Bench Memos

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White House or Waffle House?


Over at The Corner, Marc Thiessen reads the Washington Post and is, rightly, very worried that Barack Obama is endangering the country with what Post reporter Dana Priest calls the “swift and sudden end” he has brought to the “war” (Priest’s quotation marks) on terror with his executive orders yesterday, such as this one on interrogations.

But as the editors of the Wall Street Journal point out, President Obama wants to have it both ways, establishing a “Special Interagency Task Force” that may end up re-authorizing a good deal of what Obama has now apparently forbidden.  The declaration that all Bush Justice Department opinions on such matters issued since 9/11 are now void is indeed an improvident and puerile slap in the face to serious people who did serious legal work.  But the Obama orders are Janus-faced: catering to the Democratic left with sweeping declarations, while preserving a commander-in-chief’s discretion with phrases like “unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance . . .”

It’s a sad commentary on the outset of his presidency if the language of Obama’s first executive orders, in the best-case scenario, turns out to be 95% for show and 5% for actual policy and practice.  In that case, welcome to the Potemkin Presidency.  But the alternative is worse.


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