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Obama Engages in Pre-Speech Placation of Human-Rights Groups

10:30 PM, May 20, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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"So, um, guys..Really, I meant to call before now."

I imagine this meeting felt like the first post-break-up coffee with an embittered ex. It's Obama's unpleasant duty to lie to them, let them yell, and validate their feelings. It's their place to yell, feel momentarily assured, and walk away knowing deep down inside that he doesn't really care about them anymore. Oh, the angst! The melodrama! The cold, neglected, half-drunk latte that symbolizes the lost passion.

Under heavy criticism for a series of decisions on national security that resembled, for some, those of the Bush years, President Barack Obama hosted a lengthy meeting on Wednesday with the leaders of several key human rights and civil liberties groups.

Now, what's he promising them? First, he complained about the Congress not funding the closing of Gitmo, which it did not do because, as even Robert Gibbs admits, the decision to close Gitmo was "hasty" and done without a plan.

According to an attendee, Obama expressed frustration with Congress' decision to remove funding for the closure of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. The president declared that his hands were tied in some ways regarding the use of reformed military tribunals, though he pledged to try as many detainees as possible in Article III federal courts.

He's apparently changing his mind on detainee photos once again:

...the president also left the door open for the future release of detainee abuse photos, saying that his administration's current opposition to the release was dictated by immediate concern over the complications it could cause to America's mission in Afghanistan.

By that logic, as soon as we manage to make some gains in Afghanistan, and the "immediate concern" dissipates, we can let those suckers out to sabotage the gains?

Platitudes, check:

"We talked a lot about the framework in which he is operating, and he talked about his strong desire to reestablish a system under which the executive is not exercising unfettered authority," said Elisa Massimino, CEO of Human Rights First and an attendee at the Wednesday affair. "One of the chief differences between him and his predecessor was that he didn't think he ought to be making these decisions in an ad-hoc, unaccountable way. And so he said that, in thinking through this, he was focused on how his successor might operate."

Please consider a bone thrown:

A terror suspect detained at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will be transported to the United States for trial in a civilian court, two Obama administration officials said.

Ahmed Ghailani, suspected of taking part in al Qaeda plots to bomb U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania among other crimes, would be the first former detainee at the detention center to face trial in the United States...

The announcement is expected to be made Thursday, the same day President Obama will give a public address on the detention center and other security issues.

This is not likely to help Democrats in Congress with mainstream public opinion, who've spent the week on their heels, declaring that no terrorists will end up on American soil in their districts, but it may give Obama's human-rights critics off his back for a while.

And, for those of you looking for detail tomorrow, think again:

What Obama will not do, however, is provide a detailed outline of which of the remaining Guantánamo prisoners will be released or transferred to other countries and under what conditions, and which will be tried in U.S. civil courts or in Bush-era military commissions, which the administration announced last week it will revamp and reconvene. The issue is being discussed by an administration task force that is due to report in July.