Politico has an interesting report on a closed-door meeting between President Obama and members of the Senate Democratic conference on Tuesday. According to two unnamed senators who were present, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D., W. Va.) expressed his displeasure with the Obama administration’s refusal to let members of Congress see the legal memos drafted by the Department of Justice to justify the administration’s use of drones against American terrorists abroad:
Obama recently allowed members of [the congressional intelligence committees] to see the memos, but only after senators in both parties threatened to hold up the confirmation of John Brennan as Central Intelligence Agency director. Brennan was confirmed last week, but lawmakers not on one of the intelligence panels are still being denied access to the memos and several are steamed over being frozen out.
Obama’s response was to assure the senators that they could trust him because:
“This is not Dick Cheney we’re talking about here,” he said, according to Democratic senators who asked not to be named discussing the private meeting.
He also attempted to deflect blame by an odd disclaiming of responsibility for the legal justification his administration acted on. “In response to Rockefeller’s critique, Obama said he’s not involved in drafting such memos,” the senators told Politico.
(The president apparently has remarkably little say over what happens in his administration. On the same day he met with unhappy members of his party, he told George Stephanopolous in an interview that it was the Secret Service’s call, not his, to shut down White House tours in response to the sequester, despite his press secretary having previously claimed that the White House was responsible for the decision.)
In a show of empathy for the Democratic senators, he reportedly acknowledged that he would feel the same way about his actions if he were still in their shoes, but since he’s the one in charge now, he finds these actions unobjectionable:
The president noted that he would have “probably objected” over the White House’s handling of this issue if he were still a senator, they said. But, according to the sources, he noted his viewpoint changed now that he occupies the Oval Office — not a room in a Senate office building.