Worrisome executive moves in first days of the Obama presidency

Posted on January 22, 2009

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I’m OK with the future lobbying ban and salary freeze for White House staff, but there were other actions the fledgling Obama Administration has already taken that worry me.

First, and heads-up from The Anchoress on this, we have the little discussed reversal of the so-called “Mexico City Policy,” enacted by Ronald Reagan, upheld by Bush Sr., reversed by Clinton, reinstated by G.W. Bush, and now reversed by Obama. The policy bans federal funds (i.e. taxpayer funds) from going to organizations operating abroad that potentially could provide abortions. Whether you think abortion is fine or not (I don’t), taxpayer money doesn’t need to support it, and it’s worth noting that the “belt tightening” promised evidently won’t affect foreign abortion providers. Those who think politicians don’t really have a sway on abortion practices may be only half right – they apparently do in other countries.

The other is the Executive Order, signed today to much fanfare, closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center and mandating a review of interrogation techniques. The facility won’t close for another year, but this gets the ball rolling as the administration tries to figure out what to do with the 245 prisoners still there. As others have noted, Jack Murtha has idiotically declared that his district would love to have a maximum security prison housing them. After Murtha called his constituents “racist” and “redneck,” he was promptly reelected to office, and I wonder if a lot of those who voted for him are already reexamining that decision.

Closing Guantanamo seems to me more a capitulation to the hard left than a real defense of America’s ideals. Conditions there, from what I have read and seen, were not substantially different than any American maximum-security prison, and Patterico notes that the issue really isn’t ideals versus expediency, it’s ideals versus national security. The other fact to note, as Michelle Malkin has, is that the Pentagon announced 61 terrorists released from Guantanamo are believed to have resumed fighting. The numbers are 18 confirmed and 43 suspected, but even 18 is too many. These aren’t Boy Scouts and busted pot smokers we’re dealing with here, these are folks who have no qualms killing American servicemen and civilians. The conspiracist will say the Pentagon made up these numbers, I presume because they love torture and incarcerating terrorists so much they’d do anything to keep it up. If you were to make that argument, I would say come back later and talk to me with an adult response.

The “harsh interrogation” techniques are mandated to simply be brought in line with the Army Field Manual, which may incidentally be itself revised to be more aggressive, so there goes that. The Guantanamo moves, along with Obama’s urging today that Israel open its borders with Gaza, don’t represent to me a continued operation from a position of strength against terrorism, and it doesn’t represent to me a resumption of moral authority, as some have claimed. I personally feel we need a place like Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo to house enemy combatants, who do receive rights under the Geneva Convention, but not the Constitution, and we need to keep our options open when it comes to interrogation, not to be butchers and sadists like Hussein’s regime, but to be able to employ aggressive means of finding out information.

We still have the mammoth economic stimulus package to look forward to, which Dick Morris dissects, and which hopefully won’t enshrine socialism in our legislation. I’m not overly hopeful about that, but we’ll take a look at that later. With the moves today, Obama has indeed fulfilled some of his campaign promises to his base, but I’m still not left feeling any better.

Update: Yeah, one more note on the Guantanamo releases so far. Apparently, one has gone on to become the deputy of the Yemen branch of Al-Qaeda. Oh, and he’s suspected in bombing the U.S. Embassy in Yemen in September. Yup, no big deal. Apparently part of the base closing efforts are funding for rehabilitation programs for ex-detainees. I wonder if they have group talk therapy and show outdated filmstrips on the perils of being a jihadist at those rehabilitation programs. Just curious.

Update: Patterico comments on the reversal of the Mexico City Policy. And two more released Gitmo detainees brag about rejoining the fight.

Update: The Senate has voted to uphold the reversal of the Mexico City Policy.

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Posted in: News, Politics