On the day after hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest its economic policies, the Obama administration batted 1.000 today by making 3 good decisions.
First, the administration has released the disputed Office of Legal Counsel memos that authorized the use of torturous interrogation techniques on captured terrorists.
Second, the president agreed with the previous administration’s interpretation of the post 9/11 national security situation enough to declare that intelligence officers responsible for the interrogations would not be prosecuted for their actions.
Third, the president said while in Mexico City that the U.S. will focus on enforcing existing gun smuggling laws rather than attempting to re-institute the lapsed assault weapons ban as part of its effort to halt the alleged flow of guns into Mexico from the north.
Call it a coincidence if you’d like, but I’m seeing a connection between the actions of the Obama administration and those of conservative protesters who came out in force yesterday to protest the proposed Democratic deficit spending plan.
Haters of the Bush administration are predictably unhappy with the decision not to pursue charges against U.S. intelligence officers:
In releasing these memos, it is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution. The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.
Glen Greenwald sees the connection between the tea parties and the torture decision too, though as looking in a fun-house mirror, as is typical:
These memos describe grotesque war crimes — legalized by classic banality-of-evil criminals and ordered by pure criminals — that must be prosecuted if the rule of law is to have any meaning. But the decision of whether to prosecute is not Obama’s to make; ultimately, it is Holder’s and/or a Special Prosectuor’s. More importantly, Obama can only do so much by himself.
Perhaps this is legally accurate; however, in the practical world, Mr. Obama’s statement is a case-closer. Not only is it the right decision, it is the final one as well.
Glen also attempts to chastise conservatives because their interest in the new administration’s massive spending plans is, he correctly assumes, more focused on economic issues than ethical ones:
More than 250,000 Americans attended protests yesterday (ostensibly) over taxes and budget issues. If these torture revelations are met with nothing but apathy, then it will certainly be reasonable to blame Holder and Obama if they fail to act, but the responsibility will also lie with a citizenry that responded with indifference.
The memos will certainly be met with apathy in all but the most partisan circles, for most Americans will neither read them nor have any interest in doing so.
Moreover, the responsibility that we bear for the actions of our intelligence apparatus is too diffuse to engender a guilt response in most of us who have or will read them – not because the stain isn’t felt but because a weighing of the deeds versus our need to know justifies the actions taken on our behalf.
There are undoubtedly those who disagree. Some of them must work for Barack Obama. That’s why it’s quite reassuring to see him make the right decision in this case to the eternal disappointment of the radical left that supported him so intensely during the election process.
Similarly, the decision not to pursue an ideologically motivated ban on certain types of guns demonstrates that Mr. Obama received at least part of yesterday’s message and has decided not to pick a fight with voters over the issue. The assault weapons issue is arguably the least of the issues that conservative voters have with the new administration; still, one dares to hope that listening to the citizenry might become a habit.