In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Human Rights Watch--which was represented at the big White House national security meeting yesterday--thinks the Obama speech was a bunch of window dressing.

"President Obama is absolutely right to emphasize that ignoring our values undermines rather than enhances America's security," said HRW executive director Kenneth Roth. "But allowing detention without trial creates a dangerous loophole in our justice system that mimics the Bush administration's abusive approach to fighting terrorism."

That's strikingly similar to language used by the executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who, after yesterday's meeting, declared, "I don't see meaningful differences between these detention policies and those erected by President Bush."

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Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), who is now running for the open GOP-held Senate seat in this perennial swing state, has a new op-ed piece in the Tampa Tribune, explaining that he did support the stimulus bill as a necessary measure, but is still at the end of the day a fiscal conservative -- and he opposes President Obama's current tax and spending proposals:

But let there be no doubt - I am a fiscal conservative. Since I took office two years ago, we have cut state spending by $7 billion, lowered property taxes by an estimated $25 billion over five years and created innovative no-cost solutions like the Florida Discount Drug Card and Cover Florida Health Care Plan.

I oppose the president's budget proposals, in particular his willingness to increase the top tax rate on personal income from 35 to 39.6 percent. I am publicly asking him to withdraw these tax increase proposals, considering the structural damage higher tax rates will do to the long-term growth potential of our nation's economy.

In addition, the president's plan will severely increase our national debt. Even with the increase in federal revenues resulting from higher taxes and a planned military withdrawal from Iraq, the smallest annual deficit we will see in the next 10 years is $533 billion in 2013. At the rate projected in the president's budget, the national debt will increase by $3.7 trillion by 2014. Two years ago the annual budget deficit was $162 billion.

(Via John J. Miller.)

Civil libertarians may have concluded that President Obama's plans for State Secrets reform are inadequate. But Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sees them as a good starting point--for getting the president to support his legislation.

I am encouraged by this new President's willingness to work with Congress, the refusal to do so is one of the reasons that the policies of the last administration were such a failure. I support the President's vow to "deal with Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government" and I stand ready and willing to work with him on this issue. I believe that the State Secrets Protection Act that I reintroduced this Congress is a good starting point. This legislation codifies the privilege in an effective way that balances the protection of national security with appropriate judicial review. I look forward to working with the administration and others in Congress on how best to move this important legislation forward.

That bill is cosponsored by Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI,) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

President Obama's speech touched on a number of significant and controversial national security policies--but perhaps the two most important were his proposed plan for dealing with Guantanamo detainees and his outline for reforming the State Secrets privilege, which may well become an issue when some of those detainees are tried in U.S. courts.

Civil libertarians and human rights activists won't necessarily be pleased. Shayana Kadidal is the senior managing attorney of the Guantanamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights. He says the administration's plan to maintain a system of military commissions is deeply troubling.

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Here's Bill Kristol's take on today's dueling speeches:

Cheney vs. Obama: A Mismatch

I've read both speeches.

Obama's is the speech of a young senator who was once a part-time law professor--platitudinous and preachy, vague and pseudo-thoughtful in an abstract kind of way. This sentence was revealing: "On the other hand, I recently opposed the release of certain photographs that were taken of detainees by U.S. personnel between 2002 and 2004." "Opposed the release"? Doesn't he mean "decided not to permit the release"? He's president. He's not just a guy participating in a debate. But he's more comfortable as a debater, not as someone who takes responsibility for decisions.

Cheney's is the speech of a grownup, of a chief executive, of a statesman. He's sober, realistic and concrete, stands up for his country and its public officials, and has an acute awareness of the consequences of the choices one makes as a public official and a willingness to take responsibility for those choices.

In response to charges that the Obama White House has, to perhaps a greater extent than the Bush administration, abused its powers to get controversial cases thrown out of court, the President announced the following reform of the State Secrets privilege:

We will apply a stricter legal test to material that can be protected under the State Secrets privilege. We will not assert the privilege in court without first following a formal process, including review by a Justice Department committee and the personal approval of the Attorney General. Finally, each year we will voluntarily report to Congress when we have invoked the privilege and why, because there must be proper oversight of our actions.

Later, Obama cautioned the same critics that his policies would still leave them wanting. "There are those," he said, "who make little allowance for the unique challenges posed by terrorism, and who would almost never put national security over transparency."

Which stands somewhat in contrast to one memorable line from his inaugural address, when he said "we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

The following is the prepared text of former Vice President Dick Cheney's speech today on national security, courtesy of the Weekly Standard:

Thank you all very much, and Arthur, thank you for that introduction. It's good to be back at AEI, where we have many friends. Lynne is one of your longtime scholars, and I'm looking forward to spending more time here myself as a returning trustee. What happened was, they were looking for a new member of the board of trustees, and they asked me to head up the search committee.

I first came to AEI after serving at the Pentagon, and departed only after a very interesting job offer came along. I had no expectation of returning to public life, but my career worked out a little differently. Those eight years as vice president were quite a journey, and during a time of big events and great decisions, I don't think I missed much.

Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day, mostly free from the usual political distractions. I had the advantage of being a vice president content with the responsibilities I had, and going about my work with no higher ambition. Today, I'm an even freer man. Your kind invitation brings me here as a private citizen - a career in politics behind me, no elections to win or lose, and no favor to seek.

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Yesterday, Congressional Democrats denied President Obama, at least for now, the funds he needs to close down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They were responding in part to scare tactics from Republicans, who have been insisting for months that Obama's plan will bring terrorists to American cities. But they were also upset that Obama hadn't used his bully pulpit to counter those charges. Today, Obama did just that:

Some have derided our federal courts as incapable of handling the trials of terrorists. They are wrong. Our courts and juries of our citizens are tough enough to convict terrorists, and the record makes that clear. Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Center - he was convicted in our courts, and is serving a life sentence in U.S. prison. Zaccarias Moussaoui has been identified as the 20th 9/11 hijacker - he was convicted in our courts, and he too is serving a life sentence in prison. If we can try those terrorists in our courts and hold them in our prisons, then we can do the same with detainees from Guantanamo.

For more on this point, read this primer written by the National Security Network. And as Ken Gude of the Center for American Progress told me yesterday, Obama can still take near-term steps to begin closing the facility, and then return to Congress for funding in July, when his task force completes its comprehensive report on everything that policy will entail.

Yesterday morning President Obama met with representatives of several human rights and civil liberties groups in the White House's cabinet room. Joining him were his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, senior adviser David Axelrod, as well as Attorney General Eric Holder. They sat down with representatives of the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Human Rights Watch, among others.

Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow reported that one of the attendees warned the President he was letting George Bush's policies become his own--and that Obama was not pleased by that characterization.

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Barack Obama's speech touches on just about every controversial Constitutional issue in the news, but it's also peppered with reminders that he's not the same as George W. Bush.

As Senator McCain once said, torture "serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us." And even under President Bush, there was recognition among members of his Administration - including a Secretary of State, other senior officials, and many in the military and intelligence community - that those who argued for these tactics were on the wrong side of the debate, and the wrong side of history. We must leave these methods where they belong - in the past. They are not who we are. They are not America.

[T]he problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility; the problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place.

For just two examples.