Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Obama's 'Yes, but ...' exceptions on promises


Credit Barack Obama's breathtaking rise from relative obscurity to the presidency to his elegant, informed, moving speeches built on themes of a new political ethic of more openness in government, truth, values, candor, honesty and integrity, plus help from the goofiness if the McCain-Palin campaign.

Now Obama's campaign prose is colliding with the reality of his actions.

The president is making exceptions to promises. Worse, the exceptions repudiate some of his most vibrant moral suasions—that he'll reject fear and restore high-minded principles of justice.

For starters, his promise to end the ban on gays in the military is on hold. His government lawyers even argued before the Supreme Court to allow the law to stand, despite polls showing 69 percent of the public favors gays in uniform. What possible logic could there be for not fulfilling this promise, other than he's buckled to the same breed of political Chicken Littles who tried to persuade President Truman not to end segregation in the armed forces?

The change-of-heart gets better. Obama flatly rejects prosecution of senior Bush administration officials for lawlessness in the use of torture. Forget Obama's "let's not look back" temporizing. Avoiding a political fight with the shrinking Republican Party can be the only excuse. So much for restoring justice and accountability.

Now the ultimate. President Obama has ordered CIA Director Leon Panetta into court to argue against releasing photos or word descriptions of torture interrogations of detainees. Disclosure, Panetta claims, could reveal national security secrets and help terrorists enlist new recruits.

Pure hokum. Obama has fallen for the predictable, knee-jerk, lame claim of U.S. spy agencies when they're asked to be accountable. The CIA tried the same spurious assertions to block Sen. Frank Church's 1970s investigations that revealed wholesale CIA incompetence and abuses.

If President Obama and the elephantine CIA, which is funded with unconceivable billions to hire the best, are afraid they can't disclose illegal rogue operations and still outwit al-Qaeda, then our premiere spy agency is in sorry shape. Moreover, the president has been panicked to abandon his virtuous vows of "change we can believe in."

This is happening in less than 200 days of Obama's first term.

The irony is that Obama's backtracking on gays in the military and pursuing criminal outrages of the Bush administration may infuriate Democrats and others who voted for him, but Obama surely pleases Republicans who want to retain Bush policies and protect Bush Jr. from further humiliation.

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