April 4, 2011, should be noted as a particularly bad day if you are a peace-loving, Bush-hating, grassroots activist who once loved Barack Obama. It was a day of disappointments.
Yesterday, Mr. Obama launched his second presidential campaign with a detached video and an impersonal email. This was not a deal-breaker, yet he might have dismayed some campaign finance supporters with his goal of a $1 billion campaign war chest filled by powerful, rich donors. And yes, his most adoring anti-war fans have been troubled by a third Middle East war in Libya.
Yesterday marked the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., but in his online announcement the president failed to mark the day, upsetting civil rights supporters and others.
But the issue that clearly overshadowed yesterday’s re-election announcement? Attorney General Eric Holder pulling the plug on his long-promised New York civil trial for September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and his co-conspirators. The White House had no statement about the reversal, and referred all press queries to the Justice Department.
With the Holder capitulation complete, it constituted a full abandonment of a signature Obama campaign promise. And to add insult to injury, the attorney general embraced the hated Bush policy of trying terrorists before military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay.
Mother Jones blogger Nick Baumann bemoaned:
Just hours after the Obama campaign texted its launch announcement to supporters, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that purported 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other suspected 9/11 plotters will be tried by Obama’s version of the Bush-era military commissions.
Baumann’s post is a teachable moment, a picture-perfect view of the Left’s delusions: he defends the principal architect of the September 11 attacks as the “purported” mastermind; his co-defendants are only “suspects.”
So on the same day he formally asked America for a second term in office, Barack Obama moved to ensure that the Bush administration’s Guantanamo Bay-based system of two-tiered justice for horrific terrorism-related crimes will endure.
The American Civil Liberties Union shared Baumann’s disappointment:
On the same day that President Obama announced the launch of his 2012 reelection campaign, he abandoned one of his major promises from 2008.
The convergence of events may not have been coincidence. Obama Chief of Staff William Daley — as his predecessor Rahm Emanuel — most likely saw the New York trials as death to the Democratic Party up and down the ballot in electorally rich New York State. A large contingent of rational Democrats understood that to proceed with a civilian trial for the terrorists — awarding them rights they never gave to their 9/11 victims — would doom their chances for re-election in 2012.
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued the memorable quote of the day on the reversal, hailing Holder’s announcement as the “final nail in the coffin of that wrong-headed idea.”
The Huffington Post echoed Holder’s spin: Congress was to blame, not the White House. But that excuse did not fly with their writers Michael McAuliff and Jon Ward:
The Obama administration quickly scapegoated Congress to explain the decision.
Clearly, the assessment among the president’s most ardent progressive supporters was that the Holder announcement was yet another reason to walk away from the Obama reelection effort. Staying home might be the more preferred route, unless a primary opponent challenged the president for the Democratic nomination.
The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer wrote that she felt personally betrayed by Attorney General Holder. For her, the personal became political: Holder once privately confided to Mayer that his decision to end military tribunals for terrorists was for him a “defining moment” for his term as attorney general. Mayer blogged:
[It] may indeed be the defining moment for the Obama Justice Department, defining it, unfortunately, as incapable of standing up to to the political passions still stirred by the threat of terrorism.
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which proudly has represented many of the terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, was equally morose:
The decision is clearly driven not by the nature of the alleged offense, or where and when it was committed, but by the unpopularity of the detainee and the political culture in Washington.
Andrea Prasow, who is described as a “senior counter terrorism counsel” at the activist group Human Rights Watch, wrote:
[Obama] has squandered a key opp0rtunity to reject the unlawful counter terrorism policies of the past. … [He has] sacrificed fundamental protections under the U.S. constitution and international law in what may be the single most important case of President Obama’s tenure.
Salon’s Jane Walsh was downbeat, too:
It’s the haunting 43rd anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination (which Obama’s materials don’t mention). … Finally, Monday was the day Obama broke a campaign promise by announcing that 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Muhammed would be tried in a military tribunal at Guantánamo.
The Daily Beast had an abbreviated item about the administration’s reversal in its “must read” section, but told its readers that to learn more they should go to CBS. There, if you wanted to find it, in the last paragraph CBS National Homeland Security Correspondent Bob Orr was quoted simply as saying that today’s announcement “is an embarrassment for the administration.”
There are some true believers who will always tow the line. Among the official organs of the American Left, the Holder decision did not appear as news anywhere. You couldn’t find a word of it at the websites of the Center for American Progress, the Campaign for America’s Future, or at the anti-war Institute for Policy Analysis.
And Media Matters, obsessed with Fox News and Glenn Beck, also had nothing to say about it.