All smiles at the White House, for a moment anyway
Earlier today President Barack Obama signed a law about prison sentences for possession of crack cocaine and powder cocaine and the photograph of the smiling group of people who supported the legislation gave us a brief pause.
The Democrats and Republicans gathered around the president in the Oval Office rarely agree on anything. Let’s take a minute to dissect this photograph.
There’s Attorney General Eric Holder (pictured second from the left), a close confidante of Obama’s. But he has drawn intense criticism for his plan to prosecute the five alleged plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in a criminal court in the heart of Manhattan (now highly unlikely). He also has been lambasted by Republicans for affording full legal rights to terrorism suspects who have been arrested on U.S. soil.
Next to him is Vermont Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy who has been the president’s man shepherding through the Senate his two Supreme Court justice nominees. The second nominee, Elena Kagan is expected to win Senate support but with only a handful of Republicans backing her.
Then just over the president’s left shoulder is Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Obama’s home state of Illinois. He has been a big proponent of bringing terrorism suspects to trial in traditional criminal courts and even housing some of the suspects at a prison in his state (can we say jobs during a recession?).
Now it gets interesting because just next to Durbin, sort of lingering in the back is Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, a leading critic of the president and his buddy Eric Holder.
Sessions, who is the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has excoriated the Obama administration for its national security policies, ranging from legal rights for terrorism suspects to trials for detainees held at Guantanamo.
He and the man to his left, Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, have been among the most outspoken critics of Kagan for the Supreme Court.
And at the end is South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham. Now he’s been trying to negotiate some deals with the White House, but none really have gone anywhere. He’s tried to broker compromises like splitting some of the trials for the Guantanamo detainees between military tribunals and criminal courts. He also tried to work out a deal with Obama and Democrats on legislation to mandate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
So for those who wonder about Washington sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words, or at least a brief pause and a scratch of the head.
- Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed