MICHAEL GOODWIN: The Flip-Flop That Would Save Obama
President Obama has lost the country. Poll after poll confirms the American public has caught on to his false claim to be a mainstream centrist and, in the short run, there is little he can do to regain the trust he squandered.
Except for one thing. If he reversed course on giving civilian trials to 9/11 plotters, stopped giving terrorists extra legal rights and kept Guantanamo Bay prison open, Obama might be able to save his presidency.
It's the flip-flop most Americans would cheer.
Terrorism issues are fundamental to how the nation sees him. Large majorities want a military trial and oppose giving constitutional protections to Islamic fanatics and the damage to Obama's standing has grown into larger doubts about his values.
It's not just that his anti-terror policies are suspect. They are a proxy for defining him as an elitist more concerned with legal nuance and international opinion than with protecting America.
Paradoxically, that impact gives the policies outsized potential to help redeem him. And reversing course is the one silver bullet he alone controls.
Fixing any other big issue where the public has abandoned him -- unemployment, taxes, spending, health care -- will take time and require uncertain congressional action.
But ordering a military trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed at Gitmo is something Obama can do in a heartbeat. Ditto for changing the policy that gave the Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights after only 50 minutes of questioning.
Treating that case like a routine crime continues to hurt Obama and was a key factor in even liberal Manhattan turning against the 9/11 trial.
By switching sides on both, Obama would be offering concrete proof he hears public discontent. He would also show he is capable of correcting a major mistake.
All the president needs to do is tell Attorney General Eric Holder he's going in a different direction. If Holder balks, Obama should let him walk.
That's not a bad idea in any event. Holder's inept handling of the decision to put the KSM trial in New York City, just blocks from Ground Zero, was grounds for dismissal. He never asked the advice of Mayor Bloomberg or Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and looked like a first-year law student trying to defend the legal basis before Congress.
To this day, even as the White House is looking for other locations because of public backlash, Holder remains unrepentant. He told The New York Times that critics were guilty of "partisan motives and have used fear" to their advantage.
He told The Washington Post the trial forum or location wasn't "as important as what the world sees in that proceeding."
The world? How ridiculous, how . . . 2008.
Of course, Holder got that concern from his boss. Obama initially supported the New York decision and has defended civilian trials as necessary to convincing the world America is a nation of laws.
That fact is not in doubt to most Americans, and it's not clear why we should care so much what the world thinks. Will France protect us from the next attack? Will Al Qaeda think better of us?
Most of Obama's anti-terror policies were a huge mistake, part of a wasted year spent chasing an agenda at odds with voters' concerns.
He's still trying to force-feed the country a health bill while unemployment is the big public concern. He throws money at every problem despite public fury at the mountain of debt he's creating.
That history suggests Obama's not likely to admit he's wrong about a 9/11 trial or other terror policies. In that case, he's doomed. Not even a president can win a fight with angry voters.
Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor. To continue reading his column, click here.