Suddenly, President Barack Obama is getting criticism from his friends and praise from his opponents — evidence of how hard it has become to move past George W. Bush’s legacy on detainee policy.
Instead of focusing exclusively on Obama’s efforts to fix the U.S. economy this week, Washington instead has been fixated on dramas involving interrogation procedures and detainees.
* Obama’s decision on Friday to continue for now using the Bush policy of setting up Guantanamo military tribunals to try terrorism suspects drew fire from his allies on the left.
“No amount of tinkering with their rules can fix this discredited system. The commissions — which President Obama has himself described as an ‘enormous failure’ — should be scrapped,” said Rob Freer, U.S. researcher at Amnesty International.
On the other hand, Obama was getting praise from people who are usually highly skeptical.
“I am pleased that President Obama has now adopted this view,” said Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee last year, who lost the election to Obama.
Ari Fleischer, who was Bush’s first press secretary, said Obama “should acknowledge his campaign criticisms were wrong.”
“With some minor changes, he really is following the same path President Bush pursued,” he said.
Obama also this week angered core supporters by changing his mind and ordering his lawyers to try to block the court-ordered release of dozens of photographs said to depict abuse of detainees, saying the pictures could “inflame anti-American opinion.”