Building as if by magic from my last post, the Washington Post has a piece you’ve all seen by now reporting that President Obama’s advisers are nearing a deal with Sen. Graham to try KSM in a military commission after all. For what it’s worth, the story reads to me as thin, not an official leak, but possibly a trial balloon. For one thing, by its own account, it’s pre-decisional. For another, it doesn’t name any “advisers” who’ve previously been against trying KSM in a commission (Attorney General Eric Holder, especially) who’d have to flip in order for such consensus to coalesce. For a third, having written both official-leak stories and stuff-I-ferreted-out stories, there are no big declarative blind quotes that are the hallmark of the former and there are a ton of paraphrases that are the hallmark of the latter. I have yet to hear anything from the sources I’ve been pinging for 90 minutes, but my colleagues have told me they’re hearing this is an ongoing argument spilling onto the Post’s front page. Me being naturally pessimistic, I figure that all means the Post is just prematurely correct.
To be even more of a broken record on this, I’m going to quote from the last two grafs of a lengthy post I wrote for the Windy about the political dynamics here:
What Obama will actually gain by siding with Emanuel and Graham over his national-security team and his law-enforcement team is, to say the least, less than clear. Graham’s ability to bring Republicans on board to any Obama initiative is dubious — even for a legal architecture for handling terrorism that already embraces huge swaths of the Bush agenda. Recall that Obama compromised from the start in May by embracing revised versions of the military commissions system, and even reserving the right to hold suspects indefinitely without trial, over the objections of civil libertarians. That didn’t earn him any GOP votes, nor did it quiet the chorus on the right that Obama’s very presidency endangers the country. Even Graham, as reasonable and civic-minded a Republican Senator as there is, decided to test Obama’s willingness to move to the right. Telling any paper he could find that he and Emanuel were working on a GTMO-for-KSM trade, Graham added a new criteria for his vote in a Wall Street Journal interview: Obama also needed to establish a new system of national security courts.
The pattern couldn’t be clearer. Every time Obama compromises on a matter of national-security and civil-liberties principle, his GOP opponents raise the pressure to get him to bend further. His compromises earn him no good will. He is being, simply, punked. And if he compromises on KSM, does he really think the Guantanamo Bay votes will roll in; or will he simply have enough to break a potential filibuster around the Afghanistan war funding request? Obama can fight and win. Or he can compromise, demoralize his base, and the GOP will continue to roll him.
The Cheneyite right has spent the last couple days accusing members of the Justice Department of being al-Qaeda sympathizers for the crime of lawyering in the tradition of John Adams. This will only intensify if Obama backs down on KSM. It will not stop. Here is a test case for the administration: both the politics and the substance of the situation favor continuing with the KSM criminal trial; backing down will create a cascading effect in which the GOP knows it can obstruct Obama and it can bend him, but Obama will simply not fight for his priorities.
A year’s worth of that sort of improbable, consequence-free success is what drove Norman Osborn, the self-proclaimed Iron Patriot, to invade Asgard. It is there that Osborn must be stopped by a resurgent coalition of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Nick Fury. Life is not a comic book but the lesson is nevertheless clear.
Marvel Comics owns everything about Norman, the Iron Patriot, Captain America, Bucky-Cap, Siege, Dark Reign, etc. Please do not sue me.