The New York Review of Books
Obama and the Guantanamo Mess: A Way Out?
By David Cole
President Obama's announcement that the United States intends to purchase a maximum security prison in Thomson, Illinois, and plans to move as many as 100 remaining Guantanamo detainees there has prompted a variety of criticisms from right and left. Not-in-my-backyard populists oppose holding these prisoners anywhere in the United States (though in a classic prison-industrial complex move, the Obama administration realized that those concerns can be bought off with a promise of bringing 3,000 jobs to a depressed, rural Illinois region).
"War on Terror" advocates complain that we shouldn't be bringing dangerous terrorists into the United States, and that to do so, especially when coupled with the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for the 9/11 attacks in a civilian criminal court in New York, is to abandon the "war paradigm" that should govern our approach to dealing with al Qaeda. They worry that bringing the detainees to the United States will afford them rights they otherwise would not have. Meanwhile, groups such as Human Rights Watch and the ACLU complain that moving Guantanamo to Thomson will solve nothing unless the Obama administration also abandons the practice of preventive detention that Guantanamo signifies--all detainees should be tried criminally or released, they say. (Read the rest of the article.)
Obama: One-Eighth of a Presidency
By Michael Tomasky
Thursday morning--Christmas Eve, that is, just after 7 a.m.--the United States Senate did something it's never done and passed a bill that aims for broad reforms of America's private health-insurers (it also delivers them 30 million new customers over the next decade, a bone of contention on the left). Potential snags exist, to be sure, but in all likelihood Barack Obama will become the first president, out of eight who've tried, to pass large-scale health reform. His presidency is either one-quarter or one-eighth over. Let us say, for argument's sake (because the economy is starting to turn around; and because of the advantages of incumbency), that it is the latter. What have we learned in this first year that might tell us something about the next seven?
Three things, I think. The first is that he's not the liberal tiger some people assumed or hoped he would be. Put aside the contingent of Americans who consider him a Communist. The rest of us should by now, I think, see him as the center-left politician he is, a person whose deepest intellectual conviction is to look skeptically upon conviction. He has, by the way, never said otherwise. If you happened to read The Audacity of Hope, which I reviewed here, this is the person you encountered. (Read the rest of the article.)