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Obama, The Torture Pictures, and this Dick Cheney Moment: A Speculation

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Bard Schmookler     Permalink
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Headline on Huffington Post right now:  " OBAMA NOW WANTS TO BLOCK RELEASE OF DETAINEE ABUSE PHOTOS."

An article by Jacob Heilbrunn (also on Huffpost) speaks of the Cheney trying to set up a "Who Lost America" right wing attack on Obama, and it begins:

<blockquote>The Cheneys were at it again yesterday. On Tuesday, daughter Liz, who served in the Bush State Department, undiplomatically denounced President Obama on Fox News for agreeing to release photographs of Americans abusing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. It's become "fashionable,' she said, "to side, really, with the terrorists."</blockquote>

Here's my speculation:

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Obama sees that the present moment in the American media machine is the Cheney moment, with the suddenly loquacious former criminal Vice President --with the readily available microphone our media happily offer him-- keeping torture and the old terrorism scare tactics at the center of public attention.

(I myself, on the radio yesterday here in Virginia, found the topic of Cheney and his arguments unavoidable.)

So Obama has judged that this is not the moment to do anything to play into Cheney's hands.

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As I imagine it, in my speculation, Obama is thinking this way:


<blockquote>
The thirty percent or so of Americans who are up for grabs --who could be seduced again by the old "Be afraid" propaganda, but most of whom are presently comfortable enough with me (Obama) to be included in my 69 percent approval ratings-- are hearing the old Bushite siren song.

At this moment, when Cheney's working so hard to get people to take a new look at me and see me as "siding with the terrorists," I should not take any actions that help make that characterization more plausible.

As the Huffpost article says:  "The top military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan have told Obama that their troops could be in greater danger if new detainee abuse photos are released this spring."

I've already released enough material to make this torture issue to subject of major public discussion and congressional investigation.  The pictures are not needed at this time.

The pictures can always be released later.  Some delay of the game has little cost --except the ACLU says I am not living up to my promise-- and is strategically advantageous at this moment, while Cheney's dragging his sorry, ill-loved face into America's living room with his message advocating torture and promoting fear.

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So let's kick this one out of our court for now and, as the Huffpost piece says, into another court.  ("Obama wants the issue to go back to the courts, although federal appeals judges have ruled the photos could be released.")

Better to give a little ground for now than to play into Cheney's hands.</blockquote>

All this is speculation, as I said, but I think it makes sense in terms of what's visible right now.

 

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
 

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