Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Long Game of Obama Politics

Andrew Sullivan makes some very good points today about the Obama administrations decision to fight releasing additional photos of detainee abuse in Iraq. However he seems to have missed a very important point: the Obama administration is using the same argument the Bush administration unsuccessfully used in court to prevent the photos from being made public. Obama and his team are no dummies. They know they will lose in court, but this decision is made in deference to military requests to keep the photos under wraps. Sure its pure politics but such is life in Washington. The administration honors the military's request to fight the damning pictures publication, although they know that request will lose in court, thereby gaining a bit of credibility with the military brass.

I will note this too about the politics. If Obama wants to get the truth out, and does not want to be slimed as a partisan avenger (the propaganda line from the Rovians), it helps him to have symbolic spats with those of us who believe we have no choice but to confront the war crimes of the last administration. This has long been his mojo: give symbolic gifts to your opponents while retaining the core issue. These gestures - Rick Warren dinner with Bill Kristol, summits with Cantor - help insulate him from being drawn into them kind of partisan fight the Rove right likes to fight. In this rope, in other words, the anti-torture movement is the current dope.

So long as the investigations continue and some sort of Truth Commission emerges to look at this despicable chapter in our histroy I feel confident the administration is just playing a few moves ahead of it's political opponents.

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