The speech was about as good as to be expected from the president of the United States (as opposed to unequivocally good per se.) He addressed the questions I wanted addressed much more comprehensively than I would have thought. I was glad to see the arguments for narrowing and ultimately repealing the AUMF, what should be the obvious point that “[t]o say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance,” the repudiation of the “war on terror” language, and the renewed call for action on Gitmo.
Words are nice, but obviously how the speech will be remembered will depend on the follow-through. Will the lift on the moratorium on transfers of detainees to Yemen actually result in transfers happening? Will the use of military strikes as a counterterrorism weapon continue to decline?
As Paul already mentioned, the speech provoked reminders that Congress certainly isn’t going to do anything to restrict executive power in any area that doesn’t involve the president trying move the needle in a positive direction on civil liberties. I prefer Chambliss’s outright crackpottery to McCain’s fake moderate assertions that he’s not opposed to closing Gitmo in theory, just opposed to any way it might be done in practice. The only good news is that I see little reason to believe that this kind of silliness is still politically effectual.
I note that the statement from Rand Paul, America’s foremost champion of civil liberties, focused entirely on the issue of drones and American citizens. Even on issues where he nominally agrees with Obama — such as the repeal of the AUMF — he had nothing to say.