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Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
12:10 PM ET, 04/30/2009

Josh Meyer writes for the Los Angeles Times: "The Bush administration's 'lawless response to terrorism' has not only undermined the United States' moral credibility and standing abroad and provided Al Qaeda with its best recruiting material, it also has weakened the U.S. coalitions with foreign governments that it needs most to fight the threat posed by Islamist extremism, a senior Obama Justice Department official said Tuesday. The remarks by Todd Hinnen, deputy assistant attorney general for law and policy in the department's National Security Division, went well beyond some of the earlier criticisms of the Bush administration by President Obama and his political appointees... [Hinnen] said that the new administration was struggling to deal with the fallout left by its predecessors, both in the U.S. and overseas on issues such as coercive interrogations, 'extraordinary renditions,' and the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at secret CIA 'black sites' around the world without due process.... His remarks were especially noteworthy because Hinnen, until 2007, was a top Bush administration counter-terrorism official at the National Security Council."

Daniel Woolls writes for the Associated Press: "A Spanish judge opened a probe into the Bush administration over alleged torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, pressing ahead Wednesday with a drive that Spain's own attorney general has said should be waged in the United States, if at all. Judge Baltasar Garzon, Spain's most prominent investigative magistrate, said he is acting under this country's observance of the principle of universal justice, which allows crimes allegedly committed in other countries to be prosecuted in Spain."

Carrie Johnson writes in The Washington Post: "Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) yesterday invited federal Judge Jay S. Bybee to testify about his role in preparing two Justice Department memos that allowed interrogators to engage in techniques such as simulating drowning and slamming prisoners against a wall."

David Leonhardt publishes the transcript of his April 14 interview with Obama in the New York Times Magazine. The subject: What American life is going to be like on the other side of the so-called Great Recession. Obama defends his economic adviser against the charge that they're too close to Wall Street. He also shares a personal story. As Peter Baker writes: "In the weeks before he was elected president, Barack Obama confronted a life crisis all too common in families across America. His grandmother, who already had a diagnosis of terminal cancer, fell and broke her hip, possibly because of a mild stroke. The question became whether to replace her hip even though she was dying." Obama discussed the episode "to point out one of the thorniest issues involved in overhauling health care: Much of the spending on medical care in the United States goes to people in their final months of life. If society is to rein in health costs, at what point are expensive operations like [his grandmother's] hip replacement surgery no longer affordable?"

David Ignatius writes in his Washington Post opinion column about Obama's national security adviser, Gen. James Jones: "Jones is an activist on the Palestinian issue, which he lists as a top priority for the new administration. He wants the United States to offer a guiding hand in peace negotiations -- submitting its own ideas to help break any logjams between the Israelis and Palestinians. 'The United States is at its best when it's directly involved,' Jones says. He cites U.S. diplomatic efforts in the Balkans. 'We didn't tell the parties to go off and work this out. If we want to get momentum, we have to be involved directly.' This stance may antagonize the new Israeli government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu."

Scott Wilson writes for The Washington Post: "Vice President Biden may not have received the 'caution but don't panic the public' memo. In a 'Today Show' interview this morning, host Matt Lauer asked Biden what advice he would give a family member who wanted to jump on a commercial airliner to Mexico, ground zero of the swine flu outbreak. 'I would tell members of my family -- and I have -- I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now...You're in a confined aircraft when one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me. I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, suggesting they ride the subway."

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