Thursday, May 21, 2009

President Obama's Speech at the Archives

This was, quite simply, a hell of a speech.  On a purely explanatory level, it gave a pretty good overview of the centrality of our legal documents and traditions to the current debate over Guantanamo/torture/military tribunals, which subtly rebutted the argument that we are dealing with a threat that requires an extralegal response. 

But the speech really got going when President Obama started specifically responding to his critics - especially when he referenced the recent antics of Dick Cheney. This is the relevant passage:
And we will be ill-served by some of the fear-mongering that emerges whenever we discuss this issue. Listening to the recent debate, I've heard words that are calculated to scare people rather than educate them; words that have more to do with politics than protecting our country.
The transcript here doesn't really convey the force of these sentences. The tone of his voice and the look on his face made his frustration clear. The speech was packed with this kind of fiery political language: later on, referring to the disgusting cries of NIMBY from Congress about Guantanamo detainees, he said, "I am not the only person in this city who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution." Great stuff.

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