Roger’s Rules

Anagnorisis and the September 10 Presidency of Barack Obama

I hope you are paying attention. This is a moment when, were we studying Greek tragedy, your professor would get that gleam in his eye as he stood in front of the class and inscribed the word “anagnorisis” in large letters on the blackboard. Anagnorisis–the awful moment of recognition when ignorance gives way to knowledge.

Take the issue of taxes. You may have wondered, as I used to wonder, why it was that Democrats were so keen on raising taxes. Did they really like shoveling all that dough into the Uncle Sam’s maw? Over the last couple of weeks, it has suddenly dawned on me, just as the nature of Oedipus’s unorthodox family arrangements suddenly dawned on him, that the reason Democrats don’t mind raising taxes is that they are perfectly happy to forego paying them. Take our new Secretary of the Treasury: a level-headed chap, it seems, but clearly one who has a cavalier attitude about forking over the right stuff in the designated quantities to the IRS. I sympathize with his attitude, but have to question the propriety of his now heading the organization responsible for collecting the pelf.

Of course, Geithner is not the only offender. There’s Tom Daschle, there’s Hilda Solis, there’s Charlie Rangel, there’s . . . Hey, it’s crowded up there at the top! And don’t forget about chaps like Christopher Dodd, who gets sweetheart mortgage deals because he is a Senator and then refuses to disclose the details of those deals. Have you tried that lately?

Here’s the fruit of this moment of recognition: everyone is equal before the law, except for Democratic lawmakers who are a little bit more equal than the rest of us slobs. That’s why, on courthouses across the country, the figure of Justice blindfolded is being replaced by a figure of Justice giving a sly little wink.

Of course, it is not only on financial issues that these interesting times afford moments of recognition. There’s also the issue of national security. Were you happy that Obama decided that his very first television interview as President would be with Dubai’s Al-Arabiya News? Are you pleased that he is reaching out to Syria, Iran, and other regimes that are overtly hostile to the United States? And what about his intervention in the military commissions overseeing the detainees at Guantanamo Bay? As Jack Tapper at ABC News reported, yesterday, just as Obama was about to order that the Defense Department’s Military Commissions drop the charges against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the terrorist responsible for planning the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, the military withdrew the charges. As Tapper explained, “The charges were withdrawn without prejudice, meaning they later can be reinstated in a military commission or pursued in a civilian court. Al-Nashiri will remain in custody.” Still, the vibrations emanating from the Obama administration on this issue are unsettling.

Andy McCarthy has the back story in two excellent pieces here and here. One thing to keep in mind: al-Nashiri is not your common or garden-variety Islamic terrorist. He is, as McCarthy notes, “among the very worst offenders ever prosecuted by any United States court, civilian or military.” By dint of strenuous effort, al-Nashiri rose up through the ranks of al Qaeda. By the time he was apprehended, he was commander of the terror group’s operations in the Arabian peninsula. You can see why bin Laden & Co. admired him. When he bombed the U.S.S. Cole, he almost sunk one of the most advanced warships in the U.S. fleet. And although he missed achieving that grand prize, he did manage to murder 17 America sailors in the attempt. The strike against the Cole, McCarthy notes, “was actually Nashiri’s second attempt to sink a U.S. naval vessel. The first, targeting the U.S.S. The Sullivans, was aborted on January 3, 2000, because the terrorists’ dinghy sank under the weight of their explosives. Following the Cole and 9/11, Nashiri continued plotting in Aden. On October 6, 2002, he bombed a French oil tanker, the Limburg, killing a crew member.”

So what is going to happen to happen to al-Nashiri and the 200-odd other bad guys we’ve been keeping on ice at Guantanamo? Good question. Obama, responding to his anti-war, hug-a-terrorist constituency, is dithering. McCarthy summed up the Anagnorisis moment that follows with sobering clarity: “If we go back to a September 10 way of doing things . . . we will get September 11 results.”