Amidst the bustle of Christmas and the New Year, two headlines reminded us of why the government should strive to rise above politics when debating and enacting policy. When a man with ties to al Qaeda attempted to blow up an American airliner on Christmas Day, it served as a fresh and stark warning that our enemies abroad remain committed to waging war against our country and our ideals. We must remain vigilant in the fight against those who still reject freedom and tolerance as a basic part of human life. This means enacting sensible policy free from the constraints of politics; it means not allowing captured terrorists to return to al Qaeda hotbeds to continue their fight.
I sent a letter to President Obama urging him to reverse his pledge to transfer detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. According to the Department of Defense, this policy has resulted in as much as 20 percent of the released detainees resuming the fight. In their rush to close Guantanamo, the Administration seems bent on fulfilling an uninformed campaign promise to close Guantanamo. The current detainees would be transferred to the U.S., where they would gain more legal rights, or to certain potentially unreliable countries overseas. The United States can still commit itself to its noble democratic standards while protecting itself from those committed to the destruction of democracy and all of its adherents.
In contrast, a promise President Obama should keep but is having trouble doing so relates to transparency. Yet it is now, more than ever, that the American people need the President to honor his pledge about transparency and honesty in government. Earlier this month, leading Democrats in Congress announced health care legislation will bypass the formal conference committee, the traditional means by which differences in the House and Senate versions are ironed out. Instead, they favor closed-door negotiations. This directly contradicts a promise President Obama made throughout his campaign: "we'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents." Last week, C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb expressed his willingness to help the President make this promise a reality.
In response, I signed a letter, along with 39 of my Senate colleagues, strongly advocating the President to follow through with his commitment. I find it very unfortunate that the health care debate has devolved to a point that 40 Senators had no choice but to formally request honesty and transparency from their colleagues. If the bill is so contentious and flawed as to require the eleventh hour of negotiations to be cloaked in secrecy, something is terribly wrong.
The new year will bring many new challenges and recycle some old ones. It will require honest and sensible policymaking that fulfills two essential responsibilities: national security and transparent government. Anything less is a disservice to all Americans.