The tug of war between President Obama and Congress over the military-run prison at Guantánamo became stickier last month when the president felt obliged to sign a defense authorization bill barring the use of Defense Department funds to transfer terror suspects to the United States for trial.
Mr. Obama reluctantly signed the bill, but insisted his hand was being forced by Congress and vowed to continue efforts to close down the island prison.
An argument can be made that the president was wrong to cave in to this legislative bullying -- he could have vetoed the bill and dared lawmakers to withhold funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if they refused to send him a clean bill. That would have set the stage for a messy political confrontation, though.
Or he could have issued a Bush-style ``signing statement'' declaring that he would ignore those provisions of the bill that he did not agree with. We disapproved of this tactic when it was used by Mr. Bush because it is a provocative extension of executive power into the legislative realm. Mr. Obama is right to steer clear of such tricks.
Instead, Mr. Obama said that ``my administration will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future.'' That's the right way to go, but Mr. Obama must follow through with decisive action. Obstinate lawmakers -- Republicans and Democrats -- have repeatedly thwarted the president's declared intention to close the island prison, but Mr. Obama has failed to take his argument to the public by making a forceful case that shutting down Guantánamo is in the national interest.
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