Monday, June 1, 2009

The Lemonade Stand

People think the decisions President Obama must make are difficult. They are not nearly so difficult as he makes them. Part of the problem is his advisers—he has a slew of them, but they have little to show for their grand appointments besides big paychecks and more George Bush.

Bush was a lemon, and Obama wants to make lemonade. He takes Bush policies—on Afghanistan, wiretaps, abuse photos, military tribunals—and sprinkles them with sugar. He hopes to sell it as change; it is not. It is the same product Bush sold, only sweetened. These policies serve another purpose, however. For Obama, they are his first line of defense against Republican attacks. He uses Bush policies to protect he right flank, and to shield against the uncertainties of change.

People say, “It is not easy to change.” I say, “It is not that difficult, either.” Just do it. You want to close Guantanamo. Close it. And if you must, bring the detainees to the States. For those who say, “We don’t want terrorists in America,” remind them the terrorists are already here. They are ensconced in cities across this land—running crack houses, doing drive-by shootings, and stealing America blind.

Close Guantanamo. What to do with the inmates? Find nations willing to assume some of the responsibility—not because we pay them, but because they want to do their part. If no one steps forward, remember that, and then house the detainees here.

How? America is the greatest jailer on earth. Figure it out. We lock up 2,000,000 of our own people—more than any other nation. Now, suddenly, we forget how to lock up 240 more?

Set up a secure facility—a super-super max, if you will, then deal with them. If we haven’t the guts to house “terrorists,” then we shouldn’t pretend to wage a war against them—certainly not one where we take prisoners.

Besides, we talk about these Guantanamo detainees as though they were not human at all, but diseased vermin who will contaminate entire communities if brought to America. (Is it only American communities that they can contaminate, or are we willing to contaminate our allies, but not ourselves?)

Let’s be real. These men are human beings. Some are dangerous, but none more so than men already sitting in prisons from Maine to California. And it is not like the president is going to bring them to America and set them loose on the public. There are many safeguards within our prison system.

Time to make a new stand, Mr. Obama, out of the Bush shadow. And a bit of advice from an armchair advisor: Don’t try to please everybody; don’t try to please anybody. (Leave the “pleasing” to itself.) You will get more done, and you will do it better.

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