Mercury Rising 鳯女

Politics, life, and other things that matter

A Justice Department Attorney Looks At Obama’s Speech Today

Posted by Phoenix Woman on May 21, 2009

Excerpted from Kossack and Justice Department attorney Lars Thorwald’s DKos diary on Obama’s speech:

I heard a level of determination in his voice that I think some could reasonably interpret as being tinged with a bit of pique over the political silliness of the last few weeks.  

Of course, the President used carefully weighed language, but I think his message was clear on those matters in which he was determined to set forth policy.  True to Obama: steel determination wrapped in a velvet glove.  

Where he wanted to be, the President was certain and clear and unwavering.  For instance, he forcefully declared that we will close the prison at Guantanamo–delivering that message without hesitation or reservation.

The message between the lines was, hey, you scairdy-cat and illogical Congress critters can sort of suck it if you think otherwise.  Some of these detainees are going to SuperMax prisons.  You’d best learn to deal with it.  So he took some in his own party to task in that measured, reasoned way that is becoming Obama’s hallmark.

But here’s the point: although Obama’s speech was powerful enough that he could have declared that there will be no further investigation or examination of the legality or illegality of the use of torture, and even though he did declare set positions on several key issues,  I did not hear such foreclosure with regard to possible prosecutions.

Key passage:

I know that these debates lead directly to a call for a fuller accounting, perhaps through an Independent Commission.

   I have opposed the creation of such a Commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws.

That passage packs a significant amount of punch. A significant amount.  

That statement, that language quoted above, was reviewed and approved by more than Obama and Rahm and Jon Favreau.  You can rest assured that the language of that speech was vetted within the White House and by the Attorney General, by State and DOD, CIA and NSA.  Presidents do not give a speech of such importance without serious review of what will be said.  Okay, maybe the last one didn’t.  But I assure you this one does.

So it has meaning, and, I would contend, real meaning.    

Some will interpret this passage as an abandonment of a Truth Commission (which the President never wanted), and thus an abandonment of the idea at getting at the truth, and grow discouraged.  

I think the President rejected a Truth Commission for two fundamental reasons: he rejected it as a matter of process because he believes it can be addressed elsewhere in government; and he rejected it because the idea of establishing a Truth Commission in such a charged atmosphere would be tantamount to–if I may mix metaphors for a moment–ringing the dinner bell on a three-ring circus in this town at a time where the oxygen required to keep messaging, and thus policy, alive and well would be sucked up.

There’s much more at the diary. It’s well worth the read.

10 Responses to “A Justice Department Attorney Looks At Obama’s Speech Today”

  1. Stormcrow said

    He’s trying to buy time with words.

    He makes wonderful speeches, so he relies on that to keep the Dem base from getting too restive.

    But when he acts, what we’re seeing is Republican. Not even Republican-lite, just Republican. With the entire set of imperial delusions of grandeur intact and in working order.

    Afghanistan. Torture. Military commissions. Warrantless wiretaps. The railroading and crucifixion of Don Siegelman. Handing over control of the banking and financial services industry to the same people who wrecked it and threw the entire goddamned planet into the worst depression since 1929. Without ANY OVERSIGHT, just the way W would have done it.

    And I expect we’ll be fully at war in Pakistan inside another year or two.

    Despite the fact that David Kilcullum, who’s as close as we’re going to get to Heinz Guderian’s level of competence now or in the foreseeable future, got up on his hind legs about three weeks ago and told the House Armed Services Committee that Pakistan was a lost cause half a decade ago: Oh, the Glories of the Pakistani Army. Go and read the PDF of the testimony that Andrew Exum links to. All he really did was just quote the high spots.

    I’m afraid my take, at this point, is pretty close to Armchair Generalist’s: Fooled Again.

  2. Except that Jesselyn Radack — who is not an Obamabot — agrees with Lars’ take:


    I agree with your analysis, Lars (1+ / 0-)

    (which I realize may not be your real name). Thanks for the mention. Is there any way to edit your diary to say “Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project”?

    I know you e-mailed me off-Kos at my personal e-mail, but could you do so again at I would love to chat further, and thank you for writing these diaries from the inside.

    by Jesselyn Radack on Thu May 21, 2009 at 12:13:56 PM PDT

    • Stormcrow said

      Well, I just hope that she’s right and I’m wrong.

      But at this juncture, I seriously doubt that.

    • Charles II said

      PW, Isikoff had a report on Rachel of a meeting between human rights activists (ACLU etc) and Obama. They feel he has reneged on his campaign promises and are p–sed, as evidenced by today’s headline Obama’s Commitment To Constitution A Welcome Break From Past

      I mean, that is cold

      • Stormcrow said

        No, they’re being kind.

        Obama has almost as little commitment to the Constitution as W had. Or as any of the rest of the aristocracy has, these days.

      • Actually, David (Kagro X) Waldman — who was at the meeting as well — disagrees with that part of Isikoff’s story:

        There’s not much I’d feel compelled to add to what’s already out there, though one thing that jumps out at me is that I don’t know that I’d be able to agree with the assessment Isikoff passes on that the President spoke for the Attorney General and foreclosed the option of investigations, prosecutions or the like. The President ran the meeting, and it was his session. But I don’t know that I’d agree that it was his intention to announce the foreclosure of any such options. It may ultimately be his actual intention, but it didn’t appear to be his intention to declare it then and there — a subtle difference perhaps, but that subtlety was pretty much characteristic of most of what he had to say. He took his time and approached the issues and his answers to our questions carefully. The absence of any comment from the Attorney General appeared to me to be more of an acknowledgment that it was the President who wanted to direct the discussion, and the White House staff and administration officials present weren’t getting in the way of that.

        If you’ve followed David/Kagro’s writings in the past, you know that he’s not an Obamabot, either. But neither is he a reflexive critic, unlike some persons I could name.

      • Stormcrow said

        PW, if you want to see “reflexive”, try lying to me about a matter of consequence and weight.

        The sort of thing that could not only turn my life into shit, but pull everything I give a damn about, down around my ears before I’ve had a chance to decently check out.

        I expect Republicans to lie as easily as they draw breath. But it’s hard for me to purely despise them as much as I do a decent man who’s turned, because it’s hard for me to see them as completely human.

        This is a place I’ve seen up close and personal.

        They never knew right from wrong in the first place. Pathetic twisted psychopaths, broken from the git-go. And, most of them are stunningly ignorant, and own the sort of blind stupidity that only arrogance can engender.

        Obama’s none of the above. He’s more than bright enough to clearly understand that he’s driving us off the edge of a cliff.

      • Charles II said

        Stormcrow, this is the sort of thing where we have to make the Administration do the right thing. FDR might well have abandoned the poor, and certainly African Americans, if left to his own devices. The very best people, when in power, respond to imperatives that you and I (fortunately) cannot understand.

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