Earlier in the legislative process for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), several libertarian bloggers argued that the NDAA would be unconstitutionally harmful to civil liberties and should be vetoed. Obama said he would veto it. That forced the House and Senate to negotiate a compromise in conference over what revisions would make the bill safe from a veto. But the White House’s veto threat suddenly seemed too good to be true for some critics.
The debate devolved into the conspiracy theory that Obama would never veto the NDAA bill because he secretly didn’t want to, despite his words to the contrary. When the White House later announced that the president would not veto the version of the NDAA which emerged from conference, the same critics proclaimed this decision was proof of Obama’s sellout and treachery all along. But this notion of selling out depended on the conference report remaining largely unchanged from the version that the White House had said it would veto.
In reality, the conference report was substantially revised and made veto unworthy. It’s really not that complicated — the original bill (particularly the House version) sucked, Obama threatened to kill it if the horrible provisions survived, Congress revised it, and Obama agreed to the revised version. Much like any negotiation.
I will admit that I have not lived and breathed the negotiations of the NDAA. A good resource for intelligent, reasonable discussion of the NDAA, including the text of the statute, can be found at http://www.lawfareblog.com I think you will find that while the final version of the bill (the conference report) still remains ambiguous in important respects and could be improved, the areas that presented the most troubling, veto-worthy provisions have either been eliminated, rendered harmless or made consistent with preexisting law. That is how the lawmaking process should work, particularly with a divided Congress.