As a frequent critic of President Obama, I feel duty-bound to have his back when he gets something right. Obama has been criticized from both the left and the right over the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a treasonous American citizen killed by a drone-fired missile in Yemen. But in addition to being a tactical victory, that operation is a welcome reminder that the President understands we are at war.
Or at least, on some days he understands it. Occasionally his “I’m-not-Bush” compulsions overwhelm his commander-in-chiefness, as when he pre-announces a retreat while announcing a surge, or when he floats the indefensible idea of trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a few hundred yards away from Ground Zero. But eventually he backed off both of those bad ideas, as well as his grand-standing promise to close Guantanamo. On a more positive note, the take-down of Osama bin Laden was a gutsy call and a genuine triumph for the Obama presidency.
Writing in the Washington Post, Richard Cohen is troubled by the legal ramifications of killing an American citizen, although he admits that “a little ‘yippee’ emitted from me when I heard the news.”
Something big and possibly dangerous has happened . . . in secret. Government’s most awesome power — to take a life — has been exercised on one of its own citizens without benefit of trial. A guy named Barron and another named Lederman apparently said it was okay. Maybe it was. But I’d sure like to hear the attorney general or the president explain why.
Two thoughts: I’d like to hear that explanation as well, but I’m not holding my breath during an election campaign. And, somehow I’m pretty confident that these two “guys” in the Justice Department, who apparently drafted a legal memo supporting the legality of killing al-Awlaki, will not end up demonized in anything like the manner of John Yoo.
I voted against Mr. Obama, and intend to do so again, but from the start I’ve been looking for silver linings in his presidency. Here’s one: Taken as a whole, the Obama presidency is tugging America in the direction of bipartisan support for the war against Islamic fascism. America may become safer as a result.