President Obama created the hottest firestorm of his young presidency this week by (a) releasing the so called torture memos, (b) going to CIA to reinforce the morale of agency employees and (c) “leaving the door open” to further inquiry and maybe even prosecution.
Much of this unfolded on cable TV with the president revealing, less than 24 hours after going to the CIA headquaters and in front of Jordan’s King Hussein, that he was “leaving the door open.”
It looked like a gaffe to me, since Rahm Emanuel had asserted on Sunday that no such thing would occur and because Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, seemed almost at a loss for words at the afternoon briefing. “I’d point you to what the president said…. Nobody in the country is above the rule of law…. The president’s position is to look forward… if some want to look back, as long as it doesn’t overpoliticize or hamper the functions of their jobs….”
But maybe I am too trusting.
Maybe this was just a ticking time bomb that had to eventually explode: a hate-filled chase after Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and today we get Condoleezza Rice into the net.
Or we could take the president at his word: he wants to restore the “moral compass.”
But that can’t be it, from a president that went to Jeremiah “God Damn America!” Wright’s church for years and then didn’t go to church at all from Christmas until Easter.
“What did the president think and when did he think it?”
So we are a bit perplexed by all of this and it seems it will make the left even more angry and the right even more anti-Obama, if that is possible.
But getting the toothpaste back into the tube is what’s needed now and that won’t be easy.
And we’ll never, as a nation, agree if this is about interrogations or torture.
After all, we live in an America that has a large population that thinks what the chickens go through before they get to KFC is torture….
By Ed Rollins
Like so many politicians I have known, the man we elected president wants to be loved. He wants to be loved passionately and daily by the 69 million who voted for him and even some of the 60 million who voted for John McCain.
He wants to be loved by the Democrats on the Hill and even the Republicans who have still not given him any love.
He wants to be loved by the Europeans who have made a career out of badmouthing U.S. presidents and their policies.
The real example of searching for love in all the wrong places was last week’s lovefest south of the border when, in effect, he appeared to be hugging Castro, Ortega and Chavez who have spent their lives fighting everything the United States stands for.
The problem, President Obama will find out as time goes on, is that he is not a rock star or a celebrity. He is certainly famous, and for the foreseeable future everyone will want to see him, touch him and hear him. But the job of president is about making choices. And right now he has the toughest job in the world at one of the toughest times in U.S. history. Every time he makes a choice, he will make the losing side mad.
This last week was the best example. The president decided, as he promised in the campaign, that he would ban torture — a decision I agree with but many don’t. Then he decided to release four Bush-era Justice Department memos that gave legal guidelines to the executive branch on “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Many wanted these documents released, and the president, after a month-long internal debate, gave them up. At the same time he said he had no intention of prosecuting the drafters of those memos or anyone else in a federal agency, mainly the CIA, who followed those guidelines.
The Right went nuts over the release of the documents. The CIA felt betrayed. The Left went nuts over the contents of the memos and pressed to have the authors — high Justice Department officials in the Bush administration — prosecuted, investigated and maybe even tortured! The president went to the CIA and gave them a cheerleading speech.
The next day he reversed himself and said it’s up to Attorney General Eric Holder and the Congress to determine if any laws were violated by the former officials.
He waffled big time. Now all sides are mad at him and he looks weak. Weakness is the death knell for a president. With 1,366 days to go before this term is up, Obama’s got to get tougher or he will be viewed as a personality who reads well from a teleprompter.
The president obviously knows the war on terror is not over. I imagine every morning when he gets the National Security briefing from the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, he takes a deep breath because he knows the world is not a very safe place.