Let’s see how far into this clip you can get. I got as far as Mika Brzezinski asserting that Barack Obama can still feel that keeping Gitmo open and conducting military tribunals offends his morals but decide to do it anyway, and keep his credibility. The rest of the panel defended Obama to some degree, although not on the timing — about which more in a moment — while Joe Scarborough sat incredulous in the middle. During the entire 2008 campaign, Scarborough says, he had to sit and listen as panelists described George Bush and Dick Cheney as “evil” for their detention policies, fueled by the candidate who has adopted them practically in toto. Obama owes an apology to the American people, Scarborough says, and perhaps he owes apologies to two in particular:
Maybe [President Obama] should have just disagreed with Dick Cheney and George W. Bush – and not characterized them in a way that assumed the absolute worst — that they somehow did not love the constitution as much as Barack Obama — that they were somehow willing to shred that document and all the rights that we hold so dear … Because if you’re going to make those claims, and then do the same thing that they do, then you need to apologize to the American people.
Matt Lewis calls this the acknowledgment of the “painfully obvious”:
In retrospect, it is painfully obvious that much of the anti-Bush rhetoric that helped propel Obama to the White House in 2008 was unwarranted, irresponsible, and transparently political. (Yes, it’s water under the bridge, but setting the record straight on history is an important task for opinion leaders.)
It was painfully obvious at the time, too, as some of us (including Matt) wrote at the time. The detention policies followed centuries of precedent in American conflicts, as well as the rules of war concerning illegal combatants. We have never used the federal courts to adjudicate detentions abroad from military and intelligence operations during wars in the past. Even the Nuremberg trials, the supposed gold standard of the species, were military tribunals with no rights of appeal. The allegations of “evil” and “anti-American” were always sheer demagoguery. Obama found that out the hard way, and finally had to acknowledge reality.
The timing is spectacularly foolish. It had to be inadvertent, but it’s extraordinarily self-defeating for the reasons Scarborough and his panel cite. Obama campaigned on change, and has delivered continuity instead in the very policies that his supporters detested. But most damaging, it exposes Obama as a demagogue at the very launch of his next campaign. Even apart from the apologies Obama owes to Bush, Cheney, and the American people, why should anyone believe a word he says as a candidate ever again?