally be as aggressive as possible, as early as possible. At the same time, it should try not to do things that the market does better, like set prices or run companies.

Geithner’s path was a middling one, but it helped the country muddle toward recovery.
"Empty Promises: Obama Fails to Deliver on Guantanamo" (Scoop/Daily):
...when the president made his initial announcement, few questions were raised as to its viability. And why not? Here was a man who was single-handedly bringing back the concept of hope. He had already made it clear that a black man could enter the White House and be dashing and charming while he did it. When he promised it, millions of people believed he could do anything.

Eleven months in, those dreams haven’t quite materialized. No one is saying that the president has dropped the ball entirely, but many of his goals have yet to be realized. His health care plan lacks support. Racial tensions in America persist. Despite the appearance of an initially overwhelming popular mandate, life for Obama since the election, as Langston Hughes once wrote, “Ain’t been no crystal stair.”

Guantanamo is just another example of unrealistic goals being levied onto a president who, overall, has good intentions. And we, as a country, might face less disappointment if we stopped convincing Obama that that is who he is.

"Obama’s Failure to Close Guantánamo by January Deadline Is Disastrous":
... it remains unacceptable that these men should have to stay in Guantánamo while their petitions proceed to court, just as it remains unacceptable that cleared prisoners should languish at Guantánamo for one minute longer, let alone for months or possibly years beyond the deadline that has proven impossible for the administration to honor.

In an interview with Fox News that followed his announcement about Guantánamo, President Obama explained, "We are on a path and a process where I would anticipate that Guantánamo will be closed next year. I’m not going to set an exact date because a lot of this is also going to depend on cooperation from Congress."

That last line sums up the problem succinctly, and I can only hope that this cooperation will be forthcoming, although one major problem, clearly, is that Republicans will delight in thwarting the President still further. If it does not happen, however, the failure to close Guantánamo will cast a dark shadow on Obama’s presidency, and an even darker one on the prisoners - whether cleared men, or others still held without charge or trial – who will rightly conclude that, for them, there really is no justice in the United States.

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