Why won't the administration answer the big question: What is the legal reasoning behind targeted terror killings?
The problem with "big" government speeches, the ones that are promised and promoted months in advance, the ones that purport to tackle the thorniest issues of the day, is that they require big political figures to deliver them. And whatever else Attorney General Eric Holder is -- a cautious lawyer, an establishment guy, a risk-adverse careerist, a stable hand at Justice -- he is decidedly not a larger-than-life official with an outsized portfolio or a penchant for going beyond where his president, the constitutional law scholar, wants him to go.
This dynamic helps explain why the attorney general's "big" speech Monday on the Obama Administration's secret "targeted killing" program is such a disappointment on so many different levels. But for a few sentences here and there, but for a few graphs about how Congress has dangerously treated this administration with far less trust and respect than the last administration, Holder's remarks at Northwestern University School of Law could largely have been written (and delivered) by any of the Bush-era attorneys general.
Six weeks ago, the Daily Beast's Daniel Klaidman wrote an excellent piece highlighting the background behind the administration's decision to "reveal publicly the legal reasoning behind its decision to kill the American-born leader of al Qaeda... Anwar al-Awlaki." In the end, Klaidman reported that the White House had decided not to reveal much at all. Klaidman memorably quoted a deputy national security advisor as suggesting the American people would get a "half Monty" instead of the "full Monty" and that's precisely what happened. ... continues...