In a move taken out of the Don Draper playbook, President Obama will try to change the national conversation in his speech Thursday away from his recent flops. He will attempt to shift attention from the plethora of domestic scandals plaguing the administration to his plans to increased transparency in his national security policy. In a series of events reminiscent of Draper writing to the New York Times to turn the loss of a tobacco company client into a public relations stand against big tobacco, the Obama administration has for the past few days been releasing information meant to increase the transparency of controversial national security policies, culminating in a speech Thursday at the National Defense University at 2pm on the topic of drones and Guantanamo Bay.
The president’s address — the first on national security policy in his second term — is expected to cover the decreasing use of drone strikes and the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. It comes a day after the New York Times received a leaked letter from Attorney General Eric Holder acknowledging and justifying the targeted killings of four Americans by CIA drones, and only a few days after the White House announced that the speech would coincide with the signing of new “presidential policy guidelines” for drone strikes outlining how they should be used outside of war zones.
A spokesperson told reporters that Obama is expected to discuss "why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action." The speech will outline the decreasing scope of the drone strike program, and will offer more transparency regarding the process of authorizing strikes, particularly in countries where the U.S. is not directly at war. In response to growing criticism, the number of drone strikes has decreased from its high in 2010 and this trend is expected to continue as the program shifts from CIA to military control.
Officials told the New York Times that the speech would likely lack many details about the CIA drone program: "While Mr. Obama may not explicitly announce the shift in drones from the Central Intelligence Agency in his speech, since the agency's operations remain formally classified, the change underscores a desire by the president and his advisers to balance them with other legal and diplomatic tools. The CIA, which has overseen the drone war in the tribal areas of Pakistan and elsewhere, will generally cede its role to the military after a six-month transition period as forces draw down in Afghanistan.”
On Guantanamo Bay, the president is expected to renew his 2008 campaign promise and commit to closing the detention center. Despite failing to close Gitmo is his first five years, the president has again said that the facility is “contrary to who we are.”
When Don Draper lost Lucky Strike as a client, he decided to flip the script and say that upon learning of the health effects of cigarettes, he did not want to affiliate with any tobacco companies. For Obama it appears that the recent string of scandals has made him realize the effects of the lack of transparency in his administration, and he too is trying to flip the script — this time by delivering on the transparency and reform that should have been delivered long ago.