Blame where blame is due

BLAME WHERE BLAME IS DUE…. Many in the media, and many more of President Obama’s detractors from the left, are hitting his administration pretty hard today for this reversal. The development is obviously disappointing, but if we’re assigning blame, let’s at least direct at those responsible.

In a major reversal, the Obama administration has decided to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for his role in the attacks of Sept. 11 before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and not in a civilian courtroom.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is expected to announce on Monday afternoon that Mr. Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the attacks, and four other accused conspirators will face charges before a panel of military officers, a law enforcement official said. The Justice Department has scheduled a press conference for 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Mr. Holder, who had wanted to prosecute Mr. Mohammed before a regular civilian court in New York City, changed his mind after Congress imposed a series of restrictions barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees into the United States, making such a trial impossible for now, the official said.

Even that last sentence is awkward — the Attorney General “changed his mind” after Congress “imposed a series of restrictions”? That’s a bit like saying I changed my mind about getting up after I was tied to my chair.

Holder told reporters this afternoon that his original decision was still the right one, but blamed Congress for “tying our hands.”

He happens to be right. Even today, Holder wants to do the right thing, and so does President Obama. And yet, Gitmo is open today, and KSM will be subjected to a military commission in the near future, not because of an administration that backed down in the face of far-right whining, but because congressional Republicans orchestrated a massive, choreographed freak-out, and scared the bejesus out of congressional Democrats. Together, they limited the White House’s options to, in effect, not having any choice at all.

There’s plenty of room for criticism of the administration, but those slamming Obama for “breaking his word” on this are blaming the wrong end of Pennsylvania Avenue.