Asked about the extraordinary conditions imposed on Bradley Manning and the even more extraordinary remarks of the State Department spokesman dumping on DoD for that mistreatment, Barack Obama sounds completely clueless. Clueless at the Bush level:
I have actually asked the Pentagon whether or not the procedures that have been taken in terms of his confinement are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assured me that they are. I canâ€™t go into details about some of their concerns, but some of this has to do with Private Manningâ€™s safety as well.
Surely the President knows as well as anyone else that asking people accused of maltreating a prisoner whether the prisoner is being properly treated is like asking a drunk how much he’s had to drink. Since Barack Obama is not a fool, this can only mean that he’s reluctant to countermand Gates and Gates’s subordinates. (Note that he didn’t say that he’d had the allegations checked out and found that they were false.)
Footnote To answer the question sure to come up in comments: Yes, if the Republicans ran a candidate who took a forthright stand against torture, even if that person were otherwise “conservative” in the degraded contemporary sense of that term – committed to making the poor poorer, the country more ignorant, and the planet less habitable – this issue alone would be a cogent reason to vote for that Republican. No, I wouldn’t do so myself – personally, I’m rather fond of the planet – but if a friend told me he planned to vote for that imaginary Republican I couldn’t say he was doing the wrong thing.
But Charles Fried isn’t going to get the Republican nomination, and the context for the President’s display of weak knees on this issue is the drumfire of “soft on terror” charges from the GOP and its tame media. Our actual choice next November will be between an incumbent who would more or less like to do the right thing about torture but isn’t willing to cash in all his chips to do so, and who also has sane and decent views about poverty, ignorance, and environmental catastrophe, and a Republican candidate who is enthusiastic about torture and also about poverty, ignorance, and environmental capacity.
Does that somewhat demoralize me, as a Democrat and low-party-number Obamite? Yes.
Does it lead me to cut off my nose to spite my face? No.
In case you hadn’t noticed, the Republicans have resumed their war against the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively, explicitly in order to disable a major source of progressive funding even as the captive Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has unleashed unlimited corporate funding for reactionaries. The notion that we should enable such behavior because Barack Obama isn’t the moral leader I had imagined him to be doesn’t strike me as cogent.