That Torture Memo Is So Obama
When Barack Obama was running against Clinton in the Democratic primaries and it appeared he would face off against McCain, he made appearances in Florida and Missouri. At those stops, America’s first really serious black candidate- the man running on his ideas, not his race- injected race into the discussion by stating, in reference to Republicans, “…they’ll say I have a funny name…and did I mention he was black.” Until that point, the Republicans in general and McCain in particular had not mentioned Obama’s race. But in these instances, Barack Obama injected race into the campaign. As he often does, he then retreated to the sidelines and high moral ground and left it to his proxies to explain what he “really meant.” Of course, they explained, Obama was not referring to John McCain, or even the Republican Party. By “them,” he meant those special interest, right wing 527 groups out there.
Obama’s political history going back to his days in the Illinois legislature is replete with examples of such actions. His favorite strategy is to make a statement in some sort of pre-emptive strike on the opposition, retreat to the sidelines claiming the high moral ground, then leaving it to his cabal of supporters and proxies to explain what he “really meant.” A second strategy is to take a stand when he has to, but when faced with criticism, nuance his original stance. In either case, the damage inflicted is done. By making those racially-charged statements on the campaign trail, he pre-emptively warned the opposition against playing the race card by, in effect, playing the race card. Call it the “reverse race card,” if you will.
And the media fell for it hook, line and sinker. The debate was not over what Obama said or over the fact that HE injected race into the campaign. Instead, the debate centered over some national discussion of race realtions in general, usually with the unsubstantiated conclusion in this case that the Republicans would use his race against him. Without a mention of Obama’s race, the Republicans were, nevertheless, guilty. Since no one dared question America’s first serious black candidate for President and with the media fawning over him, this proved a very shrewd political move.
Fastforward to April 2009. President Obama decides to release a Justice Department memo from 2005 regarding the legality of “torture” on terror suspects. If we are to believe David Axelrod, Obama spent over a month mulling over this act before deciding that releasing the memo was “in the best interests of the country.” Obama then stated that he would not seek prosecutions over this memo, that he wanted to move forward and that prosecutions would be counterproductive.
Just as Obama did not have to inject race into the campaign as Candidate Obama, he did not have to release any of these memos as President Obama in 2009. Unless, that is, there is an ulterior politial motive to do so. Obama knew full well that these memos would fire up the left wing of his party and that they would demand investigations and prosecutions. Notice how less than a week after releasing the memos, Obama resorted to his “nuance strategy.” He would not prosecute those who carried out the interrogations, he said, but those who formulated the legal rationale for these techniques were still fair game and those decisions would be left to Eric Holder.
To illustrate the political motive, one need ask what was the purpose of releasing this memo? It was a foregone conclusion that these techniques were used. We knew who they were used on and even some of the information gleaned from them. We knew some of the Justice Department officials who worked on the legal rationale for these techniques. Obama knew full well that the memo would unleash an uproar on the left as he then retreated to his high moral ground. Instead, it is now up to the likes of Eric Holder and Patrick Leahy of all people to carry out what Obama started.
Additionally, in his first news conference, he was specifically asked whether he would endorse an investigation of the Bush administration as Patrick Leahy had suggested back in January! His diplomatic response: he hadn’t seen the proposal so he couldn’t comment. In fact, Leahy had outlined his proposal in January for a “bipartisan” blue ribbon Truth Commission (sounds eerily Orwellian) that would be modeled after South Africa’s investigation of apartheid. Today, as I predicted in January, Leahy is echoing his sound bite from that speech: “How can we turn the page when we haven’t even read the page yet?”
So, either this is a typical Obama political ploy, or he simply is not the smart man we think he is. The rationale for these investigations would be “to find out what happened.” To summarize: Islamic terrorists flew airplanes into American buildings, we went to war in Afghanistan and captured some of these terrorist operatives. Hell bent on the destruction of America, we entered new territory in dealing with and extracting information from these captives. Legal advice was sought and given. It may have, at the end of the day, been bad advice, or even thought out wrongly. Hindsight is always 20/20. But do we prosecute lawyers because we don’t agree with their legal rationales years later? For crying out loud, Supreme Court justices often use perfectly good legal rationales that result, in hindsight, in not so great decisions (Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Roe v. Wade).
Did Obama really believe elements within his own Party or Congress would let this issue die because he released a memo? That would make Barack Obama either naive or stupid, and he is neither! This was a well-orchestrated political decision using tried-and-true Obama tactics. The big difference is that he is now President Obama, not Senator Obama or Candidate Obama. Playing these political games now have life and death consequences. God forbid we EVER again go through the events we suffered on September 11th, 2001 under Obama’s leadership. Eight years down the line, will we be establishing truth commissions to see what went wrong? I am no apologist or defender of the Bush administration per se, but I am left with the very unmistakeable impression that because of Obama’s politically motivated decision to release these memos, we are less safe today than we were on November 3rd, 2008.