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Obama’s exec orders have loopholes
When confronted with new Middle East envoy George J. Mitchell’s affiliation with a firm that had extensive lobbying clients throughout the Middle East, Mr. Gibbs demurred.
“I hate to be ticky-tack about it, but technically, he’s not lobbying,” he said. “He wasn’t a lobbyist, he wasn’t registered to lobby, and if you’re not registered to lobby, you can’t be a lobbyist.”
Stephen Wayne, a Georgetown University professor of government focusing on the American presidency, called lobbyist waivers necessary to achieving Mr. Obama’s goals, particularly given how Washington has worked.
“It’s hard to find people in Washington who haven’t lobbied, because when they leave government they sell their knowledge and access and become lobbyists or PR specialists,” he said.
The Obama administration also took heat last week when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner named former Goldman Sachs lobbyist Mark Patterson as his chief of staff, despite imposing at virtually the same time tough new Treasury rules limiting contacts with lobbyists.
Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, said the hire “flies in the face” of the president’s new ethics guidelines.
“On Day One, Secretary Geithner confirmed to me why I opposed his nomination,” Mr. Bunning said. “I hope for the sake of the American worker this hypocritical appointment is the only mistake Secretary Geithner makes during his tenure at the Treasury Department.”
In other issues from Mr. Obama’s first weeks in office, the president declared the United States would not torture, but his advisers left wiggle room as he created a task force to study whether interrogation techniques that go beyond the Army Field Manual might be necessary.
“This is not an invitation to bring back different techniques than those that are approved inside the Army Field Manual, but an invitation to this task force to make recommendations as to whether or not there should be a separate protocol that’s more appropriate to the intelligence community,” a senior administration official told reporters the day Mr. Obama signed the executive order.
The official told reporters not to jump to conclusions, saying the task force was “not an exception,” and insisted: “This is not a secret annex that allows us to bring the enhanced interrogation techniques back. It’s not.”
But some constitutional experts and peace groups are skeptical, and liberal bloggers such as Tremayne, from OpenLeft.com, labeled the task force a loophole.
“Since Obama spent many years teaching constitutional law, I doubt he needs a task force to help him form an opinion on the torture-loophole idea,” the blogger wrote, adding that a loophole would be “morally wrong.”
“President Obama made great strides in restoring international respect for the United States this week. Creating a torture loophole would have the opposite effect,” Tremayne wrote. “Let’s hope the ‘task force’ is just a bit of politics.”
Becky Monroe, policy counsel for the Constitution Project, said the group has been pleased so far by the executive orders on torture and on closing the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, terrorist detention facility within one year, even though the closure may hit roadblocks as lawyers study where to send the detainees.
“We are reserving judgment to see how things are actually implemented,” she said. “We are optimistic, and the first steps that we’ve seen coming from the administration only strengthen that optimism.”
About the Author
Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...
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