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Temper the Obama-phoria

Not to contradict Spencer, but I have to note at least a couple of caveats to the high praise for President Obama’s sweeping first acts in office.

First, as The New York Times points out today, the broad executive order that will eventually close the prison at Guantanamo Bay and shut down the CIA “black sites” leaves open a little loophole, that could, potentially, get quite large. According to The Times, the orders “could also allow Mr. Obama to reinstate the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation operations in the future, by presidential order, as some have argued would be appropriate if Osama bin Laden or another top-level leader of Al Qaeda were captured.”

That may just be a way to appease CIA officials who’ve supported their right to whisk people away to some unknown place to be tortured, but it’s still quite a loophole. Now we just have to trust that Obama isn’t going to take advantage of it.

Second, we have to note that the new restrictions on lobbyists working in the Obama administration, or returning to lobbying after his administration, while admirable and all, have apparently already been violated by Obama’s appointment of William Lynn, senior vice president and former lobbyist for Raytheon Co., to be his No. 2 at the Pentagon. Maybe Lynn’s a great guy and the exception was worth making, but we still have to be on alert for how many exceptions start popping up. (However, as Spencer notes, Lynn’s nomination may be in jeopardy.)

And finally, while it’s terrific that Obama followed through on his pledge to plan for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo, he can still keep the prison open for another year. He also hasn’t said anything about what should happen to all those indefinitely detained prisoners at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, which I’ve written about here. Remember, we’re talking about 600 so-called “enemy combatants” held there, versus 245 at Gitmo. (The Bush administration stopped sending them to Gitmo as soon as the Supreme Court ruled they had constitutional rights there.)

I don’t want to rain on anyone’s post-inauguration parade here, but it will be important to watch closely over the next few months how the new administration follows through with concrete steps on what are so far largely symbolic measures.

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