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The Audacity of Patience

Hope for change meets the real world

The hard left, I must say, has shown remarkable patience in light of the middle ground the Obama Administration-In-Waiting has cautiously taken since election day. Oh, there’s been some grumbling about all the Clintonistas the O-Team is stocking the executive branch with, The One’s realization that perhaps it might be best to let the Bush tax cuts simply expire rather than repeal them during a recession and his decision to keep SECDEF Robert Gates around for a while. But the more unhinged of those Obama supporters hoping for change haven’t rioted in the streets in large numbers. There have been no hostages taken with demands that the post of Secretary of Defense be renamed to Minister of Peace and Dennis Kucinch appointed.

It’s really a good thing that progressives have the capacity to show so much patience. It really is. Because they’re going to have to go to that well again. This time, it’s over Gitmo. Leftists have been calling for an immediate shutdown of the Guantanamo detention facility, transfer of the detainees to federal prisons on U.S. soil, and speedy trials with ACLU lawyers and soft-hearted judges for those “freedom fighters” who were only trying to kill our troops because the prisoners were defending their right to feed people into industrial shredding machines and bury the remains in mass graves. Most of those who feel the urgency of shutting down Gitmo for once and for all believe that doing so should be a simple matter.

After all, Former SECSTATE Colin Powell said on NBC’s Meet the Press:

“Guantanamo has become a major problem for America’s perception as it’s seen; the way the world perceives America, and if it was up to me, I would close Guantanamo — not tomorrow but this afternoon — I’d close it.”

No group has been more vocal about closing Gitmo than the ACLU. Blogging on the Huffington Post, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero wrote:

Our top issue — closing down Gitmo and shutting down the military commissions — can be done as soon as he lifts his left hand, picks up the new presidential pen and signs an executive order closing Gitmo and ending the military commissions once and for all. Call me naive, but I honestly believe he wants to do it. He promised us that on the campaign trail, and I believe it was more than an empty promise. I believe he knows what he needs to do to restore the America we believe in, to get us on back on track, to give us back our America, an America we never stopped believing in but have sorely missed for the past eight years.

Okay, he’s naive. Well, he asked for it. Romero is also quoted in an ACLU press release dated November 10:

“There is no room for patience or delay in these areas. We have to hold President-elect Obama’s feet to the fire if we’re going to turn hope into reality,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “We hope that President-elect Obama, as soon as he is sworn in, will take bold action and sign an executive order closing Guantánamo and ending the sham military commissions there. It is time to restore American values of justice, due process and human rights.”

No room for patience? Uh-oh, Chicago, we have a problem.

Governing, as it turns out, is not the same thing as campaigning. It’s much more difficult. Decisions aren’t as cut and dried. Ask any governor. You can’t just make an operation such as holding the detainees and a military installation such as Guantanamo simply vanish with the stroke of a pen.

Andy McCarthy explains

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this article imploring the incoming administration — before digging themselves in any further with more cavalier promises to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay — to develop a concrete plan tackling the problem that, you can bet the ranch, applies to the majority of the 250 or so enemy combatants we are still holding: namely, what to do with detainees we know are terrorists based on reliable intel but whom we (a) don’t have enough usable evidence against to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt in a civilian trial, and (b) can’t extradite because — shocking as this may seem — other countries are not exactly tripping over themselves to take trained terrorists off our hands? (To review how this game goes: Bush thinks we should capture and hold terrorists who pose a threat to Americans; the “international community” condemns Gitmo for public consumption but is unwilling to take detainees off our hands (though tacitly thrilled that someone is detaining these maniacs); Obama and the Obamedia say Bush is nuts and the “international community” is great — go figure.)

McCarthy links to a Wall Street Journal report that the same Robert Gates that Obama is retaining at Defense told reporters that yes, closing down Gitmo is a big priority, but it can’t be done by executive order. Instead, Gates said that Congress will have to work with the new administration on legislation to make it happen. It’s complicated, the WSJ article explains:

Mr. Obama has pledged to close the prison, but aides say it is easier said than done. The president-elect will have to make decisions on issues such as the fate of prisoners who have been approved for release, but whom no other country is willing to accept.

More than a dozen Uighurs, Chinese Muslims who were captured near the Afghan border, have been cleared of terrorism charges but remain locked up at Guantanamo because they face persecution in China and no country will accept them. A federal judge’s order to free them in the U.S. is on hold while the Bush administration appeals.

Mr. Obama will also have to decide whether, and how, to prosecute “high-value detainees” such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Well, darn. Obama and his transition team have figured out that Bush was right about a number of things, especially the ones having to do with national security. Now, as McCarthy points out:

Democrats were never going to get serious about the war until they owned it. Be prepared for all sorts of things that were “constitution-shredding” for the last seven years to transform before our very eyes into “smart, effective counterterrorism.”

Meanwhile, what are the Obama true believers such as Anthony Romero to do? Remember, he declared that there’s “no room for patience.” Either he and others on the hard left are going to have to find some more room and some more patience… or that part of Obama’s grand coalition that has included his most ardent supporters will soon be composed of his most vocal critics. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the left is not known for an infinite capacity for restraint.

Conservatives, meanwhile, can go about the business of rebuilding Ronald Reagan’s coalition and watch Obama’s alliance begin to unravel.

- JP

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