Morning Must Reads -- Dems back down Obama on terror trials 

New York Times -- Administration Considers Moving Site of 9/11 Trial

With New York Democratic Sens. Kristen Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer and independent Mayor Mike Bloomberg complaining about the plan to import and try in Manhattan federal court the plotter of the 9/11 attacks, the Obama administration is looking for a way to retreat from one of its most unpopular stances.

The ostensible cause for concern among the president’s political allies is the cost of up to $1 billion in security measures and attendant hassles that the trial of Kahlid Sheik Mohammed would impose on the city. But the abiding concern has been about inviting another attack during a years-long trial and detention.

The plans being put forward to writers Scott Shane and Benjamin Weiser include adding a high-security detention facility at an upstate National Guard base, building a judicial annex at the federal prison in Otisville, using the smaller federal courthouse in White Plains or trying another jurisdiction altogether – like Alexandria, Va. But similar or worse problems would follow the trial wherever it went, especially in Virginia.

But none of the ideas will have as much support as keeping Mr. Mohammed and others in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp and trying him in a military tribunal, as the Bush administration had intended.

“Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York, introduced legislation on Wednesday that would block financing for civilian trials for those accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks, and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said he would introduce a parallel bill in the Senate next week.

Mr. Graham, an experienced military prosecutor who has long argued that foreign terrorists should be treated as enemy combatants, proposed a similar amendment in November but it failed to pass the Senate by 54 to 45. He said he believed the same measure could pass today.”


Washington Post -- Obama faces dwindling options in his effort to close Guantanamo Bay

Writers Peter Finn and Del Wilber look at the overall challenge of ever closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The Democratic Congress has repeatedly denied President Obama the funds needed to shut down the prison and import the remaining 192 prisoners who have not been fobbed off on unwilling allies or dumped in some garden spot like Yemen or Afghanistan.

And as Democrats become increasingly willing to flout the wishes of a politically weakened White House, the administration may find itself unable to fulfill its repeated promise to close the prison and unwilling to drop what has been one of the only clear policy imperatives of the president.

‘I don't think it's appropriate for them to be held on American soil, so I would oppose both’ funding for the acquisition of the Illinois prison and authority for the administration to move detainees there, Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) said in a conference call with reporters Thursday.

Webb and five other senators, including Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) said in a letter this week to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. that the security risks and price tag of federal trials are too great.”


New York Times -- Senate Votes Along Party Lines to Raise Debt Limit 

It turns out that $14.3 trillion won’t buy you what it used to.

The party-line Senate vote to increase the federal debt ceiling by another $1.9 trillion (an amount larger than Russia’s 2008 GDP) was necessary to prevent a world financial panic that would ensure if the U.S. started defaulting on its many, many obligations.

Republicans said that they would not vote for the bill until without additional spending cuts in place, but Democrats were eager to ditch a politically destructive issue as quickly as possible.

A move to reinstate “pay-as-you-go” spending rules shelved by Republicans in 2002 as part of an effort to embrace fiscal insanity will provide some cover, but the president’s commission on deficit reduction promises to be a future political liability. As lawmakers explain why the nation needed to triple the deficit and increase discretionary spending by 28 percent in one year but wouldn’t do anything but talk about the debt (now $46,000 per capita and in excess of our annual GDP), liberal members of Congress will continue to resist even modest move’s like the president’s non-freeze spending freeze.

“The House speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, and other liberal Democrats opposed the commission idea, fearing it would force deep cuts in Medicare and Social Security benefits. And senior Senate Democrats opposed the pay-go proposal, saying it exempted too many tax cuts from the stricture against adding to annual deficits.”


Wall Street Journal -- Bernanke Wins New Term 

Are you sure you wanted anther term, Mr. Chairman?

Writers Jon Hilsenrath and Sudeep Reddy take a most useful look at what Ben Bernanke will have to do now that he survived the fake-populist show trials on Capitol Hill.

Not only will Bernanke have to face calls for new rules for the Fed – the president wants to make it a super regulator while many in Congress want to see it stripped of power and returned to its traditional role of currency steward – there’s the damned inflation.

We’ve been printing funny money to try to float through the downturn, but very soon Bernanke will have to start reining in the currency glut and kick the interest rate supports out from under the housing market or face the rapid devaluation of currency. But ending the cash dump also means imperiling the economic recover, such as it is.

“Trading in inflation-protected Treasury bonds suggest investors expect consumer-price inflation of more than 3% in the long-run. Last March, prices pointed to lower expectations, of 2.25%—a shift that has gotten the attention of some officials.

Some Fed officials say they worry that inflation expectations could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”


New York Times -- A Rare Rebuke, in Front of a Nation

Writer Adam Liptak mostly dumps on Justice Samuel Alito for his shocked response when chided by President Obama before a national audience for the Supreme Court’s decision to allow political spending by outside groups and businesses during election season.

But he does explain why Alito might have been surprised by such a crass move, that even the president felt icky about, ad libbing the line “with all due deference to separation of powers” before his attack on the judges seated before him.

There is no precedence for such a scolding and while the president’s friends think Alito ought not to have mouthed “not true” as Professor Obama was reviewing his decision in Prime Time, it hardly seems a matter of disrespect to express disbelief at what is unbelievable.

“The flashes of discord between the two branches might have been avoided had the justices followed the example of Chief Justice William H. Rhenquist, who once skipped the State of the Union address in the Reagan era to attend to other matters.

The speech ‘conflicted with the watercolor class he was taking at the local Y.M.C.A.,’ Chief Justice Roberts, who had served as a law clerk to Chief Justice Rehnquist, recalled last year. ‘He had spent $25 signing up for the class, and he wasn’t going to miss one of the sessions.’”





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Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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