Some pundits that are reliably sympathetic to the Obama administration are finally coming around on the bizarre stance the President has taken on the use of aggressive interrogation tactics by the CIA. Mike Allen at the Politico notes:
President Barack Obama’s attempt to project legal and moral clarity on coercive CIA interrogation methods has instead done the opposite — creating confusion and political vulnerability over an issue that has inflamed both the left and right.
In the most recent instance, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair acknowledged in a memo to the intelligence community that Bush-era interrogation practices yielded had “high-value information,” then omitted that admission from a public version of his assessment.
That leaves a top Obama administration official appearing to validate claims by former Vice President Dick Cheney that waterboarding and other techniques the White House regards as torture were effective in preventing terrorist attacks. And the press release created the impression the administration was trying to suppress this conclusion.
As is his habit, the president wants to have it both ways on this issue and his administration finds itself taking heat from both sides of the political spectrum. That’s a good thing because an open debate on the issue of aggressive interrogation will put the world on notice that Americans favor it if they believe their safety is at risk. Allen gets to the heart of the question with this point:
The implications go beyond a typical Washington spat over “message control.” Obama’s moves virtually guarantee a sharp public focus on two uncomfortable questions that his team previously sought to leave vague:
*Should people be tried and even sent to prison–as many Democrats want–for what Obama regards as illegal practices under Bush?
*Even if wrong, did those practices have any positive results in stopping new attacks?
Those are the questions that will be turning over in the minds of Americans that consider national security a priority. It’s apparent that the Obama administration knows the answer to the second question and therein is the dilemma. How to placate the fever swamp on the Left while protecting the country against attack? Unfortunately for Candidate Obama it requires the choosing of sides, a reality that George W Bush quickly grasped when he soldiered on at the expense of his popularity.
As the image of Candidate Obama becomes murkier by the day the actions of President Obama bring into focus a man that was clearly not properly vetted during the campaign. Jennifer Rubin notes that cross over voters may be beginning to have second thoughts about President Obama because they are finally discovering who he is, which is “(not) the Agent of Change (but) the center of the swamp”. As voters learn more about this President they become less enthralled. We may be witnessing one of the quickest flameouts in political history. If the economy doesn’t turn significantly by the forth quarter of this year BO may become a lame duck by 2010 midterms.