In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Points Of Friction: Obama Meets With Civil Libertarians, Human Rights Activists

Tom Malinowski, Human Rights Watch advocacy director, declined to discuss specific points of order, but agreed to speak about the atmospherics of the meeting.

"It was very robust and it was a real conversation," he said. "There's a lot of agreement and there's some disagreement on some issues."

Malinowski said the President is aware that in recent weeks, civil libertarians and human rights groups have grown frustrated with some of his policies, and that he's attuned to those frustrations.

The unresolved question, though, is what purpose the meeting served--was it a forum for Obama to brief the critics to his left on his intentions going forward? Or was he providing them information, and seeking counsel--a sign, perhaps, that he's mindful of their criticisms and may yet move in their direction? "We'll have to see," Malinowski said. "One doesn't expect in the President to say, 'Gosh that was a great point i never thought of and I have to revisit my decision in light of what you just said.' The president heard a lot there that he can take back to the privacy of the oval office and think about."

On at least one issue, though, Obama seems to have made up his mind. Isikoff reports that Obama announced his opposition to torture prosecutions--an unsurprising admission, perhaps, but one that must have disappointed many in attendance. Previously he had said that the question of investigation and prosecuting Bush administration officials was one for Holder to answer. But with Holder sitting right beside him, there's no doubt he's feeling pressure to, as they say, look forward, not backward.

About The Author

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Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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