- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2009

End of ‘war’?

“Has President Barack Obama ended the ‘war on terror’?” David Corn asks in a blog at www.motherjones.com.

“On his second day in office, he signed an executive order that would prevent any officer of the U.S. government from engaging in torture. As he placed his name on the order - keeping a prominent campaign promise - he declared that this move ‘effectively ensures that anyone detained by the United States for now’ will be interrogated in a fashion consistent with the Army field manual, which notes that the use of force, threats, or inhumane treatment is prohibited by law. ‘We can abide by a rule that says we don’t torture,’ Obama maintained. In other words, good-bye to waterboarding. …

“What was intriguing was how Obama characterized the fight against terrorism. He said, ‘The message we are sending around the world is the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism’ vigilantly, effectively, and ‘in a manner consistent with our values and ideals.’ Notably, he did not use the term ‘war on terror.’ And moments later, he proclaimed, ‘We intend to win this fight and we’re going to win it on our terms.’ Again, no ‘war.’

“Is this a purposeful shift in rhetoric? Has Obama decided to drop the war on terrorism metaphor that the Bush-Cheney administration used extensively?” Mr. Corn wondered.

“At Robert Gibbs‘ first briefing as White House press secretary on Thursday afternoon, I asked if the president had booted the war metaphor. Gibbs replied that Obama had used language that was consistent with his inaugural address. In that speech, Obama had indeed said that ‘our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.’ But he did not use the standard ‘war on terror’ phrase. Instead he threw the word ‘war’ against a specific target.

“At the press conference, I followed up and inquired if Obama had decided not to deploy that phrase as president. ‘Not that I’m aware of,’ Gibbs answered.

“De-emphasizing the war metaphor would be a significant change. But if it is a deliberate change, the White House does not want to acknowledge it.”

Raising expectations

“For nearly three months since the election, we have been warned by President Obama, his staff, and the media not to burden him with unreal expectations that no mere mortal could meet,” Victor Davis Hanson writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“But why then consciously borrow from Abraham Lincoln´s speeches? And why re-create Lincoln´s historic train ride to his inauguration - especially by flying back from Washington to Illinois to then return to D.C. by slow-moving railcar? Lincoln took the train because it was the only feasible way to get to Washington in 1861, not to copy the grand arrival of some earlier American savior,” Mr. Hanson said.

“Candidate Obama once adopted a presidential-like seal. He held a mass rally at Berlin´s Victory Column (after his request for the more dramatic Brandenburg Gate was refused).

“He adopted Greek temple sets at the Democratic convention. And like Zeus on Mt. Olympus, he talked about making the planet cool and the oceans recede.

“And now he´s capped all that by warning us to lower our expectations!

“But if Obama deliberately takes on the trappings of a messiah, why shouldn´t we expect messianic solutions?”

Cheney vs. Bush

“Former Vice President Dick Cheney disagreed publicly with his boss just four times in the eight years they served together. [Wednesday], however, on the first day after the official end of the Bush administration, Cheney disagreed with George W. Bush once more,” Stephen F. Hayes writes at www.weeklystandard.com.

“Cheney told the Weekly Standard that his former chief of staff, I. Lewis ‘Scooter’ Libby, whom he described as a ‘victim of a serious miscarriage of justice,’ deserved a presidential pardon.

“Asked for his reaction to Bush’s decision Cheney said: ‘Scooter Libby is one of the most capable and honorable men I’ve ever known. He’s been an outstanding public servant throughout his career. He was the victim of a serious miscarriage of justice, and I strongly believe that he deserved a presidential pardon. Obviously, I disagree with President Bush’s decision.’

“Bush’s decision not to pardon Libby has angered many of the president’s strongest defenders. One Libby sympathizer, a longtime defender of Bush, told friends she was ‘disgusted’ by the president. Another described Bush as ‘dishonorable’ and a third suggested that refusing to pardon Libby was akin to leaving a soldier on the battlefield,” Mr. Hayes said.

“They believe that the prosecution of Libby was riddled with inconsistencies and double-standards. Not least of those is the fact that former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, who leaked the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame to at least two reporters, was never charged. And [prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald had known from the outset of his investigation that Armitage was the leaker.”

Caroline’s exit

“Of all the many ways in which Caroline Kennedy’s brief and unofficial candidacy for the U.S. Senate was mishandled, one final ungraceful note is striking particularly close to home,” Karen Tumulty writes at www.time.com.

“Sources close to Senator Edward M. Kennedy tell Time that his circle is furious that his brain cancer has been cited by some in her camp as the reason for her decision to withdraw her name from consideration for the Senate seat being vacated by Hillary Clinton in New York,” the reporter said.

“‘It looks horrible,’ says one former aide to Ted Kennedy. ‘It makes him look like he is at death’s door.’ In fact, those close to Kennedy, 76, say that while the Senator is suffering occasional seizures, like the one that sent him to a hospital on Tuesday during the celebratory Capitol lunch for the newly inaugurated president, he is generally doing well. And they add that Kennedy is fully engaged in the effort to pass universal health-care legislation - a cause for which he has fought for decades, and one in which he will play a crucial role as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“‘He is crazy about her. He encouraged her’ in her bid for the Senate seat, one close associate says of Ted Kennedy’s relationship with his niece. ‘But using him as an excuse, as though things were on the downward spiral, is not going to be OK with him. … This will get in the way of health reform’ - by suggesting that a key legislator involved in putting the bill together may be incapacitated.”

• Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected]

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