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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Will GITMO Be Obama's Universal Health Care?

When Bill Clinton took over in 1993, he immediately made the overhaul of our health care system his signature issue. He put his wife, Hillary Clinton, as the point person. After about a year, the Clinton's found that health care reform was no easy task. Clinton wanted a very liberal single payer health care program. The Clinton's saw our health care system as something similar to that of Europe. The Clintons were likely stunned to learn that even their own Democratic colleagues in the Congress weren't on board. As such, after spending more than year on health care reform, Clinton had absolutely nothing to show for it. He lost all sorts of political capital and he paid for it at the mid term elections. The Republicans made a stunning electoral victory and Republicans controlled the House for the first time in decades. In fact, following the election of 1994, it appeared as though we could start writing Clinton's political obituary. Of course, Clinton made a furious comeback. He began working better with the Newt Gingrich lead House better than he had with his own party and ultimately won reelection.

While Clinton ultimately showed his political muscle, there is no doubt that health care reform became his achilles heal in his first term. It appears that Barack Obama is determined to repeat Clinton's health care mistake with his own version of health care, GITMO. GITMO appears to be the signature foreign policy issue of Obama's first two years. Furthermore, it appears that he is ready to approach it as incompetently as Clinton approached health care reform.

In subsequent days, Obama first told George Stephanopolis that closing GITMO would be complicated and that he didn't have a plan yet. The very next day, news leaked that Obama would make his first executive order closing GITMO. Mind you, this executive order wouldn't actually close GITMO. It was more of a goal rather than a direct order.

By making this executive order, Obama is now doubling down on not only closing GITMO but finding a solution better than GITMO once its closed. Soon enough, President Obama will discover that he has just gone all in with nothing. It's mind boggling that Obama would risk so much without the first clue of what he will do.

Soon, President Obama will realize that the reason President Bush opened GITMO is not because he is evil, wants to torture, or wants to trample on the constitutional rights of terrorists, but rather because GITMO is the best of a bunch of bad options. The only idea floated by the Obama campaign so far is creating another set of laws only for terrorists and trying these terrorists somewhere in our federal system.

Now, imagine if he tries to do this. If he thinks people were outraged by the military courts of the Bush administration, how does he think folks will feel about a shadow court system for terrorists only. Will these court proceedings be open to the public? If not, the screams will be louder over the treatment of these terrorists than at GITMO. If they are, how will we protect classified information at trial? Furthermore, who will be the judges for these trials? Finally, where will they be housed? See how any Senator or Representative will feel if any of these are housed in their district or State.

As soon as Obama issues this order, not only will the clock start ticking but it will tick louder and louder. After six months or so, folks will notice that despite the order GITMO will still not be closed. Of course, at some point, Obama will realize that his best option is to eat crow and admit that all his criticism was nonsense. He isn't going to find any alternative better than GITMO. I know this because 1) for years he has criticized GITMO with no better solution and 2) for years everyone has criticized GITMO with no better solution. If he admits failure, it will mean a huge political loss and a serious loss of credibility. Of course, that's better than forcing bad policy upon the nation.

Either way, Obama is looking like he will face a serious political loss in about a year or so. Either he realizes that GITMO is the best option and looks incompetent, or he finds a policy even worse and looks really incompetent. A political loss this big is of the magnitude of what Clinton faced with health care in 1993. If this is combined with a failed economic, this will lead to an unprecedented loss of the legislature. Soon, Obama may learn that it's better to leave somethings alone. GITMO, I predict, will be Obama's universal health care.

1 comment:

Robin said...


I've been reading your blog since last fall (before the election.) I really enjoy seeing your perspective. It's very well written and informative. Thank you.