I have a few thoughts on Dafna Linzer’s story from yesterday, which reported that the President means to push back against congressional efforts to impede trial and transfer of Guantanamo detainees by issuing a signing statement.
Some considerable pushback against this sort of congressional meddling is long overdue. In one of the singularly incompetent flailings of a generally competent presidency, Obama has managed to take an issue on which he and his opponent did not even disagree and preside over the emergence of a bipartisan consensus against his position. This development is only very secondarily because his position has problems on the merits, though it surely does. One of the more important reasons he has lost ground has been his consistent failure to articulate a policy, explain that policy coherently and repeatedly, and implement the policy decisively. As political opposition to his Guantanamo plans mobilized, rather, he became paralyzed. And that paralysis is nowhere better typified than in his passivity in the face of increasingly aggressive congressional efforts to micromanage the disposition of individual Guantanamo cases. If the President doesn’t draw a line somewhere or otherwise rearrange the policy landscape he will end up with zero control over a set of policy questions over which the President simply must retain control–because he will retain accountability, control or not.