My column on all this will be up tomorrow on NRO. But there’s at least one point I make in it that I think isn’t getting enough attention. It is ludicrous for the president to claim this was solely Holder’s decision. First, I don’t think it’s true that Obama handed it off to Holder without any input on the matter.
But even if it were true, it’s still Obama’s decision. When the commander-in-chief gives law enforcement the final authority over what to do with enemy combatants, he can’t then claim that he’s not responsible for the decision. This isn’t just a “buck stops here” point, though that’s part of it. The moment he made this the Justice Department’s call rather than the Defense Department’s he made it clear where he comes down on the question. It’s good politics to claim that he’s just letting the rule of law and the justice system work through the issues, but that’s all it is, politics. And, as president, it’s if he thought Holder was wrong, he would have both the power and the responsibility to overrule him. He doesn’t want to overrule Holder because the two of them see eye-to-eye on these questions.