In December 2008, Obama, Emanuel and Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) met in Obama's transition headquarters in Chicago to discuss detainee policy. According to Graham, Obama turned to him at one point and said, " 'I'm going to need your help closing Guantanamo Bay. . . . I want you and Rahm to start talking.' " They did, and as the discussions progressed, Emanuel grew wary that closing the U.S. military prison in Cuba was possible without opening a slew of other politically sensitive national security problems " 'This stuff is like flypaper,' " Graham recalled Emanuel saying. " 'It will stick to you.' "
Graham said Emanuel was well aware that his and any other Republican support for closing Guantanamo Bay hinged on keeping alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed out of civilian court.
A blogger asks:
Lindsey Graham is one of 41 Republican senators. He has the capacity to be reasonable. And yet when he’s faced with people who know more than he does, he acts like a baby, as with his petulant treatment of longtime FBI counterterrorist Ali Soufan last year. He is not the chairman of anything. He is not the ranking member of anything. He controls no money. If you believe he has the power to rally along GOP votes, ask how that climate change bill is coming. There is absolutely no legal or procedural way that the road to shutting Guantanamo down runs inexorably through Graham’s office. That’s a political choice.
The WaPo piece makes no attempt to explain the blogger's question as to why Senator Graham is so important. Keep in mind that the blogger's piece came out on February 15th whereas the WaPo piece came out on March 2nd. It's not like the WaPo stenographer/reporter didn't have time to ponder the question.
Nor is there any legitimate, established reason as to why Republicans want to avoid a civilian trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed. If Emanuel were trading in legitimate concerns and balancing them off against one another, that'd be one thing. He's instead, balancing off a reason that Graham and McCain more or less just plucked out of thin air versus a legitimate legal reason based on legal tradition and the Constitution.
There is simply no requirement for an accused terrorist to be tried outside of America's judicial system.
The position staked out by Lindsay Graham et al. favoring military commissions over federal criminal trials for the Gitmo detainees we plan to charge with wrongdoing as the “best way to render justice, win this war and protect our nation from a vicious enemy,” is not especially more coherent. Among other things, after 8 years, the commissions have convicted 3 defendants, 2 of whom are already back on the streets. In the same time, according to NYU, the criminal justice system has pursued 800 terrorism prosecutions with a conviction rate of 90%. The new and improved commission process is certain to generate just as much litigation as the last one – and commission defendants will enjoy a host of potentially powerful defenses to their prosecution they won’t have in criminal trials.
The piece goes on to point out that the Rahm Emanuel-induced moral and political compromises that the Obama Administration is now making are absolutely killing the Administration's credibility on the whole issue of how to deal with terrorism suspects.
But it’s hard to have a coherent much less dominating message when talking out of all sides of the mouth. It is not news that the Obama Administration seems to have been struggling for some time with internal divisions on these issues.
It's not as though the rest of the world hasn't noticed either, that the US policy on terrorist suspects is morally bankrupt. A blogger points out that Pakistan, a country far more on the front lines of terrorism than the US ever will be, is nevertheless applying due process.
Yet what happens when they want to imprison foreign Terrorism suspects? They indict them and charge them with crimes, put them in their real court system, guarantee them access to lawyers, and can punish them only upon a finding of guilt.
The US stands with an inferior, scotch-tape-and-band-aids, carelessly-constructed system that doesn't even deliver convictions. I have to say, I'm completely baffled as to why Emanuel thinks this case shows him as anything other than a hopeless clown. He's constructed a lose-lose scenario whereupon Democrats surrender upon matters of deep and serious principle, end up looking completely without morality and gain absolutely nothing in return. McCain and Graham continue to filibuster along with their fellow Republican Senators each and every single time they possibly can. Where and how they're doing anything to help the Administration is a complete mystery.
It's not like the policy on terrorism suspects is isolated, either.
We’ve already seen the Administration’s energy/climate change initiative so watered down in the House that it caused deep splits in the alternative energy/environmental community. Those who pleaded for pragmatic patience on the House Bill are now tearing their hair out watching the Senate become a bastion of delay and denialism, with little effective push back from the Administration.
Again, we're seeing a complete lack of principle and coherency from the Administration. Again, we're seeing a lose-lose situation from people who are allegedly smart. Obviously, President Obama is a grown-up and obviously, Emanuel was appointed by Obama and has Obama's full confidence. But Emanuel's fingerprints are apparent.
The head man of "The Village," David Broder, got very snippy and aggravated about Emanuel's obvious disloyalty being on display with all the planted stories about President Obama being to blame for the poor performance of his Administration (Not that Broder would actually accuse Emanuel of doing the leaking, o-o-oh no-o-o!!!) and made a very interesting charge:
The underlying problem, in their eyes, is a badly damaged economy that has sunk Obama's poll numbers and emboldened Republicans to blockade his legislative program.
Okay, let's take Broder's word for this. It's not like the economy was considered to be in good shape when Obama took the oath of office. But what happened? The stimulus package passed in February 2009 was too small. And why was it too small? "...Obama and the U.S. Congress - driven by centrist senators from both parties - have decided..." (emphasis added). And who is the great champion of "centrism"? Yup, his name is Rahm Emanuel.
I don't see Emanuel as exercising some mysterious, nefarious, Rasputin-like influence. I think it's far more likely that Emanuel sincerely believes that centrism and compromising principles in return for fleeting, evanescent advantage is the way to go. I believe Obama trusts that Emanuel knows what he's doing. What's also obvious to us DFH's, the dirty hippie bloggers, is that Emanuel's strategy simply isn't working. It never was working and it never will work. I'm not sure whether Emanuel should be fired or simply overruled, but either way, the Obama Administration has to do something and has to do it soon.