May 20th, 2009
11:53 AM ET

Democrats on defense

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/22/art.capitol.dome.cnn.jpg]

Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

President Obama has been struggling to get things right on national security. The president has not displayed the same kind of poise and confidence as he has with domestic issues.

In contrast to the economic stimulus and health care reform, there have been a number of missteps, reversals and intra-party tensions over national security since Obama took office.

Obama, who in February 2008 said the trials of Guantanamo detainees were "too important to be held in a flawed military commission system," now says that he will continue to use that system, though in slightly modified fashion. When Obama announced that he would not release photographs of mistreated detainees, many of his supporters could not help but be disappointed.

The most recent controversy has been the battle over a briefing about the CIA's interrogation methods. The battle has been damaging to Democrats because it pits House Speaker Nancy Pelosi against the CIA. The controversy has inspired Republicans to argue that Democrats were complicit in the interrogation methods they have been criticizing.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Democrats • Julian E. Zelizer
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Fiona

    This controversy is detracting from the real point of it all – were the methods truly effective?

    While Cheney believes they're the reason we haven't been attacked, . I'm skeptical. It seems to me we haven't been targeted because the timing isn't right for whatever terrorist cell wants to hurt us, or because we're infinitely more diligent (despite the flyover from Canada) since 911.

    I'll never get on board with torture. But what do the security experts have to say about it's effectiveness?

    May 20, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  2. Scott Stodden

    Democrats should be on the defensive, the Republicans have done nothing but say no to everything the Democrats want to do. I do agree however as a Democrat that we have been focusing lately entirely to much on domestic issues. What about our country we are still in a recession, we're still losing jobs everyday, Republicans are at war with Nancy Pelosi and still we know we want to close Guantanomo but what do we do with the prisoners. President Obama needs to get a handle on some of these issues, thats why I voted for Hillary in the primaries.

    May 20, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  3. Sandra

    When campaigning Obama made alot of promises with no plan for them to be enacted. Now he is finding keeping those promises difficult, since he really didn't know what he was talking about. He is a trainee the people hired for the job. You want to be a surgeons first patient?

    May 20, 2009 at 12:53 pm |