Roosting Chickens Plague Obama

Under siege, the president was forced into a speech face-off with Dick Cheney, once the source of eye-rolling and derision from Democrats who couldn't believe one of the least popular politicians in America could cause a stir. But a stir was indeed caused by the former vice president's insistence on defending the Bush administration's record in the war on terror. As Politico observed:

For the first time in his presidency, Americans are getting a glimpse of Barack Obama on defense. Over the past few weeks, Obama has been back on his heels over torture and terror, issues on which he surely thought he had the upper hand. And he spent Thursday charges from a man he surely thought he had vanquished in November, former Vice President Dick Cheney.

But Obama's speech was devoid of specifics on the issue of the day: what to do with the Guantanamo detainees. And that left congressional Democrats twisting in the wind, as Politico reported:

And even the speech, which stopped short of laying out a detailed plan for the Guantanamo detainees, left some frustration among congressional leaders. "In our perfect world, he would have given this speech before the vote [on stripping funding to close Gitmo]. It was a good speech, but there weren't enough specifics in it that he couldn't have nipped this in the bud last week or the week before," said another leadership aide.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid grumbled that it was not a "game-changer" and that Democrats are "all awaiting the details of the plan and the president is going to come up with one."

The problem for Obama is obvious: he has committed to closing Guantanamo with no viable plan for dispersing its detainees. In the process he has rekindled concerns as to whether he and his party are tough enough to fight the war on terror. Added to that dilemma is the challenge to manage disappointed allies on the Left who have figured out that despite his rhetorical broadsides against the Bush administration he has adopted many of its policies in the war on terror.

The Los Angeles Times summed up his predicament:

But his lengthy address, in which he conceded that his policies were still evolving, laid out a mixed approach that could be portrayed as squishy.

He defended actions that have angered conservatives, such as ordering the closure of Guantanamo Bay. But he also had to explain to frustrated liberals why he had accepted some of the Bush administration's detention policies, such as the system of military commissions that tries many of the detainees captured in battle.

The bottom line: this week was one in which reality rudely intruded into the Obama feel-good continual campaign. The bond markets can't be spun. The unemployment figures can't be ignored. The value of the U.S. dollar can't be sustained when we are printing gobs of dollars.  And neither congressional Democrats nor the American people can be convinced it makes sense to move hardened terrorists from a distant, secure location to their neighborhood prison for the sake of currying favor with the American Left and European opinion makers.

This governing business is hard stuff. And it is made harder by an administration which has used photo-ops and speeches in lieu of thoughtful policy. This week we saw, as the president's former pastor once said, that the chickens are coming home to roost.