We all get it that there are times when a president feels that he has to stay on the sidelines in a national debate, especially when it is over something that happened in the past or a previous administration. President Obama has decided to stay out of the one now going on about the C.I.A. torture.
That debate put Mr. Obama between two allies: the close adviser and former aide he installed as director of the C.I.A. versus Democrats on the Intelligence Committee and the liberal base that backs their findings. Instead, the president hoped to convince the public that the issue has now been confronted and resolved since he signed an order barring the controversial interrogation techniques shortly after taking office in January 2009.
“He’s between a rock and a hard place,” said Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at the Fordham University School of Law. “The intelligence agency has become the lead agency in national security, and therefore he’s beholden to it, and there’s no getting around that. It’s much bigger than before 9/11. It’s not just about Brennan.”
Indeed, in a written statement and a pair of television interviews after the report was released on Tuesday, Mr. Obama stressed his respect for the “patriots” of the C.I.A. who worked to guard the nation in an uncertain and dangerous period, even as he concluded that the methods they used “did significant damage to America’s standing in the world.”
While that frustrated critics of the C.I.A. who wanted a more unambiguous condemnation of torture and its architects, others said his comments struck a reasonable middle ground. “They seemed measured and responsible,” said Cesar Conda, an adviser to Republicans like former Vice President Dick Cheney and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “He’s walking a fine line between his base and his duties as commander in chief.”
Okay, when he’s getting approval from Republicans for holding back on commentary, he’s got a problem.
This is not the time for political considerations or worrying about fee-fees. These were huge crimes committed by people who worked for the United States government. They need to be held accountable, but even more than that, we need to hear from the President of the United States that that sort of activity will never happen again and the perpetrators will be punished.
This is something he should lose his legendary cool over. So why doesn’t he?
HT to NTodd.