As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to protect our national security as commander-in-chief, we should hope his policies will be a radical departure from his campaign promises.
In his exit interviews, when asked what advice he would give the incoming president, President George W. Bush is encouraging Mr. Obama to remember his most solemn obligation is to protect the American people. The president who has kept us from being attacked since 9/11 is calling on the next president to be equally vigilant against the ongoing terrorist threat.
Mr. Obama won the Democratic nomination by running to Hillary Clinton’s left on national security. He did more than denounce the Iraq War. He called for habeas corpus rights to be given to foreign terrorists, called for meeting face-to-face with the leaders of countries that support terrorism, called for strident national-security measures enacted after 9/11 to be withdrawn, voted against funding troops in combat in Iraq, said the troop surge was doomed to failure, promised to remove all troops immediately, and called for closing Guantanamo Bay.
At the time, Mrs. Clinton called his views naïve and Vice President-elect Joseph Biden said that his vote against troop funding could cost American lives. But it won Mr. Obama plaudits from the far-left that dominated the Democratic nominating process.
Since then, Mr. Obama has given indications this may have just been politically-expedient rhetoric. He has appointed Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state, kept Robert Gates as secretary of defense, and may keep in place President Bush’s plan to gradually withdrawal military forces from Iraq.
What about the remaining national-security issues?
Will Mr. Obama close Guantanamo Bay? What will he do with the hundreds of hardened terrorists there? Can he name a single member of Congress who wants to have those terrorists sent to their district to be imprisoned, creating a tempting terrorist target in their own backyard?
Vice President Dick Cheney, in his recent exit interview on Fox News Sunday, pointed out that many of the Bush Administration’s actions have saved American lives, by uncovering and stopping plots such as the conspiracy to hijack flights from London bound for the United States. Will President Obama end the surveillance programs—condemned by the far left—that uncovered these plots?
Mr. Cheney also revealed he personally briefed the leaders of both parties in the White House Situation Room regarding these surveillance programs. He said Democrat leaders unanimously agreed with Republicans that they wanted these programs continued, and did not want the rest of Congress briefed for fear of information leaking out. These are the programs which, once leaked, led to indignant speeches by those same Democrat leaders condemning them. Will he rise above the partisanship that has infected the national-security debate by continuing those programs?
Ironically, the biggest challenge Mr. Obama faces on these issues could be of his own making. He promised to appoint judicial activists to our nation’s federal courts.
Yet, for the first time in history, the Supreme Court has become involved in overriding the actions of the president, and even the actions of the president and Congress working together, on national security. In Boumediene v. Bush, for example, the Court struck down procedures that Congress wrote into law and the president signed for detainees. This 5-4 decision came about from the Court’s sole moderate justice siding with the four liberals.
If Mr. Obama appoints more activists, he will guarantee that the Court continues to strike down presidential actions and even congressional legislation. Will he keep his promise to appoint strident liberals to the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts, knowing that it will result in those who are least-equipped to decide national-security matters continuing to do so?
The campaign is over, and it is now time for the hard work of governing to begin. Our nation’s security is far too important for petty partisan politics.